With less than 24 hours until the 2017 NBA Draft, NBA front offices will spend one last night pondering which prospects to add to their roster tomorrow night. With that being said, players are very difficult to project down the road. Like any other draft, this one will likely feature some surprise breakout players and several prospects that never quite live up to their hype/potential. Here is a look at this year’s potentially most underrated prospects:
Cam Oliver, PF, Nevada
Oliver most likely will be a second round selection on Thursday night, with many projecting him in the late 30s to 40s, but the more you watch him, the more he appears to warrant first round consideration. At 6-8, he does not have ideal height for a power forward, but he has an excellent 7-1 wingspan and a 8-10.5 standing reach which is and inch and a half bigger than 6’10 Blake Griffin’s. His 39.5” max-vertical leap, gives him some intriguing potential as a rim protector and as a pick and roll switch man. He not only shows off that incredible leaping ability in combine athleticism testing, he’s proven to be one of the most aggressive and explosive dunkers on the college level over the past two seasons. He is also a versatile offensive player, showing the ability to knock down 3 point shots (38.4% and 4.9 attempts per game), put the ball on the floor, and operate out of the mid-post area. If he can demonstrate that his motor is not a legitimate concern and be placed in a good situation, he could be one of the biggest steals in an otherwise loaded draft class. While OG Anunoby has received considerably more hype for his length, athleticism and potential, even drawing an invite to the green room, Oliver possesses similar if not better potential. Oliver is a year older and has a one inch disadvantage in standing reach to Anunoby (6’10.5 to 6’11.5), but his two years in college were decidedly more productive. According to current projections online, Oliver may end up being taken 15-20 spots lower, but he could easily end up the better pro.
Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State
Iwundu is a guard with excellent physical tools at 6-7 with a long 7-1 wingspan, and he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential offensively. He is a very good rebounder for a wing player and is comfortable operating out of the pick and roll. Iwundu is also an improved shooter, having made 37.6% of his three-point attempts last season and 76.6% of his free throws. He has the tools to match up against either guard position as well in the NBA. Iwundu could provide an NBA a valuable secondary ball handler with his playmaking ability and potential as a defender. He could end up in a similar role as Oklahoma City’s defensive wing Andre Roberson for a team over the next few years (perhaps even replacing Roberson).
Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso
Injuries have caused NBA teams to be somewhat apprehensive of possibly selecting Peters in the second round. Even though this is unlikely to change before tomorrow night, Peters is talent that could be a steal role player for years to come. Despite struggling as a senior, possibly playing for a future contract, he is an elite shooter (41.2% in career) and has great potential as a pick and pop threat, along the lines of a Ryan Anderson. He also excels at shooting off of screens and off the dribble, and he has the ability to play the three in short spurts. While he is a below average run/jump athlete, he is a pretty skilled post player as well and rebounds the ball at a high rate. As one of the draft’s top shooters, he should be a very good fit in the modern NBA with his feel for the game.
Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
Hart can be looked at as this year’s Malcolm Brogdon, as he will likely hear his name called in the second round but figures to make an immediate NBA impact. In his senior season, he averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals and shot better than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3. He’s a proven winner, having helped Villanova win a title. Hart’s lack of elite physical tools limit his upside, but outside of that he can do a little bit of everything. He gets after it defensively, rebounds well for a guard and is a high-IQ player. If his improved shooting stroke can translate to the NBA level, he has a chance to carve out a solid, long NBA career.
Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
This one is a bit of a stretch, as Smith is already projected to be a top-ten pick at worst, but his talent level and upside screams top-five selection. Smith might just be the most explosive point guard to come out of college basketball since Derrick Rose. He is also an electric scorer, who can get hot in a hurry. Playing at NC State didn’t do him any favors in terms of perception. He can fill it up from all three levels and can operate at a high level out of isolation situations and in the pick and roll. The biggest questions with him are if he can improve as a leader and develop into a complete NBA-level floor general. However, once he learns how to properly blend his explosive combination of scoring and playmaking, Smith could emerge as one of the best players in the draft. There are concerns about his laid back attitude and whether he will show the desire to maximize his ability. In the 7-10 range of the lottery, he’s a pretty strong gamble.