What it may lack in talent, the 2011 NBA Draft makes up for in intrigue. No one can say with any certainty what any team will do with their pick. Regardless, John Mitchell and Brady Ford try their best to do just that.
John had the odds and Brady took the evens.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Kyrie Irving (PG/Duke)
This isn’t a great draft in terms of overall talent, and I think that Kyrie Irving is really the only sure thing out there. He’s pretty much a lock to be the first pick, and he should be. He’s an unselfish point guard, but he has an outstanding offensive game. He’s quick, and can knock down shots all over the court. I’ve seen comparisons to Deron Williams, and that’s not off-base. He has a ton of potential, and I fully expect him to make an immediate impact in Cleveland.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves — Derrick Williams (PF/Arizona)
Derrick Williams isn’t an ideal fit for Minnesota, so a trade either before or after the pick is made is likely, but Williams will almost certainly be the 2nd pick. Williams is a very good all-around prospect with no real weaknesses other than his status as a tweener, stuck between SF and PF. Despite this, he looks to be an impact player in the NBA. I don’t like Williams quite as much as some do, but I think he’ll at least be a Thaddeus Young-type who can be a very effective scorer by using his quickness to exploit mismatches at PF.
3. Utah Jazz — Brandon Knight (PG/Kentucky)
The Jazz have Devin Harris at point guard, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be the long term option in Salt Lake City. Brandon Knight has question marks, and will need to take better control of the ball to be a successful pro. But, he’s an impressive athlete, and has a much better jump shot than most rookie point guards. He won’t replace the production of Deron Williams, but I expect Knight to be an upgrade over Devin Harris.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers — Enes Kanter (C/PF/Turkey)
The Cavs were looking at Valanciunas at this spot, but with news breaking that he is very unlikely to play until the 2012-13 season, Kanter becomes the choice. Kanter is a fantastic talent, but he’s also never played college basketball and played less than 40 total minutes in the Euroleague, making him perhaps the biggest risk/reward prospect in this draft. Kanter played very well in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, thoroughly outplaying Jared Sullinger, and was also the MVP of the 2009 FIBA U18 World Championship. Whether or not he’s progressed as a player while sitting on the bench, we just don’t know.
5. Toronto Raptors — Kemba Walker (PG/UConn)
There weren’t many more productive college players than Kemba Walker, who capped off a great career by leading UConn to the National Championship. Kemba reminds me somewhat of Allen Iverson. He’s not quite on that level in terms of his quickness and ball-handling, but he plays a similar style. He has a very high ceiling, but he has a lower floor than both Irving and Knight.
6. Washington Wizards — Jan Vesely (SF/Czech Republic)
Jan Vesely defies many stereotypes of European basketball players, both positively and negatively. He’s an uber-athletic forward that throws down more dunks than he makes three pointers. While not a strength, his shooting ability is not a major weakness, except at the free throw line. With Vesely’s size and athleticism, he should be a very good player. He’s played over 1,200 minutes in the Euroleague with Partizan over the last few years, meaning he’s far more battle-tested than the other top international players. John Wall would love to play with a guy like Vesely.
7. Sacramento Kings — Jimmer Fredette (PG/BYU)
I think drafting Jimmer this high is a mistake, but the powers that be in Sacramento seem to be in love with Jimmer, and they are looking to add a point guard to join Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. With Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight already off the board, the Kings might look at the next best point guard option in Jimmer. I’m not sure he would solve their PG issues, because neither him or Tyreke Evans is a true PG. Jimmer was a prolific scorer at BYU, and has unlimited range with his jump shot, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to create his own shot at the NBA level, and he’s already thought of as a below average defender.
8. Detroit Pistons — Bismack Biyombo (PF/Congo)
Biyombo is a great fit for the Pistons, where he’d play alongside Greg Monroe, their lottery pick last year. Monroe, who averaged a double-double after the All-Star break, looks like he’ll be a Piston for a long time, and Biyombo is a perfect complement. What Monroe lacks defensively, Biyombo more than makes up for with his stellar athleticism, freakishly long arms, and outstanding shot-blocking ability. Biyombo led the ACB, the best league in the world after the NBA, in blocks before shattering the record for blocks at the Nike Hoop Summit.
9. Charlotte Bobcats — Jonas Valanciunas (C/Lithuania)
Originally, we had Valanciunas mocked 4th to the Cavaliers, but because of a buyout clause in his contract, he’s likely to remain in Lithuania for another year before coming to whichever NBA team selects him on Thursday night. That has caused Valanciunas to slip out of the top 5, but he’s still unlikely to fall out of the top 10. The Bobcats need a center, and they’re likely to pull the trigger on him even if he’s not able to play for a year. Valanciunas has great size, and is a very good athlete. He has some post moves that look solid, but they’ll need further development. He has a lot of potential, and some team in the top 10 will think he’s well worth the wait.
10. Milwaukee Bucks — Klay Thompson (SG/Washington State)
Milwaukee desperately needs scoring, and that’s what Thompson provides. Milwaukee finished dead last in points per game and field goal percentage. Thompson will struggle defensively and is not a very good athlete, but he’s a great shooter. He’ll make a positive impact immediately by spacing the floor and knocking down open shots.
11. Golden State Warriors — Marcus Morris (PF/Kansas)
Marcus Morris is a very versatile forward with a strong offensive game that should fit right in with Golden State. He has a good back to the basket game, and has a jump shot that extends out to around 20 feet. He’s a very hard worker and is a high intensity player. He gives it his all on both ends of the court. His length could be a problem in the NBA, but I expect Morris to have a very long NBA career. I doubt he’ll ever be a star, but he should be a terrific role player for years to come.
12. Utah Jazz — Kawhi Leonard (SF/San Diego State)
The Jazz will be grateful to get a player of Leonard’s caliber at 12. Leonard’s never going to be a star, but he will certainly be a great role player given his wingspan, athleticism, rebounding ability, and his high motor. Leonard will be a good replacement for Andrei Kirilenko, who will be a free agent this offseason.
13. Phoenix Suns — Tristan Thompson (PF/Texas)
If Tristan Thompson is available at #13, the Suns will almost surely take him. Thompson is a physical, athletic forward that would be a terrific fit to Phoenix’s style of play. He needs to add polish on the offensive end, and he is a terrible free throw shooter at this point in his career. He was an outstanding offensive rebounder at Texas, but he needs to add a little more effort on the defensive glass. He’s an above average defender, and would give the Suns a strong defensive frontcourt alongside Marcin Gortat.
14. Houston Rockets — Chris Singleton (SF/Florida State)
Singleton is a big lockdown defender who will be a great fit for Houston. The Rockets have Kevin Martin, who is an outstanding scorer, but struggles in the way of defense. Singleton is capable of defending multiple positions and taking on an opponent’s star scorer, the kind of player the Rockets lack now that Battier is gone. Singleton is a shaky offensive player, but his defensive value makes him worth it here.
15. Indiana Pacers — Marshon Brooks (SG/Providence)
A lot of teams covet Marshon Brooks for his scoring ability. He was 2nd in the nation last year, averaging just under 25 points per game. He has good size to be an NBA two-guard, and his ability to create his own shot should translate to the next level. If he wants to be successful on the next level, he’ll have to improve other facets of his game outside of scoring. He’s not a great passer, and he’s just an average defender.
16. Philadelphia 76ers — Markieff Morris (PF/Kansas)
The Philadelphia native Markieff Morris would be a very good fit for Philadelphia. The Sixers improved last year, but at times, their lack of toughness in the post was exposed. Morris addresses this and also adds his excellent rebounding ability and great shooting ability for a player of his size. Over his last 2 seasons at Kansas, Morris averaged more than a 3 point attempt per game and made 44.9% of those attempts.
17. New York Knicks — Donatas Motiejunas (PF/C/Lithuania)
The Knicks need an upgrade at center, Ronny Turiaf should not be a starter. Motiejunas has a lot of potential, and can score in a lot of different ways. He can score from the inside and out, and has range out to the three point line. He’s a very skilled big man, and possesses a very good passing ability out of the post. His style of play should be a great fit for the Knicks, who already have a back to the basket kind of player in Amare Stoudemire. Motiejunas will have trouble defending his position on the next level, and will need to add some weight to his frame or he will get pushed around in the post by opposing centers.
18. Washington Wizards — Alec Burks (SG/Colorado)
This would be a great pick for Washington. In my opinion Burks is the best shooting guard in this draft. He’s a good fit, as he would take some of the onus for creating offense off of John Wall’s shoulders. Burks is a streaky shooter, but he’s great at attacking off the dribble and has an innate knack for scoring.
19. Charlotte Bobcats — Jordan Hamilton (SF/Texas)
The Bobcats could address their need for perimeter scoring with the 9th pick, but if they can get Kanter there, and then Hamilton with the 19th pick, Charlotte fans should be very satisfied. Hamilton is an excellent scorer with unlimited range, shooting 38.5% from the three-point line last season at Texas. The Bobcats ranked 29th in the league last season averaging just 93.3 points per game, so they’ll be looking to add a scorer like Hamilton with one of their first round picks.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves — Nikola Vucevic (PF/C/USC)
Minnesota could use another center, and they could also use a guy who can fill Kevin Love’s role as a floor spacing big man when he’s off the floor. Vucevic fits the bill. He was the tallest player at the NBA scouting combine and is one of the best scoring big men in this draft. Vucevic’s lack of athleticism will likely keep him out of the lottery, but his skill level makes him a good value here.
21. Portland Trailblazers — Kenneth Faried (PF/Morehead State)
The Blazers could use depth at the 4, and Faried is high on their wish list at #21. Faried is undersized at just 6’7’’, but he makes up for that by playing with very high energy. He’s a very good athlete, and averaged over 13 rebounds per game at Morehead State last season. He’s also an above average defender that blocks shots thanks to his terrific timing of jump shots. He has a limited offensive game, but that could develop over time with good coaching. I see him as a similar player to Ronny Turiaf, but with a higher ceiling.
22. Denver Nuggets — Iman Shumpert (PG/SG/Georgia Tech)
Arguably, no player’s draft stock has rised faster than Shumpert’s since the season ended. While not a pure point guard, by any stretch, Shumpert is getting a lot of attention for his considerable size (6’6”) and his ability to defend multiple positions. Denver could use a player capable of playing SG in their rotation as J.R. Smith and Arron Afflalo are both free agents this offseason.
23. Houston Rockets — Justin Harper (PF/Richmond)
After taking a lockdown defender with their lottery pick in Chris Singleton, the Rockets could use the 23rd pick on a combo forward with great range. Harper can knock down shots out to the 3 point line, and has excellent foot speed to beat defenders off the dribble. The problem with Harper is that he really doesn’t have a position in the NBA. He’s not big enough to defend power forwards on the next level, and he’s not quick enough to defend small forwards. If Harper wants to stick around in the NBA, he’ll need to bulk up so he can be a full-time 4.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder — Nikola Mirotic (PF/Montenegro)
I think Nikola Mirotic could be the biggest steal in this draft. Mirotic emerged as a go-to-guy in crunch time for Real Madrid this season, which is extremely impressive for such a young player on one of the best teams in Europe. He was crucial in propelling Real Madrid to the Euroleague Final Four. Mirotic is a gifted scorer, with a great jump shot with 3 point range as well as excellent touch around the basket. Mirotic is a very efficient scorer, shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from 3 point range in the ACB. He drops this low due to his prohibitive buyout of nearly $3 million, meaning he will likely not play in the NBA for at least 2 years.
25. Boston Celtics — Tobias Harris (SF/PF/Tennessee)
Tobias Harris could be a steal at 25, with a lot of potential. He’s only 18-years-old, and has plenty of time to develop the rest of his game. He lacks one true above average skill at this point. He has range to the NBA three point line, but his jump shot isn’t very consistent right now, and he lacks a true low post game. He’s an undersized 4, but he has a frame that could support some extra weight. He’s a very hard worker that should fit right in with Boston.
26. Dallas Mavericks — Davis Bertans (SF/Latvia)
Davis Bertans is one of the best shooters in this draft, and that along with his height (6’10.5” in shoes) and age (he doesn’t turn 19 until November) makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. Bertans may not be able to contribute immediately due to his youth and skinniness, but the reigning champs can afford to weight and he has the potential to be a very productive NBA player, or at least a decent role player given his shooting ability.
27. New Jersey Nets — Tyler Honeycutt (SF/UCLA)
Honeycutt is a terrific athlete, and he may not last to the Nets pick at #27. If he does, then it’s very likely New Jersey pulls the trigger on him, despite his subpar workout for the team. He’s a strong defender, and has the length to defend multiple positions in the NBA. He’s a good rebounder for his size, and an outstanding shot blocker, averaging 2.1 blocks per game at UCLA last season. The knock on Honeycutt is that he’s only 187 pounds. He won’t be able to defend players in the post, and that will take away from his game. His scoring ability is really inconsistent, and he’s not a great shooter.
28. Chicago Bulls — Reggie Jackson (PG/Boston College)
C.J. Watson performed ably as Derrick Rose’s back-up this season, but Chicago could use another scorer in their backcourt, and that’s what Jackson provides. Jackson is a very good athlete with a freakishly long wingspan. That wingspan and his athleticism should enable him to guards SGs and be able to play alongside Derrick Rose. Jackson isn’t a “pure point guard” and hasn’t participated in many workouts or the combine, which is why he’s not picked higher.
29. San Antonio Spurs — Trey Thompkins (PF/Georgia)
The Spurs need to add depth in the frontcourt, and Trey Thompkins would do just that. Thompkins is a very athletic four, that can score from the inside and out. He’s not a great athlete, but he can still finish around the rim. His poor lateral movement takes away from his game, and he’ll more than likely be a role player in the NBA. Thompkins will get the luxury of learning from the best power forward in NBA history, Tim Duncan.
30. Chicago Bulls — Travis Leslie (SG/Georgia)
Travis Leslie is one of the best athletes in this draft. He’s wowed the SEC over the last 3 years with his many highlight reel dunks. What hurts Leslie is that he’s only 6’4” and is not much of an offensive threat outside of those dunks. The team that drafts Leslie is hoping he can channel his athleticism into lockdown defense, much like Tony Allen, a player with similar strengths and weaknesses, has done.
31. Miami Heat — Shelvin Mack (PG/Butler)
32. Cleveland Cavaliers — Kyle Singler (SF/Duke)
33. Detroit Pistons — Chandler Parsons (SF/Florida)
34. Washington Wizards — Jeremy Tyler (C/Tokyo Apache)
35. Sacramento Kings — JaJuan Johnson (PF/Purdue)
36. New Jersey Nets — Charles Jenkins (PG/Hofstra)
37. Los Angeles Clippers — Jimmy Butler (SF/Marquette)
38. Houston Rockets — Darius Morris (PG/Michigan)
39. Charlotte Bobcats — Nolan Smith (PG/SG/Duke)
40. Milwaukee Bucks — Josh Selby (SG/PG/Kansas)
41. Los Angeles Lakers — Jordan Williams (PF/Maryland)
42. Indiana Pacers — Keith Benson (PF/Oakland)
43. Chicago Bulls — Bojan Bogdanovic (SF/Croatia)
44. Golden State Warriors — Greg Smith (C/Fresno State)
45. New Orleans Hornets — Malcolm Lee (SG/UCLA)
46. Los Angeles Lakers — David Lighty (SG/Ohio State)
47. Los Angeles Clippers — Jon Leuer (PF/Wisconsin)
48. Atlanta Hawks — Norris Cole (PG/Cleveland State)
49. Memphis Grizzlies — Michael Dunigan (C/BC Kalev/Cramo)
50. Philadelphia 76ers — Scotty Hopson (SG/Tennessee)
51. Portland Trailblazers — Ben Hansbrough (PG/SG/Notre Dame)
52. Detroit Pistons — Demetri McCamey (PG/Illinois)
53. Orlando Magic — Rick Jackson (PF/Syracuse)
54. Cleveland Cavaliers — E’Twuan Moore (SG/Purdue)
55. Boston Celtics — Matthew Bryan-Amaning (PF/Washinton)
56. Los Angeles Lakers — Andrew Goudelock (PG/College of Charleston)
57. Dallas Mavericks — Isaiah Thomas (PG/Washington)
58. Los Angeles Lakers — Julyan Stone (PG/UTEP)
59. San Antonio Spurs — Adam Hanga (SG/SF/Hungary)
60. Sacramento Kings — Giorgi Shermadini (C/Georgia)