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Transition Game: 10 Sleepers In The Draft Who Will Excel In The NBA

By 05.17.11
Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard (photo. SDSU Media Relations)


Kawhi Leonard – 6-7 SF, San Diego State
He’s already showing people how underrated he is in workouts and the combines. Leonard was probably the best prospect no one talked about all season. That shouldn’t come as a shock; The East Coast bias is always in effect. From an athletic standpoint as a rebounder/defender, Leonard is ready to play in the NBA today. In workouts, he’s also displaying the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. His “developing” offensive game may be a lot closer than people think.

Malcolm Lee – 6-4 PG, UCLA
When you watch Lee and think of his predecessors, you have to feel confident in him turning it on in the NBA. Jrue Holiday (76ers), Darren Collison (Pacers) and Westbrook (Thunder) are all playing at an elite level after their tour with UCLA and the slowed down, passive offense the Bruins run. Talent-wise, Lee may not be in the same league as those three, but he is a talent nonetheless that has a chance to make an impact.

Reggie Jackson – 6-3 PG, Boston College
Becoming a better player in the NBA will be a challenge for Jackson. He was already terrific in college with the best combination of size, athleticism and skill of any PG in the country. With his frame and skill set, it’s easy to start making the comparison to the Thunder’s current All-Star point guard. They aren’t far off from each other. The difference between the two: Jackson is light years ahead of Westbrook at this stage in their careers.

Jereme Richmond – 6-7 SF, Illinois
He may not be ready for the NBA after his short stint in Illinois, but Richmond is a top prospect in any class. In his one year on campus, he was a terrific athlete and a fierce competitor. He was also a solid rebounder for his position. Richmond was projected as a 2012 Lottery pick. Instead, personal choices and behind-the-scenes issues at Illinois accelerated his decision to leave early for the NBA. Make no mistake, Richmond is more talented than half the prospects going ahead of him in the upcoming draft. But, they didn’t have the same off-the-court issues. He likely won’t make an instant impact next season, but with his athleticism and motor, Richmond will be a vastly better player in the NBA.

Josh Selby – 6-2 PG, Kansas
Once Selby came back from his early season suspension he had the world of college basketball buzzing by scoring 21, 18 and 18 points in three of his first four games with the team. All wins. What he did after those games left everyone puzzled. He basically became a spot-up shooter and played a very limited role in the Jayhawks’ season. Selby just did not fit into the “team” system. In 26 games, he managed to have more assists than turnovers only 10 times all season and more than five assists in only three games.

That’s the thing about Selby – and most athletes these days – if you confide them to a box, they will shut down and lose effectiveness. Selby is built to play in a system that allows freedom. His ability to score in the open court and one-on-one is the best in this entire class. Nobody can match the skill of Selby in that setting, but when asked to run offense and sacrifice shots, he can look lost. Luckily the NBA is structured to let guards create offense and rewards players for athletic prowess. In that role, Selby can get wherever he wants. He’ll thrive in a bench role, immediately providing instant offense to any stagnant team. Down the road, he could be a 20+ PPG scorer and every defender’s nightmare.

Which player from this draft will make the biggest leap in the NBA?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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TAGS2011 NBA DraftCOLLEGECory JosephDimeMagfeatureIMAN SHUMPERTJereme RichmondJosh SelbyKAWHI LEONARDMalcolm LeeNBA DRAFTREGGIE JACKSONTerrence JenningsTobias HarrisTravis Leslie

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