The NBA Draft is personally one of my favorite nights of the year in the sporting world. While it does not posses the same hype and buildup of its NFL counterpart and while Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony don’t have the same notability as Mel Kiper Jr and Mike Mayock, The Association’s draft day is as exciting. A new crop of players welcomed into the league, franchise’s histories changing for better or worse, and some suits from the Craig Sager and Walt Frazier collections. What could be better!
Well, now that I mention it, it would be nice if this draft class could be more talented… much more talented. In this class, scouts and GM’s see only two potential All Stars, some quality players, and then role guys/benchwarmers. And that’s just the first round. You know this draft’s bad when analyst say the 2000 one that had too many awful prospects for me to even list them here without taking up half a page. Let us all give a quick Darius Miles Head Bump in remembrance…
Ok, so on to this draft. While overall it features not a lot of superstar mold players, there is still good value in these picks and these kids will have a large impact on the present and future of this league. Like with all drafts, we will not be able to tell definitively who were the winners and losers until a couple years have passed. Finding this year’s diamond in the rough may be tougher than in past years, but GM’s will do whatever they think it takes to get their guy.
That’s why I see a lot of trades going down on Thursday night. With this group of prospects and their limited skills, certain players who maybe are worthy of being drafted at a certain spot, just don’t fit in with the team selecting there. Trust me, deals are going to happen frequently, even for the NBA Draft, which saw nine trades go down just that day. I’m confident in saying there will be more this year with how many teams seem interested in moving up or down.
With all these trade possibilities, it seems slightly pointless to even try a mock draft. But, in acting as if the selection order would go unaffected, here is my predictions on where the new wave of NBA players will be suiting up for the 2011-12 NBA season… if this looming lockout doesn’t destroy it. But we will save that maddening and depressing possibility for another day. Now on to some mock draft, you know, right after I smash my head into the keyboard thinking of a year of no basketball after this amazing season.
2011 NBA Mock Draft 1st Round
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Clippers)
PG, Duke, Freshman
19 years old, 6’3”, 190 lbs
Earlier this week, people debated whether it should be Derrick Williams of Arizona going first overall to the Cavs, with Dan Gilbert and his organization making it very unclear with who he would select. Even Enes Kanter of Turkey was brought in on numerous occasions to work out and meet with Cleveland. But all in all, the Cavs are going to take the most talented prospect in this class in my opinion with their first selection, a very safe and smart choice.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
PF, Arizona, Sophomore
20 years old, 6’9”, 250 lbs
If Minnesota finds themselves on the clock this Thursday with the #2 pick still, this pick should be Enes Kanter. But we are dealing with the T-Wolves and team president David Kahn, who’s made incompetent decision after incompetent decision since taking over the job in 2009. It’s not that I’m saying Williams is a bad player; he’s top two talent without a doubt in this draft. But tell me where he could fit in with this Wolves roster. Minny has a cluster of forwards, none of which Williams pairs up well with, and taking the sophomore from Arizona would be a poor fit. Putting him at power forward forces Kevin Love to get mismatched at Center on the defensive side of the ball every night with no big man to compliment him. And he and Michael Beasley are, well, Michael Beasley may honestly not match up well with a single player in the NBA. The Timberwolves have wanted to trade this pick for a much needed package of a veteran difference maker that can bring leadership to a locker room that hasn’t had any since Kevin Garnett left. If they can’t trade the pick, they’ll select the player nearly everyone would select there anyway and try to get a deal done post selection. Kahn has little leverage when GM’s (and Kahn himself) know his job’s in jeopardy and he needs to deal this pick to get past stage one of his rebuilding process with the Wolves. He’s already fired Coach Kurt Rambis, who lead Minnesota to a 32-132 record in two seasons and butted heads with players. But with K-Love’s breakout last year and Ricky Rubio finally joining the club, things could get better for the T-Wolves. Notice I said could.
3. Utah Jazz (From New Jersey)
PG, Kentucky, Freshman
19 years old, 6’3”, 180 lbs
Talent wise Kanter should fall here at three no problem but I can’t see why Utah would need him. Starters Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and the young project Derrick Favors (who’s still not even 20 years old) all need their minutes. Kanter doesn’t fit in Utah when the club has no need for players at his position. If they pick at the #3 spot, they pick Knight, who becomes the point guard of the future to replace the traded Deron Williams, as Devin Harris, who was acquired in the same D-Will trade, fills a stop gap as Knight better learns how to play the one in the NBA. If they swap the pick to a team who wants Kanter bad enough, they trade back into the first round to maybe the cultural rock star of the Mormon community, Jimmer Fredette.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
C, Turkey/Kentucky, Freshman
19 years old, 6’11”, 260
Kanter would join Irving in Cleveland and provide for a strong nucleus to join J.J. Hickson and the rebuilding effort since the departure of LeBron James last summer. The knock on the guy has been that because he had to sit out the entire season in Kentucky, he has very little game tape for anyone to go off of on how to judge how he should play as a pro. John Calipari says if he had played at UK, Kanter would be the number one pick in the draft. The prospect agreed, and he definitely has top pick skills. Great touch and a jumper for a big man, not an overly athletic big man, but a guy who moves quick for his height and weight and uses his strength well. But again, teams really can only look at his performances at the 2009 U-18 European Championship and Nike Hoop Summit (where he wiped the floor with Ohio St.’s Jared Sullinger) last year as evidence to his pro potential. That still may be enough to make Cleveland very happy with their first two selections.
5. Toronto Raptors
PF/C, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada (Spain)
18 years old, 6’9”, 240 lbs
The first surprise pick of the draft is the young big man originally from the Congo who goes to Toronto 5th overall. Scouts have reported this spot as Biyombo’s ceiling in the draft and the Raptors have held great interest in him throughout the draft process. He had an excellent workout with the club and GM Bryan Colangelo has always had a tendency to take international players, due to him and his staffs strong scouting practices of overseas players. New Head Coach and former Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey is defensive minded and a guy like Biyombo fits in with his ability to block shots and grab rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas could also go here, but issues with reaching a buyout with Lietuvos Rytus and wanting to stay in Lithuania for one more season before coming to play in America have his stock falling. Early mock drafts had Toronto going PG here with Kemba Walker, but in the last 24 hours, reports have the UConn guard falling out of the top 10 and the Raptors looking elsewhere. If Knight falls to five though, believe he will be a Raptor no doubt.
6. Washington Wizards
SF, KK Partican Belgrade (Serbia)
21 years old, 6’11”, 240
Vesely breaks the traditional Euro-player mold. He’s not a shooter (shot 30% from three, 49% FT ). He’s an explosive swingman. He may be 6’11”, but he sees himself as, and will be used in the league as a small forward. He throws down monstrous, powerful, Sports Center Top 10 dunks. He blocks shots with power. He runs the fast break tremendously. Hence, Washington makes tons of sense for him to land here and fills a team need. While his slasher-like, attacking game will work well with John Wall, he does need to develop his jumper and better his ball handling skills. The Wizards would love to see Kanter fall to them here, with management and Wall wanting to play with the Turkish prospect, but if they don’t land him, expect Vesely as the pick.
7. Sacramento Kings
PG, BYU, Senior
22 years old, 6’2”, 195
This pick could be moved as well as Sacramento has been talking trades with many teams about possibly moving both up or down. If they select at #7, Jazz fans be worried. The Maloof brothers who own the franchise like Jimmer and want to pair him up in a backcourt with 2009-10 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. People know Jimmer can shoot, but scouts are talking about his passing skills as well and how he was a pass first distributor when he first came to Provo. He also becomes a draw for the franchise to help their financially troubled owners maybe make some revenue. Kemba could go here by need, but all reports signal that he is falling out of the top 10 from scouts in the last 24 hours.
8. Detroit Pistons
C, Lietuvos Rytus
19 years old, 6’11”, 240 lbs
Valuencias is the best foreign player in this draft but due to a problem with his contract buyout, there is no chance he could play for the team that selects him this year. The fact that a team will not have their lottery pick this year will hurt and that’s why Jonas’ stock is falling out of the top 5. If he falls at eight to the Pistons though, Detroit should be very happy. They are going to be rebuilding next season anyway and while this means the Pistons will be awful next year, acquiring a player of Valuencias status would be very helpful in getting them a potential franchise center. Also, a team could trade up to take him if he falls this far. Texas power forward could also be the pick here, same with Biyombo if he’s on the board.
9. Charlotte Bobcats
SF, Florida State, Junior
21 years old, 6’9”, 230 lbs
Singleton is the best defensive player in this draft and apparently is the top forward on the Bobcats board. He definitely would help fill the role left by the departure of Gerald Wallace on the defensive end and can contribute on the offensive side of the ball as well. Team President Michael Jordan could also trade this pick as the Bobcats have taken any calls when hearing what they could get for this selection
10. Milwaukee Bucks
SG/SF, Washington St., Junior
21 years old, 6’7”, 205
This pick is another one being talked about in numerous trade possibilities, but I think Thompson is a great fit with Milwaukee. The Bucks need scoring, and that’s what the Cougar Junior brings to the table (21.6 ppg, 39.8% from three). Plus, he showed in workouts he can regularly hit the NBA three and has a high basketball IQ. He fits that Michael Redd type, maybe not as good a shooter, but that was worked out well for the Bucks before, and should again.
11. Golden State Warriors
PF, Texas, Freshman
20 years old, 6’9”, 230 lbs
The Warriors need size and a strong defensive player, especially with new coach Mark Jackson, who will try to teach Golden State there’s more to basketball than offense. Thompson may be young, but the kid is smart. In his lone year at Texas, he finished with a 4.0 GPA and the coaching staff said he was one of their favorite players they ever had at the program. Kemba Walker, who is falling and falling at this pace, could be scooped up here to be used as a trade asset as well.
12. Utah Jazz
SF, San Diego St., Sophomore
19 years old, 6’7”, 225
The direction the Jazz go with here depends a lot on whether they take Knight or Kanter with their first pick and if they find themselves in a situation where they can land Jimmer. With this set up, I see Leonard going to Utah where he could make a great impact, especially with the likely departure of Andrei Kirilenko. Leonard possesses a strong overall game and gigantic hands and he would be a strong pick for Utah, considering he very easily could’ve been a top 10 pick in this draft class.
13. Phoenix Suns
PF/SF, Kansas, Junior
21 years old, 6’9”, 230
Morris provides size and scoring to a Phoenix team that needs both. The Suns plan to replace Amar’e Stoudemire with Hakiem Warrick, Josh Childress, and resigning Channing Frye worked out terribly last season and the Suns frontcourt needs a boost. Morris is the best big man left at this spot and posses an athletic skill set that matches up well with PG Steve Nash, that is, if Nash is still with the team and not traded to a contender.
14. Houston Rockets
PF/C, USC, Junior
20 years old, 7’0”, 260
The Rockets need size and Vucevic gives them a presence at center, where Yao Ming will never play a injury free season the rest of his career and 6’6” Chuck Hayes isn’t getting the job done against bigger players. Vucevic provides the size and strength Houston needs, but if a forward like a Kawhi Leonard or a Tristan Thompson, Marcus Morris fall here, the Rockets would be happy to take them too.
I will be in attendance at the draft Thursday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ so I will be sure to wrap up the entire first round, highlights from draft day, and much more shortly after. Enjoy the draft.