I've read in several circles that the upcoming 2011 NBA Draft is a little weak. I cannot completely disagree as players like Harrison Barnes haven't lived up to expectations and other players like Enes Kanter have not even been able to play.
Overall though, while analyzing this draft, there may be a few gems, especially if Kyrie Irving throws his hat into the ring. Good of bad, the 2011 draft is the triumphant return of the giant guys from Europe with names we can't pronounce. I think they will all be just a little bit better than Nikoloz Tskitishvili, so you can rest easy if you're a fan of a lottery team. This draft is strong in power forwards and especially in small forwards. If you need a great point guard, shooting guard or center, you might want to call in sick for the day. Of note, the draft order is reflective of 1/19/2010.
In the modern NBA, the point guard position has become paramount. You need a true leader to orchestrate your offense and control the tempo in a game that continues to flow at breakneck speeds. I am normally not big on Duke or many of the players that the program produces, but I cannot deny how fantastic Kyrie Irving was in the time he was able to play. He played with the poise of a veteran NBA point guard as he attacked when the game needed him to and always looked for teammates within the flow of the offense.
He is truly special and even I'm incredibly sad that I was unable to watch him finish out the season completely. All of this comes with a caveat though. Kyrie could elect to go back to school and get a shot at the title with Austin Rivers, especially with the new CBA looming.
Overall though, I doubt he turns down being the top pick in the draft. I understand that they have Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions, but you can't turn down a player who could potentially be another Chris Paul.
Every year there is a player or two that are the epitome of the term, "potential." Perry Jones is a 6'10" player with the explosion and wingspan to pass the eye test for any NBA scout, but what is truly intriguing are his guard-like abilities.
I'm not shocked that a player like Jones had a hard time initially adjusting to the college game. His abilities are tailor-made for the NBA and it's rare to find a college team that would allow him full creative freedom. Since the Bears got into conference play, his numbers have been impressive.
On a team like the Kings with Reke and Cousins already on board, I think that Jones could be a great addition as a point-forward. That would be a great young nucleus to build around and it would be a nice step-up from the Jason Thompson SF experiment currently ongoing. I'm excited to see how Perry progresses throughout the season but this kid is just oozing with potential.
While the T-Wolves do not have the most impressive record, they have a few things to be excited about. Obviously, Kevin Love has been incredible with his increased playing time this season. Micheal Beasley has started to look like a justifiable lottery pick and the corpse of Darko has even been resurrected.
Their frontcourt looks somewhat formidable but they still have gaping holes in the back court. Wesley Johnson did not live up to my expectations thus far and has not filled the role at the 2/3 that I was expecting. The same can be said for Jonny Flynn who's name has surfaced in trade rumors all over the Internet.
You would think that Ricky Rubio would have that spot locked up for years but his play has regressed and he continues to jerk the Timberwolves around on whether or not he wants to come overseas. With Harrison Barnes not showcasing great ability at the two spot thus far, it seems that Kemba Walker is the best choice at this point. He may be a bit undersized but you cannot deny his amazing progression as a player.
He has become an outstanding scorer and he has needed to on his current UCONN team. Kemba has carried them this season and has shown amazing passion and leadership abilities as well. He could provide stability to the point guard position in Minnesota and it will give him the opportunity to showcase his all-around game and his great playmaking abilities that do not come to the forefront often in his current situation.
Mr. Kardashian, a.k.a Kris Humphries, has done an admirable job at power forward for the Nets this year. Ideally though, he is a great backup rather than somebody getting 30+ mpg. With Brook Lopez continuing to shudder from contact and not grab any boards, the Nets could use a true force in the paint. Jared Sullinger's wide hips should be more than able to handle the burden.
He has been nothing short of amazing while averaging 18 and 10 for the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes. He is relentless on the glass and is constantly attacking the rim with both forceful and remarkably soft touch for such a big guy. He has worked hard to get into much better shape and if he continues to progress and show that work ethic, there isn't much holding him back.
Really, the only knock you can have on the guy is his height. He isn't exceptionally long and could struggle with larger frontlines in the pros, but the success of similar players like Kevin Love recently should only help boost his draft stock.
The Wizards have a few nice pieces to build around. John Wall is obviously extremely dynamic and fits the mold of the modern NBA point guard. JaVale McGee shows flashes of ungodly athleticism for a player his size. Even Andray Blatche has shown some signs of real life and is finally living up to his true potential.
That being said, the Wizards do not show the same youth movement at the small forward position. Al Thornton is a solid backup and the ghost of Rashard Lewis does not strike fear into opponents hearts any longer. I really liked Terrence Jones' potential coming out of Jefferson high school in Portland. At that time, he was a highly skilled small forward that showcased a pretty dynamic all-around game. He has had to play much bigger at Kentucky but that has been a benefit for him.
He has the body and attitude to mix it up in the paint and this is an additional bonus for a guy who already has a nice skill-set. I've heard him compared to Lamar Odom sans a little length, which isn't far off, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
On a yearly basis, I really try to check out the Nike Hoop Summit. It gives me an opportunity to see the best and brightest from here in the US and overseas. I had heard about Enes tearing it up for the Turkey junior team and I was intrigued by what I was reading. Playing against people like Jared Sullinger and Patric Young, Enes set a hoop summit scoring record with 34 points and topped that off with 13 boards.
He will not win any track meets or set a new record at the combine for the vertical leap but the kid can play. He is crafty and can operate facing up or with his back to the basket. The only thing I truly worry about with him is his height and overall explosion. His overall standing reach is pretty good at over 7'1" but he is only 6'10".
I could see longer guys snagging rebounds from him and I will be curious to see how he handles elite NBA athletes like Amar'e or Blake Griffin. The Hoop Summit was a nice litmus test but All-Star type games are usually not the best precursor to success per se.Then again, Dirk put up 33 points in the game and we all know how he turned out.
I know, I know. How can I have the Pistons taking a relatively unknown European big man? Looking at their roster, I could have gone in countless directions honestly. They do not really have much youth to build around and the 4/5 position is definitely an area of need, even with Greg Monroe's play.
Jonas is 6'10" and thin but that could be expected for somebody that is only 18. He boasts a whopping 7'6" wingspan. He is not all Darko and hyperbole though. He leads the Euroleague in total rebound percentage at 22.7 percent which is amazing considering his age and relative newness to a stage this big.
He still has work to do on his post game and overall defensive awareness but he is a capable shot-blocker with his pterodactyl arms, has a great motor, displays great touch or force at the rim and has good range on his jumper considering he is hitting 90 percent of his free throws.
Again, he is a work in progress for sure, but you cannot deny the general eye test with the kid and the results he is displaying while playing against men. I would not be shocked at all if he ends up going higher than this before it is all said and done.
It's somewhat shocking that I'm putting Harrison Barnes here now. I had not seen much of him beyond a few All-Star games before college but the consensus was that this kid was a can't-miss prospect. I heard some scouts even compare him to Kobe because of his offensive aptitude. I had huge expectations for him and he seemed to be a lock for the top of this draft.
At this point, he sincerely doesn't seem ready for prime time. Then again, with a nice close to his season and with the potential he still has, a team may look for him this high on draft night. Barnes has struggled to create his own shot or dominate the college game but you still see flashes of the athletic gifts that countless scouts raved about.
His issues on the college level could be further magnified in the NBA, but many teams may kick themselves if he finally finds his game again. A team like the Bucks could strike gold with him with the eighth pick in the draft. A Jennings and Barnes backcourt could be truly exceptional and it makes sense since Micheal Redd from 2003 is not walking through that door.
The Clippers have an envious amount of young talent. I thought the Thunder had the best group of young players in the league but I think the Clip Show surpassed them. That being said, the Clippers could afford to take a chance on a player that needs time to develop. Donatas Motiejunas is a perfect candidate to come in and acclimate to the NBA game without much pressure. He would have the best young power forward in the game ahead of him and he could provide the Clippers with a scoring threat off the bench that also has length, unlike the undersized bigs they have in Craig Smith and Ryan Gomes.
He has been playing very well in the Italian Lega A for Benetton Treviso. Donatas has shown off an offensive arsenal that consists of three-point shooting, facing up and creating off the dribble and even a nice post up game. Motiejunas needs to step up on defense and in rebounding, but his amazing skill-set offensively will cause teams to overlook that initially.
In terms of comparisons, he looks like he has a lot of Andrea Bargnani to his game. In the future, he could even play some center so the Clip Show could have a dynamic inside/out combination.
I heard murmurs for quite some time about the Bobcats looking to move Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson throughout the year. Beyond Tyrus Thomas and an occasionally inspired Boris Diaw, they could use a boost at the 3/4.
A tweener like Derrick Williams would fit nicely in this role. He reminds me a bit of David West with his size and inside/outside game. He is tearing up a depleted Pac-10 but I don't want to sell him short at all. He is putting up impressive point and rebound totals and is displaying a pretty dynamic offensive game.
He is getting it done in the post, off the dribble and with his back to the basket. Without many go-to scorers on the Bobcats roster, Derrick could be a breathe of fresh air that could easily go higher as any team could use an impactful scoring threat at the 4 position.
For fans of a team that drafted Brandon Wright previously, this pick may bring fear to their hearts. The intentions with Brandon were good though. He was extremely long and athletic and seemed destined to live in an uptempo offense like the Warriors. He has had numerous injuries and didn't pan out but John Henson could come in and eventually fill the gap.
Like Wright, he is long and athletic and needs to put on weight. His body has continued to improve in his time at North Carolina and he could become a force on the glass and blocking shots while filling the lanes on the fast break. Henson could make up for the shortcomings of David Lee on the defensive end for sure. There is a little risk due to his slight frame, but the potential is there enough to qualify for a pick in this range.
It truly is a shame that Yao Ming has had his career threatened by injuries. He was truly a marvel to watch and could have been an all-time great. That being said, the Rockets need to start trying to look for his replacement. Lucas is a not a very known player to most but his potential is outstanding.
I watched countless games that he played in at the U-18 tournament for Brazil and he controlled the game with his rebounding, shot blocking and emphatic dunks. He is the type of player that will start shooting up draft boards once teams get a better look in person.
With a potential lockout on the horizon, the Rockets could afford to let Lucas continue to work on his game and body overseas and bring him over in a year or two. He very well could become another Tyson Chandler, and when you are a team that is starting Chuck Hayes at center, you need to start considering your options.
I agreed with the Suns' stance on Amar'e Stoudemire. It's hard to invest a fortune in a player that has a history of knee issues. Amar'e also displayed a lack of effort on D and on the glass for a player that should be more than capable of dominating both.
That being said, you can't lose a player like Amare and not have a gaping hole at the PF position. Derrick Williams would really be a nice fit here but with him being off the board already, Jan Vesely is a really nice option.
Once again, this is an international player that is actually playing for an upper-echelon team and is a key component. He is not your typical run of the mill European prospect either. He plays way above the rim and is dynamic in transition. He plays a lot of small forward currently but with his lateral quickness and size, the power forward spot will fit him more aptly as his body continues to develop.
He can still contribute in numerous ways to an up-tempo team like the Suns and it will be interesting to see his development, because his game seems to be a natural fit for the NBA game.
The Grizzlies could be looking at the potential loss of both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph this offseason. There will obviously be a huge gap left on the team with scoring on the interior and rebounds. Marcus is a little undersized for the position but his work ethic and skill set should be able to offset this.
He can handle the ball, shoot from range, distribute and attack the basket off the dribble. He needs to continue to bulk up to handle the rigors of the NBA but his offensive versatility should be able to help the Grizz continue to improve with other young players like Mike Conley and Rudy Gay locked up.
The Pacers could go in a number of directions here. They could fill up their hole at the shooting guard since Mike Dunleavy isn't the ultimate answer and they could also get a true power forward because Tyler Hansbrough seems fit to be a solid backup at the 4.
Looking at the current board that is mostly full of small forwards, Josh Selby makes a lot of sense here. Some people project him as a point guard but when you watch him play, his game is at its best when he is in attack mode. He is undersized at the shooting guard position but he has unreal athleticism, deep range, is a pesky defender and is a terror in the open court.
He could run in the backcourt with Darren Collison and they could recreate something similar to what the Gold State Warriors currently have with Ellis and Curry. He could get abused on the defensive end but this team would be lightning quick and horrible to defend when in transition.
That being said, he has lottery talent and his current struggles place him here. He could easily climb on this board if he has a good tournament.
The 76ers keep shopping Andre Iguodala and while I like Thaddeus Young, he plays well sporadically. A polished offensive player like Jordan Hamilton could really bring some consistency to this squad. He has a nice stroke with some range, can handle and create for others and isn't afraid to mix it up a bit on the interior.
The 76ers could even go small and have Jordan play the PF position in some lineups. This could really be a great find for them in this range as many teams ahead of them do not have a need at the 3. I would not be shocked to see a team trade up to get him if he falls into this range.
I really feel for Trail Blazer fans. Brandon Roy was an exceptional talent but I fear that his knees will never allow him to play up to his capabilities. Wesley Mathews has been outstanding filling in for him but the Blazers have a gap at the shooting guard position that they need to back fill.
While I cannot say that Alec can do everything Roy did, I can at least say he could somewhat fill his shoes. Alec is a great athlete who can handle the ball, dish and is a fantastic slasher. Scouts feel that he needs to put on weight and be more consistent with his J, but you cannot deny that he has the ideal size and overall skill set for the shooting guard position.
This is a great place for the Blazers to try to find some insurance in case Brandon Roy is never the same again.
If Kawhi falls this far, the Knicks could get the steal of the draft again this year. We all know how well Shawn Marion played under D'Antoni and I think Kawhi could have similar success. He is long and explosive and hits the boards like a big man would. His offensive game is still a work in progress but he could truly be amazing playing the 3/4 for an uptempo team like the Knicks.
His rebounding could help this team tremendously and Amar'e could play some center, even though he hates it. I know the Knicks need a center but hopefully through free agency, they can fill that gap. There just isn't anybody available right now that I feel would be a better fit for this system than Kawhi Leonard.
Coming from a Suns fan, it is very hard to replace a star player. The Nuggets find themselves in that position most likely. Carmelo seems destined to bolt in free agency or via a trade and there will be some big shoes to fill at the small forward position.
Chris Singleton has lottery level talent but he has been too inconsistent to go in that range currently. I would not be shocked at all if he came out of the combine as the best athlete in this draft. He is a high riser that is amazing on the break. He has shown a mid-range game but he still needs to work on hitting his shots consistently.
The part of his game where I think he can help any team immediately is his defense. His length and overall athleticism are extremely difficult for almost any opposing small forward to deal with. Nobody is going to replace Carmelo fully, but Chris Singleton could be a nice building block along with Ty Lawson for the Nuggets' future.
I hate to play the East Coast bias card but I have to. I understand that the Pac-10 is not as powerful a basketball conference as it once was, but you cannot deny how well Klay Thompson is playing. He is lighting it up and averaging 22 points while shooting 46 percent and 43 percent from the three-point line.
He may not be the most explosive shooting guard ever but he can really shoot, has ideal size for the position and can handle and create for others. Marco Belinelli is not your ideal starting shooting guard and Marcus Thornton has been inconsistent. Klay would thrive off feeds from Chris Paul, and I think he would be a great complement to him on the perimeter.
The trade that the Magic had with the Suns left them a bit barren on the inside. They have been actively trying to acquire another big and Trey Thompkins would be a great complement to Dwight Howard. Trey is a multi-dimensional power forward who can truly play inside/out.
He could add some size and scoring punch to the Magic front-line and the best part is that his limitations could be covered up by big Dwight. Trey is not overtly explosive and is not a force defensively but he will have the best in the business backing him up. The biggest thing that Trey needs to control is his conditioning. He has tremendous talent but he needs to continue to work on his body to ensure he gets the most out of his potential.
The Hawks need some help at the small forward position. The Hawks took a chance on a raw player named Josh Smith once and I think it would behoove them to do the same again on CJ Leslie. CJ does not have much of an offensive game currently and needs to put on quite a bit of weight. That being said, he is what Jay Bilas would call, "Long with potential."
He is a jumping jack that runs the court like a deer, boards well despite his lack of weight, is a tremendous help-side defender and actually has a pretty good handle. The good thing is that he could develop in their system and would not need to be a primary offensive option. He just needs to keep working on his game and hitting the weights but his potential is limitless.
Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson are unrestricted free agents this upcoming season. That leaves the Mavs with some holes on the wings and they are fortunate that this particular draft is so rich in small forwards. Tyler Honeycutt is another player that has a tendency to get lost in the malaise of the Pac-10 this year. It's often hard to really get a feel for a player in Ben Howland's system and players like Russell Westbrook are a testament to that. Tyler has ideal size for the small forward position and his game is based more on basketball IQ than athleticism.
That's not to say he is not a good athlete, but he isn't in the same mold as players listed before him like Singleton and Leslie. He makes smart decisions in the game, is an excellent passer and can explode at times offensively like his 33-point game against Kansas this season. I think he would be a great fit on a team that doesn't need him to create his own shot as that is one of his biggest weaknesses now. He could very well have an impact similar to Landry Fields if he is given the minutes needed to showcase his abilities.
I would not be shocked at all if the OKC Thunder let Jeff Green walk this offseason. He is a talented player for sure but Serge Ibaka has outgrown him. Ibaka is breathtakingly athletic and is a force on the glass as well as on the defensive end. His offensive game is still evolving and I think that the Thunder could use a player with a nice offensive skill set like Harris to back him up.
Harris and Ibaka combined would actually make a great starting power forward come to think of it. Tobias can handle, create for others and gets to the line at a good clip. He is not going to blow you away with his size or athleticism but he is a hard worker that will contribute in numerous ways. He is not as skilled as Jeff Green overall but could bring similar facets to the table if Green truly is going the way of the Dodo bird.
I just couldn't resist myself here. I am beginning to question how much longer Deron Williams will want to play for the Jazz and I know that Utah would find it almost impossible to pass on a kid that leads the nation in scoring and happens to go to BYU.
He will struggle to guard many players in the pros and is a black hole offensively, but he is a gamer that can really score. I don't know if he will ever be an elite pro but the local factor combined with his undeniable ability to light the lamp could help him sneak into the first round. People may question his size but with his quick release, he will be able to score in the pros if anything.
The Bulls really need somebody at shooting guard but there isn't much to look at here. I think they go with a value pick and Brandon Knight could be a great addition as a backup to Derrick Rose. He is a hard worker and passes the athlete eye-test quite well, but he still needs time to develop his jump shot and his point guard skills. Playing on a great team should allow him to mature and learn from one of the best. Initially, he could provide defense and much-needed rest for Derrick Rose as the Bulls continue to look more and more like one of the top three elite teams in the East.
The Miami Heat would probably be sad to see a few of the point guards that I listed gone at this point but they have a lot of holes still to fill around the Big Three. For Kenneth Faried, this could be his ideal destination. He is an undersized power forward but you will not find a harder worker or better rebounder out there. He does not have much of an offensive game to speak of but all he would have to do is the dirty work and finish with his great leaping ability. I would not be shocked to see him go sooner to any team that wants an elite level rebounding presence, but this would be an ideal fit for an already very good team.
The Lakers are finally starting to show those age spots. They could use some athleticism and youth on their squad and Jeff Taylor certainly fits the bill. He is not the type of guy you run your offense through and his J certainly needs some work but he is explosive and can be an elite defender. He should have time to work on his game and learn the triangle.
I almost see him fitting into that Trevor Ariza type of role. If he has a great work ethic like Shannon Brown displayed this offseason, there is not reason to think that those open looks will not start to fall. Taylor has truly outstanding potential and he could potentially become a household name if he puts in the work in the gym.
The Celtics could be without a lot of beef on their front line if Shaq and Glen Davis are not around come next season. KG isn't getting any younger either and their lineup could use a boost of some youg'ins. Thomas Robinson is not a known commodity. He happens to play behind the Morris boys and his role is somewhat limited on this Kansas team.
He is a project but he has all the intangibles of a lottery pick. He has an ideal frame, is a fantastic athlete and he is a big that actually likes to mix it up in the paint. He needs time to grow and refine his game, but he could have some great mentors on this team that could push him to his absolute limits. This would be a worthwhile risk pick this late in the draft, and this kid deserves it after the tragedies that he had to cope with this season.
Trying to predict a Spurs pick is like trying to win the lottery. No matter how much I study the draft, they always seem to find a gem that I had never heard about. They are as good a drafting team as there is out there and I essentially assume they picked a great player to fill a particular role on the team.
Antonio McDyess is about to fade into the sunset and Tim Duncan is still getting it done, albeit in super-slow motion. They have a need for some frontcourt assistance and I think Tristan Thompson would be a nice pick for them. Thompson is a bit undersized but his motor, skill-set and 7'2" wingspan help make up the difference.
He has a good handle and is a great weak-side defender as well. He is still polishing his game up and has to work on his jump shot but he is more than worthwhile for a team that already has had an embarrassment of riches via the draft over the years.