2011 NBA Mock Draft: Can Minnesota Timberwolves Screw This Up Too?
With the upcoming 2010-11 NBA season almost upon us, it's time to gaze into the future and ponder over such important questions as...
Can the Lakers get any better ? (short answer: no)
If the Heat added yet another dominant super star via trade or draft, would the world implode? Yes.
Could the Timberwolves draft even a marginally talented player if their basketball lives depended on it? (short answer: no)
All kidding aside, it's an exciting time for the NBA. With the loaded roster that is the Miami Heat, the addition of actor/rapper/center extraordinaire Shaquille O'Neal to the still worthy Boston Celtics, the staying power of Kobe Bryant, and the otherworldly skill set of Kevin Durant and a stacked Oklahoma City Thunder team, it is time to start getting excited.
With the lineups mostly set and the game schedules upon us, it's time to be forward thinking. How will each team do this year and what will their needs be in the coming year's draft?
Let's look forward, shall we..? Kobe, you look confused. I'm here to help.
Pick 30: L.A. Lakers -- Nolan Smith (Senior, Duke)
Should the Lakers even be drafting? Do they really need more talent? I believe David Stern should take away their first round pick because three years, three championships is going to be enough. Who's with me?
What are their needs at the 30th pick? There are always injury concerns with Andrew Bynum. In the last three seasons, he's played 35, 50, and 65 games respectively. But he's still young and the pairing of he and Gasol cause nightmares for opposing head coaches and players. So what do they truly need? The focus should be on the play of the point guards...
Derek Fisher will be entering his 37th year on this planet, and while his resume is chock full of accomplishments and last second heroics, he's on the downside of his playing career. With back ups in Shannon Brown and Steve Blake, the Lakers will be looking for a point guard stud to draft.
At 6'-3", Smith is an aggressive player with a slasher mentality, decent ball handling skills, and a very quick first step. He is intelligent, with a high basketball I.Q., and can run a team effectively, as evidenced in Duke's title run in 2010. Although his game sports a fair number of turnovers and a shot that isn't quite mechanically sound, Smith would be a solid pickup at spot 30 to bolster the one positional weakness of the Lakers.
Pick 29: Miami Heat -- Aaric Murray (Sophmore, LaSalle)
No, that's not Aaric Murray. For those with short attention spans, I thought I'd give you the pleasure of looking at Marissa Miller for a slide (or two). You guys rejuvenated..? Alright, let's continue. I love you Marissa!
The Heat are stacked. There's really no getting around that. With Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, not to mention each of their talented bench backups (Mike Miller, Da'Sean Butler, and Udonis Haslem), this team is headed for a long playoff run. Where they are woefully deficient is the point guard and center positions...
BUT Mike Miller, Lebron James, and Dwayne Wade can all handle the ball in crunch time, so it's the Center position that they would be looking to cement in 2011. An upgrade from Joel Anthony and an aging Zydrunas Ilgauskas would be a must.
Enter Aaric Murray. He's a 6'-10" true center with a big body, who is unafraid to mix it up in the middle with other bigs. This kid has true "potential" to be a draft day steal. With a strong face up game, Murray is already offensively adept and ready to play with the Pau Gasol's and Dwight Howard's of the world. Rebounding and defense are skills he must work on but he's still young and raw. There is too much talent here for the Miami Heat to pass up.
Pick 28: Dallas Mavericks -- JaMychal Green (Junior, Alabama)
Dallas is a team that could contend with the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy in 2010. They are long and skilled, with a proven point guard and power forward in the mix with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. They are deep and have guys that will compete on both sides of the ball.
It would be interesting to find a complement to Dirk in the draft. JaMychal Green might just be that guy. Green is a 6'-8" power forward who is aggressive on the offensive boards and has a nice mid-range jumper for a big. Bringing him off the bench might be an interesting one two punch for Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.
There's work to be done with Green in terms of offensive polish and his innate passing ability, along with overall consistency problems during his NCAA career. But Green has the attributes that NBA scouts look for and could develop into a force on the defensive end, while having a nice mid-range game to go with being a true beast on the offensive boards. The Mavs won't overlook this legitimate NBA prospect.
Pick 27: OKC Thunder -- Jordan Hamilton (Sophmore, Texas)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are another team looking to build off of their stellar 2009 campaign and challenge the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. With an impressive 1-2-3 punch of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green, this OKC team will be looking to add a complementary piece to the puzzle.
Jordan Hamilton, a 6'-7" shooting guard/small forward, is a stud who is an aggressive scorer with a skilled catch a shoot skill set. While he's had an up and down Freshman season with the Longhorns, including questionable shot selection and general inconsistency, Hamilton's size and scoring instincts are impressing scouts.
As a compliment piece to Durant, Green, Westbrook, and even James Harden, the Thunder will look to add Jordan Hamilton as player who can help push them toward being one of the elite teams in the West.
Pick 26: Boston Celtics -- Kris Joseph (Junior, Syracuse)
With the core of the big 3 aging at very rapid rate, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge are going to need to make some changes. Bringing in Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille are good first steps, but they aren't long term solutions.
Rajon Rondo is arguably one of the best point guards in the NBA, if not the best. And Ray Allen is so physically fit, he may be playing until he's 50.
In the next few years, though, you will need someone to take the reins from Paul Pierce, who at 34, appears to have a few more good years left in the tank.
Kris Joseph is an athletic wing with a feel for the game and someone who has a nose for the basket. He's aggressive, would compliment Rondo in the transition game, and plays hard (something that is a prerequisite for playing on the Celtics).
If Joseph works on his shooting range and ball handling skills, he could be yet another great addition to the Boston Celtics and someone who could lengthen their playoff chances in the years to come.
Pick 25: Orlando Magic -- Tyshawn Taylor (Junior, Kansas)
Tyshawn Taylor, a 6'-3" guard out of Kansas, is a versatile combo guard who is known more for his defense than offense. What he provides, though, is height at the guard position, which is something Jameer Nelson sorely lacks. Taylor would contribute immediately on the defensive end of the floor, and the pairing of Dwight Howard and Taylor could be something special in terms of a truly stout team defense.
Taylor is a smart player with good court vision and a knack for getting the ball into the paint, which would appease the big man Howard. With Howard working on his offensive repertoire during the summer, it would be an ideal situation to bring in someone to work with Taylor and improve his offensive output. If it can be done with Howard, it should be a breeze with Taylor.
Tyshawn is a very aggressive defender who takes things personally, and this is exactly what the Magic need. There's a softness about them in many positions on the floor. With this draft choice, point guard wouldn't be one of them.
Pick 24: Chicago Bulls -- Wesley Witherspoon (Junior, Memphis)
Long and lanky, Wesley Witherspoon has the all around versatility that Chicago craves. With a new and improved team, thanks to the acquisition of Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver, Chicago will be looking to make waves in the Eastern Conference.
The addition of a stout defender who can play multiple positions would be an immediate upgrade over the injury prone Luol Deng. As with many young players, though, maturity and and inconsistency issues abound.
There are comparisons between Witherspoon and Jrue Holiday, both players having struggled on powerhouse collegiate teams. But Holiday has since found his groove in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers and is looking like a solid number one guard. If presented with a strong minded coaching staff and the right pieces around him, the sky might be the limit for Wesley Witherspoon.
Pick 23: Denver Nuggets-- Kawhi Leonard (Sophmore, San Diego State)
Life after Carmelo Anthony may have the Denver Nuggets singing the blues. Hopefully, Kawhi Leonard may take some of the sting out of losing your best player to free agency. The 6'-7", 250 lb., rebounding machine is an athletic combo forward. He can shoot from anywhere on the court and is improving offensively almost on a game by game basis.
Is it going to take the sting out of losing Anthony? No. But it's a start and the Denver Nuggets will still have enough talent aboard that it may work out in the end.
Pick 22: Utah Jazz -- Malcolm Lee (Junior, UCLA)
Malcolm Lee is the type of player Jerry Sloan covets. At 6'-5", this combo guard is the real deal. He excels in transition and is an incredible defender. The Utah Jazz are already an incredibly deep team in the West. With the addition of Al Jefferson, Raja Bell, and the heightened role of Paul Milsap, they're searching for one or two more pieces to help push them over the top.
Averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3 assists in his 2009-10 year at UCLA, there is potential there. The only downside to adding Lee is his small frame combined with a lack of a consistent outside shot. But the intangibles are there and Sloan wouldn't hesitate to pick Lee up with the 22nd pick.
Pick 21: Phoenix Suns -- Marcus Morris (Junior, Kansas)
The Phoenix Suns should be reeling from the loss of Amare Stoudamire. Instead, they just picked up Hedo Turkoglu and kept on trucking. Hedo will take the Power Forward slot while Grant Hill will retain the Small Forward position for the 2010-11 season. Unfortunately, this won't last as Hill is aging more rapidly than the whole Boston Celtics team combined.
The Suns need a PF and will look to snatch one up in Marcus Morris, a 6'-9", 225 lb. man child. On one of the most talented teams in the NCAA, Morris was one of the best players in the entire league. Averaging nearly 13 points per game and 6 rebounds per contest, Morris has the offensive game to go with the Suns style of play.
Defense, unfortunately, is Morris' weak point, but when have the Suns ever played any. So that shouldn't be a problem. The Suns play one way so it will be a perfect fit.
Pick 20: Milwaukee Bucks -- Travis Leslie (Junior, Georgia)
Travis Leslie is a highlight reel waiting to happen. At 6'-4", Leslie is the most athletic player in all of college basketball. Enough said.
Pick 19: Portland Trailblazers -- Kyle Singler (Senior, Duke)
This just feels right. And by the end of the year, Singler may be the only Trailblazer still healthy. And he might also have to coach (see: Greg Oden and Nate McMillan).
At 6'-9", Singler is smart, tough, has the shooter's touch, and possesses an impressive collegiate resume to boot. He might not be all that athletic but he would push Nicolas Batum and Luke Babbitt for the starting small forward position his rookie year.
Singler does get streaky from the perimeter on occasion and according to some he's a "tweener" defensively. These are attributes you live with, though. If Portland could just stay healthy, an addition like Singler could push them into the upper echelon of teams in the West.
Pick 18: San Antonio Spurs -- Chris Singleton (Junior, Florida State)
Chris Singleton: Terrific athleticism... Check. NBA body... Check. Outstanding defender... Check. Top notch perimeter skills... Check.
San Antonio Spurs: Defensive minded... Yep. Greg Popovich... Yep. Richard Jefferson... Unfortunately, yes.
It's a match made in heaven.
Pick 17: Houston Rockets -- Kenneth Faried (Senior, Morehead State)
You're tired. You need water. You're hungry. But you can get through this. You can, I believe in you. You can make it. Look at the picture. Look at it! Are you better? You ready to go on? I am. Let's do this. By the way, that's not Kenneth Faried. Maybe you didn't have your reading glasses on.
We're almost to the halfway point where teams drafting actually begin to need the player they are coveting. Well... because they are terrible. But we're not quite there yet.
Houston is stacked any way you look at it. The only question is will the same players who started the season be healthy enough to be there at the end. I'm looking at you Kevin Martin and Yao Ming. And I'm not so sure.
Kenneth Faried, the 6'-8", 215 pound behemoth out of Morehead State, has a motor that is unrivaled in college sports. He takes rebounds like they were his to begin with. He averages 13 per game and if Yao Ming can't go or, God forbid, gets injured during the season, rebounds will be what the Houston Rockets need and they will draft Faried with the 17th overall pick.
Pick 16: Atlanta Hawks -- John Henson (Sophmore, North Carolina)
I MIGHT be able to move John Henson off the block. But, that's what weight lifting is for.
I like the Hawks... Kind of. They have talent. I just don't know why they aren't progressing. Yes, they overpaid for Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby is not what he once was, and Josh Smith couldn't make a basket if Michael Jordan was shooting for him. But all that aside, I like the Hawks and am dumbfounded by their playoff failures.
I think they need John Henson. He would be a good compliment to Josh Smith, who does everything else but shoot. Henson has a nice outside game -- He can shoot. The knock on him is his strength as I illustrated earlier. But he's young and his body will fill out. Atlanta would be testing fate if they didn't draft Henson with the 16th pick, assuming he falls to them.
Pick 15: Memphis Grizzlies -- Trey Thompkins (Junior, Georgia)
The Memphis Grizzlies are a team primed to improve upon their 40-42 season just a year ago. Marc Gasol is no longer fat. Rudy Gay was resigned for five years and Zach Randolph keeps adding to his double-double stat line every game. The Grizzlies added Tony Allen, who's a solid defender and slasher to the basket. They are building...
In order to take the next step, though, they will need a player to back up Randolph and help compliment his game. Trey Thompkins, at 6'-9", is an intriguing prospect. He has a nice back to the basket skill set but also has the ability to hit the outside shot.
While not overly athletic, Thompkins' game is suited to an inside-outside dominance. He has a high release point and is very effective in isolation. And he's only 20 years old. He's too good to pass up.
Pick 14: Charlotte Bobcats -- Donatas Motiejunas (Benetton Treviso)
DeSagana Diop! D-i-o-p! Eric Dampier! Nazr Mohammed! The Charlotte Bobcats currently have three centers on their roster. They averaged 6, 1.2, and 8 points per game respectively for the 2009 season. The Bobcats might be in the running for an upgrade.
Motie... Motiej... Motiejunas, we need you! A big man with the ability to go both left or right, beat his man off the dribble, and... And, he's only 19.
Did we mention he has a jump hook shot... that's beautiful, according to the scouts? Need we say more.
Pick 13: New Orleans Hornets -- Enes Kanter (Freshman, Kentucky)
We're getting to the point where teams need some help. What had been a happy and thought provoking series of insightful commentary on teams that didn't really need too much help has suddenly turned into something much darker. These teams are desperate. Take a look at the Hoff and laugh a little, because it's about to get depressing. I'm sorry, but we're going dark, folks.
New Orleans has some talent. They might even be okay if Chris Paul walks as a free agent due to the fact that Collison is a stud in the making (I take that back. They just traded Collison to the Pacers. They're screwed if Paul walks). Thornton and West round out a team that has true talent. Peja is oft-injured and Emeka Okafor isn't really getting it done with 10 and 9. I'm sorry, he isn't.
What they need is a player like Enes Kanter. At 6'-9" and 250 lbs., Kanter has the ability to score in the post. He can also face up and shoot the mid range shot. He has good hands and is known as a "savvy" player. With a year under his belt playing for John Calipari at Kentucky, Kanter will be ready to make his presence felt for the New Orleans Hornets.
Pick 12: Cleveland Cavaliers -- Mason Plumlee (Sophmore, Duke)
Is Mason Plumlee going to replace LeBron James? Yes. Think that over for a moment. I'm joking or course. The Cavaliers are royally screwed. What can you do? They literally need help at every position now. The 61-21 team of a year ago would be lucky to win 40 games.
Earlier, I was speaking about the teams who need the draft. Cleveland is one of those teams. If they could only get all top ten picks I think they might be okay. But they're going to have to settle for Plumlee.
At 6'-11" and 210 lbs., he's a beast of a power forward. And for a 6'-11" guy, he has a lightning quick first step. The term ultra-athletic doesn't even begin to cover it. Defense and toughness must be improved but the Cavalier fans, along with Dan Gilbert, just want to forget about old number 23. Let the rebuilding process begin. It might be somewhat slow. Sorry.
Pick 11: L.A. Clippers -- Elias Harris (Sophmore, Gonzaga)
Elias Harris is the one screaming at the top of his lungs. There's a passion about his game that's infectious. He plays hard, has an everlasting motor, and stamina to match. Add to that an athleticism that is through the roof and strength and wingspan and you've got something special.
The Clippers have been talented for a few years now. From Baron Davis to Chris Kaman, to the #1 overall pick Blake Griffin, and the newly acquired Ryan Gomes... They have talent. Have far does it get them, though? A piece or two more and they should be able to challenge the top teams of the West for a run in the playoffs. They should. If they do, that's another story.
Pick 10: Sacramento Kings -- Kemba Walker (Junior, Connecticut)
About a year more and Sacramento might just have a pretty solid little core of players. The reigning 20-5-5 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans (when he's not speeding) is the base of the Kings' rebuilding process. DeMarcus Cousins, the 6'-11" bruiser, is the enforcer. Carl Landry is the down and dirty player. And Hassan Whiteside and Samuel Dalembert are the ones who won't let the opposing point guards get into the paint.
Kemba Walker, at a mere 6' tall would be a welcome addition to the team. Known for his Bruce Lee type quickness, Walker plays the game the right way. Averaging almost 15 points per game to go along with his 5 assists and 2 steals, Walker is the epitome of confidence on the court.
Supplanting Beno Udrih on arrival, Walker would play the point while Evans could move to the shooting guard position. Evans, of course, would have to work on his shot in the off-season but with a one two punch in the back court coupled with the sheer physicality of Cousins and Landry in the front --Things are looking up for the Kings and their fans.
Pick 9: Golden State Warriors -- C.J. Leslie (Freshman, N.C. State)
Does Don Nelson like to run and gun? Yes. Is C.J. Leslie a combo forward who can do a little bit of everything on the court with an upside that many believe to be sky high? Probably. But the most important question is..? Is Leslie good in transition? Yes, he's quite good. That makes Don Nelson a very happy man.
Pick 8: New York Knicks -- Josh Selby (Freshman, Kansas)
"Let's get the hell out of here!" Eddie responds that it sounds like a plan. "I'll go to Miami. You go to the Warriors." David Lee: "N-o-o-o!" After years of horrifying mismanagement under coach and GM Isiah Thomas, the Knicks are looking to finally put together a team to contend. The acquisition of Amar'e Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph, and Raymond Felton is a nice start.
Josh Selby, the 6'-1" Freshman combo guard out of Kansas could be a pickup that would further help shape their team into elite status. Selby can score and that right there places him squarely on D'Antoni's radar. As a mix between Jerryd Bayless and Eric Gordon, Selby is an intense player that NY fans would absolutely love. Did I mention he can create shots at will too?
I can see it now. Running, scoring, no defense. Running, scoring, no defense. Just the way D'Antoni drew it up. And Josh Selby fits right in.
Pick 7: Philadelphia 76ers -- Jared Sullinger (Freshman, Ohio State)
Jared Sullinger could end up being a top 5 pick. But if he falls, he will fall here to the 76ers who will be looking for a change of pace to Thaddeus Young and the chronically unhealthy Elton Brand. Sullinger brings good court awareness and is a threat as a low post player. He is very intelligent, still young, looks to be developing a nice all around inside-outside game, and can take his man off the dribble, both left and right. Doug Collins would love to add to his burgeoning team of young talent and Sullinger, if still available, would be the optimal candidate.
Pick 6: Washington Wizards -- Jeff Taylor (Junior, Vanderbilt)
The closest thing the Getty Images wants to give me when I input Jeff Taylor is Taylor Mays, the former USC football stand out who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers. So let's move on...
The Washington Wizards are moving up in the world. With John Wall at the helm, a healthy and gun-less Gilbert Arenas, and an emerging star in Andray Blatche, all appearances point toward a resurgence in the District of Columbia. It just might take the team a while to finish rebuilding, to the span of 3 to 5 years.
Thankfully, Jeff Taylor may be available at pick 6 to accelerate the process. The 6'-7" swing man with mounds of potential is a true defensive stopper. He can guard almost any one on the floor with his solid frame and good length.
Taylor's offense is what may hold him back and leave him available for teams picking with the 6-10 picks. He is unpolished with a jump shot, but these are the things that can be worked on in the NBA. It's his defense and "sky's-the-limit potential" that will have Washington Wizards execs salivating over the possibility of how best to use Jeff Taylor in their system.
Pick 5: New Jersey Nets -- Jan Vesely (KK Partizan Belgrade)
If you combine the faces of everyone pictured and their heights, you'd have a spitting image of Jan Vesely. I looked for photos of Vesely and all they gave me were images of the national bobsled team. I'm just saying...
With a trade just executed, the New Jersey Nets received power forward Troy Murphy while shipping off shooting guard Courtney Lee. Their lineup is starting to look somewhat better than their 12-70 roster a year ago.
Murphy goes to the power forward position to time share with 2010 draft pick Derrick Favors. Brook Lopez will continue to dominate at the center position, looking to better his 19 and 9 averages from last season. If Devin Harris can stay healthy, they'll have a nice back court tandem in himself and Anthony Morrow.
Are they going to make giant strides in the 2010-11 year or will they just manage to get by? Only time will tell but a pick up in the 2011 draft of a player like Jan Vesely would add a skilled big man to the table. The fact that Vesely is only 20, stands at 6'-11", and plays small forward is something to get excited about. He plays with a high intensity level and is an excellent defender. Offensive skills will come as those are not his strong suit at the moment. The New Jersey Nets are rebuilding and Jan Vesely would be a strong addition to their young core of players.
Pick 4: Indiana Pacers -- Jonas Valanciunas (Lietuvos Rytas)
If Brad Miller can score on you, you know you need some help. With the departure of Troy Murphy and the arrival of a stud in the making Darren Collison, the Indiana Pacers are in the market for a big man. With the unproven talents of big men Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough, along with the health concerns of Mike Dunleavy, the Pacers would be looking for a more traditional back-to-the-basket type of stud.
Jonas Valanciunas, 6'-10", 230 lbs., is that type of stud. He is currently playing huge minutes with Lietuvos Rytas and is only 18 years old. Jonas runs the floor extremely well for his size, has soft hands, and when he fills out he will be a beast on both ends of the floor.
With Darren Collison now the unheralded leader of the team, a superstar wing with Danny Granger, the addition of Jonas Valaciunas could bode very well for the future fortunes of the Indiana Pacers.
Pick 3: Toronto Raptors -- Perry Jones (Freshman, Baylor)
Chris Bosh -- 6'-10". Plays power forward. Nice mid range game. Bryan Colangelo said he was not always playing hard. Used to play for the Toronto Raptors.
Perry Jones -- 6'-11". Plays power forward. Nice mid range game. Doesn't always play with a high intensity level. Soon to play for the Toronto Raptors.
I think we found your replacement, Chris.
Pick 2: Detroit Pistons -- Harrison Barnes (Freshman, North Carolina)
Harrison Barnes fell to the number two slot? Really? I mean, really? I guy like that, with all the intangibles goes number two? With Minnesota picking number one, it happened. We'll come to that in a moment.
What do the Detroit Pistons need other than everything? Their off season pick ups were atrocious (Ben Gordon and Charlie V.). They've resigned Ben Wallace, who is 36 and averaged five points per game last season. Add insult to injure as Tayshaun Prince's name is always being dropped as proposed trade bait.
Basically, the Pistons need a miracle and one just fell into their lap. Barnes can shoot, pass, defend, and can score when it counts the most... in the clutch. With the addition of Barnes, Prince can now be used as actual trade bait to reel in more talent to help the Pistons accelerate their mini-rebuilding project in 2011.
Pick 1: Minnesota T'Wolves -- Kyrie Irving (Freshman, Duke)
Say what..? Kyrie Irving, currently rated by S.I. as the number nine draft choice in the 2011 NBA Draft, is going number one? Okay, I'll buy it. Why you ask? Well, it's simple. He's going to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Would you put it past David Kahn? Most people, lay men and knowledgeable pundits alike, have no idea what David Kahn is doing with the Timberwolves. At this point, I'm not sure David Kahn knows what he's doing with the Timberwolves.
The people of Minnesota already have too much to deal with... Long and brutal winters where the mercury sometimes doesn't rise past 0 for weeks at a time. Long and brutal summers where the temperature is multiplied by the sweltering humidity and where mosquitoes attack with no remorse. And finally, the ever lasting question of whether Brett is coming back or not? Do they really need to deal with Kahn's mismanagement of their beloved basketball franchise? I think not.
Kyrie Irving is a smart and talented point guard, but he's no Harrison Barnes. Here's hoping David Kahn pulls himself together and makes the right decision come this time next year.
And that is our look into the future, folks. Hopefully it was astoundingly astute and amazingly insightful. I will leave you with the immortal words of William Shatner in Star Trek II...