2011 NBA Mock Draft: Could Marcus Morris Go in the Top 5 of the Lottery?

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IApril 4, 2011

2011 NBA Mock Draft: Could Marcus Morris Go in the Top 5 of the Lottery?

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    There seems to be a lot of college freshmen, sophomores and juniors declaring new found love for the NBA this spring, intent on giving up their remaining college eligibility in order to enter the June draft.

    With the very real possibility of an NBA lockout this summer, you would think most underclassmen would choose to stay in college for another year. 

    Perhaps they know something the rest of us don’t.

    One of the many players from the college ranks not a senior who may jump to the next level is Marcus Morris, the smooth shooting 6’9” junior forward for the Kansas Jayhawks.  He has all the necessary tools and is almost guaranteed to be a first round pick in the June draft. 

    Will he stay at Kansas, where his twin brother Markieff also stars as a 6’10” power forward?  The two are thought to be inseparable and, so, if one goes the other may follow.  Marcus is clearly the stronger player, strong enough to be considered a lottery pick and maybe even top five.

    The best thing about a Mock Draft is that everyone who takes a stab at predicting who, what and where is really grasping at straws, forks, napkins and placemats.  

    But, it is fun and some of us may even get a few picks right when all is said and done. 

    If the draft were held today, here are the chosen 30 first round picks according to no less an authority than me.  Please don’t hold my feet to the fire – wow, I can feel the heat already.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers -- Derrick Williams, Sophomore Forward, Arizona Wildcats

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    Spending an entire winter living in Cleveland must feel like a sentence rather than a privilege.  At least when LeBron James played for the Cavs, it made those 10 foot snowdrifts seem bearable if not slightly annoying.

    James has since taken his talents to South Beach and crushed all hope for NBA fans who call themselves Cleveland Cavalier supporters.  You've got to be awfully comfortable in your own skin not to place a bag over your head while watching this once proud franchise meander its way to new lows.

    Derrick Williams, a 6'8" scoring forward from Arizona, is the closest thing to a sure thing in the upcoming draft.  His stock, already high before March Madness, leaped to new levels following some incredible play in the tournament.

    Williams can shoot from outside just as comfortably as he can from five feet.  In the Wildcats' big 93-77 upset of defending national champion Duke last weekend, Williams was on fire; hitting on 11-17 shots from the field, including five of six three pointers.  He scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

    The Cavs would be smart to take Williams with the first pick.  They could change their mind if Ohio State freshman phenom Jared Sullinger declares late for the draft -- he'd be a good pick for the locals who need a homegrown product to replace their once beloved King James. 

    But, as of today, Derrick Williams is the most complete player on the board.  He would clearly give Cleveland a major shot in the arm.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Kyrie Irving, Point Goard, Duke

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    Point guards seem to be in large supply this year, although none of them are what you would call the next big thing.

    Duke's Kyrie Irving may be the closest.  Although he missed all but eight games of the regular season due to a turftoe injury, Irving displayed enough outstanding talent during the NCAA Tournament to convince most scouts that he was deserving of being drafted so high.

    Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis will love Irving's take charge attitude and poise on the court.  The 6'2", 180 pound Irving will make a fairly easy transition to the next level.  He has tremendous court vision and is comfortable shooting from just about anywhere.

    Irving averaged 17.5 points per game in his brief freshman campaign.  He did not seem to miss a beat; after sitting out three months due to the injury, Irving scored a total of 53 points in three post season tournament games, including 28 in Duke's loss to Arizona on March 24.

    This kid is ready for the bigs.

3. Enes Kanter -- Center/Forward, Kentucky

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    He's number 0 in your program, number three in the NBA draft.

    Zero was also the number of games Enes Kanter played for the University of Kentucky this past season after being declared ineligible by the NCAA for receiving $33,000 above his "necessary expenses" while playing for a club team in Turkey from 2008-09.

    The only real question mark surrounding this 6'11", 260 pound power forward/center is whether his knees will hold up to the pounding he's sure to get at the NBA level.  He has a history of knee problems.

    On the positive side, Kanter is considered an offensive threat with soft hands and excellent post moves.  He has high energy and an excellent work ethic.

    Washington needs some scoring muscle in the paint to match up with super rookie guard John Wall.  Kanter would be a great match.

4. Toronto Raptors -- Perry Jones, Freshman Forward, Baylor

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    The Raptors and their fans surely miss Chris Bosh and his tremendous play at the wing position.  Perry Jones may eventually make them forget if Toronto is smart enough to draft him with the fourth overall pick in the draft.

    The 6'10" Jones is one of those rare big athletes who has the ability to score from all parts of the court, rebound with the best in the league and create opportunities out of nothing for his teammates.  He's a raw talent with tremendous upside potential and would fill a big void in Toronto.

    Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in his freshman year at Baylor.  He had six games in which he scored at least 20 points, including 27 against Texas A&M and 25 versus Oklahoma.

5. Sacramento -- Alec Burks, Freshman Shooting Guard, Colorado Buffaloes

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    There's a whole lot of future NBA fans down in Orange County, California who envision the day the Sacramento Kings bring their franchise to Anaheim and the amazing talents of Alec Burks along with them.

    Burks is long and lean, 6'6" and 191 pounds, with the potential to grow into his frame over time.  He also will grow into his talent which, after one season at Colorado, is turning heads.

    Burks was the high school Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri in 2009, averaging  23.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and three assists.  At the college level, in his freshman year at Colorado, he averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

    This is a player to build a team around and the Kings, or whatever their new name will be in Southern California, will be wise to draft this 19 year old who has franchise player written all over him.

6. Utah Jazz -- Marcus Morris, Forward, Kansas Jayhawks

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    His value continues to rise -- Marcus Morris could potentially crack the top five of the NBA draft.  That is, if he decides to come out early from Kansas.

    Morris is one of the steadiest, all around players in the college ranks.  He is a consistent scorer - 17.2 points per game including 34 percent from beyond the arc and 57 percent overall.  He is consistent on the glass -- 7.6 rebounds a contest.

    The Jazz could use a point guard, someone to replace the departed Deron Williams. But Morris is too good to pass up, even if BYU's Jimmer Fredette is still available when their pick comes up.

7. Detroit Pistons -- Jan Vesely, Forward, Partizan Belgrade

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    Long gone are the glory days of Detroit supremacy in the NBA.  Jan Vesely will add excitement to a Pistons team in dire need of some electricity. 

    Vesely, an athletic, 6'11" power forward from Partizan Belgrade, has all the tools to star in the NBA.  He brings a lot of energy to his play and can easily post up over smaller forwards., Like Blake Griffin of the Clippers, he can move up and down the court quickly, passing or taking passes for quick layups on the break.

    What Vesely currently lacks is overall strength but that will come with time.  He's been compared to Utah Jazz star forward, Andrei Kirilenko, because of his length and athleticism.

    Vesely is averaging over 10 points per game this season in Euroleague play.  He's connecting on 60 percent of his field goal attempts, including 36 percent from three point range.  He's a work in progress and could grow into the Pistons system over a couple of years since they are a team in transition and rebuilding mode.


8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Brandon Knight, Point Guard, Kentucky.

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    An explosive point guard with size and incredible quickness, Brandon Knight would fit in well on a Cavs team that desperately needs a floor leader and play maker.

    The 6'3", 185 pound freshman from the University of Kentucky had a stellar first year with the Wildcats, averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 assists, 38 percent accuracy from three point range and four rebounds per game.

    Knight has matured in a hurry, from high senior through his freshman campaign in college.  If he's still available when Cleveland picks in the eighth spot, they would be wise to take him.  He can score, penetrate to the basket, find the open man and get back on defense where he continues to improve with each game.

    Knight exploded for 30 points against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament last month, his career best.  He added 22 in a win over North Carolina and 17 in a one point loss against the University of Connecticut last Saturday in the Semifinals of the tourney.  In what may have been his final college game, Knight shot just 6-23 from the field against a very tough Huskies defense.

9. Milwaukee Bucks -- Donatas Motiejunas, Power Forward, Benetton Treviso

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    Donatas Motiejunas is a great fit for the Bucks who could use more muscle, size and range at the power forward position.

    Motiejunas is a 7 foot scoring forward who is quickly developing all aspects of his game, on offense and defense. He is averaging 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Euroleague playing the center position.  Motiejunas connects on 52.4 percent of his shots from the field.

    The Bucks have 260 pound Andrew Bogut at center -- he is averaging 13 points, 11 rebounds and almost three blocks per game.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is their starting power forward and the former UCLA Bruin is averaging just 6.7 points per game for Milwaukee.

    Motiejunas has been compared to Andrea Bargnani and scouts feel is upside potential is tremendous.  The knock against him is that he sometimes loses focus and doesn't play with the intensity that's needed on a nightly basis in the NBA.

    You can see the potential and the traits of a Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitski, though Motiejunas has a long ways to go to reach those veteran superstars.

10. Charlotte Bobcats -- Terrence Jones, Forward, Kentucky

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    Terrence Jones is a forward phenom waiting to happen for some lucky NBA team.  Charlotte could use an athletic position player such as the freshman Jones who helped the Wildcats get to the Final Four in Houston this year.

    You can't teach size and, at 6'8" and 244 pounds, Jones has plenty of that going for him.  Add to that a repertoire of shots, passing, ball-handling skills and defense, and you have the makings of a future star in the NBA.

    Jones put up tremendous freshman numbers for Kentucky, averaging 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game while leading the Wildcats all the way to the semifinals of the tournament.

    Jones had some outstanding offensive games this season, including a 35 point night against Auburn, 29 against Oklahoma and 27 in a win over Notre Dame.

    There's a bit of a point guard in Jones -- he started his high school career playing that position at 6'3" before sprouting to his current height.  Those skills will help Jones along the way as he transitions into the NBA.

11. Golden State Warriors -- Jonas Valanciunas, Center, Lietuvos Rytas

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    Jonas Valanciunas is one of the only true centers available in the upcoming June draft and the Warriors would love to have a big body who can score dominating in the middle.

    Ekpe Udoh at center is certainly not the answers for the Warriors.  With about nine games remaining in the regular season, Udoh averages about four points in 17 minutes of play.  Though he has potential, most notably on defense, Udoh will never be a big scorer

    Valanciunas will give whatever team drafts him the size and power to match up well with most legitimate centers in the league.  He is only 18 (turns 19 on May 6) and is 6'11", 240 pounds and still growing.

    Valanciunas has a nice touch from up to 12 feet out and plays with a lot of energy.  He is a work in progress but true centers are a rare commodity and teams are well advised to take what they can when they can and then develop the player.  Andrew Bynum, taken in the draft as a 17 year old by the Los Angeles Lakers, is the perfect example of that strategy.

12. Utah Jazz -- Jimmer Fredette, Point Guard, Brigham Young University

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    This pick may be a hard one for the Jazz.  It's obvious they need a point guard since they lost their leader and one of the best in the league when Deron Williams was traded to Nets earlier this year.

    What makes this especially difficult is that two exceptional guards may be available when their turn to pick comes -- one of them is Jimmer Fredette, the AP Player of the Year from BYU; the other is Kemba Walker of UConn, the six footer who has led his team to the NCAA Championship Game to be played in Houston tonight.

    Fredette makes the most sense for a couple of reasons -- first is that he has proven he can score, at least in the college ranks, averaging 29 points on 45 percent from the field, including 40 percent from beyond the arc.  Fredette has tremendous range and ability to make shots from just about anywhere on the court. 

    His superb conditioning comes in handy at the end of games when other players often wear out.  He averaged almost 36 minutes per game for BYU this season.

    Walker is a different type of guard and his point guard skills are probably more developed at this point.  But another reason to take Fredette is that he played for BYU and over the last four years has built quite a fan base in Utah.  He'll put bodies in seats when the Jazz are playing at home and that counts for something too in these days of high salaries and expenses.

13. Phoenix Suns -- Kemba Walker, Point Guard, University of Connecticut

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    If the Suns have the option to draft Kemba Walker at number 13, the odds are extremely high they will.  There's no telling if future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash will still be with the Suns next season -- he is still a tremendous player but he is also 37 years old.

    There is no one quicker in the college ranks than Walker -- he can blow by any defender and is not afraid to attack the basket even though he stands a shade under six feet.

    Walker really improved his game from his sophomore to junior season.  He went from 14.6 to 23.7 points per game and developed a much better outside shot in leading UConn into the Final Four. 

    Walker is well suited to the Suns who like to play an up tempo game. He averaged 4.6 assists for UConn this year as well as 5.4 rebounds, a credit to his tenacity and knowing where the ball is going to bounce.

    If there is one knock on Walker, it is his size.  He'll be challenged in the NBA but there have been other smaller guards who have done quite well at the next level.

14. Houston Rockets -- Kawhi Leonard, Forward, San Diego State

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    At 6'7", 225 pounds, Kawhi Leonard is considered somewhat small for the forward position in the NBA.  But that will not detract teams like the Rockets from taking him in the first round -- his raw talent, incredible length and high energy all make up for what he lacks in size and refined skills.

    Leonard help lead Steve Fisher's Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament this season and a school best 34-3 record, including 20 straight wins to open the season.  The sophomore from Riverside, California averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game as SDSU tied BYU at 14-2 for first in the Mountain West standings and beat them in the conference tournament to finish with the better overall record.

    SDSU's only other loss came in its last game, a seven point setback to UConn, which went on the NCAA Championship Game which will be played tonight against Butler.

    Leonard is exceptionally quick and has tremendous jumping ability, both of which will help him transition to the next level.  His shooting mechanics are still somewhat weak but they are improving.

15. Indiana Pacers -- Jordan Hamilton, Forward, University of Texas

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    Jordan Hamilton would be a great pick for the Pacers.  There are a lot of small forwards with scoring ability in the draft -- Hamilton is on of the best.

    The 6'7", 226 pound Los Angeles native is a consistent threat who understands the game well and is adept at pushing the ball up the court in transition.  At Texas, Jordan averaged 18.6 points on 44 percent shooting, including 38 percent from three point range.  He also had two assists a game and averaged close to eight rebounds.

    Consider this consistency: Aside from one game in which he scored nine points but played only 18 minutes, Jordan scored in double figures in every Texas game this season.  He scored 20 or more in 15 of those contests.

    Nothing is a sure thing, but Jordan Hamilton is close.

16. New York Knicks -- Tristan Thompson, Power Forward, Texas Longhorns

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    A man amongst boys is how some might describe this young freshman star for Texas.  He's coming off a freshman season that has the scouts buzzing.

    The 6'8", 225 pound power forward averaged over 30 minutes per game for the Longhorns, scoring (13.1), rebounding (7.8) and blocking shots (2.4).

    A native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Thompson is ready for the pros now and the Knicks will be lucky if he is still available when they pick.  Thompson would complement Carmelo Anthony on the front line and bolster a weak Knicks defense.

    Thompson was in foul trouble and only scored three points in the Longhorns one point loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament.  But he served notice throughout the rest of the season that he was a force to be reckoned with.

    Thompson blocked five shots in games against Illinois and Kansas, and seven in a win over Oakland in the tournament.

17. Philadelphia 76ers -- Jordan Hamilton, Power Forward, Maryland

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    According to nbadraft.net, the 6'10, 260 pound Williams is "perhaps the most improved player in the country between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and the room to grow is still obvious."

    Williams has been compared to Carlos Boozer and has tremendous upside potential.  He still has a ways to go on conditioning but he works hard and has the focus and heart needed for the next level.

    Williams averaged 17 points and 11.8 rebounds for Maryland in this, his sophomore season.  He's consistently around 54 percent from the field and battles for loose balls with high energy.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Kenneth Faried, Power Forward, Moorehead State

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    Minnesota already has, in Kevin Love, one of the more dominant rebounders to come along in years.  In the 6'8" Faried, they would be acquiring a bruising 225 pound forward who averaged 14.5 rebounds in his senior year at Moorehead State and 17.3 points per game.

    Faried pulled down more than 20 rebounds five times this past season and was in double figures in all but four games.

    Great rebounding is in short supply in the NBA but it's one of the key ingredients to scoring and winning.  Adding Faried to a team that has Love and his NBA record of 53 double doubles could easily get this team to the next level.

19. Washington -- Tyler Honeycutt, Forward, UCLA

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    Washington is a young team on the rise in the NBA.  Owner Michael Jordan has one piece of the puzzle in starting point guard, John Wall.

    Tyler Honeycutt will be a strong addition and benefit from Wall's exceptional ball handling and passing skills.  Wall averages close to nine assists per game.

    Honeycutt had an uneven season at UCLA, although his sophomore campaign showed great progress.  He is exceptional as a catch and shoot player which fits well with Wall and his ability to get the ball to the open teammate.

    Honeycutt averaged over 13 points per game for the Bruins, including a 33 point performance against Kansas earlier in the year.  He also led the Pac-10 in blocked shots.

20. New Orleans Hornets -- Markieff Morris, Forward, Kansas

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    Markieff Morris is the twin brother of Marcus Morris, and together they gave Kansas a tremendous one two punch on the front lines during the past NCAA season.  With the expectation that Marcus is coming out for the draft, chances are also high that Markieff will follow.

    Markieff is 6'10", 245 pounds and can score and rebound with equal consistency.  He averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebound for the Jayhawks, shot 59 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three point range.

    Considering that power forward David West has been injured this season, the Hornets would do well to bring in some backup help and insurance for their All Star player.  Morris would be a good choice.

21. Portland Trailblazers -- Chris Singleton, Power Forward, Florida State

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    At 6'9" and 225 pounds, Chris Singleton is a big, small forward who has shown outstanding skills on offense and defense and could be develop into a force at the next level.  Portland will be lucky to get him at number 21.

    Singleton averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season for Florida State.  He's skilled at catch and shoot, averaging 37 percent on his three point attempts.

    Singleton is known as a blue collar defender who doesn't need the ball to be effective.  With his size, reach and quickness, the tough minded Singleton should make for an excellent defender in the NBA, something the Trailblazers sorely need.

22. Denver Nuggets -- Thomas Robinson, Power Forward, Kansas

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    The 6'9" Robinson is just coming into his own as a player but may make the jump to the NBA this June.  His skills are tremendous, he just needs playing time.

    Imagine this:  Robinson averaged 7.6 points per game while playing just over 14 minutes a contest.  And he was good on 60 percent shots and averaged 6.4 rebounds.

    Think what this athletic forward might do when he has a chance to play more minutes.  With all the veteran stars at Kansas, Robinson did not get as many minutes as he would have liked.

    He'd be a great fit for George Karl's young, talented, Carmelo-less Nuggets.

23. Phoenix Suns -- Tobias Harris, Forward, Tennessee

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    Tobias Harris is another solid forward to who move quickly in transition and score in bunches.  He's also an excellent rebounder and has the skills to be a strong defender at the next level.

    At 6'8", the New York native would be a good fit for the Suns.  He averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in just under 30 minutes per game with the Vols.

    Harris came on strong in the final month of the regular season, scoring 25 against South Carolina, 18 against Kentucky, 25 against Florida and 19 against Michigan to finish out the season.  He is a one and done at the college level who will bring energy and points to whatever team drafts him.  It may be the Suns.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder -- JaJuan Johnson, Power Forward, Purdue

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    Some experts believe the Thunder will go after a point guard in the draft.  For a team that already has one of the top PGs in Russell Westbrook and constantly talks about needing more muscle in the paint, that makes no sense.

    Logic says the Thunder will hunt for size with their pick and, if available, may take JaJuan Johnson of Purdue.

    Johnson is 6'10" with a seven foot wingspan.  He's a shot blocker and a versatile athlete with tremendous shooting and ball handling skills.  He'd fit right in along side Kevin Durant and Westbrook while being of help on the boards.

    Johnson averaged 20.5 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Boilermakers this season.  He upped his minutes to 35 per game in this, his senior year.  Johnson is NBA ready - he's a bit on the lean side at just 225 pounds, but he'll get stronger in the pros and would be a fantastic pick for Oklahoma.

25. Chicago Bulls -- Jon Leuer, Power Forward, Wisconson

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    Though he lacks the strength to go up against players his height in the NBA, Leuer is an excellent finesse forward with high basketball IQ and a steady, fluid stroke that saw him average 39 percent on his three point shots this year.

    Leuer averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Badgers this season and he'll certainly find a home as a scoring option at the next level.

    The senior Leuer scored in double figures in every game this season except its last, a seven point loss to NCAA Tournament finalist Butler.

26. Boston Celtics -- Nolan Smith, Point Guard, Duke

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    Nolan Smith and the Celtics would make for a good match.  Boston is an aging team and, although starting point Rajon Rondo is really their leader of the future, the team can always use another solid play maker.

    At 6'3" and 190, Smith has the size to keep up with other guards around the league and is a consistent scoring threat, averaging 20.6 for the Blue Devils this year.

    The senior Smith averaged 46 percent from the floor and pulled down close to five rebounds per game.  He's a leader and would provide excellent support to Rondo, Paul Pierce and the rest of the Celtics who return next season.

27. Dallas Mavericks -- Kyle Singler, Forward, Duke

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    Kyle Singler loves the game of basketball.  He made that obvious during the recent NCAA tournament, diving for loose balls on both ends of the court and playing as if this was the last game of his career.

    Singler is sure to bring that same work ethic to the Mavs if they are fortunate to get him at number 27. 

    He sees the court extremely well for a player standing 6'9".  He has a variety of shots and is comfortable shooting out on the perimeter with consistency.

    Singler averaged 17 points and close to seven rebounds a game with Duke this year and was instrumental in the team's annual push into the NCAA tournament.  In the team's blowout loss to Arizona, Singler was a bright spot, hitting seven of 11 shots and scoring 18 points in the lopsided loss.


28. New Jersey Nets -- Nikola Vucevic, Power Forward, USC

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    New Jersey needs big bodies who can score; players that can feed off their outstanding point guard, Deron Williams. Nikola Vucevic would fit that bill.

    The 6'10" Vucevic brings so much to court for New Jersey after a tremendous season at USC.  He can score and do so with great accuracy -- and not just in the paint.  

    Vucevic averaged 17 points on 51 percent shooting for the Trojans.  He also made good on 35 percent of his shots from downtown.  Vucevic contribued on the glass, averaging 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

29. Chicago Bulls -- Jeremy Tyler, Power Forward, Japanese League

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    Jeremy Tyler originally committed to play at Louisville after his senior year of high school in San Diego.  He surprised everyone by instead going to Japan for a year in that country's professional league.

    Tyler is coming out for the draft and he has one year under his belt at the professiona level.  Playing in Tokyo, the 6'10", 245 pound power forward averaged 10 points on 52 percent shooting in about 15 minutes of play.

    Tyler could provide solid backup for the starters at Chicago.  He does not figure to start or see considerable minutes in his first season but he does have excellent upside potential.

30. San Antonio Spurs -- Darius Morris, Point Guard, Michigan

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    Darius Morris would be a strong pick for the Spurs who are aging and in need of suitable replacements at all positions in the years to come.

    Morris had a strong sophomore year for the Wolverines, averaging 15 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor.  He also averaged close to seven assists and that is where he would be of considerable help to the Spurs as a backup for the veteran Tony Parker.

    Michigan was a young team this year and would only get better if Morris stayed another year.  But with the possibility that he will get taken at the end of the first round or early in the second, there's no way this talented 6'4", 190 point guard from Los Angeles will stick around Ann Arbor.