The media around the draft is full of boards, ranking, and the dangerous word of “potential”. I am not an advocate of drafting “role players” as I think they are too easily obtainable in free agency or trades. With that being said finding high-end role players on a rookie deal certainly has value especially to competing teams.
Each team has its own style and those styles need to be factored in before drafting someone who “fills a role”. Every draft has all stars but this draft looks like it will be harder to predict those stars than normal. Because of this, finding players who can play in playoff rotations outside the top 10 will be all the more valuable.
With so many good teams with deep talent, we are bound to see teams that are only a couple of pieces away picking in the teens of this year’s draft. Here I go into depth on players that fill a role and in the right system can be contributors on playoff teams in the near future.
The most underrated player in the draft is a defending national champion and a current wing on the #1 team in the country. Karaban is a spreadsheet darling shooting 67% from two and 40% from three on only a 20% usage rate. I am as confident in Karaban as an NBA-level shooter as anyone else in this class shooting 39% off the catch and 88% from the free throw line (often the best indicator for NBA-level shooting).
Karaban isn’t going to be an all-star or any kind of star for that matter but he very well could be the steal of the draft. In a draft lacking upside talent finding a starter or playoff-level contributor will be of the highest priority for many teams. The UConn starter’s scalability to the NBA is easy to see as an off-ball shooter and someone who can attack aggressive closeouts.
Outside of the top 10 any team should take close looks at Karaban as someone who takes care of the ball, finishes at the rim, and is capable of being a helpside wing shot blocker (3.2% block rate). Typically mocked in the second round I believe Karaban is a top 20 talent and we will all take notice in the future when he starts playoff games.
Reed Sheppard/Tyrese Proctor/Jared McCain
I will preface that I know these players are all very different but I think they could hold similar roles in the NBA. I am not typically a fan of guards that do not apply rim pressure (each between 2-3 attempts per 36 minutes) but each of these players could be good guard defenders and shotmakers in the NBA.
Reed Sheppard is the highest-level shooter among the 3 and is arguably the best playmaker. Like everyone on this list, I don’t see an all-star upside with Reed Sheppard but a high-level shooter that can create for others and be solid on defense has a role in the NBA.
Tyrese Proctor is not the level of shooter that Reed Sheppard is but he is a good playmaker and a truly great pick-and-roll defender. Proctor has started to heat up as of recently as a shooter and it will be an interesting thing to monitor for the rest of the season. The 2.9 assist/turnover ratio is really good and shows that Proctor is a safe bet to control and direct an offense at the next level.
Jared McCain is the draft darling of some and I can see why. As an off-ball player, McCain projects to be an elite shooter and protects the ball really well. I am slightly lower on McCain because of the lack of playmaking at his size boasting only a 12.5 assist rate. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see McCain play a Landry Shamet or Seth Curry type of roll in the NBA.
I will be honest, I have my reservations about Clingan but I can understand where the intrigue is for him as a top-20 guy. Only 20 years old on draft night, Clingan is incredibly efficient around the rim and is a big rim deterrent on the defensive end of the floor. At a staggering 7’2, Donovan Clingan is a force on the floor just by standing there.
The most impressive stat Clingan has is that players only attempt a shot on Donovan Clingan at the rim once every 61 minutes. Clingan plays roughly 20 minutes a game which means every 3 games someone shoots at the rim with Clingan as the primary defender. Although that stat will certainly not be the same in the NBA his ability to protect the rim should hold up.
Offensively I am not sure Clingan’s role outside of a lob threat and rebounding force, that in itself is still very valuable. Like others, I do not see the offensive upside with Clingan but as a play finisher, rim deterrent, and a big body to throw at people in the playoffs, he will have value in the NBA.
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