If you take a look at the 1998 NBA draft, you’ll see a few stars in the top 10 followed by a bunch of players who (mostly) did not meet expectations.
Now, if you asked an NBA fan to list the top 10 players who emerged from that draft, they’d probably put Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Vince Carter in the top three in some order followed by Antawn Jamison and Mike Bibby.
The sixth pick would likely be Rashard Lewis, but one could make the case that an undrafted player could slot into seventh in Brad Miller, the two-time All-Star center who averaged a double-double for the Sacramento Kings in 2003-04.
A ton of college and international stars with loads of potential emerged in the 2017 draft, but don’t be surprised if we’re talking about an undrafted player or two among the best from the class down the line.
Here’s a look at three such players, where they are reported to be headed and predictions for their NBA futures.
NBA Draft Board
Per David Aldridge of TNT, former North Carolina forward Isaiah Hicks is headed west:
The 6’8″, 230-pound Hicks ranked as the No. 60 prospect on DraftExpress’ big board. He enjoyed a successful four-year career in Chapel Hill and capped it by averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 23.2 minutes per game during his senior season.
Hicks ranked as Jonathan Wasserman‘s seventh-best undrafted prospect this year. The Bleacher Report draft expert noted that Hicks “should have enough bounce and length to continue making plays inside. Having shot at least 75 percent from the free-throw line in back-to-back seasons, he’s flashed potential as a mid-range shooter.”
Hicks’ place on the Los Angeles Clippers roster next year depends on the team’s offseason. If the entire Clippers core blows up, then Hicks could find a spot as a frontcourt reserve, especially with Blake Griffin becoming a free agent.
But if the band gets back together for one last ride, it’s hard seeing Hicks making the roster, which means he’d get some time in the NBA G League.
Per Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia and Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, former Kentucky center Isaac Humphries will get a shot with the Washington Wizards:
The 7’0″, 260-pound Humphries played sparingly in his one year in Lexington, averaging just 8.3 minutes per game. Humphries did show some promise in his last game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbing five rebounds in just 21 minutes against North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Humphries’ issue is this is a point guard-driven league wherein three-pointers have been falling more than ever before.
As Josh Riddell of DraftExpress notes: “Humphries is most comfortable inside the paint, with the majority of his offensive possessions coming from post-ups, according to Synergy Sports Technology.” Therefore, he is not a great fit for this era, when big men routinely shoot long-range jumpers (or even three-pointers).
However, the adage is you can’t teach size, and it isn’t a surprise that a 7’0″, 19-year-old center who was good enough to be recruited by a blue-blood program like UK is going to get a shot with an NBA team.
Expect Humphries to be sent to the G League for at least a few seasons. If he continues his development, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get a call to the big club by 2020.
Per Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, former BYU center Eric Mika is headed for the Miami Heat:
Mika put up gaudy statistics for BYU as a sophomore last year, posting 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 28.6 minutes per game. Admittedly, those numbers were buoyed by BYU’s fast tempo, which KenPom.com ranked fourth out of 351 Division I men’s college basketball teams.
Still, Mika put up one of the most impressive performances of any college basketball player last season, when he scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 79-71 win over 29-0 Gonzaga.
The 6’9″, 230-pound Mika received much praise in his NBADraft.net scouting report, with a comment about his pro possibilities standing out: “He shows NBA potential left to develop because he is a big man who can spread the floor and knock down a mid-range jumper just as well as drive to the bucket.”
The downside is Mika is a bit undersized for a big man, but he still may find room on the back end of the Heat roster.
The 22-year-old played as a freshman during the 2013-14 season before going on an LDS mission to Rome for two years. He returned to Provo, Utah, this past season before declaring for the NBA draft.
Mika still has room to grow as a player, so a G League trip seems like the best bet this year. Still, it’s hard to ignore his college production, especially against top competition like Gonzaga, so don’t be surprised to see Mika on the Heat roster within the next year or two.
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