NBA Draft 2019 Sleepers: Don’t Sleep on These Dudes

The NBA Playoffs are just around the corner, which also means that the NBA Draft is close as well. That means plenty of names will be called — 60 to be exact — but you won’t recognize all of them. That’s why we are here. To give you all those sleeper picks so that you can be the smart guy in the room when people inevitably ask, “Who the heck is that guy?”

This list features seven names you will hear on Draft that you likely haven’t heard much this season. We’ll get started with a mid-major stud who impressed with his first round game against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament.

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Dylan Windler – Belmont

belmont bruinsThe 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward made a name for himself in his team’s NCAA Tournament loss to Maryland. He went off for 35 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 11-of-23 from the floor. He’s a player who has become accustomed to playing against bigger guys in the post on defense so he has a little bit of that in his repertoire. However, he shouldn’t be asked to do that at the next level considering how slight of build he is right now. He moves his feet better than he gets credits for and should be a competent defender at three positions.

Due to the extra attention he’s received as he’s gotten better, he has found other ways of scoring. His versatility in that regard should garner him some playing time immediately. He is not only an excellent spot shooter, but he knows how to move well without the ball. He can cut, slash and even post up a little bit to get good shots at the rim. With some strength added to his frame, he could become even better at those little things to make him an excellent all-around player. He scores fairly well off the dribble and is ambidextrous with his finishes at the rim too.

An ideal team for Windler to land with would be one in need of a scoring wing off the bench. The Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks come to mind. The Hawks will have a top 5 pick and likely another top 10 pick as well thanks to the Luka Doncic trade. However, they could nab Windler in the second round as a backup if their top picks don’t pan out immediately. The Nets have a bunch of veterans coming off their books so this would be a chance to get some minutes immediately. The Warriors are likely to lose several players this offseason so they may have serious need at a forward spot and the Knicks are a young team that could use some offensive help. A service Windler can certainly provide.

Carsen Edwards – Purdue

purdue boilmakersThe 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior point guard was without a doubt the best player in the South region of the NCAA Tournament. He put up over 25 points every game of the tournament and broke or tied some records along the way. He made the most three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament, beating a record once held by Glen Rice. And that took him all six games to get while Edwards did it in only four! The point is that Edwards is going to make some team in the second round incredibly happy as he is still a sleeper as of now.

Edwards has the usual knocks against him that he’s undersized and wouldn’t be able to defend bigger guards in the league. He will certainly have to work on his foot speed and positioning on that side of the ball. Being the shooter that he is, he will also have to work on his playmaking and finding teammates as he won’t have to do it all himself at the next level. He will also have to get used to not getting a ton of shots every night as he would be likely to come off the bench for whatever team drafts him.

Enough of the negativity though! Edwards does plenty of things exceptionally well. Creating his own shot, making shots at every level of the court and hitting difficult shots are some of his specialties. The junior has gotten used to having to create his own shot with some of his teammates being non-offensive players. He can take guys off the dribble and the threat of his drive usually opens up his three-point shot as he can get it off a step-back, some sort of crossover or hard pull up.

The young man is not only a great shooter, but he can get to the rack and finish fairly well. Playing below the rim for so long has taught him how to get his shot off amongst the trees and in the paint in traffic. He’s got great upper body strength, which also helps him get that shot off in jams. His ball handling is a big key to his game and if he can figure out how to use it to get his teammates more involved, he’s going to be pretty special.

A good NBA match for him will be any team that needs a shooter and scorer off the bench. Some teams like the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers pop out. The Suns need a point guard and while they are likely to draft Ja Morant — assuming they do not get the first pick — they could use a legitimate scorer behind him who can help the bench unit. The Grizzlies just need scoring and Edwards would certainly help with that. The Heat have had injury issues and were forced to convert Justise Winslow into a point guard this season. With Edwards, that issue doesn’t come up. The Lakers need someone who can get their own buckets and doesn’t need to rely on LeBron James to set them up for shots. Edwards can be that guy and should be a nice complementary piece for him.

Dedric Lawson – Kansas

kansas jayhawksThe Kansas forward and former Memphis Tiger is somehow still flying under the draft radar despite being an absolute monster for the Jayhawks this season. He averaged a double-double — 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game — over the course of the season despite every team game planning against him. Kansas lost 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike early in the season and lost senior guard Lagerald Vick a little later. That left Lawson as the sole focus of the offense for much of the year.

The 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior did not disappoint though as he showed that he could not only beat up on smaller defenders in the post, but take bigger ones off the dribble. Wherever he’s coming from, he tends to generate a lot of free throw opportunities and he converts them as well at an 81.5% clip. Certainly a factor teams will look at if they are eyeing Lawson as a potential small-ball center. He won’t be a liability on offense and he is solid enough on defense so as not to be a complete sieve out there.

Lawson has a collection of moves he uses in the post and has some counters as well. His post game is fairly advanced and while that might not help him as a 4-man in the NBA, it would be huge for teams wanting to go smaller and would actually give them another dimension other than designating him as a stretch player at his position (whatever it may turn out to be). The Jayhawk can stretch out the floor though and is a respectable enough shooter from distance that teams will not be able to hide someone on him purely to help off. He’s got a good enough handle that he can take bigger men off the dribble and get to his spot for a mid-range pull up or to the rim.

Teams that could use a guy like Lawson are those in need of a stretchy four or five and who want to play some small-ball from time to time as well. Some teams that come to mind are the Spurs, Nets, Cavaliers and Lakers. The Spurs definitely need a big man or power forward who would be a complementary piece to LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl. He would give them punch off the bench and may not need any time in the G-League. The Nets need a combo forward who can give them scoring and Lawson would definitely fit that bill. The Cavs need a backup forward behind Kevin Love and Cedi Osman assuming some guys leave for elsewhere in free agency this offseason. The Lakers could also use a serviceable backup forward, a role quite suitable for Lawson.

C.J. Massinburg – Buffalo

buffalo universityThe Buffalo Bulls were a great mid-major team to watch this past season. Much of that was because of some great team ball and shooting guard C.J. Massinburg’s ability and willingness to do a little bit of everything on the court. Despite standing only 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds, Massinburg was second on the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game. He’s a guy who goes out and just gets the job done. He’s a workhorse and he is always ready for the big moments as he showed against West Virginia when he went off for over 40 points and against Syracuse when he led his team to a come-from-behind win in the Carrier Dome.

Massinburg is projected as a second-rounder and some mock drafts don’t even have him on the board. He’s a bit of a mystery as to how he would fit in with an NBA team. He’s too small to play shooting guard and he’s not really a good enough defender to play on the better point guards in the league. It would be tough to hide him somewhere and that’s likely one of the reasons he will sneak into the second round or even become a two-way player for a team’s G-League affiliate.

The combo guard has an odd hitch at the end of his shot that might concern people, but he shoots nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc and has clearly found ways to get his shot off. It could probably use a tweak to make it quicker, but it shouldn’t be any team’s main concern about this young man. He can get buckets in bunches as he averaged over 18 points a game this season and when defenses are focusing in on him, he finds his teammates in good spots for them to score. He’s a consummate teammate and would be a great locker room addition wherever he went.

With Massinburg’s main weakness being his lack of size and speed, it is understandable that teams would hesitate to pick him as a point guard. While he does try to find his teammates and has a high basketball IQ, there are often times when he is inconsistent with his distribution. A good fit for him would be a team that has good defenders elsewhere on the floor, but may need a combo guard or a microwave guy off the bench. Teams that come to mind are: Boston, Denver and Washington.

Boston would be a great fit as Massinburg has the perfect mentality to play for Boston and could help them should Kyrie Irving leave this offseason. Denver is likely going to need help after Isiah Thomas leaves in free agency to get paid. Massinburg would be a nice fit with most lineups the Nuggets could throw out there and give them some punch on offense. Washington could be without John Wall for another year. While the Wizards won’t go and outright replace him with another star, they could use a guy to hold them over until he is back.

Louis King – Oregon

oregon ducksThe Oregon forward did not get a whole lot of NBA Draft love like some thought he might coming out of high school. However, going under the radar at Oregon might have helped out quite a few NBA teams as he will be a great steal for someone. At 6-foot-9 and 205 pounds, he has the strength to play at a couple different positions and can defend three positions at the NBA level. He likely got overlooked because the Pac-12 as a whole was down this season and Oregon didn’t start playing well until closer to the end of the year.

King came into the season recovering from a torn meniscus, but showed no ill effects once he got going in December. It took him a few games to get his groove back, but after that he played pretty well throughout the season. He shoots the ball at almost 39 percent from beyond the arc and 43.5 percent overall from the floor. He also scored 13.5 points per game while snagging 5.5 rebounds and dishing out 1.3 assists per game.While his overall shooting percentage might be concerning, a lot of that can be chalked up to extra shots taken with his teammate Bol Bol having missed the majority of the season. He felt the need to make up for some of those shots and offense, but that shouldn’t be an issue at the next level.

The Oregon Duck has Aaron Gordon-like athleticism and body control. He can find almost any pass in the air, track it down and throw it in for an alley-oop. He’s explosive, finishes through contact at the rim and can score in a variety of ways. His methods of scoring include: step backs, fade-aways, 3-pointers and floaters. However, his selections during a game on when to use which could use some tweaking as he tries to use his athleticism to force his way to the rim rather than taking a mid-range jump shot that might be the better option. Despite any shot selection issues he may have, he is ready to contribute on both ends of the floor for an NBA team and would be an absolute steal late in the first round or any time in the second.

King would fit on a lot of teams and give them some versatility they may be lacking. Teams that could really use him are: the Atlanta Hawks, the Brooklyn Nets, the Charlotte Hornets, the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks getting King is heavily dependent on where they land in the lottery as they will take Zion Williamson with a potential first pick. However, they could wait to grab a small forward later if they want to just use the likely Dallas Mavericks pick that might convey on best available talent rather than a specific position. The Brooklyn Nets need a forward with some guys likely leaving this offseason and King would be a good fit as he could play two or three different positions for them and they could plug him in wherever he’s needed.

Landing with the Hornets might be good as they definitely need some help in the forward department. They have guys playing guard and forward that just don’t quite fit or who are too old or have become inefficient. King could be some new blood that’s very much needed to help Kemba Walker win, assuming they keep him in free agency. The Golden State Warriors are likely losing Kevin Durant this offseason and even if they don’t they’ll need someone to back him up. That’s where King can come in and be effective. The 76ers also have a lot of guys potentially leaving in free agency so this is a spot for King as well.

Ethan Happ – Wisconsin

wisconsin badgersHapp has had a phenomenal career as a Badger, winning the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award this year for best center in the country. He’s also been a two-time All-American, but he didn’t capitalize on his draft stock after his freshman year and that likely hurt him over the last three years. He’s a small-ball center at 6-foot-10 and 237 pounds, but he can’t stretch the floor for a team and he really can’t guard anybody other than big men. However, his advanced post work and body of work over four years should have at least one team intrigued in grabbing him late in the 2019 NBA Draft. He averaged 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this past season.

The senior is incredibly advanced in the post as he has several go-to moves as well as counters to those moves. He is a good ball handler in face-up situations and can almost always get the better of his defender in that situation. His handle is good enough that he could be the ball handler in a 4/5 pick and roll as well. He uses the basket to shield his shots well and he has fantastic body control when he attacks the rim, a rare trait in big men these days. He’s got great hands on offense and defense as he catches almost everything thrown at or near him and plays passing lanes well to boot.

One major flaw in Happ’s game is that he has not extended his range outside of the paint in four years playing at Wisconsin. That’s despite saying he would work on it and his free throw shooting has not improved either, a general indicator that a player can become a better shooter down the road. He’s not big or tall enough to be a true center at the NBA level so not being able to stretch the floor at all is a serious setback for any team considering him, even in the second round. While Happ can get away with bulldozing guys at the collegiate level, his strength won’t be a plus in the NBA as there are a ton of guys bigger and stronger than him. His lower body strength also leaves a bit to desired. These are all likely reasons he has not been high on many mock drafts.

Having said all of that, there is still a place in the league for a guy like Happ assuming he bulks up and gets stronger. He should be able to defend power forwards and centers as he does have the foot speed to stay with quicker 4’s in the league. He also defends pick and rolls well as he stunts at ball handlers to make them hesitate before getting back to his man and is a high effort screener, which guards will certainly appreciate. Teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies make sense here.

The Dallas Mavericks will be looking for a more defensive center to pair with Kristaps Porzingis who will likely be playing more at the power forward position. Happ could help them out there as he is an excellent rebounder and uses his body well in that regard. The Clippers will need a center if they lose JaMychal Green and/or Ivica Zubac in free agency, so Happ could be a nice little pickup for them to pair with Montrezl Harrell or have him back up Harrell too. Happ fits the “Grit N Grind” culture that Memphis used to get to seven straight postseasons.

Jalen McDaniels – San Diego State

san diego stateMcDaniels presents one of the more intriguing cases for a sleeper in this NBA Draft. The 6-foot-10, 195-pound big man averaged about 16 points per game in his sophomore season to go with 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 assists per game. He has some obvious concerns about going to the next level with his body being as lean and lithe as it is now as well as his ability to defend any big men at that level. However, there are several good things he does that will translate to the NBA as well.

His frame and size are reminiscent of top 10 pick Jonathan Isaac and he has turned out to be a pretty good player so far in his short career. McDaniels is probably a bit leaner than Isaac and doesn’t have the same defensive IQ, but he is a more polished offensive player at this stage in his basketball career. He has a great post up game as he’s pretty fluid down there and is patient in seeing how the defense plays him. He is good at passing out of double teams and is an aggressive poster. He has some spin moves he uses to get free in the post and is a strong finisher around the rim. He’s also got a fantastic motor on offense as he is always looking for offensive boards and putback opportunities.

The SDSU Aztec also has a nice shooting stroke and a repeatable form that shows McDaniels’ potential as an outside shooter. He drastically improved his 3-point shooting percentage from 21.1% to 32% over the course of a season and he was taking more of those shots as well. You can realistically expect that number to keep jumping up with professional shooting coaches to aid him at the next level. If he shows some more consistency in his shot during a combine appearance and in pre-draft workouts then he will be pretty set and could see himself moving up mock draft boards pretty quickly.

The major issue surrounding McDaniels is his lack of defensive IQ and awareness. There are many times when he gets caught looking at the ball on a rebound and not going to box out anyone out. Many times he believes that he can use his athleticism to get a board when it often calls for a proper box out and securing of position. His IQ issues have led to being foul prone and having fairly slow feet (relative to what he’d see in the NBA) hinders him on defense as he relies on his length to stop his man rather than moving his feet and being in sound defensive position.

The bottom line is that a team picking McDaniels will get a nice prospect and a likely project as far as his physical needs go. But he would be worth the risk in the second round or even late first round as there is tangible evidence that he can make a difference for an NBA team and could contribute offensively at the very least. He would fit best on a team in need of offense from its power forward or center position like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers or Milwaukee Bucks.

The Dallas Mavericks will need someone to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis who will likely be playing more at the power forward position. McDaniels would give them offensive pop, but might leave a bit to be desired on the other end of the floor. The Clippers could be losing out two big men this summer as JaMychal Green is a free agent and Ivica Zubac is a restricted free agent. Plugging in McDaniels would get him some NBA minutes immediately, but they would have to be patient with him and give him a couple years to bloom. The Milwaukee Bucks are in trouble of losing several big men after they already jettisoned Thon Maker and John Henson in trades this year. Brook Lopez could be gone as well and they will need a long-term solution. McDaniels could provide that.

  
Ben has covered college basketball for almost a decade, which has included writing about draft prospects, NBA teams as well as beat coverage for the Florida Gators. He can be heard on the radio during basketball season at 965sports.com and he has written for a variety of outlets, including Cox Media Group, Project Spurs and CBB Today.

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