Brooks leads draft sleeper picks

Every year, NBA teams spend massive amounts of time getting to know as much as they can about every prospect they’re interested in. The thing is, it’s still an inexact science.

No matter how much time and resources a team pours into a prospect, there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft. Sometimes the teams get a keeper, but there’s always a chance the team’s next draft pick could go the way of Denver’s Nikoloz Tskitishvili or Charlotte’s Adam Morrison.

This year’s draft is no different, and a few of the prospects have boom or bust (depending on who you ask) written all over them.

Marshon Brooks, PG/SG, Providence

Brooks is a 6-foot-5 guard with a 7-foot-1 wingspan who was essentially a one-man team his senior year at Providence. He averaged a whopping 24.6 points, second only to some guy named Jimmer. Playing for a bottom-tier team in a conference of heavyweights meant Brooks was hidden from casual fans. He changed that by scoring 43 points against Georgetown on February 5. He then showed it was no fluke, as he topped it four games later, dropping 52 on eventual NCAA No. 2 seed Notre Dame. Despite his scoring acumen, Providence failed to post a winning record, finishing 15-17 (just 4-14 in the conference).

The biggest concern for any team looking at drafting Brooks has to be whether they can rein him in and develop him into a player who can do things besides score. Last season, he had no conscience when it came to shot selection, leading him to take a lot of ill-advised shots. He obviously didn’t trust his teammates to make things happen offensively, and it remains to be seen if that’ll change once he’s surrounded by NBA-level players. If he’s willing to defer more to his teammates at the next level he could have a great career as a wing scorer, but if he can’t take a step back, he could find himself being viewed as the next J.R. Smith. There’s been a lot of talk about the Celtics being interested in him if he drops to them late in the first round, which would be the ideal situation, as he could learn from Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Bismack Biyombo, C, Congo

The Nike Hoop Summit is responsible for putting this young man in the limelight, as he put on a shot-blocking and rebounding exhibition in that game. International scouts knew about him, but he was a fairly well-kept secret from most fans. He stands 6-foot-9, but has a freakishly long wingspan of 7-foot-7, allowing him to alter nearly any shot inside. He has a terrific motor and plays an intense brand of basketball that could potentially allow him to make a big impact in the NBA. His lack of any real offensive game could be a significant hurdle for him to overcome, though. There are also questions about his age, as he’s listed at 18, but there have been rumors he’s anywhere from 17 to 26, which would make teams question how much potential he may have.

There’s a good chance he could develop into a Serge Ibaka-Ben Wallace hybrid, which would be downright scary, but it’s far from a sure thing. However, defense and rebounding are two skills that generally transfer well to the NBA game, so it’ll come down to him being drafted into the right situation. It’s going to take some time to develop his offensive game, but he could end up being a quality player.

Josh Selby, PG/SG, Kansas

Selby was supposed to be the next big thing at Kansas as the guard complement to the Morris twins after he de-committed from Tennessee. However, he never lived up to expectations due to suspension, injury and not being a good fit in Bill Self’s offense. In his lone year in Lawrence, he averaged an unimpressive 7.9 points and 2.2 assists per game. He’s a bit of a combo guard in terms of his NBA position, as he doesn’t have a great feel for the point guard position and doesn’t have ideal size to play off the ball.

However, Selby does have some upside that teams may feel warrant taking a flier on in the second half of the first round. He’s very athletic with explosive leaping ability that can present problems for defenses. He especially excels in breaking down defenders in one-on-one situations. He has a good enough jumpshot that can keep guys from playing him exclusively for the drive, and he has a high ceiling in terms of potential. Ultimately, the quality of his NBA career will come down to what team picks him, as he’ll need to find a team that allows him to play his style as a scoring point guard.

Jereme Richmond, PG, Illinois

Richmond spent only one unimpressive year at Illinois before hightailing it to the NBA. He has good size, standing 6-foot-7, and good instincts with the ball in his hands. I watched him in person during his senior year of high school, and he has the ability to be a real playmaker at the next level. He has elite athleticism and is one of the best passers I’ve seen. He’s skilled at making the no-look and wrap-around passes you see LeBron James make in traffic. When he’s able to use his physical gifts to get by his man or post up smaller players, he can punish the defense. However, his lack of a perimeter game will make it difficult for him to take full advantage of his physical gifts.

The biggest question with him, as far as NBA teams are concerned, is the mental aspect. He left the Illini after an uninspiring freshman season despite almost universal agreement that he needed to spend more time in the collegiate ranks. There are many aspects of his game that need a lot of work, as he is a capable slasher who lacks the skills to create driving lanes for himself. He’s likely to spend some time playing in the D-league. He’s young and has the ability to become a productive player. It’ll come down to how hard he works to develop those skills, though.

Jeremy Tyler, PF/C, high school

Tyler was supposed to be the next big thing, as a man among boys at the high school level. Growing tired of dealing with being the focus of constant double- and triple-teams, he decided to take a page out of the Brandon Jennings playbook, skipped college (and his senior year) to play overseas. He sparked a national debate on whether it was a good idea to allow young men to take that route. After his failed experiment, it’s unlikely we’ll see that route taken again any time soon. He played 10 games in Israel, frustrating his coaches and teammates with his immaturity, before leaving. He then moved on to play in Japan, where he had some moderate success.

He has the size teams look for, at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds. He certainly hurt his stock by disappearing overseas instead of following through on his commitment to Louisville and spending a year or more in college. It’s difficult to see how much his game’s grown as he hasn’t been able to play a ton of minutes against NBA-level competition, meaning his workouts for teams take on added importance. He’ll also have to dispel the perception of being immature in his interviews with teams. He’s fighting an uphill battle to establish himself, but he has the size teams look for, so he stands a good chance of being drafted in the mid-to-late first round.

Those five players aren’t the only ones teams will be taking an extra hard look at. Forward Tristan Thompson of Texas has shown the ability to be a contributor at the next level, but was inconsistent in his one season in college. He recorded a 17-10-7 stat line in Round 1 of the NCAAs, but totally disappeared in Round 2.

Tyler Honeycutt of UCLA was expected to be a big-time performer at the college level, but never was able to put it all together. He has great size and the ability to be a starter at the next level, but should be looked at as a project player to begin his career.

Willie Reed will have teams especially focusing on him as a person, as he was suspended from Saint Louis after being accused of rape. He showed ability on the court and maintains his innocence off it, but NBA teams no doubt will be doing their homework on him in advance of the draft.

Any of these players could end up being either All-Stars or D-leaguers, but it’s hard to tell until we see where they end up being picked on June 23.