UCLA's Zach LaVine leads intriguing list of NBA draft sleepers

UCLA's Zach LaVine says he'd be comfortable playing point guard in the NBA. (AP Photo)

Zach LaVine

UCLA's Zach LaVine says he'd be comfortable playing point guard in the NBA. (AP Photo)

UCLA guard Zach LaVine has what he hopes is a vision of the future regarding his NBA draft fate.

"I want them to say that Zach came out as the best player," LaVine, 19, told Yahoo Sports. "I want them to say, 'He might have been a sleeper, but we definitely see his talent now.' I want them to think that [I am] one of the better young players coming up in the NBA."

LaVine leads Yahoo Sports' list of players to watch during the NBA draft on June 26. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard is viewed as a late lottery pick and is often compared to former NBA guard Rex Chapman. But Draftexpress.com currently projects LaVine as the 17th overall pick – the sixth guard taken in the draft – by the Boston Celtics.

LaVine is an elite athlete who can also shoot from long range. (AP Photo)
LaVine is an elite athlete who can also shoot from long range. (AP Photo)

"He's really good, but it's going to take time," one Eastern Conference assistant general manager said. "He's skinny, but he has a skill set of unbelievable athleticism that is off the charts. I can see him getting drafted somewhere 10 through 17.

"He has no idea how to play the game right now, he's young and he's immature. But he has a great work ethic and lives in the gym. You're going to have to be patient with this combo-guard who can run the point. But the patient team will end up saying, ‘How did he end up getting drafted there?'"

LaVine averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 assists in 24.4 minutes per game as a true freshman last season at UCLA. The Seattle native made the most 3-pointers by a UCLA freshman (48) since Jason Kapono (82) in 1999-00. LaVine, a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection, also scored a season-high 21 points against Nevada on Nov. 28.

LaVine played shooting guard at UCLA, but said he is most comfortable playing point guard. He said several teams have asked for video of him running the point for Seattle Bothell High School.

"I played point guard my whole life," said LaVine, the son of former NFL and USFL football player Paul LaVine. "I feel comfortable with the ball in my hands. I'm still working at it just like everyone is at the next level."

One thing that no one questions about LaVine is his athletic ability. He set the Lakers' draft workout record with a 46-inch vertical leap.

"It was the Lakers so I was a little extra pumped up. It was definitely something I knew I needed to do," LaVine said.

Who else could offer some surprise value to various teams? Here are the top sleepers of the 2014 NBA draft in the eyes of various league scouts:

Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette, PG, 6-4, 185 pounds, Jr.
Scout: "He can get into the lane and pushes the ball in transition. He can be a really good NBA defender, but has to improve his shooting."

Adreian Payne is a versatile presence at power forward. (AP Photo)
Adreian Payne is a versatile presence at power forward. (AP Photo)

Adreian Payne, Michigan State, PF, 6-10, 239 pounds, Sr.
Scout: "He's a stretch four, which is very valuable in the NBA right now. He is a good player who will play immediately because of his skill level."

Kyle Anderson, UCLA, SF, 6-8, 230 pounds, Soph.
Scout: "I like his basketball IQ. There is a defensive knock. He has a very good understanding and feel for the game."

Joe Harris, Virginia, SF, 6-6, 215 pounds, Sr.
Scout: "Tough as nails shooter who can space the floor. A very good defender. Very high basketball IQ."

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado, PG/SG, 6-6, 205 pounds, Jr.
Scout: "All reports are that he is recovering from his knee surgery, but those things take time. He is very bright and talented."

Glenn Robinson, Michigan, SF, 6-7, 211 pounds, Soph.
Scout: "He will end up being able to play shooting guard one day. Needs to learn toughness. Has athleticism. Shoots well."

Artem Klimenko, Russia, C, 7-1, 228 pounds
Scout: "Young and needs to get stronger. Bouncy. Athletic. Doesn't speak English, but he speaks basketball."

Mitch McGary, Michigan, C, 6-10, 263 pounds, Soph.
Scout: "He had some issues and people weren't talking about him, but he has seemed to move up to the latter part of the first round."

Xavier Thames, San Diego State, PG, 6-3, 187 pounds, Sr.
Scout: "Athletic, tough and can really defend. A gamer. Not a great shooter, but he hits big shots. Will be a solid backup point guard."

Josh Huestis, Stanford, SF, 6-7, 213 pounds, Sr.
Scout: "He needs to transition to small forward. He doesn't have a great handle, but he's a great athlete."

What to Read Next