By now, everyone knows the NBA Draft is an inexact science. For every Dwight Howard, there is a Kwame Brown. For every Curtis Borchardt, there is an Al Jefferson. And so on and so forth.
The point is, there are plenty of players with lots of talent who get passed up for whatever reason — whether it be potential red flags, concerns about athleticism or not having an “NBA body.”
Anthony Davis will be the number one pick. There are set of very solid players that will go anywhere from two through about six or seven. After that, the talent continues to be pretty solid. There may not be an All Star in this bunch, but there are players that will contribute for years to come. That is what makes this such an incredibly deep draft.
Tread lightly though, there is no guarantee that any player will fulfill his potential. It takes a lot of drive, determination and luck to do so. A lot of the guys later in the draft have their careers depend on the situation they come into. A coach that gives them confidence and trust him could flourish, while a player on a bad situation or playing too far outside of his comfort zone could never develop.
So take the following suggestions with that grain of salt.
There is talent late in the Draft, and, while teams are trying to move up, the teams moving down could get one of these potential sleepers late in the first round.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Sullinger has had one of the strangest pre-Draft experiences the league has seen in quite some time. It is hard to believe that Sullinger was projected to be a top pick at one time, battling with Thomas Robinson for the title of second best post player in the Draft.
Then, someone put a red flag on his medical file and teams got scared. Or at least that was what was being reported. Sullinger dropped like a rock to the point that he was not even invited to Newark to attend the Draft.
That does not mean a team in the middle of the first round should pass him up. Look at DeJuan Blair. He was red-flagged after teams became wary of his two formerly torn ACLs, and Blair has only played 227 out of 230 regular season games the last three seasons, starting 150 of them.
Obviously, knee injuries are different than back issues. But one could argue Sullinger is more talented than Blair was coming out. It seems like he is worth the risk if he falls into the middle part of the draft.
Sullinger averaged 17.5 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game in helping lead Ohio State to the Final Four last year as a sophomore. Those numbers were pretty consistent from his freshman year too, when he was widely considered to be a top five pick. That nagging back injury is the only reason for concern with this guy.
Sullinger is a smart player who has a sound and developed post game. Being from the Big Ten, he is not afraid to mix it up defensively either. Questions about his athleticism and size will persist, but he is ready for the NBA.
Terrence Ross, Washington
Ross might be one of the more intriguing wing prospects in this year’s draft. He is extremely athletic and a great finisher on the break. Last year at Washington, he averaged 16.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc.
More interestingly, Ross had consistent production across his two years. He saw his playing time double from his freshman year and had a pretty even doubling of his scoring production. This kind of consistency is what you want to see if you plan on grooming Ross to be a bench producer with a mid-first round pick.
That is likely the role Ross is heading toward. This means you would still like to see him improve his shooting touch from beyond the arc. But Ross is a scorer and someone a team could see as extremely valuable as an energy guy coming off the bench. He has the athleticism to do that and become a solid perimeter defender. He just needs the right situation.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
Playing at a small-conference school has the big disadvantage of putting a prospect out of the limelight. Barring a miracle NCAA Tournament run, a lot of fans do not get to see these players. Nicholson likely falls into this category. That does not mean you will not know who he is.
Nicholson could be a solid contributor off the bench if he gets on the right team. He took the Atlantic 10 by storm and had a solid four-year career with the Bonnies. He won the conference’s player of the year award last year with 18.5 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game. He also shot 57.1 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent from beyond the arc. And his range is improving.
Nicholson has a great post game and some athleticism that should help him translate to the NBA. For him, it will be all about the situation he is put in. But it looks like he could thrive if he adds some strength and keeps extending his range.
Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
Taylor is widely considered one of the best shooters in this draft. So how is he slipping so low into the first round?
If there is one skill that always seems to translate to the NBA, it is elite shooting ability. Taylor made 42.3 percent of his 3-pointers last year in averaging 16.1 points per game for the Commodores. If a team needs a more athletic spot-up shooter, Taylor could certainly be that guy as he is decent at getting to the basket too.
There are caveats though.
Taylor’s shooting ability is still developing — he shot 34.5 percent from long range his junior year — and he did not quite show the strong consistency you want to see. Still, he made improvements and progression and so it seems like he may continue to do so.
If a team needs a shooter late in the first round, Taylor seems to be that guy.
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Moultrie busted out in his lone season at Mississippi State after transferring from UTEP, averaging 16.4 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Moultrie is extremely athletic for his size and has a bit of an in-between game. He can step out and hit mid-range jumpers, but also has a good command of basic post moves. He is already a pretty strong rebounder, using his athleticism often to snatch boards over smaller defenders.
Whoever drafts Moultrie is going to determine where his career goes. They could turn him into a jump-shooting four or a post-up five. Either way, Moultrie has to add some strength (as all draft prospects do) and improve his defense. The instincts are there, but he could get muscled around early in his career.