You know these guys: late first or second round picks, guys you thought were okay. Maybe they were good in college, but hey, they'll never make it in the League, right?
Just ask Maurice Cheeks. Or Bill Laimbeer, Alex English, Terry Porter, or even Ben Wallace. Forgotten, shoved to the bottom of the scrap heap by General Managers who are too busy giddily watching their super-athletic, potential filled, "once-in-a-lifetime" guaranteed lottery picks glide through workouts.
Paul Millsap was too small, relegated to the 47th overall selection back in 2006. Now, Jerry Sloan would refuse to go to battle without his gritty, tough-as-nails big man.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis was out of shape, had no jumpshot, and was undersized. There, seemingly, was no hope for him to go any farther than LSU's Final Four run; and yet, who extended the Celtics season this year by hitting clutch shot after clutch shot in the playoffs? It wasn't the "can't miss" Boston draft pick of a few years back, Gerald Green, who has since been shipped off to Dallas. It was Davis, the player with no hope for an NBA career. Who was the guard feeding him the passes? That's right Rajon Rondo, a cast-off out of Kentucky, who has elevated his game to become one of the premier guards in the league.
This year, there are a good number of players who fit the "sleeper" mold. From big men to fast guards, count on these guys to surprise in 2009.
Marcus Thornton (LSU): The catalyst for an under-valued Tiger squad this season, who ended up giving the Tar Heels the best run for their money of the tournament? Thornton is a 6'4" shooting guard who can take it to the basket or shoot the light outs from deep. Originally from Baton Rouge, this former LSU star has impressed at Hornets workouts, and would be an instant hometown hero, should he be lucky enough to be drafted by New Orleans. Watch for this kid to provide a spark off the bench next year.
Toney Douglas (FSU): Anybody who watched ACC basketball last year saw or heard about Douglas as he slowly became one of the most exciting players to watch in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the nation. A good shooter with a great drive to the net, look for Douglas to improve on his decision-making abilities and become a solid performer in the League.
Derrick Brown (Xavier): Coming out of one of the best stretches in Musketeer history, Brown, an over-sized forward at 6'7", has the ability to take the ball to the basket and defend well. He has an exceptional wingspan and, coupled with his fantastic leaping ability, could become a player in the Ryan Gomes mold.
Jerel McNeal (Marquette): McNeal was often over-shadowed at Marquette by teammate Dominic James, but during the NCAA Tournament, when James was hurt, McNeal carried the team and showed off his ability as a scorer and distributer. McNeal Could provide solid point guard depth for an NBA team.