2019 NBA Draft's Top Sleeper Prospects
Five prospects stand out because teams may be undervaluing them ahead of Thursday's NBA draft.
These players are each projected to be selected somewhere in the 20s or later, mostly due to questions about upside.
But upside can occasionally go undetected. Sometimes, a player has sneaky potential based on the strength of certain skills, physical traits or intangibles.
A few years from now, we could be asking how each of these five prospects slipped in the 2019 draft.
Bruno Fernando (Maryland, C, Sophomore)
Bruno Fernando's game doesn't match the criteria for a new-school center who can stretch the floor and create off the dribble. Lacking perceived upside or a flashy offensive game, he'll likely fall into the 20s or 30s, just as Montrezl Harrell did in 2015 (No. 32 to the Houston Rockets).
Give him a few years and Fernando could be a similarly valuable power big around the basket. At 6'10¼", 237 pounds with 5.4 percent body fat, a 9'2" standing reach and a 7'3¼" wingspan, his physical profile is tremendous. He used it to shoot 74.3 percent at the rim and grab 10.6 rebounds per game.
He also plays with passion and a motor that helps enhance the effectiveness of his strength, length and athleticism. Worst case, a team could add a frontcourt energizer and intimidator in the paint.
But Fernando has also made strides with his passing and defensive reads. And though not known for shooting, hitting 11 of his 25 half-court jumpers and 77.9 percent of his free-throws hints at touch.
He's still turnover-prone, but he won't be called on to make as many decisions at the next level. Like Harrell, Fernando can excel in a role that plays to his strengths, which include finishing, overpowering and disrupting.
Anything else he adds is a bonus. Either way, Fernando is being slept on if he lasts until the end of the first or into the second round.
Terance Mann (Florida State, SG/SF, Senior)
In the Nos. 40-60 range, teams are just looking for rotation players. Finding one that late, even if he's just a third player to bring off the bench, is considered a win, particularly for teams who've allocated substantial money to starters and need contributors on cheap deals.
Terance Mann could be that sleeper pick for his glue-guy potential working alongside stronger scorers, shooters and playmakers.
Through four years at Florida State, he shot 60.1 percent inside the arc and built a respected defensive reputation for his toughness. At 6'6½", he has the physical profile and athleticism to continue finishing plays, guarding wings and rebounding (6.5 per game this year).
Aside from his defensive appeal, Mann will be valued most for his ability to make the right plays within the offense. He generated 1.216 PPP (83rd percentile) on catch-and-shoot chances in the half court. From spot-up positions, he converted 12 of 18 drives to the basket past closeouts. He shot 60.8 percent at the rim.
Mann doesn't take bad shots, and he capitalizes on the quality opportunities the opposing defense gives him.
He'll fit in by moving the ball, cutting off it, crashing the offensive glass and defending. Continuing to improve his three-ball (39.0 percent on 77 attempts) could unlock Mann's role-player potential.
Chuma Okeke (Auburn, F, Sophomore)
One NBA team will benefit from Chuma Okeke tearing his ACL in the NCAA tournament.
The devastating injury stopped his rise and will likely prevent a general manager from reaching too high. Okeke, the No. 13 overall prospect on our board, becomes a serious value pick in the 20s or 30s, assuming all goes well with his rehab.
Before going down, he was up to 20 points and 11 rebounds against North Carolina in the Sweet 16. The 6'8", 230-pound forward buried 12 threes over his final five games to finish his second consecutive season above 38.0 percent from behind the arc.
His body type, athleticism and shooting point to a high floor and NBA fit. He also flashed some ball skill with the ability to attack closeouts or finish from the post (92nd percentile).
Even if his shot-creation development stalls, his ability to stretch the floor and defend creates Robert Covington-like potential. Okeke managed 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes as a sophomore, demonstrating terrific mobility and reaction time. He's a smart defender on and off the ball who's also capable of switching and containing ball-handlers and wings.
Okeke will take most of his rookie season to recover before preparing to introduce himself fully in 2020-21.
Grant Williams (Tennessee, PF, Junior)
Grant Williams wasn't invited to the green room, and he's not guaranteed to be taken in the first round. One lucky team will catch a break the way the San Antonio Spurs did with Derrick White (No. 29 in 2017) and the Milwaukee Bucks did with Malcolm Brogdon (No. 36 in 2016).
An upperclassman who lacks athleticism, Williams will slip due to the perception of limited upside, just as Brogdon and White did.
His defense is being significantly undervalued. The 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in 2018-19 only tell a portion of the story. Williams' defensive IQ and ability to anticipate are top notch and help compensate for limited height (6'7½), length (6'9¾" wingspan) and speed.
Williams also improved his body and conditioning, checking in with 5.4 percent body fat (240.2 pounds) at the NBA combine. His mix of strength, lateral mobility, versatility and reads gives him some Draymond Green defensive potential.
And after he averaged 18.8 points, he's still a threat offensively—particularly from the post, where he ranked in the 97th percentile for points per possession. Though not explosive, Williams gets impressive elevation on his fallaways with high release points. He also averaged 3.2 assists, which is another reflection of his IQ.
Continuing to add touch and range to his jump shot will lead to a dozen regretful general managers. Williams hit 15 threes, went 44-of-100 on half-court jumpers and knocked down 81.9 percent of his free throws. Despite playing three seasons at Tennessee, he won't turn 21 until the end of November.
His maturity, toughness and leadership qualities are just more intangibles to bet on.
Dylan Windler (Belmont, SF, Senior)
It will take the right team and fit to optimize Dylan Windler. He's on sleeper watch, however, following a remarkable senior year that saw him average 21.3 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Equally impressive was his 68.1 true shooting percentage. Windler shot 65.9 percent inside the arc, 42.9 percent from three and 84.7 percent from the free-throw line. He's remarkably efficient, particularly in the half court, where his 1.2 points per possession ranked in the 99th percentile.
Windler isn't as advanced in the shot-creating department, so he'll need the right teammates and a role that allows him to play to his strengths as a spot-up shooter (45.2 percent), shot-maker off screens (51.1 percent) and cutter (1.62 PPP, 97th percentile).
A veteran team in the late first round like the Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors could wind up with a steal in Windler, who profiles as a complementary scorer and potential high-end role player.