NBA Draft Sleepers

In this article, we dive into a few college basketball prospects that our Draft Models view as underrated compared to other draft ranking websites and experts (e.g. Draft Express). Our rankings are based on our PNSP Model, but we also use our NBA Role Probability Model and Similarity Scores in our evaluation of prospects.

Caleb Swanigan | PF/C | Purdue | Sophomore

Draft Express #28 | Model 284 PNSP #3
Physical Measurements: 6’8.5″ | 246lbs | Wingspan: 7’3″ | Max Vertical: 29″
Top Player Comps: Michael Beasley, Thomas Robinson, Kevin Love

Season School Age PTS/40 TRB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40
2016/2017 Purdue 20.1 22.7 15.3 3.7 0.5 1.0
Model 284
PNSP All-Star % Starter % Bench % Non-NBA %
93.8  41.8%  23.0%  20.7%  14.6%

Swanigan ranks as PNSP’s 3rd overall prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft and 4th overall in All-Star probability. While it is difficult to see Swanigan staying on the floor with his defensive deficiency, his offensive production in his Sophomore season in college was excellent. In our historical dataset of drafted players since 1997, here are the players that averaged more than 15 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game:

Player Points per game Rebounds per game Assists per game
Tim Duncan 20.8 14.7 3.2
David West 20.1 11.8 3.2
Draymond Green 16.2 10.6 3.8
Ben Simmons 19.2 11.8 4.8
Caleb Swanigan 18.5 12.5 3.0

Few big men have possessed Swanigan’s ability to score, rebound, and pass the basketball. While Swanigan does lack some of the additional skills these individual players possessed, his ability to score, rebound and pass the basketball is still in elite company for big men. Furthermore, Swanigan’s 32.6% defensive rebounding percentage puts him first among the 81 Draft-eligible players in our dataset for 2017 – the next highest player is Ivan Rabb at 25.7%. Maybe the most important improvement in Swanigan’s game is his ability to knock down the three point shot at a high rate (44.7% on 85 attempts). Coupled with a good Free throw shooting percentage (78.1%), Swanigan projects as a good, if not elite, NBA three point shooter.

From PNSP’s perspective, Swanigan projects above average in three point shooting, playmaking, scoring and free throwing shooting in the NBA. Surprisingly, given Swanigan’s rebounding prowess in college, Swanigan projects as just an average rebounder at the 4 or small-ball 5 in the NBA. Lastly, as expected, Swanigan projects below average in Steals and blocks, but only slightly. Swanigan’s top player comps include the likes of Michael Beasley, Thomas Robinson and Kevin Love. The Kevin Love comp is easy to see, and the Michael Beasley comp illustrates just how offensively dominant Swanigan was this past season. Ultimately, Swanigan may be unplayable in certain lineups (mainly against Golden State), but nevertheless, there should be a place for Swanigan in the NBA. His continued efforts to get in good shape pushes his ceiling higher and higher. I would be shocked if Swanigan cannot find an NBA role.


Sindarius Thornwell | SG | South Carolina | Senior

Draft Express #49 | Model 284 PNSP #13
Physical Measurements: 6’4.75″ | 212Ilbs | Wingspan: 6’10” | Max Vertical: 30.5″
Top Player Comps: Vincent Yarbrough, Taurean Prince, Morris Almond

Season School Age PTS/40 TRB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40
2016/2017 South Carolina 22.7 24.9 8.3 3.2 2.5 1.1
Model 284
PNSP All-Star % Starter % Bench % Non-NBA %
80.0  12.5%  19.0%  26.8%  41.7%

Sindarius Thornwell was unconscious in the NCAA Tournament, as far and away the best player on the 7-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks. The senior Gamecock finished first in the NCAA in Box Plus Minus and top 10 in Defensive Rating. Thornwell profiles as a 3 and D player in the NBA. Below are a list of current NBA players drafted after 2009 (including 2017 Draft prospects) that shot better than 35% from 3, 80% from the free throw line, and had a steal and block percentage greater than 2.5% in their final season of college basketball. Note that steal and block percentage are fairly good predictors of defensive abilities for NBA wing players.

Player 3P% FT% STL% BLK%
Paul George 35.3% 90.9% 4.0% 2.9%
Klay Thompson 39.8% 83.8% 2.8% 3.1%
James Ennis 35.7% 83.4% 3.1% 4.2%
Delon Wright 35.6% 83.6% 4.0% 3.2%
Robert Covington 38.8% 85.0% 4.1% 5.9%
Sindarius Thornwell 39.5% 83.0% 3.6% 3.4%

While PNSP ranks Thornwell highly at 80.0, Thornwell receives a high bustability (non-NBA) probability by our Role Probability Model. This high bustability is driven by a combination of Thornwell’s old age, the fact that he was not an elite prospect out of high school, and his underwhelming physical tools. Additionally, Thornwell’s player comps are not overly exhilarating, which does bring up some questions, but even with those considered, I would still take the plunge on this Senior Guard in the second half of the first round.

For more background on Sindarius Thornwell’s ridiculous March Madness performance check out Dan Dickey’s work at


Jordan Bell | PF/C | Oregon | Junior

Draft Express #26 | Model 284 PNSP #9
Physical Measurements: 6’8.5″ | 224Ilbs | Wingspan: 6’11.75″ | Max Vertical: 38″
Top Player Comps: Jake Wiley, Joakim Noah, Al Horford

Season School Age PTS/40 TRB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40
2016/2017 Oregon 22.4 15.1 11.9 2.5 1.8 3.2
Model 284
PNSP All-Star % Starter % Bench % Non-NBA %
83.0  10.7%  53.1%  18.6%  17.6%

Jordan Bell impressed at the NBA Combine with his elite athleticism. He measured in at nearly 6’9″ and 224lbs with a max vertical of 38″ and an unofficial lane agility time that would’ve put him first all-time at any position. While Bell’s athleticism draws a lot of attention, he was also very productive at Oregon. Bell finished 3rd in the NCAA in Box Plus Minus and filled the stat sheet fairly evenly for a big man. In the NCAA Tournament against Kansas, Bell flashed his versatile game by putting up 11 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 8 blocks in route to a big time win and a Final Four birth.

PNSP projects Bell as a plus defender, playmaker, and rebounder at the PF/C position, but doesn’t see much in the way of shooting. Our NBA Role probability Model puts Bell as one of the most likely 2017 Draft prospects to become an NBA Starter at 53.1%. Bell has low bustability (non-NBA) and low all-star potential, which makes sense given Bell’s NBA projection. Furthermore, two of Bell’s top player comps are Al Horford and Joakim Noah, two elite big men that can defend and pass the ball. Bell’s quickness and overall athleticism make him a big that could possibly guard all five positions in the NBA. This defensive versatility coupled with a budding offensive game and elite athleticism make Bell an intriguing prospect.

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