NBA Draft 2011: Isaiah Thomas and the 5 Most Underrated Pac-12 Prospects

Tim KeeneyContributor IMay 31, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Isaiah Thomas and the 5 Most Underrated Pac-12 Prospects

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies drives on Dexter Strickland #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlo
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Pac-12 has seen a decrease in overall talent over the last couple of years, and that is further highlighted by the amount of prospects in this year's NBA draft.

    Minus Arizona star Derrick Williams—who still might be underrated as a projected No. 2 pick—the Pac-12 is poorly represented in most mock drafts.

    In what has been regarded by most as a fairly weak draft, however, it could very well be the surprises at the end of each round that are remembered, rather than the early picks.

    There are plenty of potential surprises coming out of the Pac-12, so let's take a look at who could be this year's Landry Fields. 

5) Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Tyler Honeycutt #23 of the UCLA Bruins attempts a shot agaisnt the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. Florida won 73-65. (P
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Honeycutt is projected to go in the late first round in most mock drafts, but teams who already have decent scoring options should jump at their chance to get the UCLA sophomore.

    At 6'9", Honeycutt could play the SF position, but is better suited as a tall SG because he is still fairly skinny.

    He will immediately make an impact with his defense as lanky defender. He averaged almost one steal and over two blocks per game last season. If he would have stayed at UCLA and improved his offensive game, he probably would have been a clear lottery choice.

    His offensive skills aren't quite polished, but remember, you can't teach length. He only averaged 12.8 points per game last year, but it is always tough to score in Ben Howland's slow-down offense. 

    Still though, a terrific role player with room to improve should be a welcome target for any team on the fringe of the playoffs.

    NBA Equivalent: Thabo Sefolosha

4) Nikola Vucevic, USC

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans shoots over Juvonte Reddic #5 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Grego
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The 7'0" junior from USC is projected to be a late first- or early second-round pick, but that stock might be rising after a successful workout in Chicago.

    He averaged an impressive 17.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, but has still flown mostly under the radar.

    A European seven-footer who has good athleticism, a terrific jumper, and would be good in the pick-and-roll? Remind me again why NBA scouts aren't predictably drooling over this guy.

    Oh yeah, and Vucevic out-played Arizona standout Derrick Williams during the teams' two meetings.

    His defense is good enough to get by in the NBA, and he should probably be talked about as a lottery pick.

    Vucevic has a good of a chance as any European in this draft to make an impact.

    NBA Equivalent: Andrea Bargnani 

3) Justin Holiday, UW

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Justin Holiday #22 of the Washington Huskies lays the ball up against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 20
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Justin Holiday had a miserable end to his career at the UW, but teams shouldn't let that deter them from taking Jrue's older brother. 

    Holiday didn't put up mind-boggling stats at Washington, but as a projected end of the second round pick, there isn't much of a price to acquire him.

    At 6'7", Holiday won't be known on the offensive end as anything but a decent shooter.

    He will be known, however, for his defense, his passing and his ability to get out on the break.

    He's unselfish and athletic, and if called into the same role he had at the UW (role player), he will be a steal at the end of the second round.

    NBA Equivalent: Shane Battier with less of a jumpshot 

2) Isaiah Thomas, UW

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies goes up for a shot in front of John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cabl
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    While most will compare Thomas to former UW point guard Nate Robinson, there are a few things that separate the two.

    While Thomas is less athletic, he has much more of a desire to win. Thomas leaves everything out on the court, while Robinson always seemed happy to entertain the crowd.

    Thomas is a much better passer, and much more a pure point guard, while Robinson is just a short SG.

    "IT" displayed terrific court vision his junior season, getting his teammates involved much more than the previous two seasons. While doing this, he still showed his ability to get into the lane and finish at will. 

    Competition in the NBA will obviously be much bigger and faster, but as a late second-round pick, Thomas could fill the need of "spark plug" for any team.

    NBA Equivalent: JJ Barea 

1) Klay Thompson, WSU

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10:  Klay Thompson #1 of the Washington State Cougars reacts after making a shot in the second half while taking on the Washington Huskies in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    As a Washington fan, I'll be happy to see Thompson leave for the NBA.

    At 6'7", Thompson projects as a SG at the next level, and boy can he shoot.

    As the saying goes, as soon as Klay steps onto the court, he's in range. He's so good that I had to use a corny cliche.

    He has a decent first step, but he was mostly used as an outside shooter at WSU, so he never really got the chance to showcase that ability.

    As with most volume shooters, the type of team that drafts him will be a big factor in his success at the next level. 

    If he gets in right system, however, he's someone who could score 20 per game within the next two years. 

    That's top-10 pick status, not middle of the first round, which is where he's projected right now.

    NBA Equivalent: Mid-2000s Richard Hamilton