NBA Draft: Specialists can be found late

The 2014 NBA Draft has been touted as one of the best in years. However, just like every year, there are prospects who are projected to go late first round or second round as specialists. We highlight a few players who may fit this category.

Glenn Robinson III

According to Dean Oliver’s advanced projection model, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III ranks favorably. Robinson excelled on defense this past season, holding opponents to 32 percent shooting in man-to-man defense. That ranked in the 84th percentile of the 434 players with at least 200 plays. With a recent emergence in players who play defense and make 3-pointers, Robinson could follow the footsteps of players like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard.

K.J. McDaniels

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels has received praise from scouts for his athletic prowess, which helps make him a force in transition. According to Synergy Sports Tech, he averaged 1.47 points per transition play last season, the second-best rate (min. 50 plays) among players from the Big-7 conferences (AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC).

Most Transition Points per Play

Like Robinson, McDaniels was also a defensive stalwart, holding opponents to 32 percent shooting (84th percentile).

Perhaps a similar comparison can be made to Corey Brewer of the Timberwolves. Brewer trailed only James Harden and LeBron James with total transition points during the regular season, while holding opponents to 40.4 percent shooting.

Deonte Burton

Deonte Burton, a point guard from Nevada, was a masterful pick-and-roll ball handler, a quintessential play in the pro ranks. According to Synergy Sports Tech, he scored 1.07 points per play as the pick-and-roll ball handler, second best in the NCAA last season of 68 players with at least 150 plays.

Perhaps more impressive is that Burton committed a turnover on five percent of his plays as the pick-and-roll ball handler, trailing only San Diego State’s Xavier Thames.

Patty Mills is a player who had similar success as the pick-and-roll ball handler in the NBA this season. Not only was he taken late in the second round, he ranked behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant in points per play among the 74 players with at least 200 such plays and had the lowest turnover percentage.

Jarnell Stokes

Rebounding has translated well from college to the professional ranks and Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes is one of the best offensive rebounders in this year’s draft. He grabbed 4.2 offensive rebounds per game last season, most in the SEC and third in the nation. He rebounded 15 percent of his team’s missed shots when on the court and averaged an SEC-leading 3.2 second-chance points per game.

Jordan Hill and Reggie Evans are a couple of NBA players who are having long careers as offensive rebounders. Among 90 players who had at least 100 offensive rebounds last season, only Andre Drummond had a higher offensive rebounding percentage than Stokes did in college.

Aaron Craft

Aaron Craft from Ohio State has a reputation for being a menace on the defensive end, and his numbers support that claim. He forced a turnover on 20 percent of his opponents’ possessions, the best rate among Big-7 conference players (minimum 200 plays). He generated a turnover percentage of at least 18 percent every season of his four-year career.

Ray McCallum, who was drafted in the second round by the Kings in 2013, also forced a turnover on 20.1% of opponents’ possessions in a man defense in the 2012-13 season. Craft will look to have a similar defensive impact as McCallum did toward the end of the season for the Kings. McCallum wasn’t as disruptive in his rookie season as he was in college, but he still held the opponents to 39 percent shooting, which ranked in the 81st percentile among 276 players who faced at least 300 plays.