The NBA draft lottery is an opportunity. It can make or break a franchise’s success for the next generation. But the opportunity to change the culture is not about drafting the first few picks. When the Golden State Warriors picked up Draymond with the 35th pick, he wasn’t expected to transform into one of the cornerstones of a historic team. The San Antonio Spurs didn’t believe that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, who were selected at 28th and 57th overall respectively, could lead a legacy that included four championships.
In recognition of the exciting draft classes that have embraced the league over the last few years, the question remains: which players from these drafts will outshine their draft position over the next five years? And who did GM’s miss on?
While there is no doubt that most fans focus their attention on the draft’s highest picks, the top ten in particular, there is a reason why there are fifty other slots for players which teams can select. Place a player from a lower position in the right situation and feed him with the right coaching, a team could find themselves a player who provides them with far more than they expected.
Donovan Mitchell, 13th pick (Selected by Denver, traded to Utah, 2017 Draft)
It is no secret that the Utah Jazz have already begun to put their faith in the rookie from Louisville, and he already places in the top 25 in league-wide usage rate. He’s become not just a highlight specialist, but also a great perimeter defender in line with the Jazz’s defensive identity. While his jumper still has plenty of room for improvement, he’s been able to get to the rim at an impressive rate.
Mitchell says he models his game around Avery Bradley, though it has become clear that his offensive ceiling is far higher than Bradley’s. Mitchell may not ever become an All-Star, in light of his defensive specialization (something often forgotten in All-Star voting). He should develop into one of the best role players in the league, if he continues to log healthy minutes. The Jazz would undoubtedly be pleased if he’s able to transform into a 16 points per game defensive rock.
|13th Pick, 2017 Draft||Minutes||Points||FG%||3-Point%||Defensive Rating|
Kyle Kuzma, 27th pick (Selected by Brooklyn, traded to Los Angeles Lakers, 2017 Draft)
While Lonzo Ball has been grabbing all the headlines in L.A., Kuzma has been quietly plowing away at his job. He’s outshone the 2nd pick thus far this season, and his physical presence will undoubtedly continue to give him a leg up in the versatile-favored league. Kuzma has got it all, from the 6’9 frame to the quickness of a guard, to the defensive mentality. If he continues to develop as rapidly as he currently has, we could see him transform into a Rashard Lewis-esque scorer for the Lakers, albeit with the ability to lock in on the defensive end too. Kuzma may not have the same ceiling as other rookies in recent years, but his physical assets will make him into a great second-option for a playoff team. And for a 27th pick, that’s far more than was expected of him in June.
|27th Pick, 2017 Draft||Minutes||Points||FG%||3-Point%||Defensive Rating|
Dejounte Murray, 29th Pick (Selected by San Antonio Spurs, 2016 Draft)
Trust Gregg Popovich to secure what could be the biggest steal of the 2016 draft. Murray has shined in the absence of Kawhi Leonard at the beginning of the season, and has used his impressive frame as a playmaker to the maximum extent, securing high rebounding totals besides scoring. Couple that with his left-handedness, and Murray is on his way to becoming one of the trickiest players to guard. He’s shown a poise similar to Tim Duncan, and thus suits the Spurs culture perfectly. At his best, Murray could turn into a Ron Harper-type player for the Spurs. While he may not get the opportunity to average 20 a game with Kawhi by his side, should Murray find himself on a lower-rung team, he could become a fan-favorite player who regularly stuffs the stat sheet.
|29th Pick, 2016 Draft||Minutes (2017-18)||Points (2017-18)||FG% (2017-18)||3-Point% (2017-18)||+/- (2017-18)|
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 23rd Pick (Selected by Portland, traded to Brooklyn, 2015 Draft)
On a team with no true superstar to dominate games, Hollis-Jefferson has been able to turn the Nets into an exciting unit. His defense has been stellar ever since his arrival into the league, though there were initially questions regarding his offense. However, he’s witnessed a drastic improvement in his jumpshot while simultaneously demonstrating impressive leadership with the Nets. Hollis-Jefferson may not have the assets required to turn into an All-Star talent, though he does possess the core elements of a solid NBA player. Hollis-Jefferson would be best utilized as a role player, and with an integration of a consistent three-point shot into his game, could even transform into an athletic Paul Millsap, with far from spectacular averages, but an impact which can’t be accurately represented by stats.
|23rd Pick, 2015 Draft||Minutes (2017-18)||Points (2017-18)||FG% (2017-18)||Rebounds (2017-18)||Offensive Rating|
Jusuf Nurkic, 16th Pick (Selected by Chicago, traded to Denver, traded to Portland, 2014 Draft )
It clearly hurt the Blazers when they lost Nurkic for the playoffs after he led them to a playoff berth. For a 7-foot center, Nurkic has shown he can thrive on a guard-heavy team, given his well-rounded game. Using his dominant frame, Nurkic can contribute with pick-and-rolls, and has developed a dangerous partnership with the Blazers’ guards on his rolls to the rim. Should Nurkic stay on a playoff team, he’ll become a reliable third-option player who can seize rebounds well and spread the floor. Nurkic looks on track to don a role similar to that of Nikola Pekovic in his prime, and should turn into the 16 &12 player which the Blazers have failed to find the past few years.
|16th Pick, 2014 Draft||Minutes (2017-18)||Points (2017-18)||FG% (2017-18)||Rebounds (2017-18)||Defensive Rating (2017-18)|