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Dorm Report: Finding the next Kawhi

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers (then traded to the San Antonio Spurs) in the 2011 NBA Draft out of San Diego State.

On Sunday night, he helped the Spurs raise their fifth Larry O'Brien Trophy while also collecting NBA Finals MVP honors.

Now that the Finals are over, the NBA Draft moves to the forefront in terms of importance for professional basketball.

This year's draft pool is considered one of the deepest in recent memory and for good reason. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid are just three of the notable players who are all but guaranteed to go very early in the draft.

However, for teams not in the lottery portion of the draft, finding players like Leonard is the goal. Who are the prospects lower on most draft boards, who might be at the top of the NBA world quicker than even the teams that draft them may think?

K.J. McDaniels - Clemson

If NBA squads are looking for the type of raw physical talent and versatility that Leonard brings to the table, they should look no further than Clemson's multi-faceted forward.

All McDaniels did this past season was average 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game en route to being named the ACC's defensive player of the year. The numbers he posted were dominant, especially his totals in blocks (which led the ACC), for a 6-foot-10 power forward, yet McDaniels stands at just 6-6, meaning he has the ability to guard and play multiple spots on the floor.

A knock against him is that he is not a major threat from long distance, shooting just 31.2 percent from 3-point range in three college years, but that can certainly be developed. Just look at Leonard, who shot 25 percent from beyond the arc at San Diego State and just sank 57.9 percent from long range in the NBA Finals.

Cleanthony Early - Wichita State

Early certainly has the whole non-power conference thing in common with Leonard, having cut his teeth in the Missouri Valley Conference with the Shockers. That does not mean he has not faced elite competition or put forth the type of production that has many NBA teams intrigued.

Although he did not dominate on the boards (5.7 career rpg), he was a solid scorer in college, netting 16.4 ppg for the 35-1 Shockers this past season. He also consistently saved his best moments for the big games, especially the 31- point effort he had against Kentucky in a heartbreaking loss during this year's NCAA Tournament. That showing came just a season after he helped Wichita State to the Final Four by averaging 16.2 ppg and 7.6 rpg.

The 6-8 forward also has tremendous range, sinking 37.3 percent of his shots from 3-point range as a senior, including four triples in that eruption against Kentucky.

Jerami Grant - Syracuse

The verdict is still out on Grant. A team taking Grant would be doing so based on his tremendous physical gifts and a small sample size, but that tiny amount of game tape is certainly an impressive one.

Grant stands at 6-8 and produced enough highlight-reel material in just two years at Syracuse to have many scouts praising his athletic ability, although admittedly raw, and his potential to be dangerous in the NBA.

Grant averaged 12.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg as a sophomore with the Orange, but his minutes and production declined in February due to a back injury. Even so, when he was on the floor he was a major difference maker, with Syracuse going 19-0 in games he played prior to Feb. 1 and 7-7 after, when Grant never played more than 24 minutes in a game.

Elfrid Payton - Louisiana

Payton does not exactly fit into the same mold in terms of size as the others on this list. He played point guard for the Ragin' Cajuns and is listed at 6-3. However, those few inches didn't stop him from turning in one of the best all-around seasons in the entire country.

The junior was second in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring (19.2 ppg), first in assists (5.9 apg) and steals (2.3 spg), while also managing to collect six rebounds per game. Finding such versatility is a tough task, but one many general managers would love to accomplish, especially past the lottery picks, with Payton projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round.

Whoever lands Payton will be getting a player who can do it all, from slashing to the basket to disrupting passing lanes to crashing the glass.

Kyle Anderson - UCLA

If there was any player in the country more versatile than Payton this past season, it was Anderson. The 6-9 sophomore came closer to averaging a triple- double (14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.5 rpg) than any other college player and he did so while playing multiple spots, including point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

06/17 09:45:25 ET

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