On June 21st, 60 young men will have their names announced and have a lifelong dream fulfilled. On this day, the 2018 NBA Draft will occur at the Barclays Center in New York City. The opportunity to play in the best basketball league in the world unlocks so many opportunities for the players.
There are several different types of prospects when it comes to draft night. Some of the most coveted lottery players know they will be selected early in the first round, it is just a matter of at what spot. Some other players aren’t quite sure where or if they will be picked, and hope that their pre-draft performances can land them a spot on a team.
For the players in middle, those whom probably going to get drafted but could fall anywhere from mid-first to late second round, their NBA readiness can vary. Some of them turn out to be very serviceable role players, others turn out to be busts, and some even turn into stars themselves. When NBA teams draft in these positions, they are looking for the years’ “sleeper pick.”
Successful sleeper picks are hard to come by, but when a team finds one, it can really change their team dynamic. Over the years, sleeper picks have not only turned out to be great players, but some of the most successful NBA players in league history. Current Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman was drafted well into the second round but went on to be a vital piece on championship teams in the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. A future Hall of Famer, Manu Ginobili turned himself into an international second round draft pick into one of the best 6th men and San Antonio Spurs of all-time.
More recently, there have been several players drafted later in the draft that have exceed expectations. Despite being picked 15th overall in last years draft, Utah Jazz rookie Donavon Mitchell lead his team to the playoffs and is one of the top candidates to win the Rookie of the Year. The Lakers selected forward Kyle Kuzma with the 27th pick overall, not knowing if he would even be able produce for the team in a few years. Instead, Kuzma quickly became a leader on the team and led the Lakers in scoring. While late draft picks may seem like longshots to become good NBA players, these sleeper picks are actually just diamonds waiting to be found in the rough.
Without further ado, I am going to present you with some players who could be the best sleeper picks 2018 NBA Draft.
Sleeper Pick #1: Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop
Keita Bates-Diop is the definition of late bloomer. The 6’9 forward veraged around 10 points in his sophomore and junior year at Ohio State, but exploded on the college basketball scene in his senior year by averaging 20 points per game and winning Big Ten Player of the Year. He also scored very efficiently, shooting 48% of the floor, 36% from the three-point line, and 80% from the free-throw line.
Besides being an excellent scorer, Bates-Diop also rebounded the ball extremely well (almost 9 rebounds per game), especially for playing on the perimeter. Bates-Diop is a very long 6’9 and should be able to not only defend his position but also hold his own guarding in the post.
He may be 22 years old already, but that should not deter teams from drafting him. Players like Malcom Brogdan and Kyle Kuzma were taken as seniors out of college and immediately made an impact on their respective teams. Bates-Diop posses a lot of the same traits and is too polished scorer to not be a good
Bates-Diop’s skillset should make him a target for almost every NBA team. A contender could use him for his shooting and defense prowess, while a rebuilding team could use Bates-Diop’s leadership and versatility to build around.
Sleeper Pick #2: Boise State guard/forward Chandler Hutchinson
My second sleeper pick option is very similar to my first. Chandler Hutchison, a senior guard from Boise State, is another older prospect (22 years old) who steadily got better and better in college. He averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds a game in his senior season and, similar to Bates-Diop, Hutchinson shot well from the field and an adequate 36% from the field. Through Hutchinson dominance and leadership, he led Boise State to the NCAA Tournament, where they narrowly lost to a very good Nevada team.
Hutchinson is going to have the same doubts casted on him that Bates-Diop and every other older player gets when coming into the draft, along with some other thoughts. Boise State is not necessarily a basketball powerhouse, so Hutchinson’s competition will be in question. Not only that, but it took Hutchinson four years to become a star there, so how will he be able to step up to the challenge in the NBA? Someone thinks so, as Hutchinson has pulled out of the NBA combine due to the thought he has already been promised a draft pick. The Chicago Bulls have (apparently) told Hutchinson’s camp that they will use their 22nd overall pick on him, making him a lock to get drafted. However, I believe that Hutchinson will possibly be drafted higher by a team that is looking for a veteran scorer.
As I said earlier, there is no reason to fret about Hutchinson’s age. He progressed greatly in his four years at Boise State and will continue to, maybe with the Bulls. Someone will pick him up and will find themselves a very good scorer and leader.
Sleeper Pick #3: Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo
Donte DiVincenzo, who was the heart of Villanova title run this year, has had a wild three months. DiVincenzo was not on anyone’s draft board before March but quickly became a potential lottery prospect after his March Madness performance, where he averaged 15 points per game in the tournament while shooting an incredible 50% from the 3-point line.
After scouts became to take interest in him, DiVincenzo then dominated the NBA Draft Combine. He posted a combine-best standing vertical leap at 34.5 inches and tied for the best max vertical leap at 42 inches, along with being top-ten in most of the agility and speed drills.
DiVincenzo’s upside is huge. He is an incredible athlete, has a great motor, and a smooth shooting stroke from behind the arc. There will be many NBA teams that will want to take a chance on DiVincenzo due to his March Madness and combine success, but I also think that many teams will be surprised how quickly he will be able to make an impact for them.
Sleeper Pick #4: Villanova forward Omari Spellman
Speaking of sleeper picks from Villanova, freshman forward Omari Spellman will be another intriguing late first round pick. Spellman was nowhere near the most exciting player on Villanova, but he put up a very solid 11 points and 8 rebounds per game in his freshman year. He was also an excellent shooting big man, knocking down 43% of his 3-point shots.
Spellman is the ideal stretch power forward that NBA teams love nowadays. His shooting allows him to stretch the defense out and will only be able to develop more offensive skills as he gets more chances. Despite not being the most athletic specimen, Spellman also grabs a high amount of rebounds, including averaging 2.5 offensive rebounds a game in college.
Most of his draft issues will come from Spellman’s defense. He has a measured 7’2 wingspan but is only 6’9 and does not posses very strong vertical skills. Those problems can be hidden in college through a high basketball IQ (which Spellman has) but can be exploited in the NBA. However, Spellman’s youth and offensive upside should be enough for a team to take a chance on him in as a sleeper pick late in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft.