NBA Draft 2011: Kawhi Leonard and Four Soon to Be Valuable Role Players

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Kawhi Leonard and Four Soon to Be Valuable Role Players

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  NBA Commisioner David Stern speaks at the NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Role players are underrated, but are often very important keys to their team's success.

    Throughout the 2011 NBA draft, several players will be sent to new cities to play on new teams.

    Some of these players will become instant stars, others will become the glue holding a team together. These are the guys who may lack talent, but they do not lack heart and intangibles.

    Whether a prospect was a household name at the collegiate level, or a player who made an ill-advised decision to make the professional jump, they will attempt to fill a roster spot at the professional level.

    Here are five players, one for each position, who are destined to fill important roles in the NBA.

PG Jimmer Fredette

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 24:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars reacts during their 74 to 83 loss to the Florida Gators in the Southeast regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2011 in New Orle
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The jury is still out on sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette.

    While his shooting stroke is impossible to deny, Fredette's foot speed and his defense have been the cause of concern as he prepares to become a potential lottery pick.

    Fredette has a good head on his shoulders, and he knows how to make the smart play on offense.

    He is also a more dependable passer than some people may realize. He understands how to get his teammates involved, and despite averaging 28.9 points per game in his final collegiate season at BYU, he consistently got his supporting cast involved.

    I do not think Fredette will ever become a star or a prolific scorer at the next level. I actually am expecting a Kyle Korver or J.J. Reddick type impact. Both of these guys provide a reliable perimeter shot and can make heady plays on either end while lacking superior athleticism.

    Expect the same from Fredette.

SG Malcolm Lee

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Erving Walker #11 of the Florida Gators fights to control the ball against Malcolm Lee #3 of the UCLA Bruins during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Flo
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Malcom Lee is still a project on the offensive end, but that does not mean all is lost. Because Lee is a lockdown defensive presence, and he will be a defensive stopper for many years to come.

    Lee averaged almost one steal per game in his final year at UCLA, and established himself as a tireless worker while covering his opponent.

    While Lee may never be Ron Artest on defense, look for Lee to find his place on an NBA bench somewhere. He could prove more valuable as he continues to work on his offense.

    If Lee can become more polished, and make better decisions, he could be better than a role player at the next level. However, I think Lee will be known for his defense and his defense alone.

    It just so happens defense is very valuable, and elite one-on-one defenders are at a premium in the NBA. This bodes well for Lee's future.

SF Kawhi Leonard

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs dunks the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, Calif
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Kawhi Leonard became one of the most talked about players in the nation in 2010.

    His ability to do many things well, but nothing spectacular, made him extremely successful as the leader of the ultra-athletic San Diego State Aztecs.

    On offense, Leonard averaged nearly 16 points per game and over 10 rebounds per contest. While not being the most reliable perimeter shooter, 29 percent on the year, Leonard showed great athleticism and tenacity as he drove to the basket.

    On defense, Leonard averaged 1.4 steals per game and almost a block per game as well.

    This versatility and ability to contribute on both ends of the floor make Leonard a very interesting prospect in this year's draft.

    However, given Leonard's 6'7'' frame, he will be forced to play on the perimeter on the next level. Leonard is a great athlete, but simply does not have the ballhandling or the frame of mind to play small forward at a high level.

    I do think Leonard's athletic ability allows him to make an impact. He is a high energy athlete and he is relentless on both ends of the floor.

    He reminds me of Shawn Marion, but I think he will have less production on offense.

PF Jordan Williams

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11:  Miles Plumlee #21 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots against Jordan Williams #20 of the Maryland Terrapins during the second half in the quarterfinals of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Gary Williams and Jordan Williams created a disappointing offseason for Maryland Terrapin faithful.

    Jordan Williams decided to declare for the draft after his sophomore season in College Park, MD.

    Averaging almost 17 points per game his sophomore year, Jordan Williams is a very talented player in the paint. He has broad shoulders and knows how to establish the position necessary to finish around the rim. He also uses that frame on the glass, where he averaged over 10 rebounds a game in his college career.

    Defensively Jordan Williams is capable and knows his way around well enough to not become a liability.

    Jordan Williams certainly has upside. He has great touch and can finish from 15 feet or on a dunk.

    However, something about his frame seems soft in my opinion.

    He has shown the willingness to improve and work hard on his game while in college. With a little more work, I think Jordan Williams could become a hard working double-double guy down low.

C Nikola Vucevic

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans handles the ball against D.J. Haley #33 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.  (Phot
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Nikola Vucevic has the offensive potential to be a great player at the next level.

    However, his lack of quickness on defense and his skinny frame will keep him from taking his game to the next level.

    Vucevic is a great back-to-the-basket scorer, who can hurt you with a jumper from time to time as well. He also is a capable passer out of the post, even when facing double teams down low.

    On defense, Vucevic does not have the quickness needed to be a great defender and does not have the athleticism needed to be a great rebounder.

    I think Vucevic could become a solid option on the interior. He could provide instant offense off of the bench, but due to the lack of rebounding and defense he will never be a consistent starter.

    The most accurate comparison in my opinion would be Mehmet Okur. An effective and important player, but not a star.