Professional sports drafts and the game of poker are very similar in one way; those who possess superior skill and knowledge can sway the odds in their favor a little, but it's still gambling. Year after year players who were thought of as "can't miss", do miss, and players who pundits didn't think much of turn out to be superstars. NBA teams spend millions of dollars on scouts and countless hours researching and evaluating prospects each year, but at the end of the day, it's still at best an educated guess. Those of us who watch a lot of college games can usually tell with good accuracy who will make it and who won't, but it's not easy. Some guys mature later than others, and sometimes the system or players in front of a guy will prevent them from reaching their full potential. On the opposite end, has a player reached hit his ceiling, will he continue to improve, and what if his numbers were inflated by facing lesser competition. Sometimes it comes down to what he has between the ears. Can he take the pressures of the NBA? Does he have the drive to compete at this level? Drafting players is an inexact science; it's impossible to be perfect. With this in mind, let's take a look at a few players I feel are being overvalued and undervalued at their current spot in NBA mock drafts. For the purpose of this article, I'll use the latest mock draft from SI's Sam Amick. Also, in order to be overrated/underrated, I'll only talk about players I feel who are 3+ spots off where they should be.
Andre Drummond (6th overall) - We see it every year; teams overreach for centers. When evaluating a big man, one of the things I always ask myself is, if he was 6-inches shorter and had to play either the 2 or 3; would he have enough skill to play in the NBA. Basically, is he being drafted because he's tall or because he's a good all-around basketball player. Now obviously, some guys physical talents are so dominant that it makes up for deficiencies in other areas like with Shaquille O'Neal or Dwight Howard. I understand the intrigue surrounding Drummond considering his great size, power, and level of athleticism, but he's a project, and I wouldn't take him in the top 10. To say his offensive game is limited would be an understatement. He doesn't have any reliable moves in the post, doesn't even have a reliable short jump hook that most players develop early on. Drummond also has no range on his jump shot, and an awkward release, and is an awful free-throw shooter (29%). Unless Drummond takes a major step in his game over the next several years, I don't see how he'll ever be able to score on his own. As of now, he only scores on put-backs and off the creation of his teammates. What Drummond can do is block shots and rebound very well. Those skills are useful, but with no offensive game to compliment it; I'd be more comfortable taking him in the 15-20 range.
Miles Plumlee (26th Overall) - Like Drummond, I think he's being overvalued because he's 7-feet tall. Miles Plumlee is a good, but not great athlete (40 inch vertical at scouting combine), and does a lot of the fundamental things well, but I wouldn't consider him a 1st round pick. Plumlee has virtually no offensive game on his own and typically only scores on put-backs or off a dribble-drive pass from another player. The 6.6 points per game he averaged last season was sadly a career high. He's not a good jump shooter, not a quality free-throw shooter (63%); he's very limited offensively and most likely won't improve. What he can do, rebound and play decent defense. If I were drafting for a team that needed a reserve to fill that role, I'd consider him in the middle of the 2nd round.
Jared Sullinger (17th overall) - In a different era, Sullinger would be a better fit. However, I think he'll have problems in today's NBA. Sullinger lacks prototypical athleticism for a power forward and is too small both in height and arm length to play center. He has no elevation off the court, runs the floor like he has glue on the bottom of his shoe, plays beneath the rim, and has slow lateral quickness making him a liability on defense; especially on the pick and roll. He was excellent in college with his back to the basket, but I fail to see how he'll get around or shoot over the taller, more athletic bigs in the league. Some are comparing him to Carlos Boozer, but even Boozer was a 2nd round pick. More likely, he's DeJuan Blair. A quality player, but a reserve who only averages 20 minutes played per game and should be taken in the late 1st round, not the top 20. Blair was the 7th pick in the 2nd round in 2009.
Arnett Moultrie (24th overall) - Great athlete who should excel on both offense and defense. On offense, Moultrie runs the court like a guard, can hit the jumper out to 15 feet, has a great spin move in the post, and finishes strong around the basket. During his one season as Mississippi State (transferred from UTEP), Moultrie averaged 16.4 points (54% FG, 78% FT), and 10.8 rebounds. On defense, he could add a little more weight and he doesn't block a lot of shots, but he moves very well and has the ability to guard small forwards, power forwards, and even centers. Some scouts compare him to Jermaine O'Neal which seems about right; I'd draft him in the top 20 and would consider him with Rockets pick at 16th overall.
Doron Lamb (Not slotted in the 1st Round) - Will likely be a role player, possibly a starter depending on the team. Lamb is a great 3-point shooter (47.5% over two seasons at Kentucky) and will be a great asset for a playoff team looking to add a shooter. If I were drafting for the Bulls, Heat, or Grizzlies (teams who all need an outside shooter); I'd consider taking the Kentucky guard as high as 25th overall.
Moe Harkless (19th overall) - Reminds me a lot of Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks. Not a great shooter (44% FG), but a tremendous athlete with a high ceiling. In his one year at St. John's, Harkless averaged 15.3 points, but more impressively also averaged 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals. If he improves as a jump shooter, the sky is the limit, but even if he doesn't, his ability as a rebounder and defender at his position is rare. Gerald Wallace, Metta World Peace, and Josh Smith are all below average jump shooters, but are great defenders, can beat their defender off the dribble in the half-court, score in transition, and have made 2 All-Star games and 4 all-defensive teams combined. I could see Harkless go as high as 11th or 13th overall.