By Hocine LOUKKAF on 11/18/2022
Some draft prospects are usually underestimated because of the college they played for, the emphasis on one of their alleged weaknesses or the lack of hype around their names. The same can happen in the NBA, at a lesser degree obviously. Coincidentally, five of the seven players I will write about were drafted outside of the top 10 and even at 16th and 33rd for two of them. Here is my starting five of the players whose stats and efficency shine more than their names.
De’Aaron Fox, 6-4 PG, Sacramento Kings, 5th pick 2017 Draft
Stats : 24.8pts 6.4as 4.8rbds
Despite playing less than the four previous years, Fox has been much more efficient, improving his 3pt % from 29.7 to 37.5 while reaching 55% FG and 82% FT for the first time in his career, improving his overall FG by an astonishing 8% in the process. Above all, he’s helped the Kings starting well (8-6) despite losing their first four games.
Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5 PG, Indiana Pacers, 12nd pick 2020 Draft
Stats : 20.5pts 10.2as 1.9st
Forget the tanking and the Westbrook trade rumors. Already a big fan of Haliburton when he was at Iowa State, I tought he was a steal at 12th. The Kings decided to trade him for Sabonis and while the Pacers were expected to go all-in for Wemby, Haliburton proved he had no intention to lose, leading the NBA in assists (5th in steals) and the Pacers to a positive record.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-7 SG/PG, OKC Thunder, 11th pick 2018 Draft
Stats : 31.1pts 5.9as 4.6rbds 1.9st
My MVP in this list, SGA has been a top 10 player in the League this season, improving his scoring as much as his percentages, all the while turning the Thunder, a projected tanker this season, into a potential playoff pretender. What is even more impressive is how SGA seems to master every one of his step and shot as if he was a 10-year vet. The PG13/SGA trade may have turned into a steal for the Thunder.
Lauri Markannen, 7-0 PF, Utah Jazz, 7th pick 2017 Draft
Stats : 22.2pts 8.3rbds 2.4as
Sexton, Markannen, Agbaji, three first-round picks and two first-round swaps, that’s what the Cavs gave up to trade for Mitchell. Looking more closely at the stats and team records (11-6 for the Jazz and 9-6 for the Cavs), it’s been legit to wonder if Markannen by himself hasn’t made the trade decent for the Jazz. The Finnish forward has become the go-to-guy of in a roster made of unappreciated players (Olynyk, Sexton, Clarkson, THT, Beasley or Vanderbilt) which has become another troublemaker in the Western Conference.
Domantas Sabonis, 6-10 PF/C, Sacramento Kings, 11th pick 2016 Draft
Stats : 17.7pts 10.8rbds 5.9as
One of the most old school players, Sabonis may lack the athleticism and the shooting but it’s difficult to find a more efficient player. The other responsible for Sacramento’s record after a month, he’s as consistent as you can find (around 18pts 10+rbds and 5+as over the last four years) and brings an high IQ you can’t find in a player not named Jokic.
Honorable mention :
Jalen Brunson, 6-1 PG, NY Knicks, 33rd pick 2018 Draft
Stats : 19.6pts 6.8as 1.8to
The Knicks have specialized in overpaying or overestimating players. But for once, they did a pretty good job by giving Brunson a 4y/$104m contract. The former Villanova Wildcat has reached the expectations and almost averages 20pt bar while nearing a 4a/to ratio and being ranked in the top 20 in assists. If he can improve his poor 30% from three, he could really take his game to another level.
Alperen Sengun, 6-10 C 16th, Houston Rockets, 16th pick 2021 draft
Stats : 15.6pts 8.6rbds 2as 1.1bl
The youngest player of this list, Sengun has made the best out of the situation in Houston despite the losses (3-13 record) and the fact that the Rockets don’t play with any traditional PG. He has already displayed a nice IQ and deceptive athleticism. Improving his 3pt percentage could give him many more drives to the basket.
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