Sure, sure, we all know about Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight—the cream of the crop—of the 2011 NBA Draft. They've been discussed and dissected, poked, prodded and compared and contrasted to no end. They finally should reap the benefits this Thursday evening when they will likely have some of the shortest waits of all the anxious prospects.
But they say you can't win a draft based on your first-round pick, you can, however, lose it there (Or is that what they say about fantasy drafts? Sorry—they feel so real to me!).
So who are some of the biggest sleepers in this year's draft? Who will make the most significant impact and/or provide a noteworthy surprise to all the draft experts who overlooked him?
Here are five sleepers who could eventually be those names.
He may come from a small school and be relatively undersized (6'3" and 200 lbs.), but Andrew Goudelock is a big-time scorer.
During his senior year with the College of Charleston Cougars, Goudelock finished fifth in the nation with 23.5 points per game. He also shot 41 percent from behind the three-point arc.
Shooting is clearly his strength, but Goudelock can also play adequate defense and is adept at playing without the ball, readying himself for catch-and-shoot situations. He would likely be used best as an instant-offense resource off the bench.
That itself is a significant role. The recently crowned NBA champion Dallas Mavericks relied on a couple of key players—Jason Terry and J.J. Barea—to spark the offense even when they didn't start. A player like Goudelock could be of particular value to contending teams looking to add depth to their rotation.
Another excellent shooter, Bogdanovich has evolved from a mere outside threat to a dangerous all-around scorer. He has a good feel for basketball fundamentals, as he executes proper footwork and knows how to create his own shot.
Although he isn't the most athletic, Bogdanovich can also provide versatility to his team's roster, being able to fill the guard or forward position. He has leadership experience, having been the primary go-to guy on his Croatian team.
Unfortunately, most scouts agree that's where Bogdanovich needs to stay for now in order to hone his skills. With some maturation and development of his overall game, he can be a much stronger asset to whatever team decides to draft him.
This guy is a true gamer.
Lighty has a lot of intangibles working for him. He has plenty of experience (he is an outgoing fifth-year senior), works hard and, most importantly, knows how to win. Lighty is the all-time winningest player in Ohio State's detailed history, having broken the record after playing in his 111th victory last season.
As far as his on-the-court skills, Lighty plays a very smart, solid game. He makes limited mistakes when passing and is a hard-nosed defender. He played every position from point guard to power forward while at Ohio State, demonstrating his physicality and guarding abilities.
Lighty will have some difficulty adjusting to the high-caliber athleticism of the NBA, but his court savvy and experience should make him a prime role player for a number of potential teams.
Okay, Nikola Mirotic may not be a prototypical sleeper, as some have predicted him going late in the first round. However given how long it may take him to actually play in the NBA, he deserves a spot on this list.
A dead-eye shooter with a soft jump shot, Mirotic can score from almost anywhere on the floor. He has some quality low-post moves and does not shy away from taking the big shot. He even handles the ball well for a guy his size (6'10" and 225 lbs.).
Mirotic also passes well and demonstrates strong court vision. He is not the best defender, but his valuable basketball IQ allows him to be aware of when shot-blocking opportunities arise.
Even if he is drafted in the first round, Mirotic will probably spend considerably more time in Europe before taking his talents to the NBA. Still, his potential is high enough to convince teams to take a flier on him relatively early.
A true one-trick pony, Ravern Johnson provides high-quality three-point shooting and little else on the court. He made almost three three-pointers per game during his senior season on 40 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Johnson is a very quick shooter, making him difficult to guard once he comes off a screen, which he also does exceptionally well. Unfortunately, he doesn't do much else, as he isn't a very good passer and his light frame (6'6" and 170 lbs.) leaves him vulnerable on defense.
If Johnson is drafted, his team will know exactly what it is getting, which can be somewhat comforting. There is also always the possibility that he will improve his currently sub-par skills. However there is usually room for an accurate long-distance specialist in the NBA and that is exactly what teams should see in Johnson.