NBA Draft 2019: Five sleepers include 'Paul George comp' Cam Reddish, lights-out shooter Cameron Johnson
A sleeper doesn't have to be a late pick -- it's any player who's a candidate to significantly outperform his draft slot
We know about Zion Williamson. We know about Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett and more of the other guys expected to go in the lottery. But outside of that, the NBA draft is all about finding hidden value. Even in the middle of the first round, or even the tail end of the lottery, you have to hit on something about someone other teams didn't see, or at least didn't value enough. That's a sleeper. Here are five of them to keep any eye on going into Thursday's draft.
Reddish is almost certainly going to go in the back half of the lottery, but listen to what one Eastern Conference scout told CBS Sports about the man who took a backseat to Zion and Barrett at Duke:
"I think he's the most talented player in the draft. I really believe that."
The concern about Reddish is that he "disappears" too easily, that he's passive and can fade out of the action as more a matter of personality than basketball ability. You know who else scouts thought had that same problem in college?
"That was the same question on Paul George when he was coming out," a different league scout told CBS Sports. "You hear stories of guys sending their boss to go see Paul play [at Fresno State] and he'd score like six points, when he was obviously the most talented player on the floor. Some guys it takes a while for them to really feel comfortable asserting themselves. [Then-Pacers president of basketball operations] Larry Bird took Paul on a leap of faith, because the ability and skill and that length was obviously elite. That's a lot like Reddish. The physical stuff is all there. The mindset will be what determines what kind of pro he'll be."
Suffice it to say, if Reddish turns out to be another Paul George, or even anything close, somebody is going to have gotten a steal.
I love this guy. So do a lot of other people, but not enough in my opinion. Herro, a 6-foot-5 prototypical shooting guard, is slated to go somewhere in the middle of the first round. Let's say it's No. 15 just to put it right on the middle number: That's too low. If Herro slips lower than that, he's got big-time steal written all over him.
This guy has all the makings of being not just a good shooter in the NBA, but a great one. In his one year at Kentucky, he shot over 93 percent from the free throw line, which has historically been one of the better indicators of future success as an NBA shooter. It's not just the shot itself, either. Yes, the release is quick. Yes, the form is pure. But the confidence with which he rises up even in the biggest moments? You can't teach that.
"It's very easy to see Herro stepping into an NBA game right now and knocking down a big shot like he's been around for 10 years," a scout told CBS Sports. "He has all the makings of a deadly shooter. And he's better off the dribble than people think. We've talked about mindset. This kid wants the big shot."
Also, it doesn't take a lot of film work to see that Herro is more than just a shooter. He can put the ball on the floor. He's an athlete and has the size to be a versatile, impact defender. If I'm at the back end of the lottery, I'm looking very hard at Herro, who I think could end up being one of the 10 best players in this draft.
Again, Little is projected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round, but multiple scouts have told CBS Sports he has "top-10 talent." Little was one of the highest rated players in his class coming out of high school but had a pedestrian year at North Carolina and wasn't even that heavily relied upon by Roy Williams at under 20 minutes per game.
This is a classic "upside" situation in that Little is a great athlete with great size -- 6-6 with over a seven-foot wingspan. He can be a plus defender in the NBA soon. He is raw offensively and relies heavily on hard drives and cuts and offensive rebounds for much of his production, but he shot better than 77 percent from the free throw line and his form is good, all of which suggests he can become a decent enough shooter to make his defense his calling card.
By the way, those slashing and offensive rebounding skills?
Those aren't nothing. They are instinctual and highly valuable.
Little won't create a ton of offense on his own, but on a decent team with weapons around him where he can just fly around and be tough defensively, he can outperform his draft slot very easily. If things really click a few years from now, he could be a big-time steal based on his "can't teach" physical traits.
One of the reasons the aforementioned Little didn't get a ton of playing time? Cameron Johnson took a lot of his minutes. Johnson is redshirt senior, 23 years old, and thus doesn't, theoretically, possess the "upside" of the freshmen Little -- which is to say Johnson is believed to be closer to, well, what he is right now.
But what he is right now is perfect for the NBA. He is 6-foot-9 and an absolute lights-out shooter. Dude shot over 45 percent from three, and with his height and release point he isn't just hitting open looks -- he's knocking down contested shots. He's not a great athlete, another reason he doesn't have the upside of a guy like Little, but every single year there are guys who are labeled inferior athletes who get passed over despite their obvious basketball skill.
Johnson could easily be one of these players. Many mocks have him going in the late first round or even the second round. Someone is going to get a player who can produce in a role well above that slot. If somehow Johnson were to fall to 28 with the Warriors, man, just his shooting alone, with that size, would make him hugely useful in that offense.
Dylan Windler, Belmont
Do you want to know how big a sleeper Windler is? Our system doesn't even have a mug shot for him. He's an actual nobody. A nobody who might seriously be the best shooter in this draft.
Windler, a lefty, is 6-foot-7 and played at Belmont, which is naturally going to put him a little off the radar. He's another possibility for the Warriors at No. 28. His stroke is pure at 43 percent from three on better than seven attempts a game.
And this dude wasn't toeing the line, either. Let's just say range isn't going to be a problem. Windler also averaged better than 10 boards a game, and again, has that perfect position-less size of today's league.
We'd like to think that with the sophistication of today's scouting, where a guy plays his college ball wouldn't impact his evaluation. But that's probably not true. It's tough to account for weaker competition, bottom line. Had Windler did what he did at, say, Duke or Kentucky, he'd be a lottery pick. He might well end up playing to that level anyway.
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