NBA Draft 2020: Expert Mock Predictions for Top Sleeper Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 6, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 11:  Tyler Bey #1 of the Colorado Buffaloes looking on during a time against the Washington State Cougars during the first round of the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 11, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

History says the best players in the upcoming 2020 NBA draft won't all be clustered at the top.

Just look at the last All-Star roster. One of the captains, Giannis Antetokounmpo, wasn't a lottery pick. Neither were fellow starters Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam. Reserves Nikola Jokic and Khris Middleton weren't even first-round picks.

Value can come from anywhere on the draft board, and that's doubly true in a class like this that lacks can't-miss star power at the top. With that in mind, we'll highlight three of our favorite sleeper prospects and see where the experts have them landing.


Expert Predictions for Top Sleepers

Aleksej Pokusevski Cracks Top 20

There are several intriguing international prospects in this draft (as per usual), but Pokusevski might be the biggest. Literally.

The Serbian big man stands seven feet tall, albeit while weighing just 201 pounds. He also might have one of the widest draft ranges, as there are near-lottery projections and others that don't include him in the first round.

B/R's Jonathan Wasserman slotted Pokusevski as the 18th overall pick in his last mock, and based on a later description from Wasserman, it wouldn't be surprising to see Pokusevski climb even higher.

"It's unusual to see a player at his height releasing pull-ups and jumpers off screens with such ease," Wasserman wrote. "He wowed with his quick-decision, high-IQ passes, and though he lacks the strength to defend post-ups or anchor the paint, he possesses mobility and timing for protecting the rim from off the ball and the weak side."

If Pokusevski finds the right fit—a patient team with a strong player-development program—he could emerge as the draft's biggest steal.


Tyler Bey Deserves 1st-Round Consideration

The formula for identifying a draft sleeper often involves finding a young prospect with a wealth of physical tools and flashes of high-level play. That's not the selling point for Tyler Bey.

The 22-year-old just completed his junior campaign at Colorado, which he punctuated with the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. The 6'7" wing has the length, athleticism and tenacity to handle most any defensive assignment, and he's an expert on the glass (9.0 rebounds in only 29.0 minutes per game last season).

But he doesn't bring much to the table offensively. He never averaged 14 points or even two assists, and he only made 18 threes (on 59 attempts) over his three seasons.

The offensive concerns drag Bey outside of most mock first rounds, like the one from ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz that had Bey as the 35th pick. But the ESPN scribes also labeled Bey as the best fit for the Brooklyn Nets at No. 21.

"Given the Nets' timeline with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the fold, a defensive dynamo such as Bey would make an intriguing fit in Brooklyn," Schmitz wrote. "There are prospects on the board touted more highly...but Bey is the type of rebounder and finisher who could make an instant impact alongside star shot creators."

Considering the big impact made this season by rookie Matisse Thybulle—another defense-first product of the Pac-12—teams should be careful about snoozing on Bey.


Jared Butler on 1st-Round Bubble

For all the (deserved) attention lavished on Obi Toppin and his expert work with the Dayton Flyers this season, Jared Butler had a similar effect on the similarly dominant Baylor Bears.

The sophomore guard enjoyed major growth over his freshman campaign, and it carried over to his team. He went from averaging 10.2 points on 39.5 percent shooting to 16.0 on 42.1. They had a 20-14 record in 2018-19 and put together a pristine 26-4 mark in 2019-20 before college basketball canceled its tournament season.

Scouts were paying attention to Butler's work, and he now holds the 36th overall spot on The Athletic's Sam Vecenie's mock draft. Read Vecenie's breakdown, and you get the sense Butler could go even earlier:

"Butler has one of the most technically gifted handles in all of college basketball. He has a wide variety of set-up moves and counter moves that allow him to break down defenders and get into the paint with ease. He was a clear unanimous All-Big 12 player after averaging 16 points and three assists. He also complements that handle with terrific shooting ability and shot diversity.

"He can get to his pull-up, hitting those shots at over a 50 percent effective field goal percentage. Among high-volume pull-up guys, Butler was second-best statistically in the Big 12 behind Desmond Bane. Then as a catch-and-shoot weapon, he hit at a 60.9 effective field goal percentage."

There aren't a lot of players who excel at creating and making shots. If teams feel Butler can do both, he won't make it out of the first round. And if Butler ends up doing both in the Association, he'll outperform his draft position no matter where he lands.