Ten Potential 2007 NBA Draft Sleepers
by Robert Ferringo - 06/06/2007
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Cleveland Cavaliers fans weren't doing back flips last June when their front office took Daniel Gibson with the 42nd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. But when the late-blooming rookie dumped in 31 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit last week I think it's safe to say that the Cleveland front office - and it's burgeoning fan base - was feeling pretty good about their sleeper pick.
Gibson did next to nothing for the Cavs during the regular season, managing all of 4.6 points in just over 16 minutes per night. But when Cleveland selected him out of the University of Texas it wasn't because the Cavs expected immediate dividends, but because they saw long-term potential. Now they're just happy they didn't have to wait TOO long.
Potential. Potential is the buzzword that ripples through New York City on draft night. It's all about "upside" and "ceilings". But potential is a funny thing. It has the ability to drive otherwise sane men into ghastly, agonizing states of frenzy. It has the power to intoxicate and entice, and it also brings the harsh trait of destruction. Many a man has fallen prey to the empty promises of potential, and in the world of sport there is no bigger wasteland of talent gone awry than the NBA Draft.
NBA executives are easily seduced by "potential" and raw, physical talent. In a way, it's like passing the buck. If a general manager picks some athletic kid that showed some flashes at a major college, and then the kid ends up with three illegitimate children, a rap sheet and a career scoring average of 5.2, the blame can be shifted to the coaches for not developing the player's talent. However, if they snag a proven college player with a seemingly limited upside and he doesn't pan out, then the GM lacks vision.
No, it's potential that sells tickets and spreads false hope to the fan base. Potential, in the form of a lanky, awkward, semi-illiterate 6-feet-9, 19-year-old kid that can jump out of the gym but couldn't tell you what continent Cambodia is on. But if you ask me, the value is higher on a good kid with some physical tools that actually performed in a college career longer than the average Drew Barrymore marriage (three months). I like juniors and seniors; guys who actually won some titles and performed on top-level teams. Give me a four-year starter and double-digit scorer over some uber-athletic freshman that managed the occasional highlight jam.
But that's just me. And since you asked, here is my list of 10 players that you should be very pleased with if your team chooses them on draft night. I'm not presuming that you don't know these players, or that I've uncovered some hidden gem. I mean, unless you've spent the last three years chained up with Michael Vick's dogs I think you'll know who Jared Dudley and Corey Brewer are. Instead, I'm simply pointing out some solid value selections that you should be very pleased with if your team is able to snag.
So here, in no particular order, are 10 players that you want your team to draft on June 28:
1. Jared Dudley, SF, Boston College
OK, here's where me and NBA general managers differ on the NBA draft: they'll take a slow, white, 6-10 power forward that averaged 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds over two nondescript seasons (Josh McRoberts) over a tough, versatile 6-7 combo forward that was a four-year starter that averaged 15.9 points, 7.2 boards and 3.0 assists (Dudley). Oh yeah, and they both played in the same conference so don't try to play that card. Dudley looks like the fat kid that can't keep up, but beneath the tight cornrows lies a cerebral player that can score inside and out, has tremendous vision and is tough in the paint.
2. Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M
Yes, I'm still bitter that he blew that late lay-up against Memphis. But I get the feeling that he's going to win enough NBA games to make it up to me. Law can handle with both hands, is a ferocious defender and has that clutch quality that you can't teach. He's a great competitor that can score in a variety of ways. Mike Conley will be the first PG taken because of his potential, but he's got a long way to go before he can find himself above The Law.
3. Al Thornton, SG, Florida State
Thornton is a pogo stick with 220 pounds of man wrapped around it. The high-flier would be near the top of my draft board not only because of his offensive explosiveness, but because his ceiling is nearly limitless. He does need to work on the jumper, but he improved in nearly every statistical measure between his junior and senior seasons. This guy is a highlight waiting to happen, and my bet to win the 2009 Slam Dunk Championship.
4. Corey Brewer, SF, Florida
If someone were to clone a hybrid of Tayshaun Prince and Josh Howard, not only would they make Rush Limbaugh's head explode but they'd also end up with someone close to Brewer. He's a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. And while he sometimes looks like the town drunk stumbling through the lane, he has outstanding body control and exceptional instincts. The kid may never be an all-star, but I can guarantee you that at some point he's a key piece of a title team.
5. Alando Tucker, SG-SF, Wisconsin
Michael Finley was the 21st overall pick. Devin Harris was a stunner at No. 5 overall, and the Mavs were railed for taking him. But just like his Badger predecessors, Tucker has the chance to be a solid draft sleeper. He has an NBA build, gets fantastic elevation on his shot and has range from all over the court. The guy is a leader, can do it at both ends of the floor and is tough the boards. All he does is produce.
6. Sean Singletary, PG, Virginia
If I had to wager on it, I would say that Singletary is going to return to Virginia. He's not a guaranteed first round pick and has yet to sign with an agent. But if he stays, the slippery point guard is a player I would want on my team. He's small (5-11, 175) but extremely quick and a prolific scorer. I like him starting his career as a backup and then becoming a solid No. 1 PG as his body fills out.
7. Nick Young, SF, USC
You gotta love the mid-range game. And you can't tell me that in his head-to-head match-up with Kevin Durant in the NCAA Tournament that Young was outclassed by the ballyhooed Longhorn. Consistently knocking down 12-footers may not make many fans' nipples hard, but Young's old-school, offense game could change that.
8. Aaron Brooks, PG, Oregon
Explosive is a great word to use to describe Brooks - both on and off the court. I feel like he may slip due to some discipline problems and the fact that GMs don't want to end up feeling like Ryan Appleby's groin if Brooks flames out. But the fearlessness and potential of the speedy Duck would make him an outstanding value pick for a team like the Hawks at the top of Round 2.
9. Derrick Byars, SG, Vanderbilt
I'll give you three guesses to who was the Player of the Year was in the SEC this year? You got it: Byars. This kid is a plug-and-play pick, meaning he'll be ready to trot on the floor and give you meaningful minutes immediately. He's not as versatile as Brandon Roy, but he's close. He is a bit of a gunner, but if your team needs some scoring punch you should be lobbying your local team executive.
10. Rudy Fernandez, SG, Spain
I know he's been on my mock draft board for what seems like a decade, but after pulling his name out of the early entry pool for two straight years I think this is the year that the Spanish import steps up. Fernandez may be considered the softest European import since Tony Blair. However, if you check out some of the Youtube clips floating around out there you'll see that besides being a deadeye shooter he can play above the rim. That's a combo as perfect as cheese and wine.
Honorable Mention: Stephane Lasme, C, Massachusetts.
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