Most GMs will tell you that "fit" is a bigger factor than talent in a player's success. And if a second-round player goes to a team with a stable coaching staff and a system that emphasizes the strengths of his game, that player can end up with a better pro career than players selected ahead of him.
Let's take a look at 10 potential sleepers.
I love when I read about how some scouts didn't like Lawal because he took shots away from freshman Derrick Favors. What was he supposed to do, never touch the ball?
Lawal isn't a lottery guy anymore, but his size, work around the basket and competitiveness are all enough to keep him in the league. His best attribute is running the floor. On film he constantly beats his man in transition. His offense is still raw, his shot is unreliable and he is limited athletically, but his motor never stops.
He should go in the 20s, but it sounds like he won't.
Ebanks is the type of player I have told myself I am no longer going to fall in love with -- long and athletic, with only glimpses of what he could be without any consistent production -- but if he puts it all together, he could be a draft-night steal. At 6-foot-8 he has great rebounding numbers for the small forward position and is a solid one-on-one defender. He doesn't have much of a handle and his shooting numbers were pretty dismal, but he is excellent in the half court on cuts to the basket and finishing around the rim. His ceiling is as high as anyone's outside of the lottery.
Brackins has zero momentum heading into the draft -- and that is a mistake. He's just under 6-foot-10, and there isn't another player at his size in this year's class that has his inside/outside combination offensively. He understands post position, uses his size to seal off defenders and can stretch a defense with his 3-point shooting. His numbers dropped this year, but on film he looked like a player who was trying to do too much for a team that on most nights was overmatched.
His defense against athletic power forwards could be a problem, but if he goes in the 20s, where he is currently projected, teams that pass will regret it.
The ability to get to the basket is what separates most college prospects at the NBA level, and Williams excels in this area. Williams isn't a great shooter and takes too many deep 3s, but he just turned 21 and there is time for improvement. Williams goes one-on-one too much, but he was so good at beating his man off the dribble this past season that it was hard to argue with the results. If he joins a system that lets him loose in transition, he could provide scoring off the bench.
Rautins is one of the few pure shooters in this draft. He is great off the catch, uses screens well to get an open look and has a quick release. Rautins will have a defined role from day one in the NBA: come off the bench and hit shots. At 6-5, he is big and athletic enough to play shooting guard. His handle is good, and he already has NBA range. Rautins will have to understand a good shot in the pros versus a good shot in college.
If he goes undrafted, I'll be shocked.
If you love basketball, you'll love the way Bouldin plays the game. He is smart, can shoot and is a terrific playmaker. I'm not sure what position he'll play -- he isn't athletic enough to guard the perimeter players in the NBA -- but he is the kind of player you can trust to make the right decision. Coaches love the Matt Bouldins of the world.
There's raw and there's clueless; don't make the mistake of thinking Seraphin is the latter.
Seraphin is projected to go in the early 20s, and that's probably about right, based on his limited offensive game. However, he is as athletic as any of the bigs who will go in the lottery. Seraphin runs well, is a monster around the rim, holds his position in the post and shows solid face-up defense against the drive.
So many international players fail because they can't handle the competitiveness of the NBA. That isn't going to be a problem for Seraphin.
Jones is undersized and isn't a very good shooter. He is, however, relentless.
On film, it's actually remarkable how often he gets to the basket. Jones never stops attacking. He uses his quickness to get by an initial defender and then challenges contact at the rim with his length and broad shoulders. He lives at the free throw line, and was sixth in the NCAA this past season with 267 free throw attempts. He also put up great rebounding numbers for his position.
I love his attitude. I doubt he ever thinks the guy guarding him can stop him. His foul rate was a little high, but that was a result of his aggressive play on defense.
In a draft with few point guards, a player like Uzoh could end up being picked earlier than projected. It's usually a mistake to draft based on need in the NBA, but Uzoh will be worth the risk. At 6-4, he has more value as a point guard prospect than as a shooting guard. He tends to play more like an off guard, but he does show some playmaking tendencies. On film he keeps looking for teammates, waits for re-posts and finds trailers in transition. His shot is a little slow, but in this draft, he's worth a second-round pick.
Once you get past the classic stereotypes (like "white guy from Duke"), you see a really good player.
Scheyer played the point all season instead of his natural off-guard position, and this helps his future. He can shoot, but what jumps out on film is that he makes the right decision almost every possession. His efficiency numbers are off the charts -- about a 3-1 assist-turnover ratio -- and he's a better athlete than people want to admit. He's also big -- his official measurement is 6-6. Some teams draft a guy and hope he can be a combo guard, but Scheyer has already proved he is one.