2011 NBA Draft: 10 Prospects To Help Golden State Warriors Get Over the Hump
As the Warriors continue to tread water as the 12th seed in the Western Conference, the wandering eyes of the Bay Area faithful have moved to the world of college basketball for more reasons than just filling out their breakouts.
The Warriors need to acquire a star; that's been evident (and been their stated goal) since new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber acquired the franchise earlier this season. The question remains, however, where will the Warriors find this kind of talent?
The obvious answer appears to be the NBA draft. Oakland, after all, does not exactly have NBA stars lining up to move in.
So how, then, will the Warriors find their superstar in a draft that the pundits call historically weak? Great scouting and some lottery luck wouldn't hurt.
History has shown that even the worst draft classes have some players hidden in them (even 2000, possibly the worst all-time had Kenyon Martin, Hedo Turkoglu and Michael Redd) so Warriors scouts shouldn't turn their televisions off yet.
In fact it's often draft classes like these where mid-level lottery teams (the Warriors would draft 11th if the league drafted today) can acquire top-level talent. So here are 10 prospects for this draft that can help the Warriors make a playoff run next season (if there is a next season, fingers crossed).
10. Second Round Options
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As it stands, the Warriors hold the 41st pick in the second round of the upcoming draft. And given this team's history of finding some gems in the second round (notably Monta Ellis in 2005 and Gilbert Arenas in 2001) this could be the pick that makes or breaks the Warriors draft.
Luckily for them, there should be plenty of options here to bolster their draft coup.
The backup point guard position has been a thorn in the Warriors side all season (sorry Jeremy Lin and Acie Law fans). Here's one position that this draft appears to be extremely deep in.
If UConn's Kemba Walker falls to 41, he's a no-brainer for Warriors general manager Larry Riley here. He has the ability to create his own offense (23.4 points) and can be a lights out shooter from distance (34.8 percent). His attacking mentality could create space for the Warriors many shooters.
If not, Illinois' Demetri McCamey, Butler's Shelvin Mack and Pittsburgh's Brad Wanamaker could all be options here. As far as projected value, this is high for Mack and Wanamaker. But all three of these players could bring veteran leadership and experience to the Warriors second unit.
McCamey (6'3", 200 lbs) had a nice senior campaign (15 points and 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio) and is currently projected as the Warriors' second round pick on nbadraft.net. Wanamaker and Mack both have tournament experience in case the Warriors can find someone looking to move up in the round.
If the Warriors go after a backup big (another weak spot on the current roster) one intriguing prospect could be former San Diego high school star Jeremy Tyler. The 6'11", 240-pounder has seen his star fade since forgoing his senior season to play in Italy. But Tyler (who scouts say can play the power forward or center in the league) still has the potential to be an elite player. His athleticism allows him to contribute at both ends and offensively, he has a nice midrange game to complement his post scoring.
Of course, with Richmond big man Justin Harper projected to be drafted around the 41st pick, don't be surprised if the Warriors go this route. Harper's NBA comparison on nbadraft.net: none other than coach Keith Smart's favorite, Vladimir Radmanovic.
9. Nolan Smith (Duke)
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The last Blue Devil that the Warriors nabbed in the draft didn't turn out so well (Mike Dunleavy is still getting booed by Warriors fans on every return visit) so Duke's image could stand to improve in the Bay and Smith is just the type of player to do it.
Although he's not projected to get drafted until the 20's, Smith is a magical March away from being a lottery pick. One of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award (given to the nation's best point guard), Smith has championship experience from last season's title run and the leadership skills that come with it.
More than just experienced, however, Smith is a talented point guard on both ends of the floor. His 18 games of 20 or more points show just how explosive his offense can be (for the record, that was six more than anyone else in the ACC) and, oh by the way, he also was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team.
Though it's hard to imagine him prying the Cousy Award away from media darling Jimmer Fredette (BYU), it's not hard to imagine Smith having the better pro career.
8. Jordan Hamilton (Texas)
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The talented Longhorn swingman, Hamilton's stock is a little low (projected to be taken in the early 20's) because scouts are unclear where he'll play in the NBA. At 6'7", 226-pounds he's a little undersized at the small forward position (although he towers over recent Warriors small forward options Reggie Williams and Monta Ellis) and lacks the lateral speed to stay with NBA shooting guards.
Even with the scouts' apprehensions, no one can deny Hamilton is a talented player. He has the ability to win games on the offensive end (18.5 points) and on the glass (7.6 rebounds). Even after finishing the regular season in the midst of a 31-96 (32 percent) shooting slump, he still managed decent shooting stats for the season (43.7 from the field, 39.8 from 3-point land).
But it's Hamilton's intangibles, not his scoring, that could have the Warriors salivating. He has the unique ability to grab rebounds and initiate the break (a Lamar Odom, Jr. perhaps?) and plays with a tenacity that the Warriors second unit has lacked all season.
If Hamilton rediscovers that shooting touch on college basketball's biggest stage, the Warriors might be lucky if he's available at 11. If not, perhaps they could move down and add another pick, while stealing a talented player later in the first round.
7. Terrence Jones (Kentucky)
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Just the latest in a long line of talented, John Calipari-coached freshman, Jones has been anywhere from a top-3 player to a late lottery pick depending on the scouting service (again, not a bad season to have a later lottery pick).
His fluctuations on the draft boards, however, remains puzzling because the guy has the size (6'8", 244) and the numbers (17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds) to justify the higher projections.
Even more tantalizing than the size and the stats, though, is Jones' skill set. At 6'8", Jones has the size, strength and speed to defend shooting guards and both forward positions. He also uses his frame well when attacking the glass.
Most importantly for the Warriors, though, is the fact that Jones has the skills of a point guard in his big frame. He's a great passer with tremendous vision and has the ball handling skills to consistently initiate the offense. Translation: Jones could very well fill the point-forward position that would finally allow Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry to both focus on creating their own offenses.
If he's available, he could make the Warriors scary good as soon as next season.
6. Chris Singleton (Florida State)
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Singleton does not possess the upside of a Terrence Jones or even Jordan Hamilton, but he's an experienced (junior) lock down defender who could help ease the transition away from offense-first (or offense-only) basketball.
Singleton's 6'9", 225-pound frame would seam to be better suited for the small forward slot in the NBA, but he could prove to be a valuable change of pace option at the power forward level with his strength, defense and rebounding.
Strength, defense and rebounding, huh? Yeah, I think the Warriors could use more of all three.
His out-of-this-world athleticism also allows Singleton to make up for the few inches that he might give up to opposing power forwards. It also allows him to be an offensive weapon in the transition game.
What's more, is that Singleton has developed a pretty reliable three point shot (37.5 percent). Given his subpar handles, the fact that he's developing into a catch-and-shoot option means that he can provide more than just tremendous defense.
But at the end of the day, defense is what the Warriors need and defense is what he could bring to the club. A front court of Wright, Singleton and Udoh could be the defensive complement to allow the Warriors to succeed with their up-tempo offense.
5. Alec Burks (Colorado)
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Following Colorado's win over Kansas State, the Buffaloes should have earned an NCAA bid which means that Alec Burks will have his chance to prove that he belongs in the upcoming draft lottery. Spoiler alert: the kid absolutely belongs there.
With the size (6'6", 190) and athleticism to play shooting guard in the NBA today, Burks could be one of those once-in-a-draft-class special scorers. And luckily for his future NBA employers, Burks has developed a more well-rounded game in his sophomore season, increasing both his rebounds (6.5) and assists (2.7).
With both Warriors reserve swingmen (Reggie Williams and Al Thornton) slated to hit the free agent market, Burks has the offensive ability to be a dynamic sixth man should the Warriors chose to let one or both of their perimeter reserves walk.
Heck, with his size and potential, he could potentially give the Warriors a more traditional backcourt mate for Stephen Curry if they every chose to dangle Monta Ellis.
The only potential problem for the Warriors is that Burks' play may catapult him out of their draft reach. He's already shown the propensity for performing under the bright lights with 53 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists in the Buffs' first two Big 12 Tournament games.
4. Brandon Knight (Kentucky)
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Guess what? Another Calipari-coached freshman. And another talented one at that.
Just a season ago, Knight was battling current Ohio State Buckeye star Jared Sullinger for the top ranked prospect behind Harrison Barnes. And while Knight's Wildcats haven't been as impressive as Sullinger's Buckeyes, Knight has been every bit as good as advertised.
A natural scoring point guard (17.7 points) with a tremendous first step (think Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans burst) and the finishing ability around the paint to make his drives count. But unlike his NBA counterparts Rose and Evans, Knight will enter the league with a three-point stroke already in his repertoire (40.6 percent).
He has the skill set to contribute on both ends of the floor, with the quickness to keep his man in front of him.
His shot is still streaky and his decision making is still a development, but he has the potential to be the next great point guard in the league.
For now, though, the Warriors could use Knight as a nice change of pace from Curry's more controlled offense. Their second unit has talent, but a new driver at the wheel could remind the rest of the league just how much talent is already in place.
3. Kyrie Irving (Duke)
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Remember him? The freshman phenom who burst on the scene with 31 points against Michigan State before fading into the background with a toe injury that cost him all but eight games of his season.
Well, NBA scouts certainly remember him.
While some think Irving may chose to stick around a season (has to be tempting with top recruit Austin Rivers heading to Durham next season), reports say that Irving will leave if he will be one of the top two selections. Reports also say that Irving will be one of the top two selections, so he's in and the Warriors need lottery luck to nab him.
If they land Irving, Curry or Ellis could be on their way out. This season. He's that good.
Irving is a natural point guard who makes his teammates better. Not only that, but he can succeed no matter what opposing defenses do. He's a tremendous one-on-one player, with the ability to consistently penetrate the lanes. On top of that, he's got "in the gym" range (53.2 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from three-point land, 89.6 from the charity stripe).
Irving's injury may have hurt Duke's chances to repeat as champions, but it did not hurt his draft stock. Golden State, if they strike lottery gold, would have a hard time passing up a franchise point guard (even if one is already on board).
2. Enes Kanter (Kentucky)
Another Calipari-coached freshman? Really?
Yes. Well, kind of.
Only Kanter was ruled ineligible before lacing up for the Wildcats after the NCAA found that he had received improper benefits from Turkish club Fenerbahce when he was just 16.
At 6'11", 260 pounds, Kanter has the size and strength to battle with NBA centers today. What's perhaps most intriguing about him is that he does not turn 19 until May so he could potentially still be growing (although his 7'1" wingspan would suggest he's probably done).
Kanter is exactly the type of player the Warriors need. He's a defensive presence in the middle who understands how to play the game of basketball. It's his basketball IQ and anticipation that allow him to contest shots (he's not a tremendous athlete).
But while his defense would be a much-needed boost to this club, it's his back to the basket scoring ability that should have him atop the Warriors draft board.
So why then is he not at the top of my Warriors draft board? There are questions about his health, specifically his knees. Just ask Portland fans how much of a concern knee issues can be.
If he's healthy, Kanter could make the Warriors contenders in the West. If he's not, the Warriors will probably look and finish strikingly similar to this season's group.
1. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
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The newly-named ACC Rookie of the Year, Barnes didn't quite set the college hoops world on fire like scouts predicted he would coming out of his senior season in Ames, Iowa. He was, after all, being compared to Michael Jordan on ESPN after his first collegiate game (although in today's media maybe that qualifies as a late bloomer).
But Barnes has shown why NBA scouts continue to drool over him. His 6'8, 210-pound (chiseled) frame is NBA ready. He's a superior athlete, a great decision maker and a great teammate with great character (think Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard character).
He has a great burst, great lateral quickness and a Better Basketball DVD-quality shooting stroke. He lives for the moment and performs well in them; he made the game-winning or go ahead basket five times this season.
His numbers don't jump off the page (14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds) but his attitude and athleticism should. And don't be surprised if he puts the Tar Heels on his back for a Carmelo Anthony-esque run through the Tournament.
If the Warriors hit on the lottery (no matter which of the top three spots they hit), they should draft Barnes. There's a reason those Jordan comparisons were made. And if he brings a championship to the Bay, expect those comparisons to re-emerge.