NBA Mock Draft: Previewing the Top 10 Picks in 2011
The NBA season is just beginning to hit its stride, but for teams like John Wall's Washington Wizards and Blake Griffin's Los Angeles Clippers, it might as well be over. Despite extraordinarily talented young stars, some ten teams in the NBA can be all but certain that they will not reach the playoffs. Other than the growth of their young players and the marketability of their unwanted veterans, these teams have very little in the way of motivation to struggle back toward mediocrity.
For fans of those teams, then, perhaps the best way to ride out another rough season is to tune into the NCAA, where await the stars that will infuse their team with talent next season. The lottery system allows any fan whose team misses the playoffs to hold out at least some hope of a top-three pick, which makes scouring the college scene for the best young ballers all the more exciting. Read on for a preview of the top ten picks in next year's Draft, and who will scoop them up.
1. New Jersey Nets Select Harrison Barnes
Baylor big man Perry Jones is the consensus number one in many mocks, but Barnes could well rise to the top before the season's end. He looks and plays a lot like Kevin Durant: He stands 6'8" and weighs just 210 pounds, can jump and uses his length well when getting to the basket. Barnes has averaged only 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game so far at North Carolina, but merely attending there (and gleaning as much as he can from Roy Williams) will raise his stock somewhat in the long run.
If Barnes can emerge as the star scorer many see in him, he could very well be the best option if the Nets win the right to the first pick. Brook Lopez looks good enough to hold down his spot at center (and then some), so the Nets would likely shy away from Jones. Barnes better fits their needs, most notably a scorer on the wing to whom Devin Harris can easily distribute the ball.
2. Los Angeles Clippers Select Perry Jones
The Chris Kaman era in Los Angeles may finally be over, as Jones represents a colossal upgrade and (along with Blake Griffin) would give the Clippers a pair of front-court monsters nearly on the level of Tim Duncan and David Robinson in San Antonio. Jones is averaging 13.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game at Baylor, so he is physical enough to team with Griffin effectively in the front court for Los Angeles.
Jones needs to fill out his 6'11", 220-pound frame, but he is certainly not be the first young college player to have that as his big knock. Jones will round out just fine, and the Clippers will look pretty dangerous with Eric Gordon, Griffin and Jones in the mix.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves Select Kyrie Irving
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With the plethora of available studs along the front court, Minnesota is the only surefire lottery team that need not worry about choosing one: They already have Kevin Love and Michael Beasley in the front court, providing ample muscle on the glass and two good low-post scoring options.
To make their offense a bit more balanced, though, the Wolves need a point guard who can score, penetrate and make plays off the dribble. That will prevent teams from double-teaming Beasley, and give Minnesota more ways in which to score. The best point guard on the prospective 2011 Draft board? Without a doubt, it's Duke's Kyrie Irving.
Irving has poured in 17.4 points per game, dished out 5.1 assists per game and even grabbed 3.8 rebounds per contest as a freshman Blue Devil. He does everything well, and reminds some scouts of Derrick Rose. His ceiling is probably a bit lower than that, but Irving is a true stud at the point and Minnesota will pounce if he remains on the board when their number comes up.
4. Washington Wizards Select Terrence Jones
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Jones has absolutely destroyed collegiate competition thus far, posting averages of 18.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. If he keeps this up, the Wizards could have to trade up just to get their hands on him. Washington will certainly do its best, though, because Jones brings the entire package to the floor.
He can play either forward position, though his rebounding skills and defensive prowess make him perfectly suited to the power forward slot. The Wizards can flex him between the two positions, since no one has exactly put a head lock on either of those spots for them this season.
5. Sacramento Kings Select Jared Sullinger
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Sullinger is a monstrosity on the inside. Though he seems under-sized at 6'9" for a power forward or center, he weighs in at a shade over 280 pounds. That sheer power, combined with quickness that is frankly unfair, makes Sullinger a top-five prospect. He has 17.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game so far in his freshman year, and the Buckeyes will only rely on him more as they move toward Big Ten play.
The Kings have a solid and similar player in Carl Landry, but Sullinger could easily move in as the power forward and make Landry more of a roving forward. With Landry knocking down 15-foot jumpers and Sullinger throwing his weight around on the block, the Kings would have a fantastic tandem of scoring options around Tyreke Evans. If DeMarcus Cousins develops the way the Kings expect, a team featuring those four players would be tough to stop.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers Select Donatas Motiejunas
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Cleveland lost its long-time Lithuanian big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the Heat this summer, and Anderson Varejao is hardly a sufficient full-time replacement. Motiejunas brings an unique skill set to the table, one the Cavs could exploit fairly well.
The seven-footer plays more like a 6'7" swing man, though he does not shoot well from the outside. He handles the ball smoothly, makes great use of both hands on the low block and does his best work one-on-one, facing the basket. His presence would surely command more double-teams than are currently being run at Varejao or Antawn Jamison, freeing up three-point opportunities for marksmen Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson.
7. Toronto Raptors Select Derrick Williams
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Williams has slashed his way toward the top of the draft board with a torrid start to his sophomore season at Arizona. He averages 19.3 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game for the Wildcats, and looks more and more like a player whose skills will translate to the next level. He has become a much more efficient scorer in his second year of collegiate play, with across-the-board gains in field-goal, free-throw and three-point accuracy.
Toronto, in need of more points and more muscle from the small forward position than Linus Kleiza can offer, would love to land Williams. That would take pressure off of Andrea Bargnani to throw his body around the paint, by adding another rebounding presence, and would open up the Raptors' offense tremendously.
8. Detroit Pistons Select Enes Kanter
Kanter's draft stock has dropped only slightly due to his ineligibility to play for Kentucky this season, as he has all the tools to be a dominant big man. He can play either a position down low, so the Pistons can continue to rotate in Ben Wallace and Charlie Villanueva if they feel the urge. They should make ample space for Kanter, though, who stands 6'11" and weighs in at over 260 pounds. He is a polished scorer around the basket, an element decidedly absent from the repertoires of Wallace and Villanueva, and he has the length to block shots with the best in the league.
9. Golden State Warriors Select Trey Thompkins
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Junior status makes Thompkins the elder statesman of the draft's top tier, as his third season at Georgia has catapulted him into consideration as a top-10 pick. Averaging an impressive 17.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game will do that for a guy.
He has the size (6'9", 247 pounds) to play the power forward spot, and the agility to slide out to the wing when needed. He would feed even more into the Warriors' run-and-gun attack, racing the floor with Monta Ellis, Steph Curry and David Lee. The bonus would be Thompkins' physical defense, a conspicuously lacking element on the current Warriors roster.
10. Charlotte Bobcats Select Kemba Walker
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All Walker has done to kick off his junior year is notch 28.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, becoming an ultra-versatile scorer and more than "just" a solid point guard. The Bobcats have Steven Jackson and Gerald Henderson in place, but could use a more traditional back-court scorer to make their offense easier to execute. Walker brings a sharp-shooter's touch from the outside that the team needs badly, and if he keeps up his current pace, he will be perhaps the best all-around scoring threat in the draft. He and D.J. Augustin would make an exciting speed combo at guard.