2018 NBA Draft: Top Sleeper Prospect at Every Position

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2017

2018 NBA Draft: Top Sleeper Prospect at Every Position

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Sleepers come out of nowhere every year to surprise as breakout NBA prospects. 

    Donovan Mitchell, John Collins and Kyle Kuzma were a few from 2017. The following five prospects are in position to make similar leaps onto the radar after flashing glimpses of potential and improving over the summer. 

    None of them would have generated any first-round interest a year ago. By March of 2018, they'll each be talked about in NBA circles. 

    We picked a sleeper at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

Point Guard: Lamar Peters (Mississippi State, Sophomore)

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    Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

    Other sleepers to track: Shake Milton (SMU), Devonte' Graham (Kansas), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure), Thomas Wilder (Western Michigan)

    Projecting Lamar Peters as a breakout NBA prospect means expecting dramatic improvement, but signs point to it coming, following eye-opening freshman flashes and a positive summer.

    Peters first drew attention in January with his 25-point game against Kentucky. And despite cooling off late in February and March, he'd go on to emerge as one of the standouts at Adidas Nations, where he averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 assists in five counselor games. 

    A confident scoring lefty, Peters is crafty at the point with mean hesitation and pull-up shooting that works well off ball screens. He made more threes (59) than two-pointers (44) last year, which shows he's already a dangerous deep threat (2.0 3PTM per game) but that he'll have to add a floater and stop-and-pop game.

    A capable facilitator and competitive defender, Peters has a lot in his bag to woo scouts with, even at just 6'0". He's a breakout candidate in the SEC and NBA draft discussion. 

Shooting Guard: Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech, Sophomore)

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    Other sleepers to track: Tyus Battle (Syracuse), De'Anthony Melton (USC), Kostja Mushidi (Germany)

    Josh Okogie would have received more attention had George Tech won more games.

    He finished right behind Dennis Smith Jr. and Jayson Tatum in scoring (16.1 points) among ACC freshmen. It was clearly noticed by some, with Okogie having earned an invite to play for USA coach John Calipari's U19 World Championship squad.

    They measured him at 6'4", 213 pounds with a 7'0" wingspan that hints at an NBA physical profile. Quick, strong and long, Okogie also shot 38.4 percent from deep to strengthen his case as a three-and-D 2-guard.

    But he's also flashed enough offensive ability in between—as a driver, cutter, pull-up shooter and passer—to pose a threat in other ways. 

    Assuming he takes a step forward following this summer's valuable experience in Cairo, Okogie looks poised to put up serious numbers and find the NBA's radar.

Small Forward: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, Junior)

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Other sleepers to track: VJ King (Louisville), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati)

    Mikal Bridges' pedestrian production has been misleading, given his efficiency in key areas and the likelihood it carries over. 

    He'll have more chances to build on his 9.8 points per game with Josh Hart gone, but it's the 39.3 percent three-point mark and defense NBA teams will covet.

    Bridges, 6'6" with 7'1 ½" length, registered a terrific 67.6 true shooting percentage by knocking down 91.1 percent of his free throws and converting an impressive 69.4 percent of his two-point attempts. Though not a big creator or one-on-one scorer, he doesn't take bad shots and finishes the cuts, drives and spot-ups. 

    Offensively, he's a high-percentage complementary role player, but his real value shows on defense, where he locks down around the perimeter and guards three to four positions. 

Power Forward: Alize Johnson (Missouri State, Senior)

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    Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

    Other sleepers to track: Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga)

    Alize Johnson has quietly been making moves. From junior college to Missouri State, he's suddenly an NBA prospect to track after a big year and productive showing in front of scouts at Adidas Nations.

    Though skinny at 6'9", 201 pounds, Johnson is a smooth athlete and one of the nation's top rebounders (21.2 REB Pct.). He racked up 17 double-doubles last season, showing an unteachable nose for the ball and motor. He'd frequently win battles against stronger bigs and come down with loose balls in traffic.

    A big selling point for Johnson, though, is his jumper. He hit 40 threes at a 38.8 percent clip as a junior, and then drilled 11 of 19 triples early in August at Adidas Nations, which should have helped validate last season's shooting efficiency. 

    Elite under the boards, a threat from deep and a solid passer, Johnson has developed a set of strengths that point to NBA role-player potential. 

Center: Austin Wiley (Auburn, Sophomore)

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    Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

    Others sleepers to track: Omer Yurtseven (North Carolina State), Thomas Welsh (UCLA)

    A productive U19 World Championships puts Austin Wiley in the sleeper discussion. He wasn't talked about last year playing 18 minutes a game, but after averaging a double-double for USA, it looks like a sophomore jump is coming. 

    Though his athleticism and style of play don't scream upside, there is a role for his particular game, and he has the body and mobility for it to translate. Wiley measured 6'11", 250 pounds with a giant 7'5" wingspan. And through seven contests in July, he pulled down 33 offensive rebounds.

    His NBA duties would be clear: run the floor, crash the glass, block shots (3.0 per 40 minutes) and score on the block, where he carves out space and is competent over the shoulder.

    Assuming he fully recovers from a stress fracture, he'll see a major bump in playing time, which should result in a lot more production and an eventual boost in stock. Wiley's draft ceiling isn't high, but he's on track to position himself for looks from teams in the 20s searching for second-chance points and energy.


    Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, RealGM.com. Wingspans courtesy of DraftExpress.com.