(B/R) — With conference play underway, we’re bound to see a handful of under-the-radar NBA prospects start to creep their way up Draft boards.
These prospects have already caught scouts’ attention, but a strong January and February should solidify interest for this upcoming June.
We’re looking at a mix of breakout returners and freshmen who didn’t receive much one-and-done hype entering the season.
Rising prospects such as Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh and Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins have ultimately become too well known to be considered sleepers anymore.
The following prospects are still in the early stages of their potential rises and aren’t considered lottery picks or necessarily top-20 prospects.
Jaylen Clark (UCLA, Wing, Junior)
Overlooked because of: Limited creation, shooting struggles, average wing size
Undervalued due to: Easy-fit versatility/adaptability, defensive impact, projectable role
Jaylen Clark simon should be playing himself onto Draft planks, more so with versatility plus consistent effect plays than his 14. 1 points per game.
Still a limited creator in addition to shooter, his game doesn’t scream upside, which is helping him look like a 2023 value pick who’ll be available to Draft in the late first or even second round.
Outstanding defensive instincts pop first when watching Clark, who’s averaging 2 . 7 steals per game by reading plays from off the ball. He’s shown an unteachable feel for anticipating and even reacting as a help defender, jumping passing lanes or perhaps blowing up screens to force turnovers and often turn them into fast-break points.
Offensively, while he doesn’t offer much one-on-one firepower, he’s demonstrated a knack with regard to capitalizing on what the defense gives up by either improvising with various touch shots, driving past closeouts or maybe timing their cuts. He’s shooting 70. 8% at the rim together with 19-of-37 upon one-handers around the key.
He also ranks as one of the nation’s most efficient pick-and-roll playmakers, grading in the 99th percentile along with teammates converting 64. 3% of their shot attempts off Clark’s ball-screen passes.
This individual currently has the third-highest box plus-minus in the country, and the eye test backs up the analytics that show he is regularly influencing games together with efficient offense and defensive IQ.
His shooting development is starting to look like a gamble worth taking, based on his / her 11-of-31 start on 3-pointers as well as the likelihood that will his off-ball finishing, on-ball decision-making and additionally defense can translate in a supporting part.
Noah Clowney (Alabama, PF, Freshman)
Overlooked because of: Lack of production, limited creation skill, shooting numbers, average athleticism
Undervalued because of: Physical tools, shot-making potential, valued archetype
Despite taking just 6. 8 shots per game, Noah Clowney is building a strong NBA case with a valued mix of shooting, defense and finishing efficiency.
Still 18 years old, the flashes of shot-making, drives past closeouts and screener baskets outweigh his suspect 28. 2% shooting on 3-pointers plus clear lack of polish.
He is up to eight 3-point makes over Alabama’s last five games, appearing more confident in his release, which is quick and concise with minimal dip. He appears on the right path toward developing into a stretch-4, pick-and-pop big man.
Though restricted offensively in terms of ball-handling, self-creation and post play, Clowney does find ways to score off the ball, showing good timing/awareness slipping screens plus rolling or getting to the particular dunker’s spot (68. 3% at the rim).
On the ball, we’ve seen a few sequences associated with him identifying space, putting the golf ball down, attacking in a straight line and finishing along with body control.
His 14. 6 rebounds and 2 . 4 blocks per 40 minutes highlight NBA physical tools plus activity. Clowney projects as a plus rebounder who adds value defensively with his mobility, motor and length.
A lack of perceived scoring upside could ultimately allow the freshman to be on the board for teams in the 20s. That’s steal territory for a 6-foot-10, three-and-D forward with room to add more shot versatility.
Jordan Hawkins (Connecticut, SG/SF, Sophomore)
Overlooked because of: Limited creation or versatility
Undervalued because of: Translatable/valued shot-making
Though Jordan Hawkins hasn’t taken a step forward with his development and off-the-dribble play, NBA teams should start to picture his shot-making translating to off-ball scoring.
He’s averaging three made 3-pointers in just 26 minutes for each game, burying jumpers off spot-ups (47. 1%) plus screens (43. 6 percent). Hawkins’ capturing has been convincing from an NBA scouting standpoint, given the elevation he gets on his chance and no hesitation. A quick trigger shows in transition as well (10 3-pointers made), as Hawkins needs little time or even space when catching, squaring and loading up.
Although clearly most comfortable/dangerous releasing off the catch, he’s flashed enough promise with his pull-up (36%), separating by rising with abrupt decisiveness and height over the contest.
Otherwise, he relies on functional athleticism, mostly for transition finishing and defensive playmaking.
He doesn’t offer too much flexibility, but Hawkins has a plug-and-play skill set with a valuable specialty that should continue to be effective in a catch-and-shoot role alongside NBA creators plus passers. He is averaging fourteen. 6 ppg (and 22. 5 points per forty minutes) despite receiving a combined 14 ball-screen and isolation possessions all season.
Taylor Hendricks (UCF, PF, Freshman)
Overlooked due to: Scouts’ unfamiliarity, limited creation
Undervalued because of: NBA tools, highly valued archetype
Taylor Hendricks will be starting to generate NBA attention by checking a highly valued mix of boxes with his shot-making, defense and tools/athleticism.
He’s the nation’s only player along with at least 25 3-pointers, 15 dunks and a block rate over 5%.
It’s obviously important for the shooting to continue, though the early consistency remains promising, because he’s at 41% from deep upon 4. 4 attempts per game while converting 79. 1% of his free throws. Hendricks has done most of his damage spotting up, but a small sample size shows Hendricks is also comfortable off the dribble (6-of-14), slowing down before pulling up or using touch on runners (6-of-10).
This individual does remain limited within creation situations, but he’s ultraefficient whenever converting in transition (99th percentile), plus he’s produced by mostly playing to their strengths, play-finishing fast-breaks, rolls, cuts and catch-and-shoot chances.
Early on, NBA coaches may find more use for his defensive tools and activity, given their 6-foot-9, 210-pound frame, flexibility, motor plus ability to contest shots at the rim and away from it. Hendricks combines both fearlessness challenging finishes and impressive foot speed guarding within space.
Between his body type and photo, teams are beginning to see translatable three-and-D — and that’s a floor projection for a freshman who turned 19 years old in November. Continuing to produce during conference play should help Hendricks secure a spot on team’s first-round boards.
Colby Jones (Xavier, SG/SF, Junior)
Overlooked because of: athletic limitations, insufficient self-creation, low-volume shooting
Undervalued because of: versatility/projected fit, two-way equipment, improving shooting
Already deserving of NBA interest thanks to earlier signs of 3-point improvement (18-for-40), Colby Jones made another strong statement to scouts with 16 points, 5 assists plus two steals in a win over No . 2 Connecticut.
It’s becoming easy to picture a good NBA fit in a 6-foot-6 interchangeable guard or side who is a standout traverser, versatile defender and suddenly a dangerous catch-and-shoot threat (48. 3%).
Jones feels highly adaptable for the next level with his ball-screen play and passing IQ (5. 6 apg), improving shot-making plus physical tools for driving, finishing and defending multiple positions.
Jones isn’t the particular sharpest creator off the little, and a limited pull-up game and low volume of 3-point attempts suggest he doesn’t project like a high-upside scorer. But he shows excellent patience, timing and cleverness for making plays within a half-court offensive arranged. He picks his spots well to attack, and he uses his strength plus off hand to convert around the basket.
Jones is also tough and alert on defense and on pace to finish with a 2 . 5 steal percentage for the third consecutive season.
NBA coaches can think about using him on the ball in order to facilitate or even off the basketball as a cutter and dribble-handoff weapon.
The longer this streak associated with consistent capturing lasts, the more convincing he is going to look as a Swiss army knife prospect.
Judah Mintz (Syracuse, PG/SG, Freshman)
Overlooked due to: Syracuse’s record, shooting figures, physical equipment
Undervalued because of: creativity, versatility, shot-making, energy
Judah Mintz’s poor 3-point numbers and Syracuse’s bad losses have kept his Draft buzz in check. Teams may be wise to invest early and remain patient with the freshman guard, whose two-point shot-making and free-throw percentages (77. 3) hint at room for shooting improvement plus whose creativity and playmaking are already pluses.
Fourth among freshman in scoring despite making five threes all season, Mintz gets to his spots off ball-handling moves, change of speed and long strides, and he finishes plays off the dribble with a knack for elevating into mid-range shots or hanging in the air on layups.
He creates separation for himself with counters, timing plus bounce. Despite weighing just 172 pounds, he takes contact well. Mintz is crafty in the lane, where he uses pivots, fakes, patience and touch (14-of-28 runners).
With 59 assists to 29 turnovers, he’s done an admirable job running the point. While it’s more reasonable to project him as a combo, he has shown enough playmaking feel for coaches to use him for creation in ball-screen situations.
His defensive activity and energy have been selling points as well, as Mintz is averaging 2 . 3 spg away ball pressure, happy feet and good intensity.
Mintz isn’t a likely rookie contributor within 2023-24, and there is also a decent chance he’ll be back at Syracuse with regard to his sophomore season. He’s still an underrated prospect with his wiggle, off-the-dribble capturing, rim stress, passing, defensive motor plus improvable shooting range.
Jordan Walsh (Arkansas, SF/PF, Freshman)
Overlooked because of: self-creation limitations, 3-point capturing, production
Undervalued due to: Fit/versatility, translatable defense/hustle, correctable shooting
Trevon Brazile’s season-ending injury opened a door for Jordan Walsh in order to showcase more scoring versatility and defense that form an archetype forward NBA teams value.
General managers can safely ignore the lack of production and percentages for an 18-year-old having a 16. 3% usage rate . Thinking long term, it should be worth betting on Walsh’s shooting development and what it could do for a 6-foot-7 high-energy defender who can score by attacking closeouts and making pull-ups or runners within the mid-range.
Walsh has flashed enough shooting mechanics plus off-the-dribble maneuvering, touch photos, physical coatings (64. 9% at rim), effort plus foot speed for teams to bet on off-ball scoring and defense from the 3 or 4 position. Scouts should see translatable defense tied to his tools, foot velocity, IQ, concentration, motor, recoveries and playmaking (3. 2 steal percentage).
The smart passing and hustle plays only strengthen Walsh’s role-player profile and potential to impact games without needing to make pictures.
There have been questionable sequences when he struggles to separate offensively, but realistically one-on-one scoring won’t be a big part of his job description at the next level.
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Jonathan Wasserman is the lead scout plus NBA Write analyst regarding Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter .
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