The 2015 NBA Draft is a couple of weeks away and while some of the names in the Draft have already become household names - Okafor, Towns, Russell, Mudiay - there are many names that are still unknown. These are mostly players from the non blue chip schools and conferences, stars of the mid-majors. They are also players that play at major schools but are overlooked because of other issues such as height or lack of true position. These players are the "sleepers" of the Draft.
Historically, many of these players have gone on to become notable reserves and even stars. This year's NBA playoffs is an example. Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova, the 2012 West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year, went undrafted. Golden State starting forward Draymond Green was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Milwaukee guard/forward Kris Middleton, who blossomed this past season and has star trappings, was also drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft.
Below are five sleepers in the 2015 NBA Draft. All these players are likely second round draft picks but have the talent and skills to contribute to a NBA team.
Marcus Thornton, SG, William & Mary: Marcus Thornton, a DMV native and Bishop McNamara grad, was a big time player in college. He left as William & Mary's career leading scorer (2,178) and also the school's record-holder on 3-pointers (325). He was named the CAA Player of the Year last season and selected as a 2014-2015 Associated Press All-American.
Thornton, at 6'4, is a little undersized for the two guard position where he's a natural fit. However, his scoring ability and athleticism make him a player that fits the mold of Monta Ellis, who stands at 6'3. His productivity in college and his natural scoring ability make him a valuable second round selection for a team looking for a player that can contribute immediately off-the-bench.
Tyler Harvey, SG, Eastern Washington: Despite leading the entire country in scoring at 23.1 points per game, Tyler Harvey is a name many basketball fans don't know. Playing for Eastern Washington in the Big Sky conference, Harvey didn't garner much attention.
Harvey also led the nation in made three pointers, drilling 43 percent of his 3-point attempts. At 6-4, he's a little undersized for his natural position at shooting guard but the NBA covets great shooters and Harvey is that. Height, his lack of athleticism and inferior competition in college hurt his draft stock but he's a solid pick in the second round for a NBA team looking to add a long-range sharp shooter.
Richaun Holmes, F, Bowling Green: The 6-10 power forward from Bowling Green is a versatile forward with highly coveted NBA skills. The 2014-15 MAC Defensive Player of the Year recorded a balanced stat sheet last season: 14.7 PPG, 8.0 RBG and 2.6 BPG.
Holmes posted double digit points 26 times on the season, including six 20-plus point games, and he led the MAC with a 56.3 field goal percentage on the season. He also shot 41.9% from behind the three-point line. Though not as much of an offensive threat as Lamar Odom, Holmes' size and skills are reminiscent of Odom's. Holmes' ability to be a quality "stretch four" in the league makes him an intriguing second round draft pick.
Alan Williams, PF, UC Santa Barbara: At 6'8 and 260, Williams is a bruising, undersized power forward in the vain of DeJuan Blair or Jason Maxiell. Williams was a dominant player at Santa Barbara. He was named to the All-Big West First Team three times and was named the Big West Player of the Year after his junior season when he led the conference in scoring (21.3 ppg) and the nation in rebounding (11.5 rpg).
Four-year players are often overlooked in the NBA Draft but Williams has solid post moves and is an excellent rebounder. Hardworking players are coveted by NBA teams and Williams is a safe second round pick for a team seeking a player that provides rebounding and size off-the-bench.
Robert Upshaw, C, Washington: Off-the-court problems plagued and ultimately derailed Upshaw's collegiate career. Upshaw began his career at Fresno State before being dismissed from that program. Despite a promising start at Washington, he was dismissed from that program as well. Both dismissals appear to be for failed drug tests.
At 7'0, 250, he possesses an NBA ready sized body. He has a 7'4 wingspan and is an incredible blocker. At Washington, he averaged nearly five blocks per game in only 25 minutes of play. His ability to alter shots is reminiscent of DeAndre Jordan.
Due to his character issues, a number of teams will pass on him in the first round. But Upshawn's upside and potential, along with his size and ability, make him worthy of a second round pick. He's still a raw product so he will require development but he can become a solid rim protector in the NBA if he can stay on the straight and narrow.
***Photo courtesy of tribeathletics.com