2011 NBA Draft Preview: 5 Dark Horses to Be Stars of the Draft

Kyle SkovCorrespondent IIJune 2, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Preview: 5 Dark Horses to Be Stars of the Draft

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    The NBA draft is a time for teams to turn themselves around for the next season or to find that missing piece to allow them to make another playoff run.

    Many teams will pick players with the intentions of finding the next star, but the players that are most exciting are the unexpected.

    They may be unexpected because another player on their college team overshadows them or because they come from a smaller conference team. This may leave them off of some critic’s radars.

    These players are the dark horses of the draft. Here is a list of five players, that if a team takes a chance on them with a draft pick, they will be rewarded with a star down the road.

Kawhi Leonard

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    Kawhi Leonard is a 6'7" forward from San Diego State University. He is a player that could play as a small forward or a power forward if the coach is going with a small lineup.

    Leonard’s attributes that make him great are his speed and work ethic on the court. He will run and beat players with his quick first step and good footwork on the offensive and defensive ends.

    Kawhi Leonard is very young and is leaving after his sophomore year of college. His young age and incredible upside makes him a top prospect. But he still has a lot to learn and with the right fit, he will mature into a multi-faceted player.

    His age and potential may allow him to be picked by one of the lottery teams because he has star potential. The question marks about the type of scorer he is going to be may make him fall back. He will be a steal for one of the non-lottery teams.

    With the right system he will find his way to score whether that is in the post or shooting from the outside.

    He is not the player a team will look to as their star for the next season, but he is a bit of a work in progress. His notoriety and San Diego State's great season may take him out of the dark horse running.

    But the question marks may make him fall out of the lottery picks.

    Good Fits for Leonard: New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, New York Knicks

Shelvin Mack

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    Shelvin Mack is a 6'2" guard from Butler University. He and the Bulldogs made it to the tournament finals in 2010 and 2011.

    Although they never took home the title, it made everyone across America learn about Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack.

    Mack is a versatile guard that can play at the point guard or shooting guard positions. He sees the court with amazing vision and can inject instant offense when called upon.

    Good Fits: Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons

Nolan Smith

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    Nolan Smith is a 6'3" guard from Duke University. After Kyrie Irving went down with an injury, a lot of pressure fell upon Smith’s shoulders.

    He handled it very well and showed he is a mature basketball player that is willing to do what the team needs.

    This mentality shows his potential to succeed at the next level.

    Although there are question marks around his handling and if he can create space between himself and his defender no one can doubt his drive.

    Half the battle is realizing that he can do it and he is a mentally strong player that will force himself into most coach's minds.

    Good Fits: Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, LA Clippers

Trey Thompkins

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    Trey Thompkins is a 6'10" forward from the University of Georgia.

    He is a strong post player. He excels low in the paint due to his footwork and soft touch on the ball.

    He also can use his strength and power down low but is held back by his lack of pure athleticism.

    His ability to shoot the ball and also be able to play down low makes him a player that will not have to try hard to fit into a system.

    He will succeed at the next level, it is just the matter of when he will establish himself as a star.

    Good Fits: New York Knicks, New Orleans Hornets, Boston Celtics

Jon Leuer

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    Jon Leuer is a 6'11" forward from the University of Wisconsin.

    Leuer is a player who has the ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot. This will prove hard for some NBA big men to match up with him.

    He also has the ability to play strong in the post. But he does not have the explosiveness to beat an overly athletic big man.

    His ability to cause matchup problems is what will make him a star. He will turn into a 20-plus point scorer given the ability to play to his strengths in the right team situation.

    Good Fits: Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers