|Can you guess who my #1 pick was? No, seriously, guess!|
We’re only one day away from the 2011 NBA Draft; the last meaningful NBA related event until 2039! If there’s one thing you can say about this draft, it’s that it should be wildly unpredictable…you know, since each prospect is about as mediocre and unexciting as the next. In most years, I tend to get a bit more optimistic as the draft approaches, having spent an inordinate amount of time researching and thinking about each player. This year…not so much. Somehow, I’m more pessimistic about this draft than I was two months ago! Still, that won’t stop me from enjoying tomorrow night’s proceedings, and it certainly won’t stop me from doing my mock draft!
As always, I am doing this mock draft as if I were the GM responsible for making the pick. This is NOT a projection of who WILL get drafted in a particular spot. It is a mock draft of who I think SHOULD get drafted in a particular spot. Comments and feedback is certainly welcomed. Here we go!
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers – PF Derrick Williams, Arizona
The consensus pick here is Kyrie Irving, and I simply don’t understand why. OK, so the Cavs feel like they need a PG…I get it. THEY NEED EVERYTHING! With the #1 overall pick, you have to take the best player, regardless of need. That player is Derrick Williams. One thing that greatly impresses me about Williams is his consistent improvement. He was a lightly recruited player out of high school who worked hard on his game and made an immediate impact at Arizona. After his freshman year, he was criticized for his lack of shooting and overall offensive assertiveness. How did he respond? 19.5 points per game and 57% shooting from behind the arc. Good enough for ya’?
The major concern with Williams is his position. Is he a SF or a PF? Personally, I think he’s an ideal PF, and the “undersized” label is confusing to me. Williams measured out as a legit 6-9 with a 9-0 reach and a 7-2 wingspan…more than big enough to thrive as an NBA PF (and actually bigger than both Blake Griffin and Kevin Love). Beyond that, he has incredible athleticism, and is extremely versatile. The biggest plus for Williams, at least to me, is his competitiveness. You simply don’t see many guys play as hard as Williams does. I love the way he attacks the basket or the way he attacks the offensive and defensive glass. I’ve said it before, but there’s a lot to be said about a player who gives a crap, and you can visibly see how invested Williams is in, not only his own success, but also his teams’ success.
Summary: Overall, I grade Williams out as, by far, the best player in this draft. He’s not a sure fire superstar in the way a Kevin Durant or Lebron James were, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t make several All-Star games down the road. His game is a great fit for the wide open NBA game and he should make an immediate impact. Cleveland would be dumb to pass on him…so expect Kyrie Irving to be the actual pick.
#2 Minnesota Timberwolves – PG Kyrie Irving, Duke
This scenario would literally be a gift from on high if it actually unfolded. David Kahn, he of the Ricky Rubio-Jonny Flynn back-to-back selections, would probably have a stroke if Williams went #1; especially after Rubio FINALLY signed his contract just weeks ago. Still, this is only a two person draft, and you have to take the best player.
I’ve been a bit critical of Irving up to this point, but I want to make it clear that I don’t hate him. I simply think he’s being highly overrated right now based on nothing more than an extremely small sample size of games. More than anything, the Chris Paul comparisons are really getting under my skin. He’s not Chris Paul! Stop it! I heard Chad Ford compare Irving to Mo Williams, and that seems a lot closer to the truth than Chris Paul. And therein lies the true nature of this draft; the clear cut second best player is probably the next Mo Williams…fantastic. Still, Irving has good size and plenty of talent. While he doesn’t have one elite skill, he’s solid in just about all facets of the game.
Summary: In all seriousness, Minnesota can’t draft Kyrie Irving. David Kahn knows he’ll be the laughingstock of the entire league if he does! There have been a lot of trade rumors surrounding this pick, but Chad Ford reports that the offers have been less than stellar. According to Ford, the best offer has consisted of Marcin Gortat and the #13 pick from Phoenix. Yikes. Perhaps they’re able to figure out something for Iguodala, Monta Ellis, or even Josh Smith? Perhaps they just do something dumb like they always do?
#3 Utah Jazz – C Enes Kanter, Kentucky/Turkey
This is where the draft gets really dodgy. Utah has reportedly been heavily leaning towards PG with this pick, and Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has Utah taking Brandon Knight. Despite my love for him, I feel Knight might be a bit overrated. Here’s the problem; what do we really know about Kanter? He sat out all last year! All teams have is a couple summer high school all-star games to go off of. Still, he was extremely impressive in those games, and workout reports have all been positive (aren’t they all…). He’s got terrific size (6-11), is very physical, and, while he may not be the greatest athlete in the world, he’s extremely skilled.
Summary: Drafting at #3 in a two player draft is a tough break, especially when you’ve given up Deron Williams to do so. I’m not saying I’m sold on The Big Enes to be an All-Star or anything, but he seems to be the only other player with the potential to be a true star. At the center position, that’s too much to pass up on.
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Here’s where I get to pick a player at #4 overall that I’m not sure is a starter in the NBA! All right! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Brandon Knight is really overrated. He isn’t a point guard at all, he can’t dribble to his left, he’s wildly inconsistent with his shot, and he seems to have weak hands. All that being said, I’m not sure who else to take at #4! Is Kemba Walker a better bet as a 6-0 SG? Would I be better off taking one of the Euro guys whose name’s I can’t pronounce?
Cleveland does have a need at PG and Knight has the best upside of any remaining PG. While he does have all the weaknesses I mentioned, it doesn’t mean he can’t improve. The truth is, he improved a lot during his one year at Kentucky and he does have a lot of positives to go along with the negatives. He has a really good stroke and he shoots it very well off screens; a big part of the NBA game. Also, he has the ability to be a lockdown defender.
Summary: Knight might be the toughest player to project in this draft (other than the international guys). He has a lot of the tools needed to be a starter in the NBA, and if he grows into the PG position, then he very well could be an impact player. Of course, he also has a lot of holes in his game and he might be a backup. At this point, I see him as more of a combo guard and I really wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up being a sixth man on the level of Jason Terry (not NBA Finals Jason Terry though). In this draft, that might be worth the #4 pick.
#5 Toronto Raptors – PF Tristan Thompson, Texas
I realize I’m alone on this and I simply don’t care. I LOVE Tristan Thompson. I love his game, I love his effort, and I love his talent. He’s got a lot of developing left to do, especially on the offensive end, but he’s another guy who just looks like he gives a crap. Given his athleticism and ability to finish around the rim, I think he’ll find a lot of success as the dive man in the pick and roll game…which, by the way, is a large part of the NBA.
Summary: Toronto allowed a league worst 487 points per game last year (approximate) and they badly need help on that end of the floor. Though Andrea Bargnani’s scoring improved, he took a major step backwards in every other area and is no longer considered the franchise cornerstone. Thompson’s ability to rebound and block shots at a high level would be a welcome addition to a team in dire need of some interior toughness. Also, Thompson gives them the last player in the draft with the potential to develop into a star. In reality, Thompson will likely end up sliding down to #8 or beyond…and I’m fervently praying the Celtics somehow find a way to trade up and get him.
#6 Washington Wizards – SF Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
There is literally nobody left in this draft worthy of being the #6 overall selection, and that makes this a tough spot for Washington. While I’m not the biggest Kawhi Leonard fan, he has the makings of an excellent glue guy down the road. He rebounds as well as anyone in the draft and he’s an excellent defender. Unfortunately, his utter lack of any semblance of a jump shot severely limits his overall ceiling. He’s been compared to Shawn Marion, but I just can’t see him scoring enough to be that type of player.
#7 Sacramento Kings – SF Chris Singleton, Florida State
This is likely six or seven picks higher than Singleton’s actual draft position tomorrow night, but I think he’s an extremely underrated player. While he’s still got a lot of work to do offensively, he’s already a monster on the defensive end. Also, at 6-9 with an 8-8 standing reach, Singleton would already be one of the longest and most athletic small forwards in the league. If he can get his offensive game in order (and the ability is definitely there), he could be a Ron Artest type of player…hopefully without the Ron Artest type of craziness.
One quick comment on this pick. Every mock draft seems to have Kemba Walker going to Sacramento. Am I missing something here? Didn’t they just move Tyreke Evans off the point because he wants to shoot too much? So, apparently the answer is to draft another gunner to play the point…except this time, the gunner is my size. Geez, DeMarcus Cousins must have wrapped his headband too tightly around Geoff Petrie’s head.
#8 Detroit Pistons – C Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
With a clear lack of “safe” domestic prospects left, this would be an ideal spot for Detroit to take a chance on a talented foreigner. It goes without saying that I haven’t seen anything of Valanciunas, so all I have to go on is what Chad Ford and others have to say. The seemingly high Darko rate (aka. failure rate) for international players is scary, as is the fact that Dumars was the sucker who took Darko, but talented 7 footers are hard to come by. Given the prospects left on the board, the risk/reward is worth it here.
#9 Charlotte Bobcats – PG Kemba Walker, Connecticut
Again, given his size, I’m not wild about Kemba. I’d love him a lot more if he were 6-4 instead of 6-0. Still, he brings as much to the table as he takes off. Like Derrick Williams, Kemba plays extremely hard and I’m very impressed with his leadership and defensive effort. The real question is, can he play point guard? Can he become the playmaker for his teammates that he already is for himself? It’s easy to doubt him, but watch some film of Kemba’s freshman season and see just how much he improved in his three collegiate years. Tough to bet against a guy like that…
#10 Milwaukee Bucks – SF Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Most experts have Klay Thompson ahead of Hamilton, but I don’t see it that way. While Thompson was, statistically, a dominant scorer, his overall scoring and efficiency took a sharp decline in Pac-10 play…by the way, the Pac-10 sucked! In my opinion, Hamilton has a much higher upside than Thompson and will have a much more immediate impact on a Milwaukee team in dire need of scoring. Honestly, Hamilton reminds me a lot of Stephen Jackson…and that includes his penchant for taking dumb shots. If his shot selection can be reined in a bit, Hamilton could have a very successful career.
#11 Golden State Warriors – PF Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
This is pretty simple; Golden State sucks at defense and rebounding and Faried is amazing at defense and rebounding. WINNER! Honestly, this is one of those times where I feel NBA teams think too hard. We have enough evidence of slightly undersized defense/rebounding PF’s making successful transitions to the NBA (Paul Milsapp, Carl Landry, DeJuan Blair, Chuck Hayes, etc.) that it’s time to stop knocking these guys down ten spots too low. We know what Faried will provide and we know how valuable that will be. Maybe he’s not the next Ben Wallace or anything, but after striking out on Ekpe Udoh last year, Faried would fill a huge role in Golden State.
#12 Utah Jazz – SG Klay Thompson, Washington State
I debated long and hard between Thompson and Alec Burks, but my hatred of SG’s who can’t shoot won me over. Perhaps Burks has a higher ceiling, but at least I know what Klay Thompson can do; shoot the lights out. Thompson’s lack of efficiency as the #1 option at Washington State is a bit concerning, but he won’t be the #1 option in Utah. His long range shooting and impressive size (6-7!) make him ideal for spacing the floor and keeping double teams off Al Jefferson, Paul Milsapp, and Derrick Favors. Also, he’ll be highly valued amongst his teammates for his obvious marijuana connections! Thanks for the hook-up Klay!
#13 Phoenix Suns – SG Alec Burks, Colorado
Hey, remember when I said how I hated SG’s who can’t shoot? Yeah, I’ll take one at #13. Believe me, I hate it as much as anyone could possibly imagine. Still, Burks is a pretty good gamble here, given his upside. Shooter or not, Burks has a proven ability to put the ball in the basket…something Phoenix desperately needs going forward.
#14 Houston Rockets – SF Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
Like Valanciunas, I haven’t seen a single second of Jan Vesely. Scouting reports say he’s a beyond bad shooter. Yet, somehow, Vesely might go in the top five tomorrow night! The risk on a big, athletic perimeter player like Vesely makes sense right around here, but top five seems way too high for a guy whose best traits are being tall and running.
#15 Indiana Pacers – PF JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
SURPRISE! Bet you didn’t expect to see Johnson this high, did you? Honestly, neither did I…until I went through the prospect list and realized I hated everyone. Honestly, I love JaJuan’s game and I think he’s extremely underrated. His ability to step out and hit mid range shots will be extremely valuable. In Indiana’s case, they have bigger needs elsewhere, but my hatred for Jimmer (and my belief he will suck) prevents me from going that direction. Still, you can never have too many bigs, and Johnson’s length, shot blocking, and scoring touch would add a lot to their frontcourt.
#16 Philadelphia 76ers – C Nikola Vucevic, USC
I’m not totally sure what to think of Vucevic, but he’s really big and he can really rebound. Philly desperately needs some size and it seems like Vucevic might be a nice alternative to “Big Softy”, Spencer Hawes (I made the nickname up…can you tell?). Vucevic has a decent amount of bust potential, but at this point in the draft, who doesn’t?
#17 New York Knicks – PG Jimmer Fredette, BYU
Rumor has it that New York has been looking to trade up to get Jimmer. No need here. While a center might be a better fit for the woefully undersized Knicks, Vucevic was really the last quality center prospect on the board. Regardless, Jimmer could be a good fit in New York. They already give up a million points per game, so no one will notice/care that Jimmer is a human turnstile. On the positive side, Carmelo and Amare will be garnering most of the defensive attention, which means someone has to be able to knock down the open looks created for them. Can you think of anyone better than Jimmer? Didn’t think so.
#18 Washington Wizards – PF Marcus Morris, Kansas
A safe pick here. Marcus Morris isn’t likely to be an All-Star or anything, but he should be able to step in right away and contribute. While some people actually like his brother Markieff better, I think Marcus’ game is more refined and his skill level is noticeably higher. His ability to play on the perimeter and in the post makes him a valuable offensive weapon, though his lack of size and athleticism will severely limit what he can do. Think Nick Collison…and I don’t mean that as a knock!
#19 Charlotte Bobcats – SF Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
I was severely tempted to go ahead and get Markieff Morris out of the way here, but Honeycutt’s potential is too much to pass on…especially for a team like Charlotte. The Bobcats have badly need impact players and Honeycutt has talent, length, and skill to become one. He improved his shooting dramatically last year, but he simply has to get stronger if he’s going to have any kind of impact in the NBA. A year or two in the weight room, combined with some patience, and Charlotte might actually have something here.
#20 Minnesota Timberwolves – C Jeremy Tyler
This may seem like a stretch, but it makes sense for Minnesota. David Kahn has been stockpiling young players for years, and the last thing they need is another low ceiling rotation player like Markieff Morris. At some point, you have to stop hitting singles and doubles and swing for the fences. Tyler was a major prospect coming out of high school whose poor decision making ran him off course. By all accounts, it seems like he’s learned from his mistakes and gotten his head screwed on right. The odds of him panning out are probably low, but the potential reward is very high.
#21 Portland Trail Blazers – PG Darius Morris, Michigan
It seems likely that Andre Miller won’t be returning to the team next year, making point guard an obvious concern. Morris is an outstanding playmaker who possesses natural court vision and the ability to make his teammates better. He needs a lot of work on his jumpshot, but it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Given his size (6-5) and all around abilities, Morris could prove to be a huge steal here.
#22 Denver Nuggets – PF Markieff Morris, Kansas
For some reason, Denver apparently has its eyes on Tobias Harris. The thing is, Harris is really fat and he kinda sucks…so yeah, I’m going in a different direction. Markieff Morris is a relatively safe pick here. His offensive game need some refinement, but he has a solid inside-outside game and is an excellent low post defender and rebounder. At the worst, he should be able to come close to replicating what Kenyon Martin provided last year…at over $10 million cheaper.
#23 Houston Rockets – PG Josh Selby, Kansas
Here’s another extremely high risk, high reward pick. Selby was thoroughly unimpressive in his one year at Kansas, but injuries had a lot to do with that, as did Kansas’ system. His game really is well suited for the NBA. Maturity will obviously be a major question mark, but if he grew up at all from last season’s experience, then Houston might have something here.
#24 Oklahoma City Thunder – PF Bismack Biyombo, Spain
I struggled mightily in selecting Biyombo here, but this seemed like a logical destination for him. Biyombo is going to have a hard time transitioning to the NBA given his lack of experience. There will be little pressure to perform right away in OKC, and learning from fellow countryman (and most common NBA comp) Serge Ibaka could be a huge benefit. Biyombo’s ceiling is supposedly high (only seen him once) and he could serve as insurance in the event a new salary cap prevents OKC from extending Serge Ibaka past his rookie deal.
#25 Boston Celtics – Marshon Brooks, Providence
While there are plenty of knocks on Brooks, Boston badly needs someone who can create offense off the bench, and Brooks fits that bill. He’s been criticized for not leading his collegiate team to more victories, but that shouldn’t be an issue on a veteran team like Boston.
#26 Dallas Mavericks – PF Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania
Motiejunas has been on the NBA radar for years, and was projected as high as top ten only one year ago. Strength and consistency have reportedly been an issue for him, but he’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to learn in Dallas. A major benefit would be the ability to learn from Dirk Nowitzki, as Motiejunas is, himself, a sweet shooting seven footer. At this point, Dallas has plenty of veteran depth and needs to take chances on talented players. Motiejunas definitely fits that bill.
#27 New Jersey Nets – PF Trey Thompkins, Georgia
Thompkins lost a lot of fans with his underwhelming play last year at Georgia. As an avid follower of the SEC, I can tell you Thompkins was clearly out of shape and not playing up to his talent. At his best, he’s a strong, versatile power forward who would thrive in the pick and roll game and could very well crack a starting rotation in the NBA. At his worst, he’s a slightly shorter, not quite as fat version of Eddy Curry…who likes to shoot dumb jumpers.
#28 Chicago Bulls – PG Reggie Jackson, Boston College
Chicago badly needs three point shooting and Jackson shot over 40% last year at Boston College. In addition, Jackson gives Chicago an upgrade at the backup PG position and someone who could likely pair with Rose at certain times to take some of the ball handling pressure off of him.
#29 San Antonio Spurs – PF Tobias Harris, Tennessee
This isn’t so much a need pick as it is taking the best player left. I’m not the biggest fan of Harris due to his lack of size and athleticism, but he’s definitely skilled. San Antonio has gotten a lot out of these types of players in the past, and perhaps Harris could become a good piece for their future.
#30 Chicago Bulls – PF Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
No, Chicago doesn’t need anymore frontcourt help, but there’s not much else left other than international projects and overrated guards (Iman Shumpert anyone?). Leuer tested surprisingly well at the combine (36.5 vertical, legit 7-0) and could be undervalued, even at #30. He has a money jump shot, with range out the three point line, and would be a dangerous weapon in the pick and pop game. Leuer is likely never going to be a starter, as he simply can’t rebound or defend at a high enough level. He can, however, become a valuable big off the bench who can provide instant offense against the other teams second unit.