Thursday, May 26, 2011

Potential Steals of the NBA Draft

Every year there are players that fall through the draft and end up getting picked in the late first round or second round.  A lot of the players that are picked this late don't pan out but some of these players turn into all stars, sixth men of the year, or even just better than average role players.  Players like Paul Millsap, Carl Landry, Glenn Davis, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Mario Chalmers, Omer Asik, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Sam Yound, Dejuan Blair, Marcus Thornton, Landry Fields have all been picked in the second round of the draft only to defy scouting reports and make huge impacts on their teams.  This year's draft is said to be a weak draft, but I believe that it is full of solid role players who will be able to step in and make a difference either immediately or down the road.  Here is my list of 10 potential steals in the second round.  Some of these players could go in the first round when all said and done, but at this point the jury is still out and question marks remain for each of these guys.  Some of these guys could also go undrafted and make a roster in the offseason or spend some time in the NBDL.

1. Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia- Leslie has great athletic ability, he is a decent slasher to the basket and is a top tier defender.  He could turn into a Tony Allen type impact player for a good team because of his hard nosed defense and commitment on the boards.  As a junior Leslie averaged 7 rebounds per game as a shooting guard, one thing that all scouts have been saying during this draft process (mostly in regards to Kenneth Faried) is rebounding is one thing that transfers to the NBA game.  That bodes well for Leslie, I think the Heat are a potential option.  They could start him at the point to lock down smaller point guards, and let LeBron handle more of the point guard responsibilities on offense.  He will have to improve his shaky jump shot in that situation.

2. Jeremy Tyler, PF, Japan- After Tyler interviewed and measured well in Chicago it is possible he could land in the first round and possibly even the lottery, but for as many positives there are about this kid there are questions.  He had two disastrous seasons overseas and concerns about character and work ethic have been following ever since.  He has shown improved maturity, a nice skill set, and incredible measurements since the draft process began.  Tyler could easily fall in the draft and if he does look for someone to grab him at the end of the first or early second. It will be a few years before this pick pays off but it has the potential to be a huge addition.

3. Jereme Richmond, SF, Syracuse- Richmond surprised a lot of people by declaring for the draft after his freshman season.  He showcased his length and athleticism all season, but is still rough around the edges offensively.  If Richmond puts in the work his athleticism could allow him to be a defensive stopper and a dynamic offensive player.  He has a poor jump shot and has mediocre ball handling, so he will spend most of his first year in the NBDL or the end of the bench. The reward is definitely worth the risk with Richmond, and I think he could be one of the top players of the draft in a few years.

4. Darius Morris, PG, Michigan- Darius Morris' draft stock has been up and down, with most scouts believing he should have stayed in Ann Arbor for one more year. He chose to declare and is a fringe first rounder who many compare to a second coming of Andre Miller.  Morris is a big guard who is great at setting up teammates and finishing at the hoop, but lacks a solid jump shot.  It will be interesting to see where he lands, Darius has the potential to turn into a productive back up on a playoff team right away.

5. Nolan Smith, PG, Duke- It surprises me how little people are talking about Nolan Smith, who had a great senior campaign.  He proved he can create his own shot by slashing to the basket and he is an above average 3 point shooter.  He also has heart and great leadership qualities that the winning teams always seem to have.  I think he could be awesome on a team like Chicago or Miami and I expect him to be drafted in the last 3 picks of the first round or by Miami with the first pick of the second. I think he will be a productive pro and will be in the league a long time.

6. Kyle Singler, SF, Duke- Singler should have come out last year when he was projected to be a mid to late first round pick.  He could still land in the first 30 picks, but his stock is way down after a senior season that did not see much improvement from past years.  The good news is he is still a heady, hardworking and productive player (not to mention all of his trick shots)  that any team would like to have on their roster.  I think he will be a Mike Dunleavy player off the bench, averaging about 10 points per game and stretching the defense.  I think he could be a real option at 24 for Oklahoma City, but if he falls to the second round he might be able to bring some security to the Clippers small forward position as a nice rotation player.

7.JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue- Johnson has improved each year of college and was one of the top shot blockers in all of the NCAA last year.  His slender frame and older age may have him falling down draft boards, but I think he could contribute in the future.  Johnson improved his mid range jumper and now can drain a 10-15 footer.  Weak side defense is his best skill, swooping over to reject shots with his long arms and leaping ability.  I think he will surprise a lot of people.

8. Keith Benson, C, Oakland- Benson played against subpar competition for most of his collegiate career, but at times when he played against top tier teams he showed up and was able to play well.  He has legitimate size to be a center in the NBA and has some nice offensive moves to go along with his shot blocking.  He is a little skinny and will need to bulk up to compete daily at the next level.  Benson will also have to improve his offensive game and footwork.  Overall I think he will be a nice addition to whichever team decides to draft Benson.

9.LaceDarius Dunn, SG, Baylor- Dunn is a streaky shooter who reminds me a lot of Marcus Thornton.  When he gets his shot to fall opposing teams better watch out.  He would be perfect on a team such as the Suns or other teams who don't mind jacking up some threes. Dunn is a little undersized for the shooting guard, but he has an NBA type build and can definitely score at the next level. Size and defense are deterring teams at the moment, but at some point in the second round someone should take a chance on him.

10. Ben Hansbrough, PG, Notre Dame- After his big brother Tyler proved many of his critics wrong it is hard not to believe his younger brother will do the same.  Like Tyler, Ben plays with passion and enough heart for the whole team.  He would be a nice addition as a bench player that you could count on in tough situations, and he proved that he can shoot the ball as well.  I expect him to be taken at the bottom of the second round or go undrafted, but I think he is such a tough competitor and hard worker that he will find his way onto a roster and make a name for himself.  

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