NBA draft 2013: Most intriguing undrafted players
With only 60 spots available and many of those going to international players, the NBA draft provides a few moments of “Whoa, he didn’t get picked?” each year. Thursday’s draft was no exception, with a number of well-known U.S. collegians not making the grade. Here are the most notable ones:
C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
Maybe the Twitterati’s biggest surprise, although I’m not as shocked as many others were. Leslie is a superb athlete with no specific basketball skill that will translate well to the NBA. The 6-foot-9 forward didn’t really improve any aspect of his game in Raleigh, at least to the point where it would be a marketable commodity for the pros. Yahoo! Sports reported that the Knicks agreed to a deal with Leslie, who will try to impress at the summer league. Is having to sign as an undrafted free agent the wake-up call for Leslie to really devote himself to improving rather than relying on his native physical skills?
Myck Kabongo, Texas
Things went from bad (suspended for most of his sophomore season by the NCAA) to worse (free-agent time) for the once-heralded point guard prospect from Canada. He doesn’t have great size, but he does have considerable talent. Leslie may have been the bigger name, but Kabongo’s going unpicked may actually be the biggest surprise on this list. At least one NBA general manager, per one of the bazillion pre-draft reports, said he thought Kabongo could go in the late first round.
Vander Blue, Marquette
Blue wins this year’s award for the most disastrous premature departure. The 6-5 guard went undrafted after walking away from an extremely solid Marquette team and a chance to build on his own breakout junior season. No one except Blue thought he was ready to leave, and apparently the 30 NBA teams agreed with that assessment. It was a shocking decision when it was announced, and it looks even worse now. The only saving grace is that by going undrafted, Blue can now shop around for the best fit for his skill set and a team that believes in him. Another year at Marquette would have done much more for him, though.
Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State; Robert Covington, Tennessee State
It was somewhat surprising that neither of these forwards found a taker in the second round. Carmichael averaged 17.4 points and 9.3 rebounds last season in a good Missouri Valley Conference, and at 6-9 and around 240 pounds, he certainly has the size to translate into an NBA power forward. The 6-8 Covington is more of a perimeter player at the pro level, but he can really shoot for a guy his size. Covington didn’t have a great senior season, but he has a pretty established track record of sticking jumpers. His 39 percent three-point shooting last season matched a career low, but overall he made 42.2 percent in four years.
Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s; Phil Pressey, Missouri
Dellavedova, the consummate college point guard, has the height, passing and shooting skills, but not the speed. Pressey has the speed and passing skills, but not the height or shooting. If you could make a guy named Matthil Pressedova, he’d probably have been a lottery selection. As it is, two pretty successful floor leaders will have to try to convince someone that their strengths outweigh their weakness. (Boston is set to sign Pressey as an undrafted free agent, according to Yahoo! Sports.)
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Is it the knees? The age? The background with some trouble in it? A combo? It was a bit surprising to see a forward who can rebound like Mbakwe passed over for 60 picks. In one of the nation’s most rugged leagues, he was a consistent force on the boards, and his absence in the 2011-12 season was profound for the Gophers. Given that dominant rebounding for undersized guys is one of the most transferrable traits to NBA success, maybe the 24-year-old will find his way onto a roster and go from there. He should stand out in summer games for his board work.
Ian Clark, Belmont
As colleague Luke Winn laid out in significant detail, Clark can shoot. Like really shoot. Like shoot way better than any other shooting guard in this draft, including lottery pick Ben McLemore. Yes, he’s an undersized two-guard who’s not really suited to play the point. But he can’t find a roster spot somewhere as a rotation sniper playing with a bigger guard?
Brandon Paul, Illinois
His inconsistency was maddening, but when he got it going, there was no more impressive binge shooter in college basketball. He single-handedly destroyed teams at times. He is 6-4 with a huge 6-11 wingspan. He struggled in Big Ten play last season, but the whole Illini team did from the arc. Paul certainly should get a summer look, and you’d think he will have a chance to make a preseason roster in the fall.