The NBA draft is a time for teams to select their future. Players sit anxiously waiting for Adam Silver or Mark Tatum to call their name. 60 picks go by, and with 100+ players that have declared for the draft, many expect, or at least readily prepared for disappointment. Disappointment for some is landing with a bad team, falling into the second round, or going undrafted.
Bol Bol was a projected lottery pick up until draft night last year, but he slid all the way to the 44th overall pick, and into the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Michael Porter Jr. also fell into the hands of the Nuggets at pick 14, after being one of the best high school players. And this is not just a random pair of occurrences. This is a trend over the years. Players rise and fall due to teams loving a player’s potential, or being turned away because of their injury history.
So with the draft being exactly one month a way, or so we hope, here are 5 players who could either get drafted high up, or slide down the draft boards on draft night.
#1: R.J. Hampton
Hampton played in the NBL instead of taking the ordinary route for a prospect of his stature, which would have been attending ACC colleges like Duke or North Carolina. However, in the NB, Hampton failed to even average 10 points per game without even making 50% of his two-point shots. It was in a small sample size of 15 games but this is the new norm for many players. Many top prospects did not play a full season wherever they did play.
The downside for Hampton is that come draft night, he will not land on a team in need of a building piece with that pick. Based on his season in the NBL he does not look like a player teams want to spend a high pick on. Rather a contending team would look at the upside to them, which is the fact that Hampton is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this draft. He also has a well-rounded game and can fit in at any guard slot. This ability to be easily slotted into any system could get teams like Boston or Minnesota to jump on him if he falls out of the lottery.
#2: Obi Toppin
Toppin had an amazing year this past college season with Dayton. The 6″9 stud put together an amazing season with a highlight reel full of dunks and threes. The season was capped off by winning the John R. Wooden Award, which is awarded to the top players in college basketball. Now in a normal year, this resume would be the one of a top 3 pick without a doubt, but this is no normal year; and Obi is no normal prospect.
Many of the players projected to go in the top-10 in this year’s draft did not play more than 3 games of college basketball this season, or played overseas in Australia, Israel, or France. This gave Toppin a clear shot at the Wooden Award, and he took it home. But as stated earlier, Toppin is not your normal prospect. Toppin is 22 years old, and this is a turn off for many teams. He may be NBA ready, but he is not a building block for any team. His age gives him less time to develop, as he may be off of his rookie contract at the same age as some rookies in his class are getting their first chance at unrestricted free agency.
If there is a team at the top looking to contend sooner rather than later, Toppin would be a quality pick, fit permitting. However his age will lead many teams to pass on him in the draft.
#3: Cole Anthony
Out of Oak Hill, UNCs Cole Anthony was projected to be a top pick. However, a pile of issues piled up for Anthony during his season at UNC. First, Anthony was out for some time due to injury, and then when he came back his numbers scoring-wise were not great. This raised concerns about Anthony and his skillset, and if he would fit better as a point guard or a shooting guard in the NBA.
And those three concerns should all be enough for NBA teams to pass on him. In the first round, teams might find that there are other picks that are safer for them and have a higher likely hood of panning out into players who can make a difference on the floor.