NBA draft: 5 first-round sleepers who could have an immediate impact

Krysten Peek
·5 mins read

Tyler Herro and Michael Porter Jr. became young breakout stars in the NBA bubble and have outplayed their draft stock. Herro was picked No. 13 in the 2019 draft and has become a key player on this Miami Heat team, averaging 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in the postseason. Porter Jr. went No. 14 to the Denver Nuggets in 2018 and had an impressive showing in the NBA bubble, averaging 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

The 2020 NBA draft is finally approaching and teams have had an extra four months to watch film, gather intel and assess draft boards. Here are five projected first-round picks who may hear their name called a little later but could end up having similar rookie seasons to Herro and Porter Jr.

RJ Hampton

Draft range: 11-20

Hampton’s last game was Jan. 9, playing for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League. The 6-foot-5 guard has had one of the longest breaks from competitive basketball and only played 15 games overseas, averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds. For the past 10 months Hampton has been in the gym with Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller.

Miller, one of the best 3-point shooters to ever play the game, has been working with Hampton on his jump shot and shot selection. Hampton only averaged 29.5 percent from the 3-point line for the NZ Breakers and this extended time off could be key in Hampton’s development as a shooter.

Prior to his one year playing professionally in the NBL, Hampton was a five-star high school prospect who averaged 32 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 steals per game. Hampton is a long two-way guard with a killer crossover and if he’s added an outside jump shot to his game, he could surprise a lot of people in the next couple years as a young NBA player.

Roderick "R. J." Hampton of the New Zealand Breakers during their basketball game against the Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League in Sydney, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Roderick "R. J." Hampton of the New Zealand Breakers during their basketball game against the Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League in Sydney, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Malachi Flynn

Draft range: 18-30

No player in this draft class fits the Fred VanVleet mold better than Flynn. Like VanVleet, Flynn is a mid-major prospect with a similar build and a high basketball IQ. On the downside, San Diego State didn’t have much competition outside the Mountain West this year and it’s difficult for teams to predict how Flynn will fare against players at the NBA level. The 6-foot-1 guard has a killer outside jump shot, making 76 3-pointers this season. He ranks in the 96th percentile in pick-and-roll situations, scoring 1.06 points per possession according to Synergy Sports. Guards who excel in reading the pick-and-roll option have an advantage over other players when adjusting to the speed and spacing at the NBA level. Flynn could end up being a steal late in the first round as scouts draw comparisons to VanVleet and Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry.

San Diego State Aztecs guard Malachi Flynn (22) shoots the ball during a college basketball game between Utah State and SDSU on Feb. 1. (Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
San Diego State Aztecs guard Malachi Flynn (22) shoots the ball during a college basketball game between Utah State and SDSU on Feb. 1. (Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jaden McDaniels

Draft range: 13-20

McDaniels passes every eye test with his 6-foot-10 frame and nearly 7-foot wingspan. He wasn’t very productive in his one year at Washington and left scouts wondering what kind of player he will be at the next level.

Best-case scenario: McDaniels could be a blend between Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram. Worst-case scenario: He’s his older brother, Jalen McDaniels. Jaden McDaniels has all the intangibles to be great and could end up being an All-Star down the road, but there is a high-risk, high-reward in drafting him.

He only ranked in the 30th percentile in iso situations and shot 25 percent from 3-point range this season. In the right program and coaching staff, McDaniels could flourish but there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding his game.

Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (0) looks up towards the scoreboard during a Pac-12 game between Washington and Washington State on Feb. 28, 2020. (Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (0) looks up towards the scoreboard during a Pac-12 game between Washington and Washington State on Feb. 28, 2020. (Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Josh Green

Draft range: 16-25

Green played one year at Arizona under Sean Miller and didn’t have the dream season he was hoping for. He was fresh off recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder and couldn’t find his rhythm during the season.

This extended downtime heading in the draft has been beneficial for Green. He has put on 10 pounds of muscle mass and grown half an inch coming in at 6-foot-6 and a half and 220 pounds.

Green’s confidence on the court has also improved and he’s spent the past four months working out with fellow draft prospects Tyrese Haliburton, Malachi Flynn, Devon Dotson, Reggie Perry, Ashton Hagans and Tyler Bey. He’s one of the most NBA-ready players physically and with his improved confidence in his jump shot and creating space in iso situations, Green could see early playing time next season.

Arizona Wildcats guard Josh Green (0) drives to the basket during the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament on March 11, 2020. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Arizona Wildcats guard Josh Green (0) drives to the basket during the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament on March 11, 2020. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kira Lewis Jr.

Draft range: 13-24

Lewis Jr. is a 6-foot-3 lead guard who averaged 15.9 points and four assists per game in his two seasons at Alabama. He is a speedy guard whose game will translate well at the next level thanks to his movement off the ball. Lewis Jr. averaged 1.6 points per possession when he cut off the ball and ranked in the 79th percentile in transition, according to Synergy Sports. He turned 19 in April and could be a young Jamal Murray in the making with his shifty playmaking in the lane and solid 3-point shooting.

Alabama Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. (2) drives to the basket against South Carolina Gamecocks guard A.J. Lawson (00) during a game on Feb. 29, 2020. (Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. (2) drives to the basket against South Carolina Gamecocks guard A.J. Lawson (00) during a game on Feb. 29, 2020. (Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

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