Every year, we see NBA assets slip through the cracks during predraft evaluations.
Bobby Portis, Rodney Hood and Giannis Antetokounmpo are just a few recent steals or value picks selected outside the lottery.
Questions surrounding a prospect's background, college role, projected position and development can mask pro potential. Some players are difficult to confidently scout overseas or in mid-major conferences. Others can be tougher to buy as pros because of uncertainty over their NBA fit, whether it's due to physical or skill-related concerns.
For different reasons, the following four sleepers may have trouble selling a team with a top-14 selection. But I'd bet on each of them emerging as steals and carving out NBA careers.
Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin, SF/PF, Junior)
Despite averaging 16.4 points, up from his 12.4 per game last year, Hayes hasn't generated much draft buzz in 2016. Look no further than his 38.7 percent field-goal clip for blame. It's a poor number for anyone, nevermind a junior big man looking to draw first-round interest.
But behind that inefficiency is a go-to role unsuited for Hayes' particular game. And it was forced upon him following the departures of Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky.
Hayes isn't an adept one-on-one shot-creator; rather, he's more of a jack-of-all trades combo forward whose value is fueled by versatility.
If Draymond Green had been acquired by a weaker team and asked to step in as its top scorer, he wouldn't be shooting the 48 percent he's shooting in Golden State.
Alongside NBA scorers and playmakers, Hayes can play to his strengths, which revolve around a knack for capitalizing on open driving lanes and jump shots, as well as pull-up and low-post chances.
And he'll guard both forward positions with 6'8" size, monster 7'3 ½" length and a strong 235-pound frame (measurements nearly identical to Green's).
Last year, in a lineup with two 2015 first-rounders, Hayes shot 49.7 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from three. This year, he's averaging 18.1 points per 40 minutes and taking over three more free throws (7.5) per game.
And he can pass, which strengthens the Green comparison and plays to his high-end role-player potential. Hayes leads the Badgers, averaging 3.2 assists.
His efficiency is down, but Hayes' ball skills have improved. That should better prepare him for the pros once he's back in his signature glue-guy role.
DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph's, SG/SF, Junior)
It's a crime how far below the radar DeAndre Bembry continues to fly. Saint Joseph's is 24-5 and Bembry is one of three players in the country, along with LSU's Ben Simmons and BYU's Kyle Collinsworth, averaging at least 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists, per Sports-Reference.com.
Loaded with NBA-friendly versatility, Bembry also brings 6'6" size and above-the-rim bounce to the 2-guard or small forwards position.
The only thing keeping the buzz in check is a jumper that's connected on just 31.6 percent of 361 career three-point attempts. This season, he's only shooting 26.9 percent from deep and 63.1 percent from the line.
It will surely hurt Bembry's chances of triggering a first-round bite. And that makes him a strong steal candidate in Round 2.
Bembry wouldn't be the first player to improve his shooting after college. Over the last three seasons, he's made 114 triples and 120 two-point jumpers (though the 120 includes runners, floaters and hooks as well), per Hoop-Math.com. Despite his inconsistency, Bembry is no doubt capable from outside, which suggests he can get better.
Even if his jumper never develops into a reliable weapon, his transition game, attacking, facilitating and defensive tools could still hold NBA value. He's a two-way wing who can handle the ball and set up teammates off ball screens or penetration.
Meanwhile, his physical tools and athleticism can translate to easy buckets in the open floor or slash-and-cut game.
A team could get away with robbery if Bembry ever turns the corner as a shooter. The upside tied to that possibility makes him an attractive second-round option.
Taurean Prince (Baylor, SF/PF, Senior)
A senior averaging 15.3 points on 43.8 percent shooting, Prince doesn't jump out as an upside pick likely to earn lottery consideration. And one mid- to late-first-round team should benefit.
Prince's physical tools and versatility seem tailor-made for today's NBA—even if they don't result in future All-Star invitations. Listed at 6'8", 220 pounds, he's a wing who's strong and quick enough to also play small-ball 4.
He's made 104 threes over his last 63 games, and though he'll have to improve his consistency, Prince clearly has range and an encouraging shooting stroke (80.7 percent from the line this year).
Plus, he's tough around the basket, where he has excellent coordination at the rim and the ability to score playing back-to-the-basket.
Prince has also flashed glimpses of improved shot creativity with pull-ups, step-backs, attacking moves and runners.
He's even made notable adjustments as a passer, having already totaled 26 more assists than he had his entire junior season.
Defensively, he looks capable of guarding both forward positions with impressive foot speed, a strong frame and 6'11 ½" length.
Still 21 years old for another five months, Prince is the same age as most juniors. He may even have a chance to rise up boards from now until June. But if a team ends up snagging him with a selection lower than No. 14, the bang should be well worth the buck.
Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State, PF, Sophomore)
Siakam doesn't get much national love at New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference. Plus, a poor strength of schedule diminishes the allure of his 20.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Even so, it's tough to ignore those monstrous numbers or the driving force behind them. At 6'9", 230 pounds with a terrific reach and highlight-reel bounce, Siakam aces the NBA eye test from a physical perspective.
"I was in that league (NBA) for eight years and he looks the part," UTEP coach Tim Floyd told Las Cruces Sun-News' Mark Rudi after Siakam went for 24 points and 23 rebounds against his Minors on December 2. "He can play with it down in the post, he can drive it, he can put it on the floor, he goes back and rebounds it at a high level.”
Siakam blocks 2.4 shots and collects one steal per game, stats that highlight natural ability thanks to size, quickness, length and hops. His defense will be awfully interesting to monitor with a few years of pro coaching.
But there are reasons to be excited or intrigued by Siakam's offensive development as well. Even if he struggles to expand or sharpen his repertoire, I'm buying his finishing prowess off cuts, dump downs, offensive boards and transition opportunities. These are scoring chances that require athleticism and tools—not high skill levels.
Still, Siakam has flashed back-to-the-basket moves with coordinated hooks and scoops around the key. And though it's not quite a strength, his jumper is capable in the mid-range.
It's worth noting he's already 22 years old, which works against his draft stock. On the other hand, it increases his steal potential later in the 20-50 range.
He needs seasoning at both ends, but Siakam may ultimately get a better dose of it in the pros. Between the upside and overwhelming production, he looks like an enticing low-risk gamble.
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