NBA Draft 2020: Latest Expert Predictions for Under-the-Radar ProspectsMay 28, 2020
While the 2019-20 NBA season has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been ample time to evaluate this year's draft class. However, prospects had less opportunity to prove themselves, with the end of the college season getting cancelled and the scouting combine getting postponed.
That's why some talented prospects are flying slightly under the radar and could end up being sleeper picks, getting drafted later than they should and turning out to be strong players in the NBA.
Here's where expert mocks are predicting several of these under-the-radar draft prospects to land.
Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF, Washington
In his lone season at Washington, Jaden McDaniels may not have lived up to his potential, averaging 13 points and 5.8 rebounds in 31 games. However, he's still an intriguing prospect for teams to consider taking in the draft, and the general consensus among mock drafts is that he will be selected around the middle of the first round.
Kyle Boone of CBS Sports has the 6'9" forward going to the Denver Nuggets at No. 21.
"The combination of his size, versatility and shot-making should appeal to a Denver team that's been widely praised in recent years for its in-house development," Boone wrote. "Add some meat to his big frame and sharpen his skills and he could become a jumbo wing with major boom potential."
Some other mock-drafters are a bit higher on McDaniels, as Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports has him going No. 15 to the Orlando Magic, while Stadium's Jeff Goodman is projecting the former Huskie to go No. 20 to the Brooklyn Nets. If that is the range wherein McDaniels is drafted, he could turn out to be a steal if he realizes his potential.
Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Olympiacos
One of the most intriguing international prospects in this year's draft class is 7-foot Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski. There isn't much hype about him going early in the first round, but that gives him sleeper potential if he develops his impressive skill set.
Goodman is projecting Pokusevski to get drafted by the Toronto Raptors at No. 28, which makes sense if he's still on the board that late in the opening round. Pokusevski could take over for Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol in the post, and should they return to Toronto in free agency, he would have the opportunity to learn from the experienced duo until then.
"He's a project, but he's every bit of seven feet and is very skilled," Goodman wrote. "He'll take time, but Masai Ujiri has rolled the dice and cashed in before, so maybe it will work for him again."
Boone has Pokusevski going to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 25, while The Athletic's Sam Vecenie has him coming off the board a pick later, going to the Boston Celtics at No. 26. Likely to be drafted by a top team near the end of the first round, the 18-year-old should have the time he needs to develop, which should bode well for him and his team in the future.
Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
Coming from a struggling college basketball program in Vanderbilt, Aaron Nesmith may not be getting the hype he deserves ahead of the NBA draft. However, the 6'6" small forward is an exciting prospect who has the potential to be a lottery pick. And he could represent a steal if a team later in that portion of the draft adds him.
Vecenie has Nesmith going to the Sacramento Kings at No. 12, giving them some much-needed help on the wings. In his breakdown of Nesmith, Vecenie explained what makes the small forward (who averaged 23 points in 14 games for Vanderbilt last season) a top scoring prospect.
"He's absolutely terrific at quickly setting his feet and getting his body squared to the basket," Vecenie wrote. "His release is quick and should translate to him being a terrific shooter from distance."
While Goodman has Nesmith getting drafted a pick later (No. 13 to the New Orleans Pelicans), Boone has the former Commodore being a top-10 pick, going to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 9. Whether or not Nesmith gets drafted that high could depend on how the lottery shakes out.