With the NCAA tournament in its most exciting stages, it's a good time to take a look at which players are going to do well at the next level. Players have shown how they can perform in big moments, and that's a great taste of what the NBA is going to feel like.
The NBA draft has now become a little bit more clear now that we've seen what these college kids can do, but what about the international players? Enes Kanter is a big name that you will hear in most NBA mock drafts, and it's because he's a very intriguing prospect at a position that is dying right now in the NBA.
Where will the true center go in the NBA draft? Continue reading to find out as I predict the first 14 picks of the 2011 NBA draft!
The Rockets are a difficult team to figure out. They have made some questionable roster moves with their team the last few years, and that leaves them with a roster that is all over the place. With this pick I expect them to go with the best available player, and I can't see them being too upset with getting Brandon Knight with the last pick in the lottery.
Knight is John Calipari's newest point guard, and he too is nothing short of spectacular. The world's greatest recruiting coach raves about Knight's work ethic and understanding of the game. He says that Knight has picked up his learning faster and easier than any of the others who played for him. Knight is speeding fast and has one of most explosive first steps I've ever seen. He's a decent shooter, but will need to improve to be a great NBA player. His court vision has improved throughout the season as he changed from a shooting guard to a true point.
Jan Vesely is an interesting player from overseas. Compared to the others who are polished finesse players, Vesely is more of an athletic project. At 6'11'' and playing the small forward position, Vesely is going to be a nightmare for opposing coaches.
Vesely is long and athletic, and that makes him great at attacking the rim, but he needs to improve his shooting desperately. He's not a bad shoter at all, but if Vesely can become a more consistent shooter, his height and length will make him nearly unstoppable. Vesely would benefit from being drafted to Phoenix because Steve Nash is one of the best mentors in the game, and he could help Vesely even though they play different positions.
The Jazz don't have too many glaring weaknesses on their roster, which is odd for a team that is about to enter somewhat of a rebuilding period, but I expect them to pickup a piece that will be helpful down the road. Tyler Honeycutt introduced himself in the NCAA tournament to those who didn't know him, and I think the Jazz will be happy to have met him.
Honeycutt is a long guard with the ability to knock down jumpers with ease. He has a very calm aspect to his game that reminds me a little bit of Wilson Chandler. He always seems to be comfortable on the court and doesn't get phased by anything. Honeycutt would be an intriguing option for the Jazz this late in the lottery.
The Warriors have a nice young core of Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and David Lee in place in "The City," but they are still missing the answers at a few positions. I like Ekpe Udoh, and I think that if he adds some muscle to his small frame, he can be their answer at the center position. That makes me believe that the Warriors are going to go after a small forward with their first-round pick.
Kawhi Leonard makes a lot of sense for the Warriors, who need to improve defensively. Curry, Ellis and Lee are good offensive players, and with Leonard and Udoh on the court together, it would provide a nice balance of offense and defense. Leonard is also a talented offensive player who is only going to improve. He has a decent mid-range jumper, makes good decisions on the floor and can take it to the hole. For a guy his size, Leonard is a good passer and a great rebounder.
Leonard is the perfect fit for the Warriors at small forward, and they'd still be able to bring Dorell Wright off the bench if they're unhappy with their offensive production.
Plain and simple...the Bobcats need to find a way to excite their fans. Jimmer Fredette can do that. Jimmer is the best scorer in college basketball and the biggest offensive threat the NCAA has seen in a long time (better than Stephen Curry).
The Bobcats recently imploded their roster to clear salary, and they need a franchise player to call their own. Jimmer could be that guy. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor makes him impossible to cover, and if you play him too close, he'll blow right by you and get into the paint, where his strength makes for a lot of finishes or trips to the free throw line. DJ Augustin is a good distributor, and if Fredette can cover shooting guards at the next level, that could make for one exciting backcourt.
The Bucks have the two most important positions in basketball set with Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. In every other area, they can use improvements, especially at shooting guard with John Salmons getting up there in age and Michael Redd not being on the court in what feels like years.
Alec Burks could come in and provide some much-needed youth and freshness to the Bucks at the shooting guard position. Many may not know of Burks because he's playing for Colorado, but the guy can play. Burks gets to the free throw line at will because of his athleticism and ability to attack the rim, and he shoots 78 percent from the stripe. Burks can score in multiple ways, and he has relatively long arms that help him on the defensive end of the floor.
The Bucks could be getting a steal in Burks even this early in the draft.
The Cavs have two lottery picks this upcoming draft, and that is why it will make sense for them to take a chance on a guy with potential, but also the ability to contribute a little bit right away. That guy is going to be Terrence Jones.
Jones is a small forward whose game is unorthodox, yet highly effective. Jones can handle the ball like a guard, but he's built like a forward and uses these tools to either punish small defenders or blow by bigger defenders. Jones' jump shot is improving, although it looks disgusting. The question for Jones is whether he will be Lamar Odom or Anthony Randolph. If he lands somewhere in the middle of those two, Cleveland will still have made a good pick.
Donatas Motiejunas is a name that has been floating around the NBA draft for two years now. In both of those years, he has pulled his name from the draft because he saw his stock decrease. This is the year I think he'll finally be drafted, and the team that will make the move will be the Pistons.
Greg Monroe would be the perfect complement to Motiejunas, whose game is similar to Andrea Bargnani's. Monroe is a more traditional post player, and Donatas' ability to stretch the floor would make for a lethal four-five combination. Motiejunas is a little thin, but he will add some weight to his frame and end up being a real offensive weapon for Detroit.
The Utah Jazz have quickly entered a period of rebuilding, and that means they have time to develop a player. Perry Jones might have the most potential in this draft, and although he has character issues, I can't see Utah passing up on a player of his caliber.
Jones is a 6'10'', lanky small forward who is developing his offensive game rapidly. Jones is starting to hit jumpers with consistency, and his length makes him a good finisher and shot blocker. Jones is very athletic, and although his game lacks identity right now, he will end up being a good NBA player just because he is strictly too talented not to be.
The Raptors are another young team with some talent on their roster, and with the fifth pick I can see them drafting Jared Sullinger. Sullinger is a national player of the year candidate, and getting somebody like that with the fifth pick would be a great day for the guys in Canada.
Sullinger would fit perfectly into the starting lineup next to Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors would have Ed Davis come off the bench and lock down opposing big men, and the former two players would be one of the best inside scoring combos in the league. Sullinger reminds me of a more dominant post version of David West, and that says a lot. He tries his hardest night in and night out and just knows the game extremely well.
Jared Sullinger is probably the fourth-best player in this draft and maybe even the third, but the Kings have too many big men to take another in this draft. With Evans running the point and Marcus Thornton emerging as a very good NBA player, small forward is the position of need for the Kings, and I can't think of a better guy for them than Harrison Barnes.
Barnes is the most mature college basketball player in the nation, and he's extremely versatile. Barnes is long with the ability to get to the rim and knock down jumpers. He has an extremely smooth stroke and has been coming up big in clutch situations late in the season.
The Wizards are going to get lucky if Derrick Williams is available at number three. Williams is the best player in the draft and could fit in nicely in Washington.
Washington is loaded with young talent and will pick the best available player. If Williams drops to the Wizards, they will have had one successful NBA draft.
Williams is a little bit of a question mark when it comes to his position, as he is a little short for the power forward position but too wide to play small forward. There is no question, however, about whether or not he will be productive in the NBA. Williams is a beast in the paint and can knock down outside shots. His coach compares him to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the way that he is able to close out games. That's a quality that the Wizards will need to have.
Derrick Williams will be the best player available at this pick for the Timberwolves, but I can't see them picking a power forward with Kevin Love in town. Williams may be able to play the small forward position, but they also are now invested in Wes Johnson. Putting a center next to Kevin Love makes a lot of sense for the organization, and I think they are going to go that route.
Kanter is a true center who can bang inside, rebound and block shots. He holds the record for most points scored in a Hoops Summit game, and his style of play will complement Kevin Love's very well. The Timberwolves have their issues, but a talented young roster that consists of Love, Johnson, Ricky Rubio (if he ever comes over) and potentially Enes Kanter will certainly give Wolves fans something to smile about.
With the number one selection in the 2011 NBA draft, the Cavaliers should pick Kyrie Irving. The NBA is turning into a point guard league, and the Cavaliers have the opportunity to grab a great one in this draft. Irving is NBA ready, as he has been learning under Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski all season. Sure, Irving missed a lot of time this season, but those hours he spent with the team will still benefit him.
Irving is very quick dribbling the ball, and he has great court vision. He has a high basketball IQ and is a good finisher in the paint area. A lot of people see him as a Chris Paul-type player, and although I don't think he'll be as good, they do have a very similar game. Irving is a safe pick for the Cavs and because they have that other lottery pick, it's going to be the smart move to take a player like Irving.