Every year there are a few prospects in the NBA Draft that fall out of the top-ten due to certain perceived weaknesses. Yes, even players as good as Donovan Mitchell slide due to some of those “weaknesses”. It happens all the time. Mitchell’s case made me curious about other guys outside of the top ten, so I went back and looked at the last five drafts to see who else had slipped. After my research, I found many teams had uncovered gems, but specifically in the 11-15 pick range.
Check out the names from the last five years in the range:
Donovan Mitchell – 2017 draft – 13th selection
Domantos Sabonis – 2016 – 11
Devin Booker – 2015 – 13
Kelly Oubre – 2015 – 15
Dario Saric – 2014 – 12
Zach LaVine – 2014 – 13
Steven Adams – 2013 – 12
Kelly Olynyk – 2013 – 13
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2013 – 15
As you can see from that list, there are some really good players that fell out of the top-ten, including a couple of flat out studs. I decided to analyze this year’s class, and found three guys that have the potential to be steals like the players above. So let’s jump into it!
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
SGA as I like to call him, is 6-foot-6, 7-foot wingspan lead guard. I was impressed by his high basketball IQ, court vision, and passing last year. He really turned it up in the second half of the season, including in the SEC & NCAA tournaments. He also uses his length very well on the defensive side of the ball at his age.
He finished his freshman campaign averaging 14.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, and 4.1 rpg, but averaged a blazing 21 points, 6.7 assists, 5 rebounds, and just 1.7 turnovers per game during Kentucky’s run through the SEC tourney. His best game came against Buffalo in the NCAA tournament where he led his team to victory by putting up 27/6/6. He has a smooth, throwback game that I enjoy watching. His frame and his shooting (or lack thereof) are a couple of cause for concerns for GM’s. The shooting was just him being a product of his environment and surrounded by so many good players at UK. He has a solid form that will improve with time. And, about his frame, give him a year or two to hit the weight room, then watch out:
Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
Williams is one of my favorite players in this draft due to his explosive hops. His ability to rim protect and finish pick-and-rolls reminds me a lot of both DeAndre Jordan and Clint Capela. Williams played a huge role in Texas A&M’s Sweet Sixteen run this year, which included a waxing of North Carolina. And in case you forgot, Williams was the one who put the exclamation on that Aggie victory:
Williams averaged 11.15ppg, 8.7rpg, and 2.5bpg, all while playing with less than stellar guard play. If Williams can get on the right team with a good point guard, the sky’s the limit for him…literally.
Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
Smith just turned 19 and is an athletic freak. Check out his numbers from the combine:
And if those don’t excite you, check out this dunk from his workout with the Philadelphia 76ers:
He has a good motor and is an aggressive defender. His biggest weakness, or as the consultants like to say “opportunity” is his shooting. He has a slow release, and his 45% from three-point land is a little deceiving as he only took a total of 40 last year. He only shot 72% from the FT line as well. In today’s NBA you have to be able to shoot to make it, so that will be his biggest sticking point. Luckily for him his mechanics look good, so as long as he puts in the work, he should be able to drastically improve in that category.
The Los Angeles Clippers have two picks in that 11-15 range, and Williams is one of the names rumored to be going there. If the trend continues, they should be able to find a solid foundational player with one or both of their picks.