Wednesday, May 18, 2011
2011 NBA Mock Draft Version Alpha: Just The Tip
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (from LA Clippers)-Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
Irving has been the consensus #1 pick since Jared Sullinger returned to Ohio State for his sophomore season, and was probably even the prohibitive favorite to be the top pick before Sullinger's decision. The Cavs apparently love the kid, and in this draft, there's little reason for them not to. Let's just hope they have better luck with this Blue Devil than they did with Danny Ferry and Trajan Langdon. Also, what does it say about the quality of this draft that the overwhelming consensus best player would probably be the fifth best point guard of the last three drafts (behind Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, John Wall, and (maybe) Ty Lawson)?
2. Minnesota Timberwolves-Derrick Williams, PF/SF, Arizona
David Kahn continues his newest positional infatuation with wings (just at last season's draft, Kahn added Wesley Johnson with the 3rd pick, and then traded for the exact same player in the form of Martell Webster). Or did he? By accident or fate, Williams is not the wing Kahn so desperately craves, but instead a less-talented version of another player on Kahn's roster, Michael Beasley. Williams lacks the height to be a true 4, but also lacks the athleticism and ball-handling to be a wing. If he were more of a lesser Carmelo Anthony than a better J.J. Hickson, the wing-hungry Cavs would have to give serious consideration to taking the former Wildcat #1. Things being what they are, though, Williams heads to Minnesota. The question now becomes will the Wolves dare throw out a front court of Beasley, Williams, and Kevin Love? Only in Minnesota Kahn such a dark, twisted fantasy even be possible.
(It also should be mentioned that Williams essentially shot 60-75-57 (FG/FT/3PT), which if I had time to research I would probably discover hasn't been done too often.)
3. Utah Jazz (from New Jersey)-Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
In 2005, the Jazz traded up to the #3 pick to select a point guard to replace their departed perennial All-Star at that same position. Their pick ended up being Deron Williams, whose stock rose meteorically on the strength of his Illinois team's run to the National Championship Game. Now, in 2011, the Jazz are sitting at #3 by virtue of a trade, with the departure of a perennial All-Star point guard leaving a dent on the roster (Devin Harris can probably hold down the fort for a few seasons, so it's not the gaping hole the position was following John Stockton's retirement), and the Jazz have not one but two players whose stocks have risen with the respective runs of their college teams in the NCAA tournament. One is a bigger guard in a similar mold to Williams, but whose team fell one game shy of reaching the same heights as the 2005 Fighting Illini. The other is a tiny fellow, but who nearly single-handedly led his team to the ultimate prize, the national championship. So who do the Jazz take? If you already read the bold typeface above, you know it's Knight, the larger guard, who could actually play in the same backcourt as Harris on occasion.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers-Enes Kanter, C, Kentucy
With their second pick in the top 5, the Cavs take a gamble on Kanter, a legit big man (6-10, 255) who has played only two competitive games of basketball in the past two years. So why is he even being considered a top 5 pick? Well, prior to his long journey to the draft (which you can read about here, assuming you're an ESPN Insider and not some cheapskate), Kanter was the MVP of the 2009 FIBA 18-Under Championships, and one of those two competitive games he played happened to be the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit, where he destroyed Jared Sullinger to the tune of a Summit record 34 points and 13 rebounds in only 22 minutes. Yes, there is risk involved in taking a 19-year old who hasn't played a meaningful minute of basketball in over a year, but in a draft this weak, taking a chance on one of the few players with a chance to be above-average is a necessity. Besides, by using the first pick on the surest thing in the draft, the Cavs buy themselves some leeway with this second pick. (Another possibility along that same line of thinking is Bismack Biyombo, which is intriguing if for no other reason than he would give the Cavs a stranglehold on Congolese players, along with Christian Eyenga).
5. Toronto Raptors-Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic
Armed with the job security of a brand new 3-year extension, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo continues his quixotic quest to assemble the greatest Euroleague team ever with the selection of another tall Euro in the lottery. Vesely, however, is the antithesis to Andrea Bargnani, as the former is a willing and able finisher at the rim where the latter is a 7-foot spot-up shooter. Vesely also is more of an athlete than Bargnani, and may actually fit in a defensively-challenged tri-towers front line alongside Andrea and last year's 1st round pick, Ed Davis.
6. Washington Wizards-Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
Leonard provides some defensive intensity to a Wizards team that had none last season, and should be a nice running mate for John Wall in the open floor. Leonard is still a work-in-progress in the offensive half-court, but with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford on his team, Leonard won't have to worry about shooting much anyway. I do find it amusing (I suppose) that the entire time I was reading Chad Ford's scouting report of Leonard I couldn't help but think that he sounds like a poor man's Derrick Williams, and yet here he is, the 6th pick in the draft.
7. Sacramento Kings-Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
Can Walker really be expected to contribute any better than another diminutive point guard--JJ Barea--has this postseason? And even if he can, is an effective 3rd (actually, considering Jason Terry shares the bench with Barea, 4th) guard really worth the 7th overall pick? In this draft, yes.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Detroit)-Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
In the first shocker of my mock draft, the Pistons decide it's better to rid themselves of Rip Hamilton and his contract than pick the 8th best player in a bad draft. The Cavs use their LeBron trade exception and Dan Gilbert's money to get one of the best pure scorers in the draft. Hamilton has shot-selection issues, but any ability to take and make shots from the perimeter is welcome in Byron Scott's anemic offensive attack. I would also love to see the Cavs somehow wrangle Kenneth Faried, but #8 seems too high for him.
9. Charlotte Bobcats-Jonas Valanciunas, PF, Lithuania
I don't know anything about Jonas other than that he has contract issues with his Euro club that will probably prevent him from coming stateside anytime soon, which means that Michael Jordan won't have to pay him for a few seasons, which makes him an ideal pick for the Bobcats.
10. Milwaukee Bucks-Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
It's too bad Valanciunas went a pick earlier, because the Bucks don't really have room for any rookies on their log-jammed roster. Ideally, Biyombo will marinate in the D-League for awhile until the inevitable Andrew Bogut injury leaves the Bucks thin up front. Biyombo has potentially the highest upside of any player in this draft, as his 12-point, 11-rebound, 10 block (!) performance in this past April's Nike Hoop Summit attests.
11. Golden State Warriors-Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
A year after taking Ekpe Udoh to be an athletic, defensive-minded, shot-blocking front-line compliment to the rest of their chaotic free-wheeling assemblage, the Warriors take another athletic, defensive-minded, shot-blocking front-line piece. This says more about the value of Thompson at 10 than anything negative about Udoh, who had his rookie season tainted by injury and could still turn into a productive player.
12. Utah Jazz-The Jimmer
As if there is any doubt this is happening.
13. Phoenix Suns-Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
A soft 6-9 tweener with superb 3-point range? Seems like a match made in heaven for a team that starts Channing Frye.
14. Houston Rockets-Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
An undersized tough-as-nails banger who rebounds better than anyone in college basketball history? Seems like a match made in heaven for a team that starts Chuck Hayes.