Let’s parse what exactly NBA general managers mean when they say this year’s draft class is “weak.” A “weak” class presents no clear cut potential superstars, which makes G.M.’s with top picks nervous.
A “weak” class is not void of talent, however, that talent is just more difficult to identify than in other years.
It is no secret that some teams are substantially better at scouting young talent than others, and it shows in postseason. For all that is made during the season about the importance of X’s and O’s and the “hearts of champions,” basketball in particular is a game determined by superior players, and superior players have been picked at nearly every spot in the draft throughout the years. There are plenty examples of great players slipping in the draft, only to make the G.M.’s who passed on them look like bums.
In a draft with little separating the top flight prospects from the middle of the pack, a weak draft can be a great one for teams with a keen eye picking in the mid- to late first-round. They stand a great chance at picking players who could end up being seen five years down the road as top 10 players in the draft.
With that perspective in mind, here are five players we expect to be taken outside the lottery that will develop into solid players.
Jackie Carmichael, Illinois St., Power Forward
An extremely athletic 6’9″ leaper, Carmichael was the big man on campus last season. He averaged 17 points and nine rebounds in the Missouri Valley Conference, twice scoring 22 points against eventual Final Four team Wichita State. In an early season matchup with Louisville, Carmichael posted 20 and nine on 8-13 shooting in a three point loss. A projected second-rounder, Carmichael could be an instant contributor as a rotational player.
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Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, Power Forward
A phenomenal passer, Dieng has a 7’4″ wingspan which he used to block 2.5 shots per game last season. There are injury and age concerns (he’s 23, which teams consider a detriment to the potential development of his game), but there was no denying his impact on last year’s National Championship team. Already a strong defender, Dieng showed an ability to knock down the elbow jumper.
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina, Shooting Guard
At 6’7″, 200 pounds, Bullock is a knockdown three-point shooter and solid defender. Bullock averaged 14 points and six boards with a 44 per cent stroke from downtown. Teams which he was more versatile, but shooting and defence are has paved many an NBA career.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor, Point Guard
One of the most polarising players in the draft, Jackson is a 5’11” scorer with outstanding court vision. His numbers are gaudy—19.8 points and 7.1 assists per game—but he needs to improve his efficiency. A disciplinarian coach could turn Jackson, who has a 43-inch vertical, into a monster off the bench early in his career and potentially into an impressive starting point guard.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas, Forward
Mitchell simply did not try his sophomore year at North Texas, and it is hard to understand why he didn’t enter last year’s draft. Freakishly athletic at 6’9″, Mitchell shot 44 per cent this year after shooting 57 per cent in 2012. Nearly every number regressed from an outstanding freshman season when he averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. If a team can get Mitchell to play hard every day, he could be an absolute force.
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