NBA Draft: The Overlooked
By: Andrew Martin
In 2019 we expect to have one of the most top heavy drafts in recent years, but does that mean no one after the predetermined top three will have successful careers? In 2011, we saw Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thomson, Jimmy Butler, and Nicola Vucevic taken after 10, and now they’re all sought after targets in this summers free agency. This got me thinking about some potential dark horses that we might see have long careers in the league.
Rui Hachimura: Gonzaga
Ideal Fit: Miami
Rui Hachimura led a Gonzaga team that topped the AP poll for several weeks in the 2018-19 CBB season, and at 6’8” 230 pounds he’s an intimidating force. He has all the physical tools needed to succeed in the NBA long term and has shown several flashes of stardom throughout the last year. One of the best examples was his game against the star-studded Blue Devils at the Maui Invitational. He stuffed the stat sheet going for 20 points, 7 boards, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in a Gonzaga win. While the Consensus First Team All-American has struggled from deep, he has shown time and time again an outstanding ability to score on both sides of the rim. Another thing to think about with Hachimura is he played high school ball in Japan and he is still trying to put all the aspects of his game together in America. He is a top six talent with an incredibly high ceiling and with the general consensus he will be taken outside the top 10, Rui Hachimura is my steal of the draft.
Mfiondu Kabengele: Florida State
Ideal Fit: Indiana
6’10” 256 pound sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele is one of the more intriguing players outside the top 10 in this years draft. Kabengele is a first round prospect but didn’t start a single game last year at Florida State, he was arguably the best sixth man in the country and he knew it. Kabengele plays with an extreme confidence which is key when you play for a guy like Leonard Hamilton, and proved the impressive skill of being comfortable in any role on a team. Kabengele is a well rounded player with a high basketball IQ shooting the ball at 36% from deep last year while also averaging 1.5 blocks a game. Similar to Hachimura, he had his breakout game against Duke. In a game where Cam Reddish hit a game winning buzzer beater three in Tallahassee, Kabengele’s performance became somewhat forgotten. However, he certainly left an impact on that game with a stat line of 24 points, 10 boards, 3 blocks, and 2 steals while shooting 53% from the field. I think the simplest description of Mfiondu Kabengele is he’s the guy that you’ll absolutely love if he plays for your team, but if he’s your opponent you won't be able to stand him and he’ll make your life miserable, shades of Andre Iguodala.
Bol Bol: Oregon
Ideal Fit: Memphis/Atlanta
Comin into the 2018-19 college basketball season Bol Bol was considered to be a consensus lottery pick at the very least. However, a December foot injury sidelined him for the entire season leaving his draft stock to plummet. Understandably, teams are worried about his durability as time goes on; at 7’2” his career could include several knee and foot injuries. The chatter to go along with the injury concerns is whether Bol wants to put in the work to play basketball at a high level similar to the talk around Ben Simmons when he was drafted. With that being said, the potential reward of drafting Bol Bol outweighs the risk. In the nine games he played for the Ducks he averaged 21 points, 9.6 boards, 2.7 blocks, and shot the ball 52% from behind the arc. This wasn’t a fifty-two percent based on a few threes either, Bol Bol attempted 25 three pointers in his nine game college sample. Who doesn’t want a seven foot two center with that high of production from deep in the current state of the NBA? After a full season without playing Bol Bol has had to deal with rumors surrounding him and videos of him partying in LA, but at the end of the day he’ll have to let his game talk for him. Barring more injuries, the sharpshooting big man has a chance to be a franchise changing player.
Ty Jerome: Virginia
Ideal Fit: Philadelphia
While Kyle Guy’s Final Four heroics is what will be most remembered from Virginia's 2018-19 National Championship, Ty Jerome was the one making big shots all year long. Three years under Tony Bennett has turned the 6’5” shooting guard into an extremely intelligent basketball player averaging just 1.4 turnovers per game for his college career. Shooting a near 40% from deep last season and for his career, Jerome not only excels from deep but also while contested. He’s simply a cold blooded killer, in his final two seasons where he started every game the Hoos won 65 of their 71 games. He’s a high motor guy with great stamina that will always give everything he’s got, and having played in the ACC for three years while winning a national championship, we certainly know he’s battle tested. Any team in the league would love to add someone like Ty Jerome to their roster.
Cameron Johnson: North Carolina
Ideal Fit: San Antonio
After five years playing at Pitt and then for Roy Williams at UNC, Cam Johnson has consistently improved his draft stock, especially last season. Johnson is the prototype 3 & D player every NBA team looks for. 6’9” with long arms and a silky jumpshot that goes in at a staggering 45.7% rate from deep. He’s a guy that no matter where he’s drafted he can be plugged into the offense immediately and that team will have a good flow. While he can be a great source of scoring for any offense, he’s also not a player that needs to have the ball in his hands. Johnson proved that this year while playing with high volume top 10 projected pick Coby White. Cam Johnson will be just one of three UNC players taken in the first round of this draft, and while he is projected the lowest out of the three, he has the best chance at having the longest career. With his skillset, expect to see Johnson in the league as a valuable asset for a very long time.