With the 2017 NBA Draft just over two weeks away, the preparation and scouting period is in full swing for NBA front offices. In a draft that all year has been proclaimed as one of the most talented in recent memory, the bulk of the headlines in this year’s crop have been of the numerous unique freshmen with the potential to emerge into future starring roles. With that in mind, every year there is a plethora of under the radar upperclassmen looking to make their way into the league as role players, or step into superstar roles a la Draymond Green. Here is a look at some of the top senior prospects in this year’s draft.
1. Wesley Iwundu Kansas State
If you are a team looking for a potential sleeper in the draft, Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu might be your guy. He was a key cog all year for a surprisingly good Wildcats team, averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He also made strides from the outside, shooting a respectable 37.6% from downtown. Although he struggled a bit in five on five with his shot at the NBA Combine, he measured well at 6-6.5 with a 7-1 wingspan. Despite not putting up mostrer numbers throughout his college career, Iwundu is a late bloomer who still possesses intriguing upside. Given that he played point guard frequently this season for Kansas State and has ball skills as a wing player, Iwundu projects nicely as a versatile playmaker and defender if he can continue to improve his jump shot.
2. Sindarius Thornwell South Carolina
Thornwell had a tremendous final season at South Carolina, averaging 21.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on his way to being name the SEC Player of the Year. He particularly made a name for himself in South Carolina’s unforeseen Final Four run, where he averaged 23.6 points per game in the tournament. Thornwell shot just 2-6 in his second five on five game at the NBA Combine, but he did score 16 points in his first game. There are questions about his lack of explosiveness, but NBA execs love his versatility on both ends. Thornwell will likely find a place on a team looking for high IQ, two-way player that brings outstanding toughness on the defensive end.
3. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Blossomgame helped himself at the NBA Combine, showcasing his athleticism at just under 6-7 with a 6-10 wingspan. His shooting numbers dipped considerably from a year ago (44.6 3P% last year compared to 25.5% this year, but he has some intriguing versatility that he can continue to build on in the NBA. Blossomgame earned All-ACC honors for the second season in a row and has the tools to be an effective small forward or small ball power forward in the right situation. With his impressive set of physical tools and defensive upside, he should be able to carve out a strong NBA career off the bench.
4. Josh Hart, Villanova
Teams looking to add an immediate contributor late in the draft should take a long look Villanova’s Josh Hart. He’s a 6’5" shooting guard with a high IQ and sound fundamentals. While Hart certainly doesn’t possess off the charts upside, he should be a solid player off the bench right away. Hart averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in his final season for the Wildcats. He also shot 51 percent from the field in 2016 and has never shot below 50 percent in his four-year career. Hart proved he could be a dangerous threat from the outside as well, increasing his three-point shooting to 40.4 percent from beyond the arc last season. Hart is an underrated defender too, and he should be able to contribute in multiple roles asked of him.
5. Derrick White, Colorado
Derrick White was one of the top performers at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT), where he led Roger Brown’s Restaurant to the championship game. White earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors this past season and was also impressive at the NBA Combine. His elite feel for the game, combined with his playmaking and shot making ability particularly stood out. He also has solid length for a lead guard at 6-7.5 and posted a 36.5” max vertical. White’s ability to pass, drive or shoot over defenders has begun to slide him into possible early second round round consideration.
6. Damyean Dotson, Houston
Teams looking to add shooters later in the draft could see Houston’s Damyean Dotson as a great option. Dotson made more three-pointers per/40 last season (3.9 3PM, 44% 3P%) than any other SG in the draft. He is also an above-average rebounder for his position. Dotson possesses above-average NBA size at 6-5 and length at 6-9 for a shooting guard. A measured 38” max vertical at the NBA Combine also highlights above average explosiveness and points toward potential as a slasher. The former Oregon Duck has several NBA skills that will likely earn him a second round selection, but his ability to shoot the ball should earn him a long career in the pros.
7. Alec Peters, Valparaiso
A season-ending foot injury in March has kept Valparaiso’s Alec Peters out of all pre-draft activities. Peters returned to school last summer after contemplating a jump to the NBA and averaged 23 points and 10.1 rebounds on his way to becoming Valparaiso’s career leader in scoring, rebounding, field goals and free throws. Less than ideal length at 6-9 limits his upside on both ends, but he will be a valuable contributor for an NBA team with his advanced offensive skillset. He is an excellent shooter and will fit right in as a stretch four man, but he is also a high-IQ player and a good passer out of the post.
8. Monte Morris, Iowa State
Iowa State’s Monte Morris was one of college basketball’s steadiest point guards over the last four years. In Morris, teams will get a point guard that can shoot and distribute the ball effectively. Morris made over 40% of his threes during his first two seasons for the Cyclones. In a more featured role as an upperclassman, Morris still shot 36% and 38% from downtown respectively. His most valuable quality, however, is his ability to take care of the basketball. He was among the nation’s best each season in terms of assist/turnover ratio, including a 5.1 A/TO ratio this past season. He may not be ready to contribute at a high level right away, but his shooting and ability to run an offense efficiently could make him thrive as a backup point guard in the Association one day.
9. Frank Mason, Kansas
National Player of the Year winner Frank Mason also had a strong NBA Combine performance. The fact that he will be 23 years old at the start of next season is a concern, but he posted a surprising 41” max vertical jump in Chicago. Mason is small even for a point guard at just 6-0 and has average length at 6-3, but he is strong and explosive enough to make it in the league. He also proved to be a lethal shooter in his final season at Kansas, posting a 47% clip from downtown. Mason could be an excellent third point guard for a current playoff team in the NBA and is someone who could eventually develop into a Patty Mills type player.
10. Sterling Brown, SMU
Then there’s SMU’s Sterling Brown, who had an up and down performance at the PIT, but remains an intriguing prospect for NBA teams due to his above average physical profile and three and D potential. At 6-5, 229 pounds he is a strong, physical guard with solid length, with a wingspan at 6-9.5. He is still a bit streaky from the outside, but he has the ability to score in a variety of ways and is a versatile defender.