Every year top international and collegiate prospects fall all the way out of the draft and sign undrafted free agent deals with the teams of their choice. This year, there was a record amount of foreign-born prospects selected in the first round at 15 ( the previous record was 12 in 2013 per NBA.com) and another eight selected in the second round.
Undrafted prospects always seem to come out of nowhere to make an impact during their rookie seasons, and we’ve seen recent examples like point guard Jeremy Lin, swingman Wesley Matthews and point guard Ishmael Smith have the staying power to be successful rotation players in the NBA. Who could make a similar impact in this 2016 undrafted free agent class?
Honorable mention: Ryan Arcidiacono PG, Robert Carter Jr. PF, Wayne Selden SG/SF, Cat Barber PG, A.J. English PG/SG, Ron Baker PG/SG, Bryn Forbes SG
5. Prince Ibeh/Marshall Plumlee
Ibeh and Plumlee fit a similar mold of player NBA teams are willing to try and develop; young, athletic centers with shot blocking ability and pick and roll potential. Ibeh stands 6-11 and 260 pounds with an outrageous 7-5.5 wingspan, giving him ideal measurements for an NBA center. Plumlee is 7-1 and 250 pounds with the saw raw athleticism of his older brothers Miles and Mason but lacks the same skill level.
Both prospects are very athletic and improved their rebounding numbers throughout their careers, which should allow them to have successful careers overseas if they can’t latch onto an NBA team. Plumlee has reportedly already signed a guaranteed contract with the New York Knicks, while Ibeh is signing with the Milwaukee Bucks. Keep an eye on both moving forward, as they have the size, length and athleticism to make a difference in the paint at the next level.
4. Sheldon McClellan 6-6 200 SG Washington Wizards
McClellan has the size, athleticism and shooting ability to have an NBA career, but he’ll have to improve defensively to have a role at the next level. At 6-6 and 200 pounds with average length and a 41.5-inch maximum vertical, McClellan has good physical and athletic attributes for the NBA.
McClellan’s game has matured after five years at the college level, most notably in shot selection and accuracy, as he shot 50.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three as a redshirt senior. McClellan reportedly signed with the Washington Wizards, and could make the roster to add depth and shooting as a three-and-d type wing.
3. Gary Payton II 6-3 185 PG/SG Houston Rockets
Most people had Payton as a mid-to-late second round pick, but the defensive-minded combo guard fell out of the draft and reportedly signed with the Houston Rockets. At 6-3 and 185 pounds with a 6-8 wingspan, Payton has good size for either backcourt position. Payton pairs his size and length with great athleticism (38.5-inch max vertical) which he uses on the defensive end to grab 2.5 steals per game.
Payton has the look of a third point guard and defensive ace in the future, as long as he’s able to find some consistency on the offensive end of the floor. Payton struggles as a shooter and mostly impacts the game with his athleticism offensively. Payton is already 23 years old, so it will be interesting to see how much more developing he can do to improve his point guard skills and jump shot.
2. Jarrod Uthoff 6-10 215 SF/PF Sacramento Kings
Uthoff is one of my favorite undrafted prospects. Uthoff could be a Ryan Anderson-lite in the right situation, and I’m unsure it that’s with the Sacramento Kings, who he reportedly signed with following the draft. Uthoff stands a shade under 6-10 with a near 7-foot wingspan, and pairs that with excellent shot blocking, shooting ability and versatility — skills the NBA can never get enough of.
Uthoff will need to settle into a position and continue to add strength if he opts to play in the frontcourt. He lacks great ball handling, quickness and, athleticism, but compensates with a unique ability to put the ball in the basket. Uthoff is a good defender with uncanny timing as a shot blocker with the ability to play both forward positions, and could develop into a rotation period for years as a second round pick.
1. Dorian Finney-Smith 6-8 215 SF/PF Dallas Mavericks
Finney-Smith looks the part of a prototype NBA combo forward and could make the Mavericks’ roster after reportedly agreeing to a contract. At just under 6-8 with a near 7-foot wingspan and decent athleticism (35.5-inch vertical), Finney-Smith checks a lot of boxes from a physical standpoint. He is an improved shooter with range (36.8 percent from three last year, 42.6 percent as a junior) and flashes some passing ability as well (2.1 assists per game).
However, he struggles as a playmaker, and is a bit caught in between positions lacking the size of a power forward and ball handling of a small forward. His mechanics are odd as a shooter, which could give him trouble trying to extend his range to the three point line. If he can extend his range and work on his handle, there’s a place for Finney-Smith in the NBA. His versatility has never been more desired by NBA teams. I think he has a long NBA career.