Underrated: Hakim Warrick, 6-9, 219-pound F, Syracuse
Hakim Warrick could be a steal outside the lottery.
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"If Warrick goes [in the mid-teens], someone's going to get a pretty good player at a great value," one NBA source said. This is likely to be the case on draft night, when the Orange's elastic man will be an excellent pickup just outside the lottery. So what if he stayed in college for all four years? Only one player on the first-round board, Texas high-schooler Gerald Green, has a better vertical -- 39 inches, vs. Warrick's 38 in Chicago -- and Warrick, unlike Green, can contribute immediately as a pro. Hak may not be a banger in the post or have 3-point capability, but his mid-range game is stellar and he has a flair for highlight-reel dunks. On a team that already possesses a physical post presence, Warrick can play an effective role.
Everyone loves Andrei Kirilenko, the Russian who at the age of 18 was stolen by the Jazz with the No. 24 pick in the 1999 draft and became an All-Star by the time he was 23. Kirilenko is a 6-9 small forward; the 18-year-old Korolev, who happens to be the most highly touted Russian baller in quite some time, is also a 6-9 small forward, although he's a much different player -- a slender shooter with ballhandling skills, not a freakishly long-armed rebounder. Still, you get the idea; no NBA GM wants to let the next great Russian slip away, and the exec who plucks him out of the draft will be lauded. Korolev starred on the CSKA Moscow junior team and at the Euroleague junior tournament, but he has yet to be evaluated against quality competition -- just European juniors -- and one NBA source hinted at red flags. "Everyone raved about this kid in Moscow, but I hear shaky things about him off the floor -- about his maturity level and a prima-donna personality," the scout said. Other than the geography, that sounds like a review of McCants, who I tabbed as "underrated." But I've seen McCants in college hoops' elite setting, and he excelled, while Korolev is an unproven commodity who opted to sit out of the Reebok Big Man Camp in Treviso, Italy. This draft is loaded in the first round, and taking Korolev at No. 12 -- as the Clippers are reportedly considering -- seems to be too big of a reach.
Underrated: Nate Robinson, 5-9, 180-pound G, Washington
Every little guy with NBA dreams uses "the next Earl Boykins" as his rallying cry. Robinson shouldn't have to -- he's going to be better. A sparkplug guard who's built like a defensive back (because he was one for UW football as a freshman), Robinson wasn't UW's true No. 1 in '04-'05. That gig belonged to Will Conroy, who, like Nate the Great, is slotted as a second-round pick -- but Robinson assumed a dual-PG role in Lorenzo Romar's three- and sometimes four-guard rotations, averaging 4.5 assists per game. One would think that Robinson's absurd hops -- a 43.5-inch vertical, 4.5 inches better than Green -- and physical nature would be so appealing that his diminutive stature could be ignored. Height, however, is the thing, and Robinson has just 69 inches to his name, which seems to be ensuring his fate as a second-rounder. The franchise that grabs him in the 30s will have made one of the draft's smartest picks. "Everyone looks at his size and discounts him," one NBA scout said, "but two years ago he was the best player in Chicago [at the pre-draft camp]. I think he'll be able to transcend his height."
Overrated: Ersan Ilyasova, 6-9, 235-pound F, Ulker Istanbul
Ilyasova (unlike Korolev) actually drew comparisons to Kirilenko on the court, where he has somewhat of a reputation as a hustling outside shooter. While he is still a legit first-round possibility, a number of NBA teams have left Ilyasova's workouts -- including a private session during the Chicago pre-draft camp -- less than enthralled. "He was a lot more flat-footed and heavy-legged than our scouts had previously thought," one NBA source said. "Not that you have to be a great athlete to play in this league, but his athleticism -- or lack thereof -- is going to play an interesting role in where he's picked." In the Chicago combine, Ilyasova rated so poorly -- No. 74 out of 75 -- that he earned the title of Least Athletic Player Present Not Named Luke Schenscher. SI.com's Ian Thomsenreports that Ilyasova may just need time to regain confidence after major ankle surgery in 2004, but there seem to be too many questions surrounding the young Turk for him to warrant a top-30 selection.