The NBA draft is one of the hardest ways to consistently grab high-end talent because at the end of the day, teams are forced to judge mainly teenagers who haven’t played in an NBA caliber environment. This is why we often see players that get drafted very high not pan out because teams were too high on that prospect, there are also as many prospects that should have gone much higher but didn’t due to overblown concerns. This year, especially with the depth this class has, this trend is bound to repeat itself similarly to how it does most years. There could certainly be more than five prospects that outplay their draft position, but let’s take a look at five notable draft prospects who are underrated and have a good chance of surprising many!
Tre Mann (PG, Florida, Sophomore)
Tre Mann was once the #2 ranked point guard in his high school class, but after a really poor freshman season, he fell out of the radar and went back to college for a second year. In his sophomore season, he put his name back into the first round conversation, yet I think we need to take Mann more seriously as a prospect.
Mann is a 6’4″ combo guard who can create for himself off the bounce as well as any guard in the draft, he has a tight handle, he is able to shift speeds, underrated finisher around the rim and is a tough shot maker with an absolute effortless stroke with range off the catch and off the bounce, with true flashes as a playmaker.
I get it, he isn’t the most explosive athlete and isn’t necessarily a true point guard, but with Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and D’Angelo Russell, we are trending towards combo/scoring guards more than ever before, so I don’t understand why that has raised question marks for him.
There is a very good chance he doesn’t end up in the lottery, and if he does, whoever takes him will have the rare opportunity to draft a potential 20 PPG scorer in this league outside of the lottery.
Comparison: D’Angelo Russell
Miles McBride (PG/SG, West Virginia, Sophomore)
Miles McBride has always been a fantastic defender. He isn’t the biggest, but he has good length and quick feet, he has a high defensive IQ, and has the intensity on that end to be an absolute pest defensively. This year, he took that leap offensively that should also make him a first round pick.
His shot has dramatically improved, he is now a 41% shooter from three, he is comfortable pulling up on the bounce, off the catch, his step back from the mid range has become a signature in his game, he simply is someone that shoots with great confidence and is capable of getting hot in a hurry. His ability to effectively control the pace of the game is a question mark, he took some shots throughout the season that made absolute zero sense considering the context of the shot clock and game, but his confidence is never lacking and he is more than capable of making the right read when he isn’t thinking to score.
I am not saying McBride is going to be this All-Star level two-way guard, but with his defensive prowess and improved shot making, he has a chance to be a very dynamic two-way bench player, if not starter, and getting that in the late first round is a huge steal.
Comparison: Kyle Lowry lite
Luka Garza (C, Iowa, Senior)
Luka Garza is arguably the most productive college center we have seen since Superman himself, Shaquille O’Neal, yet he is more than likely going to be a late second round due to the questions of his game translating to the NBA level in a winning fashion.
I get it, he is not the most naturally athletic, he has bricks for feet and was as close to a non-factor on defense as anyone can possibly be at the college level. But he has lost a lot of weight since his last college season and appeared to be moving pretty well at the draft combine, relative to how he moved at the college level.
At the end of the day, Garza will forever have questions on the defensive end, but his offensive production and skillset to me cannot be ignored. He is a near seven footer who is one of the best shooters in this entire draft; he has a quick, high arching, and consistent shot that led to him shooting 45% from three in college. He also is a good shooter from the mid range, he has a good feel on the offensive end, and is a bully in the paint.
People can say what they want about Garza’s questions defensively, but there are plenty of non-defensive players in the league these days that still have long careers; and bigs that can shoot and score in the post the way Garza can have value in this league, even if it is as a scoring punch floor spacing big off the bench.
I don’t know what Garza’s ceiling is, but we are definitely underrating his floor, I would absolutely take a chance on a big that can score like Garza in the early second round.
Comparison: Brook Lopez-Rim Protection/Naz Reid
Day’Ron Sharpe (C, UNC, Freshman)
Day’Ron Sharpe was on the historically great Monteverde high school team with Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Moses Moody as a legitimate five star prospect… and he will likely be the last player taken out of that group. Even though that is likely the case, he has a chance to be a very good player in this league.
Sharpe is an strong, athletic big with an NBA frame, he is one of the best rebounders in the class, he has a good presence in the paint defensively, he can handle the ball in the open court a little bit, he can finish around the rim, and he can really pass.
The one question that really emerges when it comes to Sharpe is he is not a great free throw shooter at all, he shot 51% on the line, which is hard to play at the end if games. But… his three point shot during draft work outs has looked very promising. I get it is only workouts and him being guarded by nobody, but the stroke looked very smooth.
If Sharpe is able to stretch the floor and use that as a compliment to his athleticism, defense, and vision, he has a chance to be a very impactful high-end role player in this league.
Comparison: Robert Williams
Ayo Dosunmu (PG, Illinois, Junior)
Ayo Dosunmu was one of the best players in the country and made Illinois, of all places, one of the more exciting teams to watch. His stock isn’t as high as I believe it should be because many scouts question his minimal explosiveness, strength, and range from the outside.
Even though I also have questions what his NBA three point shooting will look like coming into the league because he shot right at the college three point line and doesn’t have a very high release point, but his mid range is absolute cash off the dribble and I think he can extend his shot.
When it comes to explosives and strength, I don’t think that about that as much because he is so shifty and slippery with the ball in his hands while having good body control, so I don’t have many questions about his ability to get to his spots in the paint, especially with the floor spacing in the NBA.
At the end of the day, we are talking about a 6’5″ point guard with a tremendous feel of how to get to his spots, he can beat you off the bounce, he is crafty around the rim, a very solid passer, and projects to be a great defender in the league.
Dosunmu will drop because we sometimes put too much weight into how strong and explosive players are, if players can hoop and make up for their lack of freak athleticism with shiftiness and skill, the athleticism questions shouldn’t loom to the same degree. Somebody is going to draft a lottery talent later in the first round in Dosunmu.
Comparison: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander lite