Mavs Donuts: 10 Hidden Gems in This NBA Draft

Richard Stayman

In today's Dallas Mavs Donuts, we go gigging For 10 Hidden Gems in this NBA Draft. No, not the headliners. We cover them here. These are "deeper sleepers.'' ...

DONUT 1: DELAY, SO DIGGING Every NBA Draft, there are several players that get overlooked in some capacity, whether it be because of playing at a small school or being in the shadow of other teammates. Given the extent of the NBA hiatus and the draft’s potential delay to the end of September, I’ve had the opportunity to watch many more prospects than I ever could have if the draft had stayed put for the end of June. 

DONUT 2: '100 = 60' This year, I’ve needed the extra time to study such a deep draft class, arguably the deepest in the last seven years. I’d like to give a spotlight to 10 under-the-radar prospects that I’ve watched recently that range from all over on most draft boards. I’ve said it before, but being ranked 100 in this year’s class is the equivalent to being in the 60-70 range in an average class. The NBA and NBA G-League’s futures are very bright if draft classes continue to be nearly as deep as this year’s class. 

DONUT 3: SENIOR CITIZEN Seniors are often overlooked due to age and a perception of being closer to their ceiling, but that shouldn’t stop teams from looking at Lamar Stevens as an end-of-draft option. Stevens is an incredible athlete with size, which helps him be the dominant slasher that he is. Defensively, Stevens can guard both wings and bigs, making him one of the more versatile players in the draft. His biggest and arguably lone weakness is his jump shot. In his 4 years at Penn State, Stevens shot 27.6% from 3 on 312 3s in college. Stevens is currently my 6th ranked senior in this class. 

  • DONUT 4: UNDERSIZED AND UNDRAFTED? Normally high-volume undersized shooters like Eugene German get overlooked in the draft, but teams shouldn’t overlook him in the undrafted free agency process. German has some elite skills to make up for his size and collegiate play-style, most notably his limitless range on his jump shot and his elite ball handling ability. His foot speed and incredibly quick ball handling ability make me optimistic in him overcoming the large obstacle as an undersized guard in the NBA.
  • DONUT 5: UNDERSIZED SCORING Another undersized scoring guard, Breein Tyree’s game isn’t quickly attractive to the modern NBA. However, I believe there is a place for him in the NBA game. His 2.5 assists per game do not do him justice as a playmaker. Tyree is a willing passer and has good vision to find open teammates. While his defense is likely a negative given his size, he is rarely out of place and plays the passing lanes well. The key factor that I see worth keeping Tyree in my top 70 as of now is his intangibles: he has a fluid understanding of the game, shown by his decision-making and having never seen him look lost on the court, as well as a high work ethic and easily teachable mentality. The mental traits make him a fit for any team needing guard depth and willing to take a chance on young talent. 
  • DONUT 6: A DALLAS IDEA? Cassius Winston may end up being drafted, but is still likely to be overlooked. Winston is one of the most manipulative players with the ball in his hands, knowing exactly how to take players out of the play and execute what he sees in his head. Despite being undersized and likely having a low defensive upside, Winston should be able to man a bench unit as a spot-up shooter and floor general. Given what the Mavs have made out of JJ Barea for the last decade, Cassius Winston’s ideal landing spot seems to be Dallas despite the current roster construction. 
  • DONUT 7: NEW-FASHIONED CENTER The center position may be a dying breed, but Kylor Kelley fits the prototypical modern rim-running center that teams look for. A likely low-usage big, Kelley is an excellent athlete with great shot-blocking ability and he moves with grace for his size. He’s raw for his age, but there’s other areas that he has shown flashes in at Oregon State: passing out of the paint and shooting 10 feet from the basket. If Kelley puts it together, he can play a similar role to Salah Mejri for an NBA team. 
  • DONUT 8: DEEPER SLEEPER Lesley Varner II might be the deepest sleeper in the entire draft class. As mentioned above, seniors get overlooked because there is less perceived upside on them compared to younger players. With Lesley Varner II, it may be just the opposite. As a senior at Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Varner saw a drastic improvement in nearly every statistical category. Most notably, he improved his scoring from 11.2 points per game to 15.6 points per game while increasing his 3 point percentage from 29% to 40.6% on 1 more attempt per game. Unlikely to be drafted, Varner could be a stealthy 2-way contract candidate with upside.

DONUT 9: GILL SKILL? Romaro Gill should be given a chance if large rim protecting centers of the past were, too. Gill is the Big East defensive player of the year standing at 7’2 with 3 blocks per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 63% shooting from the field. While there are significant obstacles for Gill to overcome as a somewhat immobile 25 year old center, his shooting to 10 feet shows promise to help him neutralize some limitations. Gill is someone Mavs fans should be ecstatic to see on a 2-way contract with Dallas next year. 

  • DONUT 10: ASSIST FROM ARMEL Armel Potter is a sleeper from George Washington and would normally be a good summer-league depth option in a regular year. He’s a great distributor, averaging nearly 6 assists per game as a senior. At 6-1, his vision is better than most at his size, but his decision-making must improve. Potter is likely destined for the G-League, but should his shot continue to improve, which isn’t unlikely given the form, he could sneak onto an NBA roster as a 2-way player.
  • DONUT 11: UNDER RADAR, ABOVE RIM Austin Wiley, a former FIBA U19 star for the USA, went considerably under-the-radar as a prospect at Auburn. Wiley is one of the best interior presences in the draft on both ends, and is able to switch in the pick & roll. His ability to go vertical is unmatched for someone with his experience, which is a large part of why he can be a sleeper undrafted target. With long arms and an overall physically imposing body, Wiley has upside as a rim protector and a pick & roll finisher offensively. Wiley is also one of the top rebounders in the class, so it’s slightly confusing as to why there’s virtually no draft buzz surrounding him, even with demand for big men declining.
  • DONUT 12: FROM MISSISSIPPI TO MAVS? Tyson Carter of Mississippi State is a senior that has flown under the radar despite being a 14 points per game scorer with an incredible 87% shooting from the free-throw line. Although he shot 32% from 3 as a senior, he was good in spot-up opportunities and the free throw percentage suggests that the 3 point shooting may have been an anomaly. He’s a good shooter and is comfortable with both hands, which helped him shoot just under 70% at the rim this year. The Mavs could afford to stash Carter on the Legends alongside former Mississippi State teammate Aric Holman, should Holman return to the Legends next year.