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NBA Draft 2011: Jimmer Fredette and This Class's 5 Most Underrated Prospects

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Jimmer Fredette and This Class's 5 Most Underrated Prospects

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars handles the ball against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Do
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The 2011 NBA draft is three weeks away.  On June 23, we'll finally be able to put all the speculation to rest as we find out exactly where each prospect is headed.

    You can check out my latest mock draft to see where I have Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and and every other prospect landing.

    A lot of the chatter surrounding this crop of players over the last couple weeks has been negative.  Many feel this will be one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory.

    While this group probably won't be as good as 2008, 2003 or 1996—2011 does have talent, and many of these prospects can become solid NBA players.

    Here are five underrated prospects who can not only be solid, but really good (possibly even great)...

     

    You can follow Andy Bailey on Twitter @_Andy_Bailey

Marshon Brooks

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Marshon Brooks #2 of the Providence Friars dribbles the ball against Jimmy Butler #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 195 lbs.

    Position: SG

    Age: 22

    Comparison: Jordan Crawford/Josh Howard

     

    Over the last few weeks, Marshon Brooks has seen his draft stock rise steadily.  A month ago, he was considered a second-round pick at best.

    He's been performing very well in pre-draft workouts, and tested very well at the NBA pre-draft camp at Attack Athletics in Chicago.

    Now, there's a chance Brooks will go in the lottery.  So how is he underrated?

    Brooks was the second-leading scorer in the nation last year behind BYU's Jimmer Fredette.  He averaged 24.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 assists a game.

    The impressive part about those numbers is the fact that he played in the Big East—the conference so many people hail as the nation's best.

    If he can score against the best defenses college basketball has to offer, it makes sense to think he could develop into a player who can score at the next level as well.

    Back to his testing in Chicago.  Brooks is 6'5" in shoes, but has a ridiculous 7'1" wingspan.  He also measured a 38.5-inch max vertical and posted great times in the agility drills.

    Finally, Brooks' experience should also be considered.  There's a lot to be said for the development and overall maturity of a player who spends four years in college.

Jon Leuer

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

    Height: 7'0"

    Weight: 223 lbs.

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 22

    Comparison: Donte Greene/Matt Bonner

     

    Like Marshon Brooks, Jon Leuer is a player who developed a great deal over his four-year college career.  He's seen his scoring average rise from 2.9 points as a freshman to 18.3 as a senior.

    He's a very versatile player, as he's basically a guard in a center's body.  He measured 6'11.5" at the pre-draft camp, but he can handle the ball and shoot from the outside.

    The reason for his versatility is the fact that he spent most of his life playing point guard until he hit an insane growth spurt late in his high school career.

    Athletically, he tested very well.  He had some of the best agility times of any big man and was just two reps behind the camp's leader on the bench.  And oh yeah, a 36.5-inch vertical is great for a seven-footer.

    Leuer will probably need to get stronger and definitely needs to improve his rebounding to be successful in the NBA.  

    He shouldn't change too much, though; losing his versatility would take away his biggest advantage against the guys who'll be guarding him.

JaJuan Johnson

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    WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - JANUARY 09:  JaJuan Johnson #25 of the Purdue Boilermakers drives against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Mackey Arena on January 9, 2011 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue won 75-52.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    Height: 6'10"

    Weight: 220 lbs.

    Position: PF

    Age: 22

    Comparison: Hakim Warrick/Amar'e Stoudemire

     

    It's pretty hard to figure out why JaJuan Johnson is seen as a second-round pick in most mock drafts.  

    He averaged 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game for a Big 10 team that won 26 games last season.

    He has solid range for a 6'10" player.  He can hit mid-range jumpers and is very athletic as well.  He had a 38-inch max vertical at the pre-draft camp.

    Like Brooks and Leuer, Johnson will enter the league with a ton of experience.  He played four years at Purdue (probably starting to see the trend by now).

Nolan Smith

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolin
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Height: 6'4"

    Weight: 188 lbs.

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 22

    Comparison: Kyle Lowry/Devin Harris

     

    Kyrie Irving is widely considered to be the front-runner in the race to become the top overall pick in this June's NBA draft.  His teammate Nolan Smith is seen as a borderline first-round pick at best.  

    Both players had starts at point guard for Duke this year and some feel Smith was more effective in the role.  He was good enough to get himself consideration for national player of the year awards.

    It makes sense for people to think Irving has more potential (as the freshman was nearly as productive as his senior teammate), but it doesn't make much sense to discount Smith's pro prospects altogether.

    He averaged 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game last season.  More important than the numbers, he showed great leadership ability.

    His basketball skills will be solid tools at the next level, but it's his intangibles that make him underrated.

Jimmer Fredette

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 16:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars takes part in practice prior to their second round NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament game at the Pepsi Center on March 16, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Im
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 196 lbs.

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 22

    Comparison: Stephen Curry/Deron Williams

     

    Jimmer Fredette is widely considered by many to be one of this draft class's most overrated prospects.  

    Plenty of doubters say he's not athletic enough—a completely unfounded and illogical weakness in their arguments against Fredette: .

    Even after proving that he is one of this year's more athletic prospects, the typically nebulous criticism persists.

    Many still ignore the fact that he led the nation in scoring and blew by countless defenders who were supposedly more athletic.

    They ignore the fact that the only player who had better agility numbers at the pre-draft camp was Norris Cole.  They ignore the fact that he was third among guards in 185-pound reps on the bench.

    Fredette has the athleticism, basketball IQ and competitiveness to be a very good NBA point guard.

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