2021 NBA Draft Sleepers
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Four Sleepers In The 2021 NBA Draft

As the 2020-2021 NBA season comes to a close, we look ahead to the future. In just over a week, the 2021 NBA Draft will take place. The class is full of star-studded names, and although Cade Cunningham appears to be the runaway number one pick, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley are also players that could make some noise. However, as it is each and every year, plenty of draft-eligible prospects have the potential to make a major impact at the next level. NBA Draft sleepers that thrive can become better than any top prospect selected ahead of them on draft night. Just this past season, we saw second round sleeper Nikola Jokic win the MVP, and the under-scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo lead his small market team to an NBA Championship.

Finding talent in the NBA Draft is essential to a team’s success. Without second round selection Khris Middleton, the Milwaukee Bucks would not be NBA Champions. Arguably more important than the early selections are the mid round picks. Those picks bring prospects to playoff teams hunting for a championship. Youth is everything in the NBA, and many young players are capable of making an immediate impact. Furthermore, most of those players do not come in the first few selections. This year, there are four sleepers I am excited about heading into the draft.

Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

The 19-year-old shooting guard from LSU took the SEC and college basketball by storm by averaging 23 points per game on 40 percent shooting. Thomas is the ideal build for a modern NBA two-guard, 6’4″ and 210 pounds. Despite his young age, his maturity on the offensive end is what makes him such an enticing prospect. Thomas did an amazing job at LSU of selecting good shots and converting them at a high level. He can score from anywhere on the court and is able to make difficult shots look easy. Additionally, Thomas projects to be a solid three-point shooter in the NBA. He only shot 32 percent from three in his lone season in Louisiana. If he shot the deep ball a few percentage points higher, I think we are looking at a lottery pick.

Thomas can enter the league and right away be relied upon as a sixth man spark plug off of the bench. I expect his three-point percentage to increase each season in the NBA and his shot making skills to rise as well. Thomas can create his shot as good as anyone in this draft class. If the NBA Playoffs teach us anything, it’s that every single year, the teams that succeed have depth on the wing. To me, Thomas’ floor is a reliable scorer off the bench (i.e., Lou Williams). However, he has the potential to be an offensive machine at the shooting guard position whose athleticism and discipline could elevate him into an All-Star caliber player.

Isaiah Todd, PF, G-League Ignite

Isaiah Todd may be the most difficult prospect to judge in the entire draft class. Last season, I gave this label to Jaden McDaniels, who exceeded his albeit small expectations in Charlotte. I was higher than most on McDaniels last season, as I am with Todd this season. The 6’10” forward showed flashes of brilliance in his lone season with the G-League Ignite team but failed to make shots consistently. However, I am fairly confident that this will change quickly for Todd. He was just a 19-year-old kid with a $500,000 contract in a season covered with COVID-19 conflicts and headaches. The G-League program was certainly a learning experience for Todd, and I believe he will use this season to his benefit in the future.

Todd has tremendous potential as a reliable two-way player in the NBA. He can score down low and space the floor, with a scary fadeaway jumper in his arsenal. His three-point shot needs work, but the talent is there. My one concern with Todd is his toughness. Depending on where he lands, he will need a good strength and conditioning program to get him stronger and ready to play in the paint against NBA stars. If he can develop a consistent shot and add some muscle, teams will regret letting this former 5-star prospect slide down the board in round one. Todd is one of the most intriguing sleepers in this class and should excite teams who could steal him in the 20s or 30s.

Jaden Springer, PG, Tennessee

Jaden Springer, the former IMG Academy star, had a slow start to his lone season at Tennessee but finished very strong. Springer averaged 12.5 points and 2.9 assists as the team’s primary ball handler. He may not have looked like the most polished prospect last year, but Springer has tons of potential. His game is centered around his athleticism, which allows him to create his shot and generate fast offense, especially in transition. Additionally, Springer is a strong three-point shooter entering the draft with a 43.5 percentage from beyond the arc. Although he never attempted more than four in a game, teams must like what they saw from him in a limited fashion.

At just 18-years-old, Springer is easily one of my favorite sleepers in this class. He is a tough competitor who defends on the ball well, as he averaged more than one steal per game last season. His draft stock is situated at the end of the first round, but teams in need of a point guard on their second team should definitely consider him in the middle half of round one. Springer is the type of player who will be much better in the NBA than in college because the fast-paced play in the league fits his style perfectly. I envision him to be a much more proficient scorer at the next level because he will likely attempt more shots. If a team needs youth in the backcourt, Jaden Springer should certainly be a target.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova

Robinson-Earl was a prospect I loved in last year’s draft process prior to him returning to school. One year later, he is still one of my top sleepers entering the league. The 6’9″ sophomore was the model of consistency for Jay Wright in his two seasons at Villanova. Robinson-Earl averaged 15.7 points per game to go along with 8.5 rebounds this season. He is a typical power forward who loves to operate in the paint but can effectively space the floor as well. Robinson-Earl is a max effort player who any coach would be lucky to have in his second unit. While his jump shot needs work, Robinson-Earl is a trustworthy scorer and a capable defender.

Projected in the second round, there is tons of value to be had with Robinson-Earl. He could be the missing piece to many competitive teams lacking depth at the forward position. If he develops a consistent three-point shot, we may be looking at Robinson-Earl as the sleeper of this draft class. The potential impact on both ends of the floor that he possesses, combined with his maturity at just 20-years-old should be enticing to most teams. He may not have the ceiling that the other names on this list have, but Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will be a quality player in the NBA with the right fit.

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