With the conclusion of the NHL Playoffs last night, we have but one event left before we descend into the deep, dark abyss that is summer sports. Our one last hurrah before we are subject to two-hour Baseball Tonight nightmares every night is the NBA draft. It is an event that can change a franchise’s fortunes for decades unlike any other in sports. Basketball is so unique in the sense that a single player can change a team from a doormat to a contender.
With the success of the Spurs this year, it has never been clearer that these franchise-altering players can come from anywhere in the draft. They may be college superstars like Tim Duncan, virtual unknowns such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, or somewhere in between like Kawhi Leonard. By far the most intriguing of these categories is the second because it is the one ever fan dreads the most. No one wants to hear their team pick that mid-major kid who has barely been mentioned by analysts and never played on national TV. Even worse is the completely unknown EuroLeague player. In fact, the only time drafting a EuroLeaguer was when the Wizards drafted Jan Vesely started making out with his smokeshow girlfriend and claimed Blake Griffin was the “American Jan Vesely.” We all know how that turned out.
Not many from either category have a long shelf-life in the NBA these day but each team is still willing to take a gamble on the off chance that they find that player that is the missing link between them and a championship. Here are a few of these unknowns that have made it onto mock drafts:
1. C.J. McCollum
Most mock drafts have McCollum projected to go in the Top 10 and it would be a shocker if he did not. He scored over 2000 points in three seasons at Lehigh. He’s an exceptional shooter and a decent (but not elite) athlete. His most visible moments were leading the Mountain Hawks against powerhouses Kansas and Duke in the 2009 and 2011 tournaments respectively. He led the team with 30 points against Duke in a win, and 26 in the loss to Kansas.
Statisitcally, he is an absurd offensive player. He connected on an amazing 50% of his jump shots. He’s an exceptional ballhandler especially in transition. He’s a good but not elite athlete with a 38 inch max vertical and a 3.32 ¾ court sprint time. He only averaged 2.9 assists per game which will have to improve if he plays point guard in the league; however, at Lehigh he was asked to fill a different role, and he should be more of a facilitator if he gets shifted to the point. Defensively, he plays with good all around effort but lacks the athleticism to be an elite defender. He ranked among the national leaders in steals and rebounds for guards which should translate well to the NBA. Don’t be surprised if McCollum ends up being one of the best players in this draft when we look back in five years.
Projection: Top 10
2. Rudy Golbert
Gobert is a physical freak of nature. He stands a towering 7’ 2” and has an absolutely absured 7’ 8.5” inch wing-span, giving him close to a 10’ standing reach. He has great hands which gives guards an enormous target when passing into the post. He’s relatively mobile especially given his size but he doesn’t jump especially well, posting a mediocre 29 inch vertical jump. He shot a ridiculous 70% from the field from his French team, Cholet, last year. He at this point has no jump shot and doesn’t look comfortable shooting outside of 7 feet from the basket. However, he shoots free throws relatively well (70.4%) so it seems like he could develop a reliable jump shot when necessary. The biggest problem with Golbert is his lack of strength. He only did 8 reps of bench press at the combine which is way lower than you would like to see for a center. Realistically, he will simply get bullied down low unless he puts on weight, which will most likely be the limiting factor for his success in the NBA.
Projection: Mid-Late 1st Round
3. Allen Crabbe
He’s probably best known for his on-court altercation with Coach Mike Montgomery this year but has flown under the radar as one of the top shooting guard prospects in the draft. He shoots the ball very well both as a spot up shooter and off the dribble. His 3-point shooting dropped a little bit this year to 35% but he shot over 40 the two previous years. Likely due to the increased emphasis put on him by opposing defenses. His ball handling is his biggest weakness on offense and he struggled creating his shot as a result. He looked a little more polished in pre-draft workouts, and once he does get into the lane he has an effective pull up jump shot and finishes relatively well. He’s not a freak athlete but he moves very well. He’s much quicker than he is fast and he jumps relatively well with a 36 inch vert. He could stand to gain a little more strength given he posted 10 reps of the bench press at the combine. Ultimately, if he works on developing a more complete offensive game, he could become a solid role player.
Projection: Late 1st Round