NBA Draft: 10 Late Risers Who May Be Chosen Higher Than You Think

Mackenzie KraemerSenior Analyst IJune 25, 2008

There are plenty of articles that espouse the virtues of Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, including one I wrote about Beasley.

But this draft is pretty deep in the first round, and while the first several picks are most likely to be stars, there are names big and small whom you might not have seen high in early mock drafts who are making a late name for themselves.

Here's a list of ten players who will be taken higher than you think.


Russell Westbrook - SG/PG, UCLA

Westbrook is a dynamic guard who teams look at as a more athletic and more skilled Rajon Rondo.  Unlike Rondo, Westbrook is more of an undersized SG, but teams are looking at him as a dominant defensive stopper who can help out teams high in the first round at both guard spots.

He could go as high as fourth to Seattle, and he certainly will not slip out of the top 10.  That may be too high for a late bloomer with somewhat raw offensive abililty, but Westbrook is an intriguing mix of athleticism, character, and defense.


Joe Alexander - SF/PF, West Virginia

Alexander's stock has been on the rise for a while.  He tested as the most athletic player in the draft in pre-draft camp, causing his stock to soar.  Like Westbrook, Alexander is a late bloomer who came on strong late last season.  He has also shown a lot of ability on offense and defense, though he doesn't always put it all together.

Look for Alexander to go in the six to 10 range, as his stock has surpassed a few players ranked ahead of him, including Anthony Randolph.


Alexis Ajinca - C, France

Ajinca is a seven-footer from France who has shown incredible athletic ability in many workouts.  He fits three categories that make NBA executives go wild: being a legitimate seven feet tall, looking great in workouts, and showing unbelievable athleticism for his size.

Nevermind that Ajinca rarely plays in Europe and barely weighs anything.  His athletic tools will cause someone in the teens to take a shot at him.  He's affirmed himself as the second-best European in the draft after Danilo Gallinari, and a team like Portland will take him and stash him overseas.


Kosta Koufos - C, Ohio State

Once thought of this year as a late first rounder, his stock has stabilized firmly in the teens.  He's another seven-footer, but he has actually played and shown flashes of brilliance in college.  He projects as a Mehmet Okur type, but there are many questions about his defense.

I project Koufos to go 14th to Golden State right now, but if they pass on him, he won't drop too much further.


Mario Chalmers - PG, Kansas

The hero of the NCAA Championship game is a major wild card in this draft.  Some say he rivals D.J. Augustin as the second-best point guard in the draft, while others have him as a late first round pick.  Chalmers is a great defender, but a lot of people don't think he has quite enough offensive ability to be a difference maker.

Some have pegged him as high as 12 to Sacramento, while others have him going late in the first round.  He's an impossible player to project because you never know which teams will draft for need and which won't.


Roy Hibbert - C, Georgetown

Many making their mock drafts have slotted Hibbert 23rd to Utah or 25th to Houston, but Hibbert has made some noise in the mid-teens.  He's big and can contribute right away, and remember, last year he was considered a lottery pick if he had come out.

While he could fall, there's a good chance that Cleveland won't let him slip past 19 if he's still available.


Jason Thompson - PF/C, Rider

Thompson is a four-year college senior from Rider, where he averaged over 20 and 10 his senior year.  He has good size for a power forward and was obviously productive in a lower conference.

He's looked very good in workouts, and while few thought he could crack the top 20, he could now go as high as 12 to Sacramento.  If nothing else, he's definitely put himself in the same boat as Hickson, Darrell Arthur, Robin Lopez, JaVale McGee, Hibbert, Marreese Speights, and DeAndre Jordan as the next group of big men.


J.J. Hickson - PF, NC State

Hickson is an athletic young power forward from North Carolina State.  He has a lot of raw skills including strength and athleticism, and the late consensus has been that Hickson's stock would be higher if his team had a better season.

Hickson has probably put himself firmly into the first round, where he could go as high as 21 to New Jersey.


Courtney Lee - SG, Western Kentucky

Lee is making himself the next most coveted wingman after Brandon Rush.  To use one word to describe Lee, it would be "smooth."  He is always in control on the court, and he has a good outside shot.  He's not an elite athlete, but he's not going to be drafted to be a star.

Whoever wants Lee will have to leapfrog Orlando at 22 because they have been heavily linked to him.


Ryan Anderson - PF, California

This sweet shooting big man from Cal has reportedly received a promise from San Antonio at 26.  Anderson was 0.1 rebounds per game away from averaging 20 and 10 last year while shooting 41% from three-point range.

If Chad Ford is right, he won't fall past San Antonio, but there's a chance that some team tries to grab him earlier, hoping his size and shooting ability will provide a late first round steal.