9 NBA Draft sleepers who could be steals in the second round
The 2017 NBA Draft has been touted as one of the deepest in years, and looking at most mock drafts indicates why. There is true star potential at the top of the board with Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum, while talented (if unproven) players like Zach Collins and Jarrett Allen likely will fill out the back end of the lottery.
However, the real depth in this class might actually be found later in the draft. More so than in most years, there seems to be several truly impactful, difference-making players who will be available late in the first round and early in the second.
Who are they? Here are nine guys who could be drafted in the second round and still become impact NBA players. Some may sneak into the first round, but right now they are all projected to go in the second, according to FOX Sports’ most recent mock draft.
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Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon
The league's ever-increasing emphasis on three-point shooting means a guy like Dorsey — whose one innate skill is putting the ball in the basket, especially from deep — never has been more valuable. Dorsey stood out all season at Oregon, averaging 14.6 points and shooting more than 42 percent from beyond the arc. Even better, “Mr. March” saved his best performances for the Ducks’ biggest games. He averaged nearly 24 points in the NCAA tournament, hitting an average of four three-pointers per contest.
Dorsey has been a hot name in draft circles for weeks, and with good reason. He’ll add immediate value to whoever drafts him.
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Josh Hart, G/F, Villanova
Unlike many players who’ll be selected ahead of him, Hart isn’t a guy who blows teams away in individual workouts. He isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t do one thing insanely well (like the way Dorsey shoots the ball). But when the lights are on and the ball is tipped, there aren’t many better pure basketball players in the draft.
Hart’s stats this past season at Villanova back that up. In 2017, Hart not only scored 18 points per game, but he also led the team in rebounds (6.4), despite standing just 6-foot-5. He averaged nearly three assists and two steals, all while shooting more than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-point arc.
Hart is just a “baller” and, as I joked throughout the college basketball season (probably a bit too often), a guy whose destiny seems to be drafted by the Spurs and buried on the bench, only to drop 30 points in a playoff game out of nowhere.
Whether he actually ends up on the Spurs remains to be seen. But he is the exact kind of smart, heady player that they covet and that every team could use.
Monte Morris, G, Iowa State
Because of his age (he’ll be 22 a week after the draft) and average-but-not-great athleticism, Morris doesn’t have the upside of the guards at the top of the draft. But if you’re looking for a true floor general who could find a spot on your roster and run your second team for the next several years, Morris might be your guy.
The Iowa State product was one of the truly elite point guards in college basketball for four years in Ames. The 6-foot-3 guard led college basketball in assist-to-turnover ratio in all four seasons he played, including last season when he averaged 16 points and six assists with just one turnover per contest.
Nigel Williams-Goss, G, Gonzaga
Williams-Goss surprised many by declaring for the draft after Gonzaga’s magical run to the national championship game, but dig deeper and it made sense. He’s already 22 and recently got his degree. More important, Williams-Goss kind of “is who he is” as a draft prospect, and returning to college for another season wouldn’t really have changed his long-term prospects.
So who is Williams-Goss as a prospect? He is a truly great leader, who averaged 17 points, six rebounds and nearly five assists in his only season in Spokane, after transferring from Washington. About the only thing keeping Williams-Goss from moving higher on draft boards is his limited athleticism, which showed when North Carolina’s Justin Jackson harassed him into a 5-for-17 shooting night in the NCAA title game.
I saw Jackson for the first time as a high school junior back in 2014, and his game really hasn't changed. Jackson is an uber-athletic combo guard who is best with the ball in his hands and while looking to get his own offense. What Jackson never has been — and almost certainly will never be — is a player who is best creating for others.
That’s why Jackson probably will fall to the second round: He’s just not the true point guard that so many want him to be. But as long as the team drafting him knows exactly what it's getting, then it will acquire a great second-round value pick. Jackson showed exactly what he’s capable of in one season at Duke, where he averaged 11 points despite playing alongside three likely first-round picks: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Luke Kennard.
Jordan Bell, F, Oregon
To those who don’t follow college basketball closely, Bell was a revelation during the NCAA tournament with a near triple-double against Kansas in the Elite Eight (11 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists), followed by a 13-point, 16-rebound performance against North Carolina. But that’s basically what Bell did all season-- as well as win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The best part is that Bell already knows exactly who he is. He has no preconceived notions of being a big-time scorer or offensive threat in the NBA, but instead he’s stated publicly that he views himself as more of a Tristan Thompson type, who will make his impact with defense and rebounding. As a bonus, not only is Bell a great shot blocker for his size (he averaged 2.3 a game this year) but he's also a guy who can switch on to guards in pick-and-roll settings. In the modern, pick-and-roll-heavy NBA, that’s an invaluable asset.
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Frank Mason, G, Kansas
There’s probably nothing about Mason you don’t already know. The under-recruited guard who once was committed to Towson blossomed into an All-American at Kansas, where he averaged 20.9 points and shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc as a senior.
Because of Mason’s age (23) and size (5-11), he won’t go in the first round. But Mason has been killing it in workouts, according to several sources. And if this past year at Kansas was any indication, he will find a way to contribute in the NBA. Mason may never be a star, but it’s hard to imagine him not making an impact over the next several years.
Cam Oliver, F, Nevada
For those who never have seen Oliver play, fire up YouTube and find highlights of Nevada’s 2017 NCAA tournament game against Iowa State. You need to watch only a few seconds to see why NBA people love Oliver. Although he’s a bit undersized at 6-8, Oliver is a crazy explosive athlete at power forward.
He averaged just less than 17 points and nine boards this season and saved some of his best performances for his biggest games of the year (including 22 and seven in the NCAA tournament). He also showed three-point range, including when he he hit four of five in a Mountain West tourney semifinal win over Colorado State.
Tony Bradley, F/C, North Carolina
Once you get past the top few prospects, Bradley is — at least in this writer’s opinion — one of the most intriguing names in this draft. On the surface his 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds don’t do much to impress you, until you remember that on a stacked and experienced front line at North Carolina, he played just 14 minutes per game. If you stretch those stats over 30 minutes or so (what most top prospects played this past season), Bradley would’ve turned out nightly double-doubles.
Therefore, it’s easy to see why most had Bradley pegged as an early pick in the 2018 draft. Virtually everyone was under the assumption that he’d return to Chapel Hill, play serious minutes and put up monster stats. Instead, he bet on himself and moved up the process a year by declaring for the draft.
Whatever team drafts Bradley knows it might not be getting much from him next year. That team also knows it could be getting a guy in the second round who is equal to, or better than, a lot of top prospects in the 2018 draft. It’s a risk that a lot of teams will be willing to take, so don’t expect to see Bradley stay on the board too far into the second round.
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