The term “draft sleeper” is very relative. NBA Draft super-nerds will know of and have opinions on all of these guys while more casual draft fans probably won’t know all of these prospects. So when I talk about sleepers it’s not necessarily completely obscure players coming up through Division 3 or from small pro leagues in developing nations. I’m talking about prospects that haven’t been in the media spotlight much this year and don’t get talked about enough, compared to what their talents would call for.
The 5 sleeper prospects on this list are not likely to get drafted and might not ever make the league. But they all have a chance. And it’ll be interesting to look back in a few years to see if any of these prospects hit.
Omari Moore – SG – San Jose State –Omari Moore moves like a NBA player. He’s got a long, wiry frame and really smooth athleticism. He’s one of my favorite players to watch, just from an aesthetic point of view (he’s kind of my draft crush this year). At 6-6 with plus length he’s got the size for a NBA wing and I buy his long-term development.
He’s not yet super consistent with his jumper but I like the form and I love how easily he gets into his shot. He can dance with the ball and does a great job of keeping the defender off balance. I would have liked to see more production on the defensive end but he certainly has the tools to work with and NBA level coaching should help him develop defensively. He’s got good court vision and can create for others with the ball in his hands.
He didn’t face the best competition on a weekly basis and will have an adjustment to make going against NBA level (or G League level) players but I’d bet on him figuring it out over the next year or two and eventually having a chance to make his mark in the league.
Justin Powell – SG – Washington State – After bouncing around the SEC for two years Powell landed at WSU and had a solid season for the Cougars. If I told you a Washington State player who averaged only 10ppg game on 40% shooting might get drafted (or signed as an UDFA) in the NBA I don’t think you’d believe me. But Powell has at least one NBA skill, shooting the 3pt shot, and is also a good ball-mover with some creative passing instincts and good decision-making; he averaged less than one turnover in nearly 34 minutes per game last season.
These traits, along with his good positional size at 6-6, could be enough to earn him a long look from NBA teams. Like with the other players on this list, it might take some time for him to continue to develop and the G League could be his proving grounds.
Malachi Smith – SG – Gonzaga – Smith won’t get drafted and might not make it in the league but he’s got some sleeper potential thanks to his high level 3pt shooting. He’s also got a good frame, plays solid defense and is a connective passer who knows his role and doesn’t try to do too much.
After transferring from Chattanooga Smith shot a whopping 50% from 3-point land and 54% from the field in his one year at Gonzaga. This off-ball/floor-spacing ability will get the attention of NBA teams.
Mojave King – SG – G League Ignite (New Zealand) – King is a fairly well know name in draft circles but really falls under the radar compared to the three other G League Ignite prospects who will likely be drafted ahead of him. But King has the potential to be a long time NBA player (probably after another year or two in the G League honing his outside shot).
He’s got the frame, the athletic ability and the basketball instincts that you look for in a developmental prospect. He’s a really good off-the-ball mover who has a great feel for finding space behind the defense and cutting to the basket for easy finishes. His major swing skill is his 3pt shooting. If he can master the art of the corner 3 he’ll be a NBA player. If not, then probably not.
Nadir Hifi – PG – Le Portal (France) – Hifi is a compact, speedy and talented lefty point guard who put up numbers in the top league in France this season. He’s the type of point guard who can control the pace of play, has good change of speed and is equally adept at scoring or finding teammates. He’s not the biggest player and isn’t much of an above the rim threat but he’s fast, crafty and has a great feel for the game.
He reminds me a bit of Tyus Jones and could develop into a backup point guard in the NBA. I doubt he gets drafted (and could withdraw his name before June 12th) but he’s a name to know and to monitor, not only in this draft but over the next few years of his development.