Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Malik Monk (Kentucky) shows off the inside of his suit jacket as he is introduced as the number eleven overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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On 2017 NBA Draft night, the top-10 went more or less how it was expected to go. However, afterward several teams got great value with players who slid down.
The big-name prospects went early and often in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Many teams took who they were mocked to select. Between Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball going No. 1 and No. 2, and De’Aaron Fox and Frank Ntilikina landing in Sacramento and New York, we didn’t have our jaws on the ground after 10 picks. Maybe Lauri Markkanen going seventh to Chicago in the Jimmy Butler trade was surprising, but he’s arguably a top-10 talent.
Players that can be considered steals came after the top-10 in this year’s class. The first round was full of young big men who were very flawed. They still went in bunches between 14-30. Skip forward to the second round and there was more value with some picks than the end of the first round. The second round sleepers remain an integral part of the NBA Draft. This is partially due to an abundance of front offices that continue to ignore where the league is heading.
Countless general managers selected big men without two-way upside when the league is going more towards length, shooting and versatility. Those who did not follow in their peers steps fared much better. When looking at the sleepers in this year’s draft, you’ll find players that fit the modern NBA game.
Apr 1, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) reacts after making a basket against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
5. Sindarius Thornwell (No. 48) and Jawun Evans (No. 39) – Los Angeles Clippers
First a quick disclaimer. Jawun Evans is supposed to be heading to the Los Angeles Clippers from the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Sixers are waiting to see how the new salary cap plays out after July 1.
Evans will likely come to the Clippers and offers a shifty, pick-and-roll point guard that can grow into a starter’s role if Chris Paul leaves the franchise. Should Paul return, he could blossom into one of the league’s best backups. Not a bad mentor for a rookie.
As for Sindarius Thornwell, like Evans, he had a legitimate case as a first round pick. Getting both guys in the second round is superb drafting. While he’s one of those older seniors who slid to the second round, he has NBA player written all over him.
Thornwell loves playing aggressively and on defense. It’s hard to find that in a league full of egos and scoring. He shot the lights out of the three-ball this year, which some expect to regress. Still, if he provides average shooting and excellent defense, he fits the bill of the wings NBA teams seldom get their hands on.
With J.J. Redick possibly out the door, Thornwell could step into heavy minutes right away. If Redick stays, he could still be one of the most productive bench wings next season.
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) drives to the basket against Wisconsin Badgers guard Zak Showalter (3) in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
4. Josh Hart (No. 30) — Los Angeles Lakers
Like Sindarius Thornwell, Josh Hart was another older senior who slipped late in the draft. Hart did stay in the first round, though, going 30th overall to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With D’Angelo Russell out the door, the Lakers made a smart move by investing in a cheap and skilled guard. Day one in the door, Hart will be able to contribute in Los Angeles. With good size to play the 2, and maybe even some 3, he brings a combination of skills and intangibles missing on the Lakers.
Even though he’s a rookie, Hart will bring leadership and confidence to a Lakers locker room that will happily welcome that. Hart projects to be a solid one-on-one defender and an excellent team one. He shot the ball tremendously well from three too. Shooting is one of the Lakers biggest needs, especially with Russell gone.
Lonzo Ball will likely benefit more from a lead guard than Hart, but the two could complement each other very well. Hart could take the tougher defensive assignments and both can spot up while the other handles the ball. There’s strong potential for Hart to wear the purple and gold for a long time.
Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Malik Monk (Kentucky) is introduced by NBA commissioner Adam Silver as the number eleven overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Malik Monk (No. 11) – Charlotte Hornets
In most drafts, Malik Monk is a top-10 pick, even top-five in some. The small 2-guard from Kentucky can shoot from anywhere and has both underrated athleticism and playmaking potential. Monk should also be a force in transition.
Someone was always going to fall in this class due to the depth at the top, and Monk was the one who fell. Falling this far is no knock on Monk, who has a much brighter future than just a knockdown shooter. A knockdown shooter, though, is exactly what the Charlotte Hornets need around Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard.
It’s unclear how a Monk-Walker backcourt would hold up defensively, but the offensive upside might be too high. Walker is dynamic getting to the rim, so teams will have to decide if they’d rather let him attack or let Monk launch uncontested threes.
Monk was arguably the best shot-maker in college with a defender close by last season. He could easily clip 40-45 percent from deep if left open too much. With Howard and now Monk, Charlotte could make a big jump next season. A lineup of Walker, Monk, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Howard will be a matchup nightmare.
Feb 23, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) reacts during the second half against the Utah Utes at the Coors Events Center. The Utes defeated the Buffaloes 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
2. Derrick White (No. 29) — San Antonio Spurs
There are a lot of “Spursy” picks, but few in recent memory seem as “Spursy” as Derrick White. As arguably the best organization when it comes to scouting, drafting and development, it’s no wonder the Spurs jumped on the chance to take Derrick White with the 29th pick.
An athletic combo guard who starred in his one year at Colorado, White is an older prospect. Most teams won’t go near that old of a player in the first round and that’s a mistake. Where worse GMs took unskilled big men, the Spurs took possibly the most skilled guard after the lottery.
White can do a little bit of everything from passing and shooting to rebounding and making plays on defense. He will probably only be average on the defensive end, but he’ll rack up steals and blocks. Steals and blocks will help the Spurs get out on the break and get easy buckets.
Given his ability to play on and off the ball, his versatility can suit any lineup Gregg Popovich wants to roll out. White will be 23 in July, but that’s no problem for a Spurs team that expects to return to the Western Conference Finals.
Mar 31, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Jordan Bell (1) shoots the ball during practice for the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jordan Bell (No. 38) — Golden State Warriors
How unfair is it that the Golden State Warriors got Jordan Bell? The rich got richer in the Bay with one of the most versatile and elite defenders in the draft. Bell had no business dropping to the second round, even though he’ll be 23 next January.
Aside from two-way shooting, the next most valuable trait in the NBA is versatile size. While under 6’9″, Bell can theoretically guard 1-5 in the NBA and brings a fire when he steps on the court. He’s also an underrated passer, who could even be an upgrade over Zaza Pachulia as soon as next season.
Bell was well worth the $3.5 million the Warriors paid the Chicago Bulls. When he makes a key block or steal in a playoff game next year, we can thank the Chicago Bulls and every team who picked before them.
That being said, while it’s frustrating in some ways, it’s also incredibly fun. You could not name a better fit for Bell than Golden State. He may be the second rookie in as many years to be an actual contributor and win a ring in year one. His potential to contribute right away could also keep the Warriors core together due to what should be a cheap contract.