We hear the question all the time now: who's your favorite sleeper? Who are we sleeping on? Who is being undervalued and is destined to outperform their draft stock?
Second-round or fringe first-round prospects are pretty dependent on fit and role for how they'll succeed. Most of those guys come in to fill a role early in their careers, then eventually can blossom into something greater. Some make immediate impacts, and others need time to develop to acclimate to the NBA.
I'll heap some high praise on Mississippi State's Reggie Perry initially. He was the MVP of the 2019 FIBA 19-U World Cup, the prototype for how the NBA should be played at the 5. He was a ball of energy, blocking shots left and right. Part of what garnered Perry MVP honors with the FIBA U-19 Games last summer was his elite rebounding prowess. He looked like a man among boys, and he backed up that showing by averaging a double-double at Mississippi State, (17.4 ppg. and 10.1 rpg.).
From my vantage point, Perry is much more skilled of a perimeter player than he showed in those games, something on display during his sophomore year at Mississippi State. He's a really good passer, a high-volume shooting threat and can handle the ball in unique ways, such as in the full-court after a board or on the perimeter in wonky pick-and-roll or face-up situations.
There's a tinge of Pascal Siakam to his game.
This is not to say that Perry is likely to have the same type of career as the NBA champion and All-Star. However, his unique role within an offense for his size and length makes him a unique piece that many NBA teams should covet.
Bigs are a dime a dozen these days, as we've covered at length on The Box and One. If there's one name who should make it into that late-first, early-second round category who stands alone as a uniquely-skilled player, it should be Perry.
Under the tutelage of head coach Ben Howland, (the former UCLA coach who has helped produce quite a few NBA All-Stars), Perry has prepared himself as a unique frontcourt prospect. He's not an elite scorer or defender, but he's pretty well-rounded, shoots it effectively for his size and has the potential to be a gold mine of frontcourt playmaking ability.
He's the perfect person to resurrect an old debate about positions and how the discussion is framed: Perry is 6'10" with a seven-foot wingspan, slender build and a heck of a lot of athleticism. Scouts differ on whether he's a 4, a smaller 5, has the ability to play both or is caught in-between in a negative way.
In essence, he can be seen as "multi-positional" or a "tweener", which are the same term with wildly different connotations.
This mostly comes into play on defense, as how a player is deployed on the other end is due to the skills they have. Perry is an outstanding passer and appears comfortable beyond the 3-point line.
32.4 percent shooting from 3 won't turn many heads as being elite, or even a strength of Perry's draft profile. It's his overall comfort and proficiency on high volume that is attractive. Perry's form is decently polished and consistent. He has upside to shoot on the move and be utilized in an off-ball manner that allows him to play with another big. The versatility to be a pick-and-pop or a spot-up shooter as a big is incredibly important.
Unlike most bigs, Perry wasn't asked to be a back-to-the-basket threat in college in the way his first-round competitors have been. Perry was more of a spacer and facilitator from the top of the key. His 2.4 assists per game mark is decently impressive, but its in how he was used that's important.
Howland's offense featured screens that have slip options, frequent curls or back-cuts. Reading them accurately requires not just repetition, but comfort and skill. As many NBA teams trend towards 5-out offenses and reversing the ball through their bigs, Perry is a great fit for this shift.
What I love most is how he combines his rebounding prowess (his most polished skill) with his passing and playmaking ability by rebounding and pushing up the floor. He's great in the open floor, has some handling chops rarely seen for his size and, despite not being an elite athlete or blazingly quick, has some shiftiness to him. He's the quintessential "color outside the lines" type of prospect, and I love guys like that.
In order to be considered an effective stretch-big, you have to shoot better than 32 percent from deep. That shooting consistency is a large part of why Perry doesn't always come up in first-round conversations. If he was above 37 percent and very good, he'd be missing very little in his skill portfolio.
But Perry also isn't a well-polished perimeter defender, mostly due to that aforementioned lack of quickness or burst. Closeouts can catch him flat-footed, he'll lunge at fakes on occasion and be best-served guarding the interior. It's an area where, if Perry can improve how he defenders face-up 4s, would completely unlock the positional versatility of his game.
I'm not as concerned with the ball security portion of Perry's upside because, well, guys who are asked to make plays also make mistakes. If you trust a player to be a creator to a high degree, you have to live with some of the mistakes he makes there. Perry can certainly tighten it up, but it's not the type of concern that should prevent someone from thinking he's highly deployable in those areas. It's more of a byproduct than a reason to doubt him.
Overall Analysis and Draft Projection
I'd love to hear Perry's name get called in the first round, though I'm not sure it will. He's a unique talent, and one that most teams can now see the blueprint for including into their offense.
Defense will be the make-or-break part of Perry's career. If he's only an interior defender who snatches rebounds and blocks shots, there's still a lot of utility in that. But his upside, and my attraction to him, is thinking about how he can play both the 4 and the 5, similar to Siakam with the Toronto Raptors.
He's not as fast or fluid as Siakam, and nowhere near as skilled right now. But if that's the archetype for how a team is looking to draft, there aren't other prospects out there who fit this mold. Perry's worth grabbing, sooner than he's talked about now. I guess that's what makes him a sleeper.