As the NBA draft approaches, you will undoubtably hear about teams looking to move up or move out as they try to make important moves for their immediate and long term futures.
What I find most amazing about the draft is that historically, players who land anywhere from 20-45 can be mixed and matched based on team needs and executive opinions. Last year, guard Charles Jenkins of Hofstra was slotted anywhere from 20- 35 in most mocks and dropped to 44. Some places had the Knicks taking Josh Selby at 17 and he fell to 49.
It is an inexact science, as is the term “sleeper.” I don’t think they necessarily have to come in the second round, but most seem to.
I think Klay Thompson will prove to be one of the best players in the entire 2011 draft class – if not the best – and he went 11th. Does that make him a sleeper? I don’t know, but you can most certainly call Isaiah Thomas the overall best value of the draft considering his production this season and the fact that he was taken with the final pick.
This year, I think the most NBA-ready player who will have the best career is Damian Lillard.
Here are my top five sleepers for the upcoming NBA draft and some teams that would make sense for them to land:
1. Perry Jones, 6-11 Forward, Baylor
According to leading mock draft sites, Jones was a top-five pick last year and one of the most highly touted prospects coming out of high school. He struggled at Baylor to find a niche and doesn’t have the offensive skill set to take over games at this level right away. That said, his size, athleticism, footwork and hands are still lottery-worthy. If he falls into the late teens, a team ready to develop him can secure an absolute freak with unlimited potential. I think a veteran-led playoff team such as Boston looking for an injection of youth and excitement would be an ideal situation for Jones.
2. Doron Lamb, 6-4 Shooting Guard, Kentucky
Lamb falls under the category of “tweener,” but the guy can stroke it and is very athletic. Lamb would be a perfect fit for a playoff team looking for a bench scorer to play off of a post player. If the Knicks could somehow figure a way to match him with Carmelo Anthony, they would make a vast improvement in Mike Woodson’s halfcourt, plodding, post-heavy style. He’s a first-round talent that needs a “share first” point guard and solid post player to make a great impact in year one. It would appear the Knicks have both in Anthony and Jeremy Lin.
3. Mike Scott, 6-8 Power Forward, Virginia
Scott has jumped onto the scene thanks to a really solid senior season. He’s small for a PF but an effort player who will be a fan favorite. He’s the type of player that can be plugged into a rotation and give you a quality 15-20 minutes per night on a functional team. He’s not going to blow you away with stats or athleticism, but he can win 50-50 balls, take charges and keep possessions alive. From a maturity standpoint, Scott is NBA ready to help a team that needs depth and energy up front and also be a solid pick-and-pop option from 15-18 feet who can open the floor for teams who run a lot of pick-and-roll – such as the Clippers – with his pick-and-pop ability and his overall desire to play the game with high energy.
4. Mitchell Watt, 6-11 Power Forward, Buffalo
Watt literally jumped out at me while I was at Portsmouth and he has stuck in my mind ever since. Granted, there weren’t many NBA quality bigs there, but Watt’s ability and athleticism was on another level. He also showed a 15-foot step-out jumper that made me an even bigger believer. Like Scott, he’s not going to blow you away or take over games but can close possessions defensively and keep them alive offensively with his length and ability to get tips and deflections, particularly against NBA second units. He’s an active body who plays with confidence and skill. This combination can be molded into a sound rotation forward. Orlando or Golden State could use his energy up front and have picks mid-second round.
5. Ramone Moore, 6-5 Guard, Temple
I’m happy to see Moore getting second-round attention from mock drafts because I absolutely love this kid. Moore has got all the tools and looks like a really nice two-way option in the backcourt. He has great size and length and has outstanding catch-and-shoot skills as well as the jumper off the bounce. He also has a decent mid-range game and can pull up in the lane. He is seasoned and looks to be a valued addition to any team that needs depth in the backcourt such as Dallas, New York or San Antonio, should Danny Green head out via free agency.