Bowie or Jordan? Separating the Sleepers from the Busts in the 2008 NBA Draft

Adam LawrenceContributor IJune 10, 2008

As June 26 approaches, the question is growing: how productive will the 2008 NBA Draft class be? Although the draft is dominated by freshmen, there is an immense amount of hidden talent to be found in some of college basketball's elder players.

It is fairly clear that Beasley and Rose are on another level of talent, and that they will almost immediately jump into a starting role on either the Bulls's or Heat's lineup.

After the two superstars of the '08 class are off of the board, the Timberwolves are faced with one of the most difficult decisions in the draft. O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, and Brook Lopez are fascinating and unique talents, all with the possibility to become perennial all-stars.

Although the raw talent in Mayo and Bayless is great, the two are incredibly unprepared for the NBA, and will need years to transfer the contrasting styles of college ball to professional. This leads to a major question: After years of shaping the talent of Mayo and Bayless, will they become more like Kwame Brown, or Kobe Bryant?

In all honesty, all roads lead to the likes of Tyson Chandler, Al Harrington, and possibly Rashard Lewis. There players came out of high school and needed years to transition and carve their game, but after doing so had a fairly productive career.

Between the two, Mayo has a better chance of succeeding in the pros. His superior athleticism and desire to win will be able to help a young team quicker than Bayless. After all, he helped the Trojans reach a sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Bayless shrugged off a 10 seed and failed to inspire a young Wildcat aquad past the first round.

Brook Lopez, another high-profile talent with athleticism and an offensive game similar to, if not greater than, Pau Gasol, may just as easily become the next Michael Olowokandi. However, I think Lopez will become an immediate and solid starter, building potential and talent with a possible run at an All-Star season down his career.

The biggest mistake when looking at a draft class is failing to recognize that in most players will not become All-Stars, reliable starters, or even good role players in the NBA. Although once a decade there is a draft class like '84 or '96, the majority result in disappointment and frustration in the mindset of owners and fans.

However, there are a few sleepers that can be found in the middle of the first round in the '08 Draft.

D.J. Augustin was an outstanding point guard at the University of Texas, and carried an inexperienced group of Longhorns deep into the NCAA tournament. Augustin has the athleticism, quickness, and promise to become an All-Star in the NBA.

Yet many teams will pass Augustin over due to the prospect of flashier, more entertaining players. He will have an immediate impact on any lottery team, especially with teams in dire need of a point guard.

Another pick for an '08 sleeper is Darrell Arthur. He was an extremely solid player at the University of Kansas, and helped deliver power and authority beneath the basket. He could be a moderate risk with previous run-ins with the law and the NCAA. However, his talent is huge, and he could be a great post presence for a team in need of a big man.

I am not just a fan of Big 12 Basketball—these guys will take their teams to another level in the NBA, especially surrounded by fairly weak prospects from Europe and upperclassmen.

Then there's Kevin Love. That just about says it. I have no idea what Love will become of in the NBA. He could be a dominating force underneath the basket with a little touch outside the arc. He could just as easily be an undersized power forward/center who doesn't have the body to stick with Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, or Dwight Howard. I have a feeling his size just won't provide him the ability to become an All-Star in the NBA.

The '08 Draft should be an interesting one. There is enough potential to match great drafts in the past. Yet, it seems we hear that every year...

Adam Lawrence