With the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring after this season, the NBA could be in for major changes.
Despite strong evidence to the contrary (including a higher than expected salary cap), the owners claim to be losing money. This sticky situation could be a large contributor to the outcome of the 2011 Draft.
Many players may avoid the draft completely if the one year rule is eliminated. That would allow both high school seniors and first-year students to enter the draft and create an extremely deep draft.
While it's hard to imagine the NBA having another lockout, there are endless possibilities.
The only thing that is clear is this: With 13 freshmen projected to go in the first round, this season will be all about the youngsters.
How much can you say about the Lakers?
After winning back-to-back titles, they added the effectively irritating Matt Barnes to an already stout defensive team. They landed a steal when West Virginia product Devin Ebanks fell to them in the second round.
They even managed to shore up their point guard play with the addition of Steve Blake. What’s more? Their franchise player signed a contract extension rather than fleeing for the shores of South Beach (Sorry Cleveland, it's going to be a long year.).
This team doesn't have any holes and can afford to draft the best player available, or more likely, they will address their comparatively weak point guard situation.
Maalik Wayns out of Villanova could be the permanent solution for when Derek Fisher retires.
The Raptors are in an unenviable position of being strapped for cash without having any chance of contending. They are in need of an NBA-ready player who can step in and jump on the court immediately.
Enter Jimmer Fredette. This 6'2" Senior point guard averaged 22 points per game last season at BYU while knocking down an astounding 44 percent of his long distance shots.
Fredette could start out of the gate and after seeing Jose Calderon offered around this offseason, a deadline deal for the Spanish-born point guard seems quite plausible.
The big three are no more.
Sorry to break the news like this, you deserved a phone call. Really though, if you watched a single Celtics game last year, you know this is Rajon Rondo's team.
The freakishly athletic point guard set the Celtics single season record for both steals and assists, beating out some impressive company.
That said, point guard is the only position the Celtics are set at. This team of AARP eligible players needs an infusion of youth; otherwise, the team's transition two years from now could be uglier than Sly Stallone dressed in drag.
An upside pick like Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney could be just what this aging franchise is looking for.
Their all-NBA center doesn't have a post game and their head coach looks like a porn star. So why is this team choosing so late in the draft?
The Magic have thrived by playing tough D, and by unloading a barrage of three balls. The "other" Florida basketball team led the league in three-point attempts and makes last season, and if they drafted another shooter I would not be surprised.
But what should they do?
With the overpaid and underperforming Rashard Lewis doing his best imitation of a vacuum, the Magic are in need of some production at the four spot. Howard is constantly the only Magic player in the paint, fighting for rebounds. A little help could go a long way.
North Carolina's John Henson was a highly touted recruit who vastly underperformed last season, but the 6'10" Henson is extremely talented, with an almost guard-like skill set.
He would need to bulk up and add strength to his frame, but a unique talent like Henson is too good to pass up late in the first round.
While the teaming of Melo and Melo in Denver seems to be a match made in heaven, Fab might end up taking his talents south to the Lone Star State.
The 7'0" center seems like overkill for the deep Dallas frontcourt, but the actions of Mark Cuban and his henchmen never cease to amaze me.
Maybe it's seeing Raef LaFrentz and Erick Dampier getting over $70 million apiece. Maybe it's Brendan Haywood's new astronomical deal. Maybe it's trading for Tyson Chandler and still drafting a 7'0" center.
Mark Cuban spends more money on marginal big men than most nations spend on education. So next June when history repeats itself, at least you can say you saw it coming.
With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green, the Thunder have a young nucleus for years to come. Throw in fellow youngsters James Harden, Eric Maynor, and rookie Cole Aldrich and you have a team that can compete for the next decade.
But the team has a problem. Power forward Jeff Green is a true small forward playing out of position at the four and Nenad Krstic neither rebounds nor swats shots.
The Thunder need a big man, but who?
Many of you have never heard of Greg Smith, but give it a few months. This Frenso native averaged only 11.5 and 5.8 rebounds but has the skill set to develop into a nice NBA player. Smith has a huge frame, which combined with great strength, makes him nearly immovable in the post.
Add in soft hands, NBA athleticism, and a quick first step and you have a great upside pick. He is extremely raw, but has a strong work ethic as he works tremendously hard to develop his game.
There are tons of NBA players drafted on potential, but Smith is worth the risk.
Year after year the Spurs remain relevant. Tim Duncan gets slower every season, and yet the team continues to win. Why?
General Manager RC Buford is amongst the best in the game at evaluating talent both domestically as well as overseas. The Spurs have a strong track record of picking the best player available as they rarely have to draft for need.
That may change next year. With Tony Parker's looming free agency and his expressed desire to leave for New York, we may witness the end of an era. Perhaps by drafting Kemba Walker they can smooth that transition.
Walker has a slick handle combined with world class speed and quickness. Those traits allow him to create great space between himself and his defender, which unfortunately his poor jump shot keeps him from capitalizing on.
He's undersized, which may scare of some GM's, but if you've watched him dunk, you realize he compensates quite well for his height.
Tony Parker is as quick as they come. It's fair to think his replacement will follow in kind.
The Bulls made great strides this offseason signing Carlos Boozer, the post presence they have been lacking for years. In addition, Chicago signed sharp shooter Kyle Korver, defensive dynamo Ronnie Brewer, and former Warrior C.J. Watson.
The Bulls find themselves with a stud young point guard in Derrick Rose and a talented, young, frontcourt featuring Luol Deng, Boozer, and Joakim Noah.
Unfortunately with Kirk Hinrich gone, the shooting guard slot is quite uncertain. Brewer and Korver bring distinctively different aspects to the game, but neither offer what Travis Leslie can.
This 20-year-old defies physics. His combination of strength and leaping ability make him a SportsCenter highlight waiting to happen.
More likely to succeed as a lockdown defender than offensive juggernaut, Leslie's high motor makes him comparable to current Grizzly Tony Allen, but with greater potential.
With the 22nd pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select...Kyle Singler.
It just sounds right doesn't it? Maybe not as fitting as the Indiana Pacers, but I digress.
Singler is one of the few players in this draft that people have heard of or seen play. It’s bizarre. In this freshman-laden draft class, Singler is probably the best senior available.
Standing 6'9", Kyle Singler's high release point makes him all but unblockable. His 40 percent shooting from downtown is what will keep Singler in the league for years to come. KS12 can create space off the dribble at this level, but it's his ability to catch and shoot that will make him a weapon in Utah as it looks to replace Kyle Korver.
Singler lacks elite athleticism or foot speed and will struggle to defend on the next level. He's too slow to guard small forwards and too weak to guard power forwards.
Then again, that's what people said about J.J. Redick coming out of college, and he just inked himself a three-year, $19 million contract.
Singler is hard working and fills a unique niche. Expect a long, albeit quiet, career.
The Blazers are an interesting team to draft for.
They have size with Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, and Joel Pryzbylla. They have guards like Andre Miller, Brandan Roy, and Rudy Fernandez. They have pieces both young and old at nearly all positions.
The closest thing to a need they have is a backup point guard. A young team with balance like that can afford to take the best player available, and Alec Burks is just that.
At 6'6", Burks has ideal shooting guard size. This athletic sophomore can score in any number of ways, whether it be stepping back for a jump shot or following up some dribble penetration with a thunderous dunk.
Burks is a phenomenal defender whose lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of any offensive player.
As a freshman, Burks averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game on a jaw dropping 54 percent shooting. If he can improve on his stellar rookie campaign, Burks is a player who could soar up draft boards.
I know what you're thinking. A first round pick out of La Salle?
That seems less likely than Steve Buscemi grazing the cover of People as the sexiest man alive, but Aaric Murray is out to disprove naysayers.
Murray's 12.2 and 6.6 seem quite pedestrian, but watch him play for a while and you'll see why scouts are fixated on this under-the-radar recruit.
At 6'10", 250 pounds, Murray shot 36 percent from downtown as a freshman while blocking 2.3 shots per game.
He has a soft touch around the basket, and an offensive arsenal which includes a sweet looking hook shot. He may not be a phenomenal athlete, but the Hawks roster is already overrun with the likes of Al Horford and Josh Smith. His work ethic has been doubted, but his skill set is unquestionable.
It's still early, but don't be surprised to hear David Stern call out the La Salle product come next June.
It's tough to rate a player solely based on YouTube highlights and scouting reports, but this 18-year-old Lithuanian is soaring up draft boards.
The key word for Valanciunas is potential. At 6'10" or 6'11" he runs the floor easily with great fluidity, while his long wingspan makes him a capable defender.
He has wide shoulders, which make scouts think he can add muscle to his slight frame, and some even speculate Jonas is not done growing yet.
Jonas has a high basketball IQ and a nice jump shot that extends out to 15 feet, allowing many observers to compare Jonas to a young Pau Gasol.
Valanciunas could go much higher, however the fact that he has not played against stiffer competition could scare off potential suitors.
The Nuggets are aging upfront with Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson, and JV could be the perfect replacement.
Despite the Knicks offseason acquisition of Raymond Felton to handle point guard duties, CoJo may be the perfect fit.
The Texas-bound frosh has the complete game. Great knowledge and feel. Phenomenal athleticism. Seemingly unlimited range. Elite defense. Put this man in an up-tempo offense, sit back, and enjoy the show.
The Knicks agreed to swap 2011 draft picks with Houston as part of the Tracy McGrady trade, and if they could still grab Joseph with the pick, Knicks brass would be ecstatic.
Felton's deal is two years with an option on the third, making him an excellent trade chip and a very expendable player.
If you had told me a year ago that I'd rank the Bucks as a playoff team and not a high lottery team I'd be flabbergasted. In fact, I'd have been less surprised if Sandra Bullock won an academy award...oh wait, nevermind.
While nobody is going to mistake the Bucks for a title contender, they do have a few very appealing pieces in place. With Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut as the team's centerpieces, and veteran additions such as John Salmons, Drew Gooden, and Corey Maggette, the Bucks look bound for the playoffs for yet another year.
The next piece this team needs is an explosive wing. Despite the addition of Maggette, the Bucks could use a show stopper. Enter Rodney Williams.
The Minnesota product averaged only 4.3 points per game as a highly touted freshman, so why the hype? The kid's somewhat athletic. He's somewhat athletic in the same way Scarlett Johansson is somewhat attractive. He turns layup lines into a spectacle to behold.
At 6'7", 200 pounds, he has an ideal frame and with consistent playing time could turn in an impressive sophomore campaign. Plus, I mean, he dunked over the mascot. Wicked.
The Bucks are improving, but if they want to make a deep playoff run, they need to start swinging for the fences.
It's nearly impossible to project the success of the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James. For seven years he did everything on the court. Scoring. Dropping dimes. Picking pockets. Swatting shots. No matter what aspect of the game, he was the best on the team.
Now, the Cavs are left with a scrap heap of role players with nobody to lead them. There is talent, but this team was built around James. Without him they have no identity.
Luckily for the people of Cleveland, the Eastern Conference is extremely weak. If I were the GM of Cleveland, I would be in rebuilding mode now. Dump the contracts of Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao and try shedding salary while adding draft picks. As that does not appear to be in the cards, perhaps just finding a suitable replacement to play small forward is in order.
Tony Mitchell could be that guy. The 6'7" freshman may have an unorthodox jumper, but the spring in his step makes him a compelling prospect. The 12th ranked prospect on Rivals.com, Mitchell appears to be one of many players prepared to go one and done.
Mitchell finishes well around the rim, rebounds well for his position, and displayed the capability to be a lock down defender.
Nobody can replace LeBron's production, but Mitchell is the type of high upside player that Cleveland needs to target.
He has his name on a flag. Isn't that enough to validate him? No? What about the fact he's 6'11", shoots the three ball, can run in transition, or beat his man off the dribble with an explosive first step?
Vesely is currently being projected as a top 10 pick, but as anybody who follows mock drafts can tell you, they often cool off as the season progresses. In fact, with Vesely's contract expiring in 2013, he may very well be drafted next year, then be left to develop overseas.
Still, folks in Houston would be thrilled if Vesely makes it to them next year.
With Yao Ming's career in peril, Houston could use another big man. They locked down Luis Scola this offseason, but Brad Miller holding down the low block won't lead to any championships.
Vesely has all the tools and has produced relatively well in the extremely competitive Euroleague. Scouts compare Jan to fellow import Yi Jianlan, but his raw game and sublime athleticism is reminiscent of a taller Andrei Kirilenko.
Hopefully he's as motivated to play in the NBA as teams are to draft him; otherwise we'll have another Fran Vazquez on our hands.
It's beginning to look like the end of an era. With Amar'e Stoudemire in New York and the Western Conference seemingly improving every year, the window on the Suns looks to be closed.
In fact, for the first time since Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix, the Suns could be watching the playoffs from the outside.
Their first order of business? Finding an athletic young big man to fill the void left by Amare's exodus. Enter Derrick Williams. The local product burst onto the scene as a freshman last season averaging 15.7 and 7.1 on an extraordinary 57 percent shooting; almost leading an undermanned Arizona team back to the NCAA tournament.
The versatile Williams can play either the 3 or the 4 at the NBA level, making him an ideal fit for Phoenix's up-tempo attack. Williams runs the floor well and finishes deftly at the rim, making him a suitable albeit inferior replacement for Stat.
Of course, if Nash retires or the team undergoes an offensive philosophy change, Williams could be out. Until then, the Zona product should look good in orange and black.
Buford can bring a lot to this team. The 6'5" Buckeye is more well rounded than Kim Kardashian's derrière.
Playing in the shadow of Evan Turner, Buford averaged 14.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists as a sophomore. With Turner playing in Philadelphia now, this is Buford's team.
WB has good size for a NBA two-guard, with great agility and a gorgeous jump shot. He'll be able to take pressure off Wall with his ability to create, but is also comfortable coming off screens or catch-and-shooting.
Buford has barely scratched the surface as far as his potential is concerned, and should be in line for a breakthrough season as a junior.
Donald Sterling is still the owner. That's the bad news. The good news is this is an improving team finally looking to make headway in a competitive conference.
With last year's top overall pick back and healthy, the Clippers have a very sound lineup. The team enters the season with its only questions regarding rookie Al-Farouq Aminu at the small forward position and the health of franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin.
It could solve both dilemmas by drafting NC State freshman CJ Leslie. One of the most athletic players in the nation, Leslie plays the game almost entirely above the rim. While his ability to drive coast-to-coast impresses most scouts, it is his fierce offensive rebounding and put-back dunks that are most awe-inspiring.
His length makes him a potential nightmare on the defensive end, and because he doesn't require the ball to be effective, he should fit in immediately on this young and talented Clipper team. Now if only it could find a new owner, this team might actually make the playoffs.
The Grizzlies are another team without a true need. They have young talent at every position on the floor with Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Xavier Henry, O.J. Mayo, and Marc Gasol all being wet behind the ears. While point guard may be one of the more pressing concerns, Zach Randolph and his expiring contract may be the most crucial issue.
Trey Thompkins, a junior, dropped 17.7 points and 8.3 boards last season while displaying range from deep. That type of NBA-ready game make him a perfect fit for the now relevant Grizzlies.
In fact, Thompkins considered declaring for the Draft last season and was considered a first round lock, yet he chose to return to Georgia where he could continue to refine his game. That type of dedication makes him a safe pick and a perfect addition for Memphis.
No, I didn't just smash my fist against the keyboard; Donatas Motiejunas is in fact a Lithuanian big man considered a lock to be drafted in the lottery.
The seven foot import was thought to be a lottery pick last season before pulling his name out at the last moment. Feeling that another season overseas was necessary, as his body was not ready for the physical NBA game, Motiejunas should return bigger and stronger than ever before.
D-Mo (as he'll here forth be referred) has been oft compared to fellow European big man Andrea Bargnani. With an array of post moves, good foot work and a stellar jump shot, that comparison may prove very accurate.
Unfortunately, D-Mo has such a phenomenal skill set, he has been known to phone it in. If he wants to succeed in the NBA, he will need to devote himself, or end up another Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
The Sixers passed on DaMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors this year in favor of Evan Turner. With a need for a post presence, Russell Crowe doppelganger D-Mo could be a perfect fit.
The Hornets are in dire need of an athletic wingman, and luckily there is a plethora of talented shooting guards and small forwards in next year’s Draft.
Whether their draft pick will play with disgruntled star Chris Paul remains up in the air, but the Hornets simply lack playmakers. Tobias Harris would fill that void in a hurry.
The future Volunteer was ranked the number seven freshman by three major publications (Rivals.com, Scout.com, and HoopsMasters) and with good reason. Harris is extremely strong and will likely play power forward in college, but his skill set is that of a guard, making him a potential matchup nightmare.
While Harris is not the athletic freak that other McDonald's All-Americans are, he is a highly skilled and intelligent player. Coaches have passionately applauded his work ethic, and that has helped in his transition from post player to wing prospect.
With a good shooting touch and great versatility, Harris should be a great addition to any team.
Rodney Stuckey and rookie Greg Monroe are locked into their roster positions. Anybody else is expendable.
The Pistons are currently in a state of transition, having traded away Chauncey Billups, watched Rasheed Wallace leave and eventually retire, and beheld the downfall of Richard Hamilton. With Tayshaun Prince's $12 million contract coming off the books at year's end and the team desperately shopping Rip Hamilton, the Pistons could find themselves with some payroll flexibility.
Undoubtedly regretting the exorbitant contracts given to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, the Pistons are a walking contradiction. They are simultaneously looking to rebuild while staying competitive. Drafting Brandon Knight would satisfy on both fronts.
The 6'3" point guard won the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year Award in 2009 and 2010, becoming only the third junior to win the prestigious award. Knight's list of accomplishments is vast and includes hitting the game-winning three in this year's McDonald's All-American game, as well as averaging 31.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and three steals per game as a Junior.
Knight is more of a scoring point guard and would do an excellent job complementing the bigger Stuckey.
Knight should provide immediate impact and could be a steal if he slips to eight.
I've heard Larry Brown say his ideal team is composed of five 6'8" players who can run, jump, and handle the ball. It would certainly explain many of the team's transactions.
Unfortunately at some point you need real size, and that is what Jared Sullinger brings to the table. ESPN's second ranked freshman, Sullinger is an absolute force down low, a throwback to the bangers of the '80s.
He is the strongest player in his class and probably the best rebounder as well. Sullinger is not only a banger, but very skilled post player. His repertoire includes a nice mid-range jumper, great hands, high intelligence, and terrific passing.
Many sites have Sullinger as a top three pick, but his 6'11" wingspan and lack of elite athleticism does hinder his value slightly.
Sullinger is just the type of presence the Bobcats desperately need, and they would be happy to snatch him up at seven.
The Kings have quickly transformed into my favorite team to watch. They have shrewdly drafted the past three years, adding players like Tyreke Evans, DaMarcus Cousins, and to a lesser extent Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, and Hassan Whiteside.
This team runs the floor extremely well and allows anybody to lead the break. Young. Fast. Athletic. The next move is to fortify their half-court game, and a big man like Kanter is the perfect fit.
Kanter has an impossibly strong body, and has been dominating European competition for years. Recently, Kanter put up 18.6 ppg and 16.4 rpg and was named MVP of the 2009 under-18 European Championships.
While he is not a phenomenal athlete, he does a great job of using his body to gain position and has all the makings of an exceptional NBA center.
The Warriors are run quite differently than the majority of NBA teams. While the average franchise puts together a team it thinks can compete for a championship, the Warriors under GM Larry Riley play for ratings. They play for ticket sales. They play so ESPN will broadcast their games.
Their run and gun offense is admittedly entertaining, but they will never win a title. While they are in dire need of a big man such as Enes Kanter or Jared Sullinger, it is highly unlikely they would draft either of those low post threats.
Instead, Kentucky-bound Terrence Jones would seem to be an ideal fit. The 6'9" forward is a terrific athlete who finishes well around the basket, but it is his guard-like skill set that makes him such a fascinating asset.
Similar to Lakers forward Lamar Odom, Jones is a lefty forward with a fabulous handle and unbelievable vision. Watch Jones briefly and you will see him find passing lanes you didn't know existed.
For most teams, he would be a nice fit at small forward, but the Warriors would likely use the versatile Jones as a power forward in an undersized lineup with David Lee at center.
TJ would fit well with the Golden State offense; he's just not the best possible option.
The Nets were big losers this offseason. Not only did they fail to add LeBron James, but they went out and gave the recently injured Travis Outlaw a five-year deal worth $35 million.
On the plus side, their young nucleus including rookie Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, and Devin Harris is a marvelous start. Nevertheless, the addition of Perry Jones would make this team formidable for years to come.
Jones is a one-of-a-kind player. At 6'11", he reminds many of a taller Tracy McGrady or Kevin Durant. With guard-like skills and a 7'3" wingspan, the sky is the limit for PJ. Every aspect of his athleticism is impressive from his quickness to his vertical to his lateral foot speed. Jones has range out to three land, a nice mid-range game, and can attack the basket with phenomenal efficiency.
There are times where Jones tries to do too much on his own, but that flaw can be worked out with good coaching.
Don't be surprised to see Jones among the nation's leading scorers as a freshman, and if he ends up along a front court with Lopez and Favors...watch out!
Rivals' top ranked player, Selby will be suiting up for the Jayhawks next year. With Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, and Sherron Collins all gone, this will be Selby's team. I assume he won't disappoint.
More combo guard than point guard, Selby is a basketball player. Plain and simple. He handles the rock like it's attached by string and his leaping ability is unfathomable. Whether it be throwing down a thunderous dunk or seemingly defying gravity with his hang time, Selby is a first-class athlete.
His attitude has been questioned and he gambles too often on offense, which has led to a drop in his draft stock. The Pacers have shown a willingness to gamble on potential with the drafting of Paul George and Lance Stevenson. With an anemic backcourt filled with borderline NBA players, Selby is a risk worth taking.
Hope you enjoyed this dunk T'Wolves fans. It may have to sustain you through the harsh, and I mean harsh, winter.
After giving up franchise cornerstone Al Jefferson for nothing and passing on potential superstar DaMarcus Cousins, the Wolves are a lost cause. GM David Kahn has been the butt of more jokes than Carrot Top and Flavor Flav combined. The ineptitude with which he has performed his job is staggering.
Wait Minnesotans (or is it Minnesotites?), step back from that ledge, there is a silver lining. Another year of tanking makes Kahn's exodus more likely, provides you with a high draft pick, and brings Ricky Rubio even closer.
Now, even with Johnny Flynn under contract and Rubio playing overseas, it is foreseeable that the Wolves would take another point, and not only because Kahn loves to draft in threes. Kahn has stockpiled big men (Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and ugh...Darko) as well as swingmen (Corey Brewer, Wesley Johnson, and Martell Webster).
They have depth at any position, albeit with substandard players. This allows them to take the best player available and that is definitely Irving.
The Duke commit may just be some sort of Chris Paul reincarnation with his combination of elite quickness, floor awareness, and ability to finish at the rim.
Irving is a true point guard who happens to have a silky smooth jumper. Defensively, he is the type of player that keeps you up at nights. He is so quick that he can play inside your jersey, yet still stay in front of you. His hands are always moving, and despite a high motor, he manages to constantly play under control.
And who knows? Add Rubio and Irving than subtract Kahn; you may just have a winning formula.
The Raptors enter the season without either of their two best players (Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu). Harrison Barnes enters the season as the undisputed top draft pick. A more perfect union there could not be.
Barnes' game is smooth, not unlike the derriere of a small child. At 6'8", Barnes has a stupendous pull up jumper. He is a world-class athlete. His seven foot wingspan makes his shot unblockable. He has a great first step and unbelievable lateral quickness. In fact, you could probably describe his superlatives for hours.
Barnes combines the best elements of Paul Pierce, Grant Hill, and Luol Deng. He is a franchise cornerstone and the perfect player to fill the void left by CB4's departure.
Barnes was a post player for much of his high school career and his quick adaptation to the wing leads me to believe either he has an unbelievable work ethic or he's just that good. Either way, fans in Toronto have something to look forward to.