The 2014 NBA draft is chock-full of elite talent that could very well reverse the fortunes of some long-suffering franchises. The talent certainly doesn't stop at the top of the first round, however.
While the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid will have every opportunity to become big-time stars in the NBA, they are far from alone. With so much focus on the top-of-the-line prospects in this match, it has caused analysts to sleep on some players who may have been much higher picks in thinner drafts.
Here are three prospects who aren't receiving much hype entering the draft but who will ultimately prove to be big steals late in the first round or early in the second.
The Tennessee Volunteers boasted an extremely talented roster this past season, and forward Jarnell Stokes was a huge part of that. Stokes impressively averaged a double-double with over 15 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game. He also happened to accomplish that in the SEC, which featured a pair of elite teams in Florida and Kentucky.
Stokes is extremely tough and difficult to handle in the paint on both ends of the court. At 6'8" and 260 pounds, he was able to out-muscle essentially every opponent he faced in college. It won't be quite so easy to do that in the NBA, but his hard work and determination will go a long way.
Even if Stokes doesn't develop into a dominant offensive player, he should continue to be a consistent rebounder, according to Ben Frederickson of GoVolsXtra.com, via ESPN's Chad Ford:
ESPN NBA insider Chad Ford: "I think teams are probably sleeping on Jarnell Stokes. Rebounding translates" Link: http://t.co/ViasqVqY4D— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) May 21, 2014
Stokes' build and skill set are both reminiscent of what current Atlanta Hawks star Paul Millsap brought to the table when he entered the draft in 2006. He didn't receive much respect, which caused him to fall to the middle of the second round, but he proved everyone who passed on him wrong.
Although Stokes isn't the most dynamic player in this draft class, there is something to be said for consistency. His ceiling may not be as high as some other prospects, but his floor is higher than most. Because of that, Stokes certainly won't disappoint the team that takes him.
Superstar guard Shabazz Napier rightfully received the bulk of the credit for Connecticut's surprising run to a national title this past season, but the Huskies couldn't have done it without forward DeAndre Daniels. While Daniels was tasked with playing Robin to Napier's Batman, he did a ton of things that contributed to winning efforts throughout the NCAA tournament.
Daniels is an interesting prospect for several reasons, not the least of which is his frame. Although he is only 195 pounds, he stands 6'9". He has the height of a power forward, but he has great ball skills and is extremely versatile offensively.
One person in particular who is enthralled with Daniels' overall makeup is Gary Dzen of Boston.com:
Maybe this is me as a UConn honk talking, but I like DeAndre Daniels. Long, can create his own shot.— Gary Dzen (@GaryDzen) May 27, 2014
The main thing that may be holding Daniels' draft stock down is concern over what position and what role he will fill in the NBA. He isn't a true small forward or shooting guard, but he doesn't have enough bulk to play power forward.
With that said, Daniels is a player who can create mismatches and do a little bit of everything. He averaged 13 points and six rebounds per game last season, and he was also deadly from downtown, with a three-point percentage of nearly 42 percent.
If he can bring some of the same things to the table at the next level, he will provide a huge amount of value in relation to where he is selected.
Johnny O'Bryant III
Although LSU didn't have a banner season in the SEC, there is no question that the Tigers featured one of the conference's best players. Forward Johnny O'Bryant III continued his steady ascent and posted career-best numbers. But despite his penchant for performing against big-time opponents, he isn't viewed as a top prospect.
O'Bryant has an NBA body at 6'9" and nearly 260 pounds, and he used it to his advantage at LSU. He averaged over 15 points and nearly eight rebounds per game while shooting almost 50 percent from the field.
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In addition to O'Bryant's obvious production, he acquitted himself well at the combine too. According to Bob Tompkins of TheNewsStar.com, LSU coach Johnny Jones was thoroughly impressed by what O'Bryant did alongside the draft's brightest stars.
"At that level, where there were only 60 young men invited, to see him perform as well as he did — his footwork was excellent, he shot the ball well, defended well — I was really happy for him," Jones said.
The fact of the matter is that O'Bryant has gone up against and excelled against a number of players who are considered to be better prospects than him. If he continues to do that in the NBA, then he will be an extremely productive player.
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