No kidding. You could look it up.
Or you could ask Daniel Gibson, the rookie from Texas who scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals and helped send the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals. Gibson was a second-round pick in last year’s draft, the No. 42 pick overall.
Gibson certainly isn’t LeBron James, but chances are the Cavs will look back with fondness at their 42nd pick of the 2006 draft for quite some time.
One draft analyst described Gibson as a “poor man’s Ben Gordon” at this time last year. His point guard play did not improve at Texas and he was deemed too small for an NBA shooting guard. Gibson was projected to go late in the first round or early in the second. Instead, he was still available when Cleveland grabbed him and by the end of training camp most of the organization — including James — thought the Cavaliers had come away with a real steal.
Make that grand larceny after Game 6.
Isn’t that what the draft is all about? If you aren’t picking in the lottery, if you have no reasonable chance of getting Greg Oden, Kevin Durant or Brandan Wright, doesn’t the process come down to evaluating players and taking chances? And the deeper the draft goes, the more teams will be searching for one of those sleepers who can make a difference.
Looking back, you’d have to say Gibson was a sleeper (at the least a shooter who can hit three-pointers in his sleep). He should serve as motivation to all the aspiring draft picks who showed up at last week’s pre-draft camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The guys who played five-on-five, trying to make an impression on scouts and general managers, may have been largely ignored when Oden, Durant and the rest of lottery prospects arrived for testing. But the process is important. Gibson was one of 11 players who attended last year’s camp and then got drafted. Two — Renaldo Balkman of South Carolina and Jordan Farmar of UCLA — went in the first round.
With the June 28 draft rapidly approaching, here’s a look at my top five draft sleepers, and one bonus player to keep your eye on the next few weeks.
Demetris Nichols, forward
Nichols was one of the best stories in college basketball last season, but didn’t get the national attention he deserved. The NBA doesn’t reward four-year college players very often these days but the Syracuse senior Nichols turned heads last week. He should be selected early in the second round. If he somehow sneaks into the first round, it will be a statement for staying in school, working hard, and improving your game.
“He can shoot it,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Those guys are in demand right now. He’s been able to put the ball on the floor better [as a senior] and make the pull-up jumper. And he’s more confident. He improved every year he was here and it’s a tremendous testimony to him.”
Nichols lacked confidence largely because of a stuttering problem and didn’t play much as a freshman. Boeheim and the Syracuse staff rode him hard because they saw potential. His role got bigger every season and by his senior season he emerged as one of the most improved players in Big East history.
If a team is interested in a shooter with great character and a strong work ethic, Nichols matches that description.
“I think I work harder than anybody,” Nichols says. “I train hard and I’m tough on myself. It’s all about hard work. It’s what you put into it. I had my ups and downs. But I just wanted to keep working hard and show people I could play. I have a chip on my shoulder because a lot of people doubted my ability to play — especially when I was younger.”
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
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