In this edition of we are exploring a specific kind of sleeper for June’s draft. This NBA Draft is already being considered and perceived as one of the weaker ones in recent memory. Having said that, there are plenty of good sleeper options to look at out there as we approach the NBA All-Star break. While it’s hard to say which underclassmen might declare, there are some seniors to keep an eye on who could fly under the radar.
Payton Pritchard – Oregon
Pritchard is 6-foot-2 and almost 200 pounds and the biggest reason why the Ducks are so competitive this season. He’s averaging almost 20 points and 6 assists a game for a team that is tied for first in a much-improved PAC 12. While he isn’t the kind of freak athlete you like to see in the NBA, he is still above average in that regard. However, that is not his best attribute that will help teams win games.
He is one of the steadiest players in the game and absolutely one of the gutsiest players you can draft. He fears nothing. Not any one player, not any team and certainly not any defender. His most important tangible attribute is his shot though, as he has majorly deep range when left open. He could immediately come in and be a backup for a team in need.
Markus Howard – Marquette
What Markus Howard lacks in height at 5-foot-11, he makes up for in bucket getting. Period. In the last two seasons alone he has had: two 50-point games, four 40-point games, and fourteen 30-point games. He clearly knows how to score the ball and oftentimes has been his team’s entire offense. However, he is undersized to play point in the NBA and has a long ways to go on the defensive end to become a serviceable backup to anyone.
Howard is a good athlete and shooter from all over the floor, not just from beyond the arc. He’s also a solid scorer off the dribble, which is definitely an important skill to have going into the NBA. He’s got great touch around the rim and has found different angles and paths to score the ball due to his size. This senior is definitely worth a look for any team in need of scoring from the guard position.
Cassius Winston – Michigan State
The 6-foot-1 guard is similar to Pritchard in that he has a steadying hand for his team and has been the leader for the Spartans since he stepped on the court four years ago. He has been the reason Michigan State has been able to stay good for as long as they have despite no other great talent joining him in recent years. However, also like Pritchard and Markus Howard, he is undersized to play the position and could struggle defensively at the next level.
He is an excellent shooter though and has been consistent from beyond the arc his entire career with his attempts going up each season. He’s an excellent free throw shooter and his playmaking abilities have been compared to the likes of other former Spartans in Magic Johnson and Scott Skiles. As with most undersized guards, Winston is great with different finishes around the rim. He uses an array of floaters, awkward angle finishes and speed change maneuvers that get him the bucket he wants. Winston is another good backup point guard option for a team in need of a low-risk, but also potentially low ceiling prospect.
Myles Powell – Seton Hall
The 6-foot-2 guard is a bucket getter on a similar tier to Markus Howard. His bigger frame helps him out closer to the rim. He is a major volume shooter though and that can be a negative heading into the draft. Having said that, Powell can go out and get his shot. While he is not a high level ball handler, that can be changed with some coaching and can be hidden as an off-ball shooter. He has a great motor, but that might not be enough to be the solid defender he would have to be at the NBA level.
Another reason Powell would be great off the ball is that he is excellent coming off screens and prepares his shot before the ball ever gets to him. For reference, the next best scorer on his team is averaging half his points, so you can see why he’s a big reason this team is winning games. It’s also been said that he’s a great teammate as well, which goes a long way in locker rooms.
Anthony Cowan Jr. – Maryland
There seems to be a theme developing here as another undersized guard makes the list. The 6-foot-0 guard does everything for the Terps and has won them several games with some “onions” shots. He isn’t afraid of big moments or shots, which should absolutely be seen as a positive. However, with his fearlessness comes a lack of regard for shot selection. Due to that shot selection and his lack of size, he has been inefficient inside the arc this season.
While he may be small and have difficulty finishing inside the arc, he does generate a ton of free throws. Getting easy point opportunities like that can never be overlooked and he hits them at a solid rate. Despite being so small, he is incredibly good at rebounding the ball. He gets into the paint and grabs those boards with his big men boxing out for him. He is a good defender and gets into ball handlers, which leads to steals for his teammates and often enough, himself.
Anthony Lamb – Vermont
Mid-major conference fans absolutely love this kid. He has a throwback quality to his game and basically plays an undersized four at 6-foot-6 and nearly 230 pounds. Being a throwback big man, Lamb has an excellent post up game and bullies his defenders there regularly. He’s a great rim protector at his size and has become a decent shooter in his four years at Vermont. His numbers have slid a bit this season, but there’s no reason to think he can’t improve those with an NBA team where he won’t be the main focus of defensive scheming.
Being as big and strong as he is, Lamb is able to get to the charity stripe often. He is a good shooter from there as well. He was the AEC Player of the Year last season as well as the AEC Tournament MVP and was named to the AEC All-Defense team. He knows how to rise to the occasion and has to be ready for a bigger stage at this point in his career.
Udoka Azubuike – Kansas
Udoka Azubuike will be one of the biggest players in the draft at 7-foot-0 and 270 pounds. He has vastly improved every year at Kansas and has even led the country in field goal percentage, which he is on track to do again this season. While he is still a major shooting liability from the free throw line and outside the paint, he knows his role and plays it extremely well. The Nigerian native is a pick-and-roll specialist with great hands who also sets fantastic screens. Thanks to his hands, he catches just about everything thrown his way and the play usually ends in a dunk from there.
He always finishes strong knowing a foul is coming since no one can move him once he’s parked in the paint. However, he doesn’t really help himself at the free throw line as he shoots under 50 percent from there. He can struggle to guard quicker players, but is still fairly mobile for someone of his mammoth size. He is still raw offensively with no real go-to post moves, but is so strong it doesn’t really matter against his defenders. That won’t be the case for NBA players, but he is still a huge load to deal with and could Rudy Gobert-like in his usage.
These are of course just some of the sleeper picks available to NBA teams this upcoming NBA Draft season. We will have more once it becomes clear which underclassmen are declaring for the draft. Stick with us as the college basketball and NBA seasons move along since we will have more posts like this coming your way.