The NBA Draft is an inexact science. If it weren’t, then we wouldn’t have to go through the awkwardness of seeing Hasheem Thabeet get drafted second overall in the 2009 NBA Draft while a guy like Stephen Curry falls to the number seven pick.
The point is unless a team gets sure-fire guys like Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, and John Wall with the first pick, nothing's really sure with the remaining picks. They're just as likely to get the eventual Rookie of the Year with the second pick as they are to nab a franchise-changing guy in the late 20s of the draft.
This space is entirely devoted to the latter group: unheralded players who aren’t getting nearly the same amount of shine as some of their contemporaries, but could end up having long and prosperous NBA careers of their own. (If you aren't aware who makes up the former, though, click here!) Hell, some of these guys might even become All-Stars someday.
For teams that don't have a high pick, these guys might be worth taking a flyer for. For the rest of us? Well, we've always liked underdog stories.
Ceiling potential: Gordon Hayward
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There’s always that temptation to call an athletic white guy the next Joe Alexander, a former lottery pick. One look at Dekker and that’s the first thing you’ll say about him. It’s not really a fair comparison since Dekker has a more polished game than Alexander ever had, or still has…wherever the hell he’s playing now.
Dekker’s got the tools to have a long NBA career. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a star in the league, but guys who know their roles and don’t overstep on what they can’t do tend to have fruitful careers. He’s already a good defender at his age. He’s got a nice stroke from the perimeter. He plays hard all the time and isn’t afraid to get physical when the situation calls for it. In short, he's worth gambling on.
Dekker’s not going to get a lot of hype entering the draft, but he should provide good value for a team picking in the latter part of the first round. That would likely mean he’s going to a playoff team where he can play spot minutes and provide Mitch McGary-like contributions down the road, maybe even in the playoffs.
Can Dekker be as good as Hayward as most draftniks think he can be? We're not so sure about that. But he can come close, and if “close to Gordon Hayward” is what he’ll be, then he can have a promising career in the NBA.
Ceiling potential: Mike Conley
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The usual lament with undersized point guards is, well, they’re undersized. Jones fits that mold. He only stands 6’1” and doesn’t possess nearly enough athleticism to compensate for his height. That’s a legitimate cause for concern for teams who are looking to draft him. But spending too much time on his physical deficiencies means that you don’t look at what he can bring to the table.
Jones is a true point guard, the kind of player who has the three attributes you’d want in a “1”: elite passing, tight handles, and a great feel for the game. Don’t expect him to light up scoreboards anytime soon because he’s never going to do that. But as far as being an off-the-bench asset to a contender? Jones can fit that bill.
People also forget that Jones was actually named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player when he led the Duke Blue Devils to the national championship. That’s credibility you can’t sweep under the rug.
Ceiling potential: George Hill
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Speaking of undersized point guards, Oregon’s Joseph Young fits into that mold, too. But just like Jones, brushing off Young just because of his physical limitations may come back to haunt teams who didn’t scoop him up when they had a chance to do so.
Young’s skill set is a little different from Jones, which makes this exercise more fun since we're likely to whiff on one of these guys. But we'll still take our chances because we think Young’s game can translate well in the NBA. He doesn’t have the same court vision that Jones possesses, but if today’s NBA has taught us anything, it’s that spark plug scorers have a place in someone’s second unit.
Add all that to the nifty handles that allows him to get to the rim with impunity and you could be looking at a guy that can turn into one of them heat-check shooters that have become more valuable to teams in the league today.
Ceiling potential: Danny Green
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You know what else is in vogue in the NBA these days? 3-and-D players. If you can hit threes on one end and play defense on the other, you have a home in the league. Green is the poster boy of this society in today’s NBA and look at what his skill set has brought him. Shout out to guys like Avery Bradley and Quincy Poindexter, too.
(Oddly enough, the chancellor of this 3-and-D fraternity was another Spur: Bruce Bowen.)
Anderson fits into this prototype as his college career was largely defined by two things he could do really well. He could shoot threes and he could play defense. Okay, you should know that the shooting threes part only showed itself in his junior year, but still, going from 29 percent to 45 percent on long-range bombs is an incredible improvement.
If he can continue honing these two skill sets and get them to levels where other teams can’t afford to leave him open from beyond the arc, he could be a long-term asset in the NBA.