Year after year, NBA front offices look for a diamond in the rough. Drafting is hard enough to pull off as it is, but some draftees fall under the radar.
Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all examples of non-lottery picks that have turned into stars. Some of the biggest steals fall in the draft.
It is up to the front offices to put the right guys in the right systems. Here are some of the best underrated players in the 2018 NBA draft class.
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Projection: Late first round
The NBA loves a guy who can play inside out. Bates-Diop is one of the more offensively complete college players in this draft class. He went from being a good prospect his sophomore year to a great prospect his junior year.
He averaged 19.8 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game his junior season. He will have to be more of a small forward in his transition into the NBA. But with a 6-foot-7 frame and high release, he should have no problem shooting over defenders.
He scored 20 or more points in 15 of the 34 games he played in his junior season and scored under 10 just twice. He recorded 13 double-doubles and shot 48 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from the 3-point line and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line. Bates-Diop’s game transitions extremely well to the NBA.
He has a very polished offensive game and has the ability to guard almost anyone on defense. His draft stock is rising fast, as it should. Bates-Diop has one of the best all-around games in the 2018 draft class.
Omari Spellman, Villanova
Projection: Late first round
We go from a very proven college athlete to a young guy. Omari Spellman is a first-year player out of Villanova. He averaged 10.9 points and eight rebounds in his only season. Spellman also shot 47.6 percent from the field and shot a very impressive 43.3 percent from the 3-point line. His totaled just one less 3-pointer made than Bates-Diop, but shot less of them.
What makes Spellman interesting to NBA scouts is his athletic ability as well as his ceiling. In almost an opposite direction from Bates-Diop, going to the NBA now makes using the unpredictable an advantage. Spellman played so well with a group of stars and was a key part to a National Championship. It was his best move to advance to the NBA.
Spellman’s ceiling really falls within his athleticism. He has a 7-foot-2 wingspan even though he stands at just 6-foot-9. He is very explosive around the rim, but does not necessarily have an above-the-rim game. He has a great nose on the boards despite being undersized for his position.
He does not have a complete game in the sense that he is not a back-to-the-basket player. However, he is very comfortable away from the basket and is also comfortable facing the basket. Those two things translate extremely well to the NBA’s style of play.
Brandon McCoy, UNLV
Projection: Mid-second round
Here is a guy that many people might not know of. Brandon McCoy is extremely skilled as a 7-foot-1 traditional center. He is 250 pounds and is a monster on the boards. He has not necessarily had his chances against Power-Five competition. However, against projected No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, he put up 33 points and 10 rebounds.
McCoy averaged 16.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his freshman season. He shot 54.5 percent from the field and 72.5 percent from the free-throw line.
In a way, he is similar to Dwight Howard when he came into the league. He is extremely strong, but is also offensively raw and does not have too much diversity in his game. He is very good in the pick and roll and is also very good with his back to the basket due to his size.
He does not have a fantastic face-up game. However, he did show he could make a three, he just never had the confidence to shoot in bulk.
McCoy has the ability to dominate the paint given the right system. He is extremely raw, but can still come into his own given some time. After all, he is only 19 years old.
Malik Newman, Kansas
Projection: Late second round
Malik Newman started at Mississippi State and finished at Kansas. If you look at the difference in statistics, he looks like a completely different person.
Since his Mississippi State days, he has improved all his statistics drastically. In one season, he went from shooting 68.7 percent from the free-throw line and improved all the way to 83.5 percent at the end of his sophomore season.
His sophomore year percentages were 46.3 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the free-throw line. He averaged 14.2 points, five rebounds and 2.1 assists. The thing that makes him most interesting is that during the back half of his sophomore season, his statistics skyrocketed.
Newman can be an important piece to any NBA roster. He reminds many of former Jayhawk Ben McLemore. He has a great jump shot and also has a ton of athletic ability.
Featured image from Bleacherfan.com
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