NBA Draft

2015 NBA Draft: Six Sleepers Attending the Combine

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The term “sleeper” is one of the most commonly used labels when it comes to the NBA Draft, which currently occupies 22 teams’ sole focus. Every team wants one, and convinces themselves they’re selecting one on draft night. However, it’s not until games start being played and we see what guys are truly made of that we know if they’re really a sleeper or not.

Sleepers come from all draft ranges (although rarely in the top five). Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was drafted 60th overall in 2011, and clearly has exceeded expectations, but some would say that reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard, selected 15th in 2011, or Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 15th pick in 2013, were slept on just as much as Thomas was.

As much as an inexact science the draft overall is, and particularly pinpointing sleepers, the following six players who are invited to the 2015 NBA Draft Combine that is being conducted next week have the potential to join the likes of Leonard, Antetokounmpo, Thomas and many others who produce more than expected based on where they’re selected.

Larry Nance Jr. – Wyoming

A high-flying athlete and the son of former NBA star Larry Nance, Nance Jr. may not ever reach the kind of stardom his father did, but he certainly has the ability to have a long career in the league as well. He really developed into a well-rounded player over the last four years at Wyoming, making his impact felt in a variety of ways that could translate well to the NBA. He’s a good rebounder, strong finisher, improved playmaker and has a really good feel for the game. At 6’8, he’s slightly undersized for the power forward position, but makes up for it with his explosiveness and seven-foot wingspan.

Norman Powell – UCLA

Powell is coming off of a monster senior year in which he helped the Bruins get back to the NCAA Tournament despite losing Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and the Ware twins to the 2014 NBA Draft. He upped his scoring to 16.4 points a game and also averaged a career-best 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.8 steals. He’s being compared a lot to Tony Allen because of his defensive tenacity. That’s going to be his calling card in the NBA, but he does hold the potential to be a better scorer than Allen. If he can continue to improve his three-point shot, he could even be a starter one day.

Keifer Sykes – Wisconsin-Green Bay

Much like the aforementioned Thomas, Sykes is going to be looked past by a lot of teams because of his lack of size and strength as he is just 6’0 tall and 180 lbs. In those teams’ defense, there are a lot more players at that size that don’t pan out than do, but few possess the kind of quickness, athleticism and scoring ability that Sykes has. His defensive potential stands out more than anything, though. With some added strength, he could really make an impact on that side of the floor – and that’s really valuable at the point guard position in today’s day and age.

Chris Walker – Florida

There’s no other way to classify Walker’s collegiate career other than disappointing. He had some eligibility issues his freshman year, then didn’t end up earning the kind of role NBA teams were hoping to see him in as a sophomore. He wouldn’t be the first big man who needed more time than anticipated to figure it out, though, and he certainly won’t be the last. Walker is blessed with great size, athleticism and a wingspan that seemingly never ends. In the right system, Walker could tap into his potential and end up being a Chris Andersen type who makes plays on the defensive end and is an exciting finisher, clean-up man offensively.

Joseph Young – Oregon

Unfortunately for Young, he’s going to be classified as a tweener much more than a sleeper leading up to the draft. At 6’2, he’s an explosive scorer, but far too small and slight in frame to play shooting guard. Young did average nearly four assists per game, though, and very well could transition over to point guard smoother than most who try to make the switch. Like with all players, the situation he lands in is going to be extremely important. If he’s allowed to be himself and given freedom offensively to make things happen, he’s going to be in the league a long time. If he’s stifled and forced into being a pass-first player, his sleeper potential goes out the window.

Richaun Holmes – Bowling Green

Holmes was far from a household name throughout his college career at Bowling Green, but he’s undeniably an NBA talent. He’s extremely athletic, but his skills aren’t far behind either. He averaged 14.7 points on 56 percent shooting from the field, 41 percent from three and 71 percent from the free throw line. He’s an aggressive rebounder and rim protector as well, which could be his niche as he further improves his skill set. His stock has been on the rise as of late, and if he can get some of the higher-ranked guys to work out against him and hold his own, it will only continue to rise.

With the draft still several weeks away, a lot can change. In fact, these players could climb up the draft boards and out of their “sleeper range.” But as of now they stand out more than most prospects as having the potential to make a bigger impact than their draft projection typically indicates.