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NBA Draft: Who are sleepers the Warriors should target in the second round?

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The Warriors don’t currently have a pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but they’ve declared their intentions to buy one if the opportunity presents itself. So who might be a prospect to keep an eye on?

Nevada v Iowa State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As reported by Anthony Slater of the Bay Area News Group yesterday, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers is actively preparing for the 2017 NBA Draft despite not currently possessing a pick.

With the Warriors expecting to shell out a ton of money to keep their championship core intact (as outlined by Patrick Murray in a FanPost), it’s obvious that they need to begin finding more young players who they can pay less and buying into the draft is clearly the easiest way to do so.

Without digging to deep into the myth, the legend, Patrick McCaw the historical record, the Warriors have shown a willingness to both buy picks in the past and successfully identify diamonds in the rough in the second round so we should be tuning in as we keep an eye on how Myers & Co. plans to build on this foundation for the future.

Although it’s interesting to get a sense of what type of player they’re targeting from their pre-draft workout list, they could just as easily have been subtly scouting guys at places like the NBA Draft Combine or the Portsmouth Invitational — the overt signals are fun to track, but probably no indicator of what exactly they’ll do during the draft and many of those guys on their workout list are projected as fringe draft prospects anyway. For the sake of this breakdown, let’s provide three different types of targets: guys on the Warriors’ workout list, guys who analytics-driven ratings like, and guys who might be flying completely under the radar.

The Workout Standout: Monte Morris, G (Iowa State)

Of the guys on the Warriors’ workout list, Iowa State’s Monte Morris is probably the most interesting: while he’s not getting a whole lot of hype among scouts, those who track stats like him and you can bet that’s why the Warriors brought him in for a workout.

Pelton had him ranked 15th in his June 15th statistical projections, basically writing that the guy just does winning things.

The highest-rated player ranked outside Ford's top 30, Morris projects with a winning percentage (.478) near league average (.500, naturally) thanks to his sure-handed play. His projected turnover rate (10.6 percent of his plays) is third-lowest among players in my database listed as point guards, tied with Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Speaking of Brogdon, he’s another type of prospect that’s really interesting to look at: those players who can’t get love from stats or scouts.

Prospects flying completely under the radar: Cameron Oliver, F (Nevada)

Despite my constant raving about Patrick McCaw, I actually thought Malcolm Brogdon was the biggest sleeper entering the 2016 NBA Draft — he was the actually the guy I wanted the Warriors to select. And while McCaw may have met the expectations shaped by looking at stats and watching summer league, Brogdon wildly exceeded my expectations after the Milwaukee Bucks selected him 36th overall: he ended up being a finalist for 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Interestingly enough, Brogdon was a guy who almost nobody rated highly: the stats guys didn’t see much that stood out and the “traditional” scouts knocked him for being unathletic. The people championing Brogdon (aside from Ed Bemiss of National Sports Review) were people attuned to intangibles. In a way, he was the Draymond Green of last year’s draft in that basketball IQ and leadership ability ended up trumping all of those other concerns (which might have been overblown to begin with).

This year, that guy who seems to be flying very much under everyone’s radar is Cameron Oliver, who the Warriors have also brought in for a workout already. Similar to Brogdon, he’s being knocked from all sides, but JZ Mazlish made an interesting comparison in his thorough draft breakdown at the Medium:

His IQ issues will always hold him back from really contributing. Guys with Oliver’s skill set just usually aren’t available past the lottery, much less the end of the second round.

Is he really that much worse a prospect from Marquese Chriss? He’s not quite as elite an athlete, but he’s more skilled as a passer, shooter, and dribbler, and more productive as a shot blocker. Chriss might have been over-drafted at eighth, but would he be that bad a pick at #19?

Oliver has the quickness and shooting to fit in as a backup 4 even against teams that downsize, and the rim protection to play some small ball 5. He won’t be more than a backup in either role but guys who can play multiple roles competently should not be second round picks.

Another guy who seems to be flying under the radar, though to a lesser extent, is Jordan Bell, who Erik Horne of The Oklahoman called, “arguably college basketball’s best defender last season.” In summarizing his ability, Mazlish wrote, “...he is more of a good small-ball 5 than an elite one, and small-ball 5 is already a limited role. A team with other pieces in place should aggressively pursue him for his ability to help immediately in a playoff matchup.”

Hmmm...I wonder where we can find a team with pieces in place...

The statistical studs: Josh Hart, G (Villanova)

The draft is probably where the debate between analytics and “traditional scouting” gets most interesting to me, primarily because neither is always right and yet diamonds in the rough can often be found within the gaps between the two.

Patrick McCaw is an excellent example of that tension as he was a guy who didn’t get a whole lot of buzz based on his play at UNLV, but was popping up as a top-20ish NCAA prospect among those crunching numbers. Part of his problem was that he just didn’t have the eye-popping scoring numbers that stand out to people despite having some very impressive efficiency indicators on both ends.

We could all go sift through 1000s of words about draft prospects ourselves to do a comparison, but To The Mean’s draft model comparison tool is a really helpful tool for quick analysis of the consensus about a prospect at a glance. For example, if you want to compare McCaw’s pre-draft ratings to his actual draft position to his performance for the Warriors (#OMGHEWASFIFTHAMONGROOKIESWHYISTHISMANNOTROY), you can just select the 2016 draft, click on his name, and it charts it for you. Pretty awesome stuff.

So if we flip to this year’s draft, obviously we don’t see draft position and actual rookie performance yet, but we can compare the various models out there. In the interest of simplicity, I’m going to focus on comparing Dean Demakis’ and Kevin Pelton’s statistical models to the scout-driven models of Chad Ford and DraftExpress — Demakis and Pelton were relatively high on McCaw so they are now in my good graces. And this year, the biggest sleeper is unmistably Josh Hart — while DraftExpress has him ranked #41, Pelton has him ranked #14.

Pelton described why Hart, who “has no statistical weaknesses”, as his biggest sleeper in the draft in a collaborative article with Chad Ford today:

As a senior at Villanova, Hart was a consensus first-team All-American. Perhaps more importantly, his skill set should translate well to a smaller role in the NBA. Hart is a capable 3-point shooter (40 percent as a senior, 39 percent career) with average size for an NBA shooting guard and enough strength to defend some small forwards. Yet it seems that scouts were scared off by his poor showing at the NBA draft combine after his junior year, which caused him to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

Similarly, Demakis, who loved the Warriors’ McCaw pick last year, wrote, “Josh Hart is my senior sleeper. Hart would be exciting if he had a bit more height, burst, or shooting ability, but as it is he is still decent enough in all of the categories. And he had an excellent NCAA career, as he makes winning plays and led Villanova to 4 years of immense success. He has no special upside but has a solid chance of becoming a useful rotation player.”

It’s pretty clear that the chances of landing another McCaw, much less Draymond Green, are pretty slim. But in an effort to maximize their payroll, the Warriors have to land a serviceable talent in this draft so hopefully they find the right balance somehow.

For far more on draft prospects the Warriors could take a look at with a second round pick, check out this FanPost that also describes how changes in developmental league rules could impact second round picks. Give it a rec if you like it and think we should promote it to the front page.