OAKLAND, Calif. – No one recognized Klay Thompson as he chomped on a blackened catfish salad for lunch this past week at the Oakland Grill, located just blocks from the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility. The former Washington State shooting guard said such anonymity has been par for the course while traveling nationally working out for teams in hopes of improving his draft stock.
But come Thursday night at the NBA draft, Thompson’s anonymity could end if he goes from draft sleeper to top-10 pick. The son of ex-NBA player Mychal Thompson leads Yahoo! Sports’ draft sleepers list.
“There are a lot of doubters and haters out there who think I’m not athletic, slow and just a spot-up shooter,” Thompson said. “But I have to prove I got more game than that.”
Thompson is used to being overlooked. Washington State, hardly a college powerhouse, was the only Pac-10 Conference school to offer him a scholarship when he departed Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic High. And with Pac-10 games often on too late for East Coast viewers and the Cougars rarely featured, the most exposure the 6-foot-7, 206-pounder received was when Washington State got drilled 75-44 by Wichita State in the NIT semifinals in New York City.
But NBA scouts kept strong tabs on Thompson as he led the Pac-10 in scoring, averaging 21.6 points per game while nailing a single-season school-record 98 3-pointers. Several talent evaluators weren't concerned about the citation that Thompson received for misdemeanor marijuana possession in March that led to a one-game suspension. Strong workouts have pushed him from a late first-round pick to as high as seventh with the Sacramento Kings.
“I’m 6-7, I can handle the ball, I can pass,” Thompson said. “I don’t need the ball in my hands to be effective. I can play off a great point guard as well. I can create my own shot and spot up. I can be an asset by the way I can space the floor as well as get to the line.”
The Kings, who worked Thompson out last Saturday, and Charlotte Bobcats, owners of the ninth overall pick, both have strong interest. Golden State is hopeful but doesn't expect Thompson to be available when it drafts 11th.
The Warriors are so intrigued by Thompson that co-owner Joe Lacob, new coach Mark Jackson and the entire front office attended Friday’s workout. Warriors general manager Larry Riley continues to dismiss rumors that guard Monta Ellis(notes) is being shopped and likes the idea of a three-guard rotation with Thompson, Ellis and Stephen Curry(notes).
If the Warriors land Thompson, eating lunch in public certainly won’t go without notice next time.
“He’s an offensive talent,” Warriors assistant general manager Bob Myers said. “He has a good feel for the game, great basketball IQ and pedigree. At his position every night he has to go against a great player. He knows he has to work on his defense. But he’s a great player who is very polished.”
Here's a look at 14 other potential draft sleepers:
Markieff Morris, 6-10, 245 pounds, PF, Kansas
A scout said Markieff’s twin brother, Marcus, is expected to get drafted about five spots higher than his sibling. Markieff is projected to go as high as the middle of the first-round.
Unlike his brother, Markieff is focusing on playing power, not small forward.
“A lot of people are sleeping on me, but it is what it is,” Markieff said.
An NBA scout’s take: “One of the most undervalued guys in the draft. His brother gets all the headlines. He’s a legitimate power forward cut from Dale Davis cloth who can defend, rebound and can make passes from the post. A winner.”
Marshon Brooks, 6-5, 200, SF, Providence
His stock has improved because of strong workouts and he could get drafted as high as the middle of the first round, league sources say. The nation’s second-leading scorer broke the Big East single-game scoring record with 52 against Notre Dame.
An NBA scout's take: “One of the best scorers in the draft and can score a lot of points quickly. Imitates a lot of Kobe [Bryant’s] mannerisms. Very selfish player. Teammates didn’t always enjoy playing with him.”
Tobias Harris, 6-8, 225, SF, Tennessee
Despite lots of drama at Tennessee, Harris averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as a freshman last season. He turns 19 on July 19.
Darius Morris, 6-4, 190, PG, Michigan
Morris is working out with New York for a second time Monday. The pure point guard who can defend both guard positions has also worked out for Houston, Indiana, Portland, Denver, Washington, New Jersey and Miami.
An NBA scout's take:“He’s a late riser. Two months ago people weren’t talking about him. Now they are.”
Nikola Vucevic, 6-10, 260, C, Southern California
The Montenegro native is projected to get drafted in the late lottery to early 20s. Philadelphia (16th) and New York (17th) both have strong interest in the mammoth big man, according to a source.
An NBA scout's take: “He definitely has size. He measured well at the Chicago pre-draft camp. He showed people in Chicago that he can play.”
Josh Selby, 6-2, 183, PG, Kansas
A year ago, Rivals.com viewed the former McDonald’s All-American as the top college prospect in the Class of 2010 over the likes of Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger. The 20-year-old had a tough freshman season that included a suspension and injuries.
An NBA scout's take: “He was one of the top three players coming out of high school in his class. He can be a sleeper in the right system.”
Iman Shumpert, 6-5, 212, PG/SG, Georgia Tech
Shumpert went from being a second-round pick to a potential first-rounder due to strong workouts. He’s a well-rounded player who was also an all-Atlantic Coast Conference defender.
An NBA scout's take:“Talented. Thinks he’s a point guard, but doesn’t know how to play it. Rising because of workouts.”
Norris Cole, 6-2, 170, PG, Cleveland State
The 2011 Horizon League Player of the Year received national attention by earning 41 points, 20 boards and nine assists against Youngstown State. Has surprisingly well-rounded game for his size as he averaged 21.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists last season.
An NBA scout's take: “He’s attractive. He can go anywhere from 22-35. For a point guard, [the Youngstown game] says something.”
Jimmy Butler, 6-7, 220, SF, Marquette
Butler is slated for a second workout Wednesday with the Boston Celtics (25th pick). Oklahoma City (24th) and New Jersey (27th) have strong interest as well.
Justin Harper, 6-10, 225, SF-PF, Richmond
Sharp-shooter averaged 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds last season while shooting 44.8 percent from 3-point range. Harper had good workouts with Chicago, New Jersey and Boston and visits Dallas on Monday.
An NBA scout's take: “Probably one of the better shooters in the draft. Good size. Another guy who passes the look test. More of a face-up forward than back-to-basket player who eventually will become a pick-and-pop guy.”
Charles Jenkins, 6-3, 220, PG-SG, Hofstra
The third-team All-America selection finished sixth in the country in scoring (22.6 points) while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. The two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year could be a late first-rounder.
An NBA scout's take: “He’s got good size. Gave a very impressive interview. An overall impressive kid in Chicago [pre-draft camp]. You don’t know if he’s a point or shooting guard, but he’ll figure it out like he always has.”
Nikola Mirotic, 6-10, 220, C, Real Madrid (Spain)
He’s projected to be a lottery pick in about two years and has a pro contract through the 2012-13 season. The 21-year-old will likely be drafted late in the first round by a team hoping to stash him overseas for a reward later.
An NBA scout’s take: “Shooter who as a big can step out to the NBA 3-pointer. Body still developing. Rare young player who started in Euroleague.”
Jeremy Tyler, 6-10, 255, PF-C, Tokyo Apache (Japan)
The top prospect in the class of 2010 at the end of his junior year became a mystery after forgoing his senior year in high school for a struggling pro stint in Israel. He ended up playing in the lesser Japan league. Turns 20 on Tuesday and has a lot of size, athleticism and upside.
An NBA scout’s take: “The kid is much bigger and athletic than I expected.”
Davis Bertrans, 6-10, 211 pounds, SF, KK Union Olimpija (Slovenia)
NBA scouts raved about Bertrans at practices for the 2011 Hoop Summit because of his shooting. Expect the 18-year-old to get picked late in the first round and stay overseas for about two years.
An NBA scout’s take: “Young guy who can really shoot. Played decently at Hoop Summit. He’s a pretty decent athlete who’s more of a catch-and-shoot guy. You have to create shots for him.”
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• Pujols' injury opens door for contract negotiations
• Venus Williams suffers fashion flop in first round at Wimbledon
• Vancouver riots' kissing couple tell their story
• Rory McIlroy is no Tiger Woods, and maybe that's a good thing