Ah, sleeper picks, the building blocks of an NBA franchise. This happens every year in the NBA. Some players rise to the occasion and other players wilt under the pressure of making an NBA roster. Some lottery players hit and some turn out to be busts. With only a limited number of spots on a team, making sure every draft pick is a hit is the difference between making the playoffs or drafting in the top 5. Sleeper picks are the players drafted outside the top 15 that you rarely hear about until they make waves across the NBA after they score 20 a night out of nowhere. Making sure your late first and second-round picks are adding depth at needed positions is essential for the future of the franchise, and this year’s draft class has a ton of value. Let’s take a look at some of the players that can elevate a team even if they aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.
1. Jason Preston: G – Ohio
A must-watch player from March Madness, Jason Preston burst onto the scene when his lower-seeded Ohio team upset Virginia in front of millions of people. Preston wasn’t even supposed to be a basketball superstar, as he was a C-team basketball player who got an offer for college ball off of a Twitter highlight tape. But what a find it was for Ohio as Preston is a pass-first point guard and the ultimate floor general for any NBA team. Preston’s value lies in his high basketball IQ and smooth ball handling. These skills allow him to get to the basket easily and create wide-open shots for his teammates. He is also an efficient shooter boasting 51.4% from the field and 39% from three. The only reason why he outside of the lottery is because he lacks athleticism and shoots free throws at 59.6%.
2. Johnny Juzang: G – UCLA
The real winner of the March Madness tournament might have been Jonny Juzang as he put on a clinic when the lights were the brightest. Juzang led the Cinderalla story of this year’s tournament, UCLA, to a Final Four appearance with his truly spectacular play. Juzang can flat out score the ball, and he unloaded his full bag with his excellent post-game and pull-up jump shot. In the tournament, Juzang averaged 22.8 points per game on 51.1% from the field. He also single-handedly kept UCLA in the game against two of the best teams in the country in Gonzaga and Michigan. Juzang is only out of the lottery discussion because he is inconsistent as a shooter, but if we see the Juzang that showed up for March Madness every night, then one NBA team is getting a great high-level scorer.
3. Max Abmas: G – Oral Roberts
As the nation’s top scorer, Max Abmas can find a home on any NBA roster due to his excellent shot-making ability. Abmas averaged 24.5 points per game on 47.7% shooting at Oral Roberts and led the team to huge wins over Ohio State and Florida for the school’s most successful basketball season. Abmas is undersized even for a guard, as he is only 6’1” 165lbs, but if you can put the ball if the hoop the way that Abmas can, any team can find a spot for you. Abmas can shoot from anywhere, and he can also add value with his crafty ball handling.
4. Miles McBride: G – West Virginia
Another player who will make a name for himself thanks to his great shooting ability, Miles McBride was the alpha on West Virginia. McBride exploded in his sophomore season, where he averaged 15.8 points per game with some great all-around shooting splits. He shot 43% from the field, 41.4% from three, and 81.3% from the free-throw line, which were all massive jumps from his freshman year. McBride is on the relatively smaller side, as he is only 6’2” 200lbs, but with his combination of shooting, ball handling, athleticism, and tenacity, McBride should have no problem becoming a scoring threat in the league someday.
5. Kessler Edwards: F – Pepperdine
One of the consensus best sleeper picks of the upcoming draft, many people haven’t heard of Kessler Edwards, and why would you. Edwards played at Pepperdine and averaged a solid 17.6 points per game on 49.1% from the field and 37.8% from three. Kessler can score any which way on the basketball court. He has a great sudden burst and high vertical leap, which allows him to dunk over players. He also has a great release point with his outside jump shot, so he can shoot over taller defenders when he needs to. Kessler has the athleticism, basketball IQ, and skill set necessary to make a name for himself in the NBA, and it’s a shame not many people know about him since he played at a small West Coast school.
6. Aaron Henry: F – Michigan State
Aaron Henry was the go-to guy for a lackluster Michigan State team. In his final season at college, Henry was the team leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. Henry is an overall great player, and it was no wonder why Tom Izzo wanted to play him so much. Henry’s greatest skill is his versatility, as he can score inside or out and create easy baskets for his teammates with his nifty ball handling. Henry is an athletic player who loves to finish at the rim, and the reason why he is not higher on draft boards is because of his poor three-point shooting percentage, which is only at 29.6%. If any team needs an athletic, aggressive forward, then Aaron Henry is the guy for you.
7. Joe Wisekamp: G – Iowa
Joe Wieskamp has a very bright future as a shooting specialist in the NBA. Wieskamp’s main claim to fame is his shooting, as he shoots an excellent 49.1% from the field and 46.2% from three. For some reason, he only shoots a mediocre 67.7% from the free-throw line, but that can easily be fixed. Wieskamp is a catch-and-shoot player, but he has a little more depth to his game because of his underrated handles and athleticism. Wieskamp can surprise people with his sneaky high vertical leap and can blow by defenders if they are worried about his excellent shot. Most teams need shooting, and Wieskamp could make a major impact on a playoff team.
8. Herb Jones: F – Alabama
Herb Jones was the main reason why Alabama got as far as they did last season. Jones is an athletic and big forward who can get to the rim at will. Jones’ stat line might look pedestrian, as he only averaged 11.2 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game, but the tape says he played anything but pedestrian. Herb was the lightning rod and catalyst for everything that Alabama did. The ball was funneled through Jones, and he made it his mission to get his teammates involved first. If that didn’t work, he would then take over. Jones is a complete basketball player as he can shoot, rebound, pass, block shots, and handle as well as any player in the country.
9. Marcus Garrett: G – Kansas
Not everyone can be the elite volume scorer, some guys have to do the dirty work. And Marcus Garrett has the highest upside of all scrappy guys in this year’s draft. Garrett was first recruited as the defensive specialist for a contending Kansas team, but in his four years with the program, he evolved his game. Garrett was one of the best slashers of college basketball as his top-end speed, athleticism, quickness, and good enough ball-handling allowed him to glide to the rim effortlessly. The main draw to Garrett is his defense, where he locked down many of the elite players in the Big 12 Conference. Garrett has a lot of value because of his defensive capabilities and a knack for being in the right spot for rebounds, but if his three-point shooting doesn’t improve soon, he can be out of the league sooner than he wants.
10. Jericho Sims: F – Texas
Don’t roll your eyes, but Texas is pumping out another athletic forward that is going to be good in the NBA. Sims is a raw basketball player as his skill set isn’t very advanced, but his athleticism is off the charts. He has some post moves and can finish around the rim either with an emphatic dunk or with a right-handed or left-handed layup. He doesn’t have much of an outside shot; in fact, he never has taken a three-point shot in his 4-year college career, but he doesn’t need to as his shot-blocking ability and activity around the rim are crazy. Sims is one of the best rim protectors in the draft and is a very coachable high-energy big guy looking to make an impact on a winning team.