2011 NBA Draft: Top 10 Under-the-Radar Prospects to Watch

Chad RandleContributor IJune 4, 2011

2011 NBA Draft: Top 10 Under-the-Radar Prospects to Watch

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Shelvin Mack #1 of the Butler Bulldogs gestures against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Houston, Te
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    With the 2011 NBA Draft just around the corner, the anticipation is building rapidly. Almost every team has holes that they will need to fill before the season begins next year, and with the impending lockout, the draft looks like it will be the easiest way for most teams to close the gaps in their roster.

    Although the draft will be headlined by the big-name guys such as Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker, it's the sleepers that always seem to grab the attention when it's all over.

    Guys like Carlos Boozer, Manu Ginobili, Michael Redd, and Monta Ellis were just a few of the better second round choices in NBA Draft history. They help demonstrate that sleepers are always out there.

    Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the names that you may not even know, but you might look back on as top sleepers from this year's class of prospects.

Jeremy Tyler

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    College: International

    Height: 6'10"

    Position: Power Forward

    Projection: Early-Mid 2nd Round


    Jeremy Tyler has maybe the most interesting story of any player in the draft. After his junior year of high school, Tyler decided to de-commit from the University of Louisville. He then decided to take the same route as Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, by skipping college to play professionally overseas. However, Tyler took the rebellious move one step further, by skipping his senior year of high school completely.

    In high school, Tyler averaged 28.7 points per game and was considered to be one of the top recruits of his class. During his first pro season, he averaged just 2.0 points per game and 1.9 rebounds per game while playing in just 10 games for Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli League. This season, while playing for the Tokyo Apache, he averaged 9.9 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game while playing in 33 games.

    Once considered to be a future top-five pick in the NBA Draft, Tyler's draft stock has obviously taken a hit since his move to professional ball. Still, according to scouts, Tyler possesses many interesting traits. He has incredible jumping ability, as well as a massive upper-body. He also has something few in the draft have—pro experience.

    Averaging nearly 29 points as a junior in high school show that he has serious potential to become a good NBA player. 

Jon Leuer

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    TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 19:  Jon Leuer #30 of the Wisconsin Badgers dunks against the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at McKale Center on March 19, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by
    Harry How/Getty Images

    College: Wisconsin

    Height: 6'10"

    Position: Forward

    Projection: Early-Mid 2nd Round


    While playing under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, Jon Leuer developed into one of the elite players in the Big Ten. During his senior season, he led the Badgers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, while averaging 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He also shot just below 40 percent on three-pointers this past season. However, he has a few flaws that have put him into the second round of most mock drafts.

    Leuer is 6'10", but he doesn't have the athleticism, nor the strength to defend most fours in the league. His slender frame doesn't bode well for him if he is expected to regularly contribute with post scoring. It will also be tough for him to find a spot in most NBA schemes.

    Even still, Leuer possesses an incredible shot for being 6'10". He can shoot from NBA range and can also get his shot off against bigger defenders if need be. He is older than most prospects, after staying in school for the full four years. His basketball IQ is also extremely high compared to some of the others in the draft class.

    Jon Leuer may never develop into a star in the NBA, but he should be able to contribute with his shooting ability to most teams.

Marshon Brooks

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    PROVIDENCE, RI - DECEMBER 04:  Marshon Brooks #2 of the Providence Friars drives for a shot attempt against the Rhode Island Rams at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on December 4, 2010 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    College: Providence

    Height: 6'5"

    Position: Shooting Guard

    Projection: 2nd Round


    Marshon Brooks is another intriguing prospect to take a look at.

    Brooks finished the past season averaging 24.6 points per game, good for second in the nation. He dropped 43 points in a losing effort to Georgetown and also scored an incredible 52 points against Notre Dame, also in a game they lost. He was perhaps the best pure scorer in America last season. So why aren't people talking about him as a potential star?

    Brooks has all the tools to be a really good player at the next level. He is obviously an incredible scorer with ability to lead a team on the floor. Unfortunately, many scouts believe that playing with a poor Providence team cost him the true exposure he needed. Questions about his defensive ability, as well as his shot selection have made teams uneasy about drafting a player whom may be a bit of a project.

    On the other hand, Marshon Brooks could turn into a real threat after a bit of work. His ability to create his own shot against any defender is immaculate. Playing against the top defender on every team in the Big East was great practice for the NBA. He can also handle the ball when necessary.

    In my opinion, a veteran-filled team with a good coaching staff will be the best place for Brooks. With more coaching on the defensive end, and a little more maturing, Marshon Brooks could become a top player. 

Ben Hansbrough

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 18:  Ben Hansbrough #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoots against Nikola Cvetinovic #13 of the Akron Zips in the first half during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 18, 20
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    College: Notre Dame

    Height: 6'3"

    Position: Guard

    Projection: 2nd Round


    Ben Hansbrough seemingly came out of nowhere, much like his Notre Dame Fighting Irish, to steal the Big East Player of the Year award and help the Irish to their best regular season in history.

    Aside from a meltdown against Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, it was a nearly flawless season for Hansbrough and Notre Dame. As a senior, Hansbrough averaged 18.4 points per game and shot 43 percent on three's. He also lost the tag of Tyler Hansbrough's brother, and made an identity for himself in the game.

    Hansbrough has many strengths that appeal to college scouts, but may not transfer to the next level. His toughness is unquestioned. The will to win that he showed at Notre Dame raised many eyebrows. He also developed an incredible knack for knocking down the most important shots from all over the floor.

    Comparable to Chauncey Billups, Hansbrough is a good ball handler, a bulldog defender, a great hustler, and a good long range shooter.

    One thing that will hurt Ben is his PG/SG dilemma. He may not be a lengthy enough defender to guard top SG's, and might not develop into a true PG. Time will only tell if he will have the same success that his brother has experienced at the highest level.

Chris Singleton

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    DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03:  David McClure #14 of the Duke Blue Devils draws an offensive foul from Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles during the game on March 3, 2009 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    College: Florida State

    Height: 6'9"

    Position: Forward

    Projection: Mid-Late 1st Round

    If not for running into the buzz-saw VCU Rams in late March, Chris Singleton and the Florida State Seminoles could've made for an incredible Cinderella story. They still managed to upset Texas A&M in their first game and Notre Dame in the round of 32. Singleton had a very successful year himself, collecting ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    Singleton decided to avoid the NBA Draft last year, where he likely would've been a first round selection. He improved his scoring, rebounding, and all shooting percentages, something scouts surely liked to see. At 6'9" he will most likely be able to bully most three's, and hang with most four's in the post. He combines athleticism with incredible strength, somewhat like Josh Smith.

    In order to reach his full potential in the league, he will have to improve his free throw shooting (below 50 percent last season) and his overall offensive efficiency. If he is able to become a threat on the offensive end, he should develop into a starter for most teams.

Kenneth Faried

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles dunks the ball against the Richmond Spiders during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justi
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    College: Morehead State

    Height: 6'8"

    Position: Power Forward

    Projection: Mid-Late 1st Round


    Perhaps the best rebounder since Tim Duncan, Kenneth Faried may be the best player that you don't consider to be a top prospect.

    He led the nation in boards and burst onto the scene by leading his Morehead State team to a round of 64 upset of fourth-seeded Louisville, their second NCAA Tournament victory in as many years. In his senior campaign, Faried grabbed an incredible 14.5 rebounds per game. He also averaged 13.0 in each of his sophomore and junior seasons.

    Faried has obvious strengths. His rebounding and defensive prowess have some drawing comparisons to Dennis Rodman. Like Rodman, his athletic ability is superb, and he can showcase that when given the opportunity to flourish in the post. He can also play NBA minutes, as he has incredible energy.

    However, Faried will have to prove his worth to NBA scouts, as they will probably not give much thought to his incredible stats considering the conference in which he played. Playing against lesser opponents every night doesn't count for much.

    Also, at 6'8", he will meet a lot of four's whom will be bigger and possibly stronger. It will be an interesting development to see what team selects him, and if he is able to hone his skills to the top level.

Kawhi Leonard

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    TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 19:  Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs dunks against the Temple Owls during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at McKale Center on March 19, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    College: San Diego State

    Height: 6'7"

    Position: Forward

    Projection: Lottery-Mid 1st Round


    One player who seems to be rocketing up draft boards is Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State.

    The lengthy forward has become a trendy option for teams at the top of the draft and in the lottery. Leonard may have only been at SDSU for two years, but he led the Aztecs to a Mountain West Conference title and a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, their best season ever. Coached by Steve Fisher, he was definitely under terrific tutelage in college.

    The core of Leonard's game is played on the perimeter, and he has shown the ability to play with most good defenders. With lots of raw talent, Leonard has the potential to develop into a good offensive player, although right now it seems that he doesn't have the ability to score consistently.

    Underdeveloped, Leonard may have trouble playing at the next level. He will not be an inside presence in the league, yet he doesn't seem to have the ability to flourish on the wing. It seems like most teams like his athletic ability, however, and most marvel at his speed and jumping prowess.

    Watch for Leonard to go high in the draft, but take a little while to fully become worthy of the choice.

Norris Cole

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    College: Cleveland State

    Height: 6'2"

    Position: Point Guard

    Projection: Early-Mid 2nd Round


    Aside from having the best haircut in college basketball, Norris Cole can also play with the most talented players in the draft class.

    From Cleveland State, Cole is definitely an under-the-radar, lesser-known prospect. But after averaging 21.7 points per game last season, Cole has burst onto the seen as a possible early second-round selection.

    The diminutive guard has many strengths that make him an attractive player. Cole is shifty with his speed and can push it up the floor. He is a good ball handler and has the size and strength to play the position in the NBA. Cole is also a good defender, averaging 2.2 steals per game. Another thing working in his favor is the fact that he stayed in school for all four years.

    On the other hand, Cole does have some weak spots. It appears that at least for now, he is better at setting up his own shot then setting up others. Also, scouts may not give much thought to his stats, considering he played against lesser opponents nearly every night in the Horizon League.

    Still, Cole should make for a good back-up point guard.

E'Twaun Moore

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - FEBRUARY 13: E'Twaun Moore #33 of the Purdue Boilermakers goes to the basket past Meyers Leonard #12 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall on February 13, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Purdue defeated Illinois 81-70. (Photo by Jo
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    College: Purdue

    Height: 6'3"

    Position: Guard

    Projection: Mid-Late 2nd Round


    After an extremely successful four-year career at Purdue University, E' Twaun Moore heads into the 2011 NBA Draft as a viable option for many teams looking for a good young guard. Moore leaves Purdue tied for the school record in career wins. But after an early exit from the NCAA Tournament, Moore looks to be as hungry as ever this offseason.

    E' Twaun Moore is most known for his scoring ability at Purdue. When combined with a healthy Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson, Moore helped lead the Boilermakers to new heights in his tenure. Moore is a great shooter and is able to create his own shot. Moore is also a good on-ball defender who will be able to hold his own on the defensive end in the NBA.

    At Purdue, Moore was asked to handle the ball the majority of the time. However, in the NBA he will not be a PG; his ball-handling is far too inconsistent. He will also need to get a little bigger to keep up with top SG's in the league.  

Shelvin Mack

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Shelvin Mack #1 of the Butler Bulldogs goes to the hoop against Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Houston
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    College: Butler

    Height: 6'2"

    Position: Guard

    Projection: Late 1st Round-Mid 2nd Round


    The Butler Bulldogs never could've made back-to-back National Championship games without their incredible guard, Shelvin Mack.

    Mack was a leader on the 2010 team that came within one miracle shot of writing the final chapter of the greatest story in college basketball history. In 2011, Mack became the main scoring option and go-to-guy on a team that again challenged for the title. Now, Mack enters the NBA Draft early, averting his senior season at Butler.

    Mack is a great scorer. He can score with the best, as he proved during the Bulldogs' latest tourney run. He is also a plus defender with good size and strength for a combo guard. Coming back for his junior season proved monumental for his draft stock, as it seems he may be able to sneak into the back-end of the first round this year.

    Mack's weaknesses are few and far between, although there are a few of things he will need to improve upon. His passing ability is a little below par for his draft class, and he is also not as quick as he will need to be in the NBA. These are things that can be fixed in the near future, though.

    Mack is a good prospect with lots of upside, who could turn into a star at the next level, with the right coaching.