This year’s NBA Draft is an interesting one. The top of the draft does not exactly appear to be packed with future NBA stars, but the draft does seem to have more than ample depth. Outside of the guys projected to land inside the first ten picks, there are some really compelling prospects. Here are five guys that I think have the potential to be drafted much later in the draft than they probably should be:
- Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State): Franklin is definitely a lottery level talent, although most have him landing outside of the top 14 picks. The dude is a physical freak with nearly a seven-foot wingspan and crazy leaping ability. He can score in a variety of ways and has excellent defensive skills. As a junior this season for San Diego State, he averaged nearly ten rebounds per game! He has an NBA body, a great motor (a very important attribute), and a diverse set of skills, which all point to professional success. His assist-to-turnover ratio in college was poor, and he may not be 100% NBA ready, but I still think that he is one of the ten best prospects in this draft.
- Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Like Franklin, Dieng appears to have an outside shot of landing in the lottery, but most have him falling somewhere in the middle to late first round. Gorgui is very good on the boards and defensively thanks in part to the fact that he has longer arms than Mister Fantastic. Dieng is also quite athletic for someone who stands almost at seven feet. Teams may be wary of Dieng’s age (he is 23), but his offensive game has improved by leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons. It’s still not great, but Dieng has decent range on his shot and passes well. He also has developed into a capable finisher around the basket. I think the Senegalese center has a great shot at becoming a very solid NBA player.
- Erick Green (Virginia Tech): Green has become my guy in this year’s draft. I’m utterly shocked about how little respect he is getting from NBA scouts. He had an incredible season for Virginia Tech this winter, dropping 25 a game efficiently despite the fact that defenses keyed on him each night because he was the only even moderately good player on the Hokies. Green is a blur in the open court, a terrific shooter, and a very willing passer (one might say he was too willing this season for V-Tech, and he still put up crazy scoring numbers). NBA scouts are probably scared because he played all four years in college, or because he never played on a good team in college, or because he doesn’t have great size. But, when I look at Green I see an otherworldly scorer coming off an ACC Player of the Year campaign who has a very polished game. He reminds me of MarShon Brooks a lot, but he can do more than simply score and is less reliant on his J than Brooks. Don’t be surprised if Green proves to be a draft steal.
- CJ Leslie (NC State): I see precisely where the concerns regarding Leslie lie. Put bluntly, he was consistently disappointing in college. And I get that. But Leslie is still a lottery type talent that seems to be headed for the early second round. He is 6-9, has some guard skills and the size and length to play around the hoop. In college it often didn’t look like Leslie had any idea of what he was doing on the court and he still averaged 15 and 7 his sophomore and junior seasons. I’m not guaranteeing that Leslie will realize half of his potential, but, under the right tutelage, I could see him becoming a very good defensive player with a solid offensive game. He could go down as a big steal.
- Peyton Siva (Louisville): My second Cardinal on the list (maybe I just like winners)! Siva is projected to be somewhere on the fringe between the 2nd round and not being drafted at all. I think the little guard could, nevertheless, prove to be a very viable NBA player. I honestly would have thought that his tremendous play in the National Championship would have bounced his draft stock up more than it did. Siva is freakishly fast, an unfairly good defender, and has terrific court vision. He is small, and he is on the older side, but it is hard not to like Siva’s motor and speed. He may never make it in the NBA, but I think Siva has a much better chance than most of the guys projected to land beyond the beginning of second round.