Drafted Under the Radar NBA Rookies

By: Spencer Tawes:

Taurean Prince (ATL) Prince came into this year’s draft not really knowing where he would be getting drafted. Most projections had him going anywhere between the mid to late picks of the first round, some even as far as the early second. Prince ended up going 12th overall, which some may say is a bit of a reach for the senior out of Baylor. Luckily for Atlanta, scouts and league may have possibly overlooked his true potential in today’s NBA. At 6’7′, 225 lbs, Prince enters the league with an NBA-ready body. Factor in his 7-ft wingspan and the Baylor product produces an intriguing matchup nightmare that so many NBA teams crave. Prince should enter his rookie year as a reliable 3&D player off the bench, continuing to grow while learning from the same system that molded together players like DeMarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore. Do not expect any Rookie of the Year considerations for the 22 year old, being that he is joining a veteran playoff bound roster. On the other hand, don’t be surprised to watch Prince flourish in the next few seasons under a player-friendly system that suits his strengths as a player.

Tyler Ulis (PHX) Listed at 5’10” with shoes on (for all we know that could be a generous listing), Ulis obviously draws comparisons with other recently popular NBA little guys like Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson. However, one important thing that needs to be noted, Ulis weighed in at only 149 lbs. That is only about ten more pounds than Muggsy Bogues, who was only 5’3”.  Players like Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson weigh in at well over 180 lbs, built with pure muscle. And unless the ex-Kentucky guard can record some serious weight gain, he will have to adapt his own style of play, different to that of a Isaiah Thomas or Nate Robinson. Watching his summer league action in person, one thing I was most impressed with was his on-ball defensive pressure and ability to stay with ball handlers. In no way does this mean we should expect him to be a great defender, given his size and strength, Ulis will most likely be taken advantage of during dribble drives and mismatches in the post. Entering this rookie season Ulis will be behind some serious guard competition, the only position the Suns posses multiple proven players. Even with this, given the track record of the Suns organization, they may try to move one of their point guards and possibly try to free up minutes for their 34th overall pick. Phoenix is committed to rebuilding the franchise for the next few seasons and will fully intend to let their young guns run free and prove themselves every chance they see fit.

Jake Layman (POR) – Going into this summer I knew very little about the senior from the University of Maryland. But with his play at the Summer League this year Layman surely turned some heads within the Portland organization. At 6’9, Layman has the skills and quickness to defend multiple positions, something that has become a necessity for players hoping to crack the rotation. While offensively the small forward has yet to really distinguish what his calling card will be for his team. Yet, even though he shows no true strengths at the moment, Layman also possess no real weaknesses. He can shoot the three ball, drive to the hoop, handle the ball, and distribute well for his position. Possibly one of the better comparisons for Layman would be what Gordon Hayward was coming out of college. His speed and athleticism is probably around average for someone at his position, but like Hayward, Layman always seems to plays under control and always within himself. This year the Blazers will be a solid team, luckily for Layman his competition for minutes will be splitting time at other positions (Aminu at the four, Turner as a guard). Leaving available opportunities for Jake Layman to possibly take advantage of and seize a quality spot on a crowded young roster.

Kay Felder (CLE) – Somehow the NBA champs got slightly better this offseason, drafting Felder with the 54th pick could possibly contend with being one of the steals of the 2016 draft. At only 5’9, he adds to list of little guys that will succeed in a big man’s game. With a different build and frame than Ulis, this little guy is a solid 180 lbs of muscle. With this, the true test Felder will have to pass his rookie season is whether he can he bring a Dellavedova-like presence to the second unit. Though Felder is a proven college scoring machine, he’ll need to learn how to control his second unit offensively. Along with not allowing himself to get abused down low in the post by other guards. With Kyrie and LeBron forming the most dangerous dynamic duo in the league last year, it will be up to players like Felder to step up when their stars need a break from the action.

Abdel Nader (BOS) – Out of Iowa State, Nader was drafted as the 58th overall pick and so far has exceeded expectations. His impressive summer play has him and the Celtics organization questioning their original commitment towards stashing him in the D-League his rookie season. Unfortunately for both sides, the Celtics roster is as crowded as can be and the team has already signed multiple rookies to multi-year contracts. At 6’6” Nader will have to play at the two spot where his height can be an advantage over his matchup. He already has shown the C’s that he has a clean stroke from deep and has a surprisingly impressive way of finishing strong on his drives. Ultimately Nader’s success will rely heavily on whether or not he is quick enough to match the speed of guards out on the perimeter. I think it is safe to say that Nader will be able to find NBA minutes his first two seasons, the only question will be what team is he on once he does?

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