By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
The NBA Draft is set to take place June 27th and is quickly approaching as it is right around the corner. Here are some players that may not be lottery picks but have been turning some heads in NBA circles at tryouts and workouts. These are players that with some luck could find themselves sneaking into the second round to be picked or even moving up to the end of the first round. It is all about finding value and diamonds in the rough as the draft moves on and these players fit that bill.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Shooting Guard, Georgia: Caldwell-Pope is a player that is actually projected to go in the lottery but you would never know it. KCP is not talked about as much as players such as Shabazz Muhammad but deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. Part of the reason for his obscurity is where he played as Georgia is not a basketball powerhouse. Even with a lack of talent KCP was able to post good numbers as he averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. Take into account most times he was option one, two and three on offense with very little protection as a sophomore is quite impressive. He has quintessential size for an NBA shooting guard standing 6’6” and weighing 204 pounds. KCP has the tools to develop into a very good two-way player in the NBA as his scoring abilities to be top flight and the raw talent to be a lockdown defender. His game is not getting the attention that it merits.
Lorenzo Brown. Point Guard, North Carolina State: If you watched a NC State game this season you would be hard pressed to pick out the point guard at the beginning of games. Brown is huge for a point guard, standing 6’5” and looking for like a shooting guard or small forward. His size is something that will set him apart at the point guard position as he will tower over most of his opposition. He makes up for the lack of speed and explosiveness with his size, smarts and style of play; he looks very comfortable running the show. Brown averaged 12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. The 7.2 assists led the ACC and landed Brown the sixth spot in the nation. Brown has the point guard skills down right now of running a team but lacks some offensive skills. He is a poor shooter, knocking down only 26.3 percent of his three pointers this past season and needs to improve his finishing around the basket as he shot only 41.9 percent from the field overall. That will come with practice though as Brown has the makeup of a solid NBA rotation player.
James Ennis, Small Forward, Long Beach State: Ennis has begun making a name for himself in draft workouts around the country, performing well at every spot. Ennis has size that will translate well to the next level as he stands at 6’7” tall with a 6’11.5” wingspan. That type of size will have coaches drooling over the potential defensive force that Ennis could become. The size alone will give him a shot at the NBA as the potential as a two-way player is too much for teams to pass up. Ennis’s athleticism is outstanding as well as he was a high jumper before becoming a basketball player. His basketball IQ is lacking in part because of how inexperienced he is; Ennis has only two-years of high level basketball experience yet he still averaged 16 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per game as a senior. Ennis is a project that is raw and has some seasoning and growing to do as a basketball player but the potential is there for him to blossom into an above average NBA player.
Erick Green, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Virginia Tech: Many people do not know who Green is but if you look at the scoring leaders from this past college basketball season you don’t need to go far to see his name. Green led the NCAA in scoring last season with 25.0 points per game in a power conference; something that had not been done since the early 90’s by Glen Robinson and Kurt Thomas. Green has outstanding scoring instincts at 22 years old, possessing an outstanding perimeter game to go along with a devastating pull-up jumper that would make even Walt “Clyde” Frazier happy. The biggest problem with Green is that teams view him as a dreaded tweener as he scores like a shooting guard but has the size of a point guard. He has improved his distribution skills this season, improving his assist numbers every season at Virginia Tech.This still has knocked Green down draft boards but there have been other players such as Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade to be labeled as such and they have turned out fine. Green does not possess the talent of either player but passing up on him solely because of his size would be a mistake.
Mike Muscala, Center, Bucknell: Bucknell isn’t known for their athletics but they have had some impressive feats in the NCAA tournament, most notably knocking off Kansas 64-63 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2005. That was the first win for the Patriot League in the NCAA tournament and Muscala will be the first Bucknell basketball player to make an NBA regular season roster. The prospects of Muscala are all over the board as some executives think he has a chance to make an impressive NBA career for himself while others do not even believe he is an NBA players. The stats say that Muscala has a chance to make in the Association as he averaged 18.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game to go along with 2.3 blocks. Muscala’s pace-adjusted rebounding stat of DraftExpress.com puts him on level with Kevin Love in the historical database. His rebounding percentage of 21.0 is impressive as it trailed only two players whose competition was nowhere near as challenging as Muscala’s. His PER was second only to Kelly Olynyk’s who is a projected mid-first round pick. Muscala showed some versatility on the offensive end as he had an array of moves in the post and can step out and knock down jumpers. Muscala looks like a solid rotation player in the NBA with how his numbers translate.
Grant Jerrett, Power Forard, Arizona: Jerrett’s stats will not jump out at you; they are actually quite underwhelming. As a freshman under Sean Miller at Arizona, Jerrett played only 17.8 minutes per game, putting up 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. But the 19-year old has as much potential as anyone in the draft; he is only one year removed from being named a McDonald’s All-American. Jerrett decided it was more beneficial for him to leave after one year at Arizona and declare for the draft than to wait out his turn to showcase his talents there. His one season at Arizona won’t be remembered by many but he did flash the tools and instincts that made him so intriguing coming out of high school in 2012. There is not much known about Jerrett but the potential the former All-American has seems like too much for every team to pass up on.
A.J. Matthews, Power Forward, Farmingdale State: There have been nine players ever to go from a Division III school and make it into the NBA and Matthews has a great chance of making it 10. The Brooklyn-born Matthews is becoming the underdog story of the draft process, measured out at 6’10”, weighing 215 pounds. Matthews played for Farmingdale State on Long Island the past two seasons and dominated as a senior, averaging 22.4 points, 16.3 rebounds and 3.75 blocks per game. They all ranked near the top in the nation, as his rebounding led the nation, his blocks placed him third and his scoring put him at 11th in the nation. He had top-tier Division I talent but his grades never were as good. He did not have qualifying SAT scores coming out of American Christian Academy in Aston, Pennsylvania and has bounced around since. He ended up at five different JUCO schools, ending with Farmingdale State after drawing interest from Cincinnati and Oklahoma State early in the process. It would be quite an accomplishment for Matthews to make it to the NBA after the path he had to travel to get there.
Lester Prosper: Power Forward, SUNY Old Westbury/RBA Sports: Prosper has been turning heads at tryouts around the New York City area. Most recently he caught the eye of scouts at the NBA D-League national tryout where he shined as a man amongst boys. He was said to have looked good inside as he physically asserted himself down low, often finishing under the basket or drawing fouls. Prosper was one of the taller players at the tryout whose abilities really stood out. He showed that he has legitimate talent and thrived throughout the tryout. Prosper shows good defensive instincts and rebounds well, averaging 7.5 per game in just 19.6 minutes per game to go along with 1.08 blocks. He is an improving shooter, as his mid-range jumper is becoming more consistent with the makings of a player that looks to have a legitimate chance of stretching his range out to the three point line. He has good size at 6’10” and 240 pounds and plays well for someone with so little basketball experience. Prosper’s path to playing basketball is not a common one as he did not travel the high school and AAU circuits. Even with such little experience, Prosper had a more than respectable career at SUNY Old Westbury, punctuated by his senior year averages of 19.6 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. Getting drafted looks like a long shot right now but his path to the NBA or D-League looks as bright as it ever has.
Also personally knowing someone who plays professional basketball would be awesome. I went to the same college as Prosper and actually lived in the same dorm building as him the last two years he was at school and also have played pick-up basketball with him.