As the NBA Draft draws closer, speculation about which players should be taken earliest continues to swirl.
But while the first players taken may be some of the draft's best, they are not necessarily the players with the best value.
Every year, underrated prospects emerge and prove to be phenomenal value picks for teams that are lucky enough to have drafted them. This year will be no different.
Here are five players who are underrated prospects and therefore should end up being high-value picks.
Sources: NBADraft.com, ESPN.com, Rivals.com, BleacherReport.com
Jamie Skeen, the 6'8", 240-pound Virginia Commonwealth forward, was one of the biggest reasons for the Rams' unlikely Cinderella run to the Final Four.
Skeen averaged 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, proving to be one of VCU's top threats.
Despite all this, Skeen was ranked just 68th on the NBADraft.net Big Board. While a late second-round pick will be used on Skeen (if he is drafted at all), he has the skills to develop into an NBA starter and contribute significantly.
NBA Comparison: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
As the brother of former North Carolina superstar and current Indiana Pacer Tyler Hansbrough, Ben Hansbrough clearly has good bloodlines. Hansbrough showed it in the powerhouse Big East conference, as he was one of the best players on one of the Big East's best teams.
Hansbrough averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, while hitting 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts. Yet he is rated as just the 77th-best prospect on the Big Board.
This gifted player could be a relatively low draft pick and still end up developing into a clutch starter at point or shooting guard.
NBA Comparison: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
As highly ranked as Kemba Walker is (eighth on the big board at NBADraft.net,) it may come as a surprise that I am listing him as an underrated prospect.
However, Walker could easily be one of the top five prospects.
The 6'1", 175-pound senior was not only a deadly quick scorer and prolific shooter for the Huskies, but he also was the straw that stirred the drink throughout the season—particularly in the playoffs.
Walker averaged an astounding 23.5 points per game throughout the regular season and was unstoppable in the playoffs, all the way to the championship.
Despite his incredible talents, his best attribute is his ability to win. There's no reason to believe he won't be one of the NBA's best point guards in the near future.
NBA Comparison: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Arguably college basketball's best point guard not named Kemba Walker, Nolan Smith was one of Duke's best weapons.
Smith kept the Blue Devil ship afloat after the untimely injury of stud freshman Kyrie Irving, who is widely regarded as one of the nation's top two prospects.
Averaging over 20 points and 5 assists per game, Smith proved to be a clutch veteran who was just as good as his freshman counterpart.
And yet, NBADraft.net rated Smith just the 36th best prospect in the country. While Irving may have more upside than Smith, it'll be surprising if Smith doesn't have a better NBA career—at least early on.
NBA Comparison: Chauncey Billups, New York Knicks
At 6'0" and just under 200 pounds, Jacob Pullen played much bigger than his physical size while at Kansas State.
Pullen was unquestionably the best player and leader for the Wildcats, averaging 20.2 points per game, 3.7 assists per game and 2.9 rebounds per game from the guard position.
His versatility will allow him to play either point guard or shooting guard in the NBA, and he will excel at either position.
Even so, the big board has Pullen ranked just 87th.
The Kansas State star may go undrafted, but he will turn out to be one of the highest value picks of the 2011 Draft.
NBA Comparison: Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets