2011 NBA Mock Draft: Will Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker Land in the Lottery?
Perry Jones is coming back to school. Jared Sullinger is too. John Henson and Tyler Zeller want to make a Final Four run, and Harrison Barnes is reportedly leaning toward that direction via numerous outlets, most notably ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt's Twitter account.
Seeing these players in school will make for a higher-quality college basketball season, but the NBA draft is starting to reach the point of despair.
Jones', Sullinger's and possibly Barnes' decisions will buoy players into lottery-round status for sure (see next page). Kemba Walker was a lottery pick already, but now, he might be top five. Fredette's status as one is sealed now, too. It's not even a question.
While this draft will not fall into 2000 territory (only three players were ever chosen for an All-Star game from that lot), here is the latest mock on what is looking to be a disappointing class.
Here are three articles for reference. The first is a Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker comparison. The second was my first mock draft from March 23. The last is my 50-person NBA draft big board from the day after the NCAA tournament, with much more detail on these players.
In fantasy sports, it's beneficial to cordon players off into tiers within positions to recognize what the value is of a certain player you are getting. For example, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixiera may have better stats overall than the oft-injured New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes this season, but Reyes is more valuable because of the dearth of fantasy talent at short.
Let's abandon the analogy and stick to real sports, cordoning off the prospects in this year's draft with my general predictions. I have three guys who I think will be very good (not counting the international players, as who I am to judge talent I've only seen on YouTube?).
Via my prediction of Fredette and Walker having among the eight best careers out of this draft, in my eyes, lottery selections are warranted.
Note: I'm not including Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton in mock drafts until they confirm the rumors that they are heading to the draft themselves.
Possible Hall of Famer/All-NBA
All-Star Appearances/Franchise Player
Very Solid NBA Professional, Long-Time Starter
Good NBA Professionals
Jimmer Fredette, Alec Burks, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Kenneth Faried, Brandon Knight
Just Another Starter
Kawhi Leonard, Terrence Jones
The Land of the Unknown
Jonas Valaciunas, Jan Vesely, Donatas Motiejunas, Enes Kanter
Role Players at Best
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
It may be a little shortsighted to call this a two-player draft, but in one way it is: Williams and Irving have the best chances, by far, to become elite members within their position in the NBA. If Minnesota is picking first, it has to go point guard here, because Jonny Flynn can't start over Luke Ridnour, and who the hell knows about Ricky Rubio?
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
I have the same opinion on the Cavs if they end up picking first or second: The Cavs need a franchise point guard to build around, but they need a lot of other things too.
Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker will be sitting at eight, where the Cavs are currently slated to make their second pick. Meanwhile, Williams is a versatile small/power forward who can shoot threes and shake 20,000-person arenas to their cores with violent dunks. A starting 2012-13 lineup of Knight/O.J. Mayo*/Derrick Williams/J.J. Hickson/Anderson Varejao is a fringe Eastern Conference playoff team.
*Insert your favorite 2012 free-agent shooting guard here. The Cavs have only $27 million plus on the books for 2012-13. For the record, Mayo is a 2012 restricted free agent.
3. Toronto Raptors
Name the three most immature and unorganized teams in the NBA. My list is Toronto, Sacramento and Washington. You can interchange some teams there, but most NBA fans will have the Raptors on that list.
Walker will add maturity and organization to a team that desperately needs a franchise point guard more than anything else. This may be a reach at three, but it's worth it.
4. Washington Wizards
Enes Kanter/JaVale McGee 2012. The latter is a shot-blocking machine, and the former is a compactly-built horse. Washington needs to find a big man after having the second-worst defensive rebounding rate in the NBA, and Kanter is the most NBA-ready at his position.
5. Utah Jazz
With Perry Jones' recent decision to return to Baylor, it might entice Alec Burks to head for the draft. He's a top-eight pick right now if he declares but may even go top five based on team needs.
The Jazz are set with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson down low, and Devin Harris can hold the fort long enough for Utah to service other needs in this draft. Namely, they need a shooting guard or small forward who can score in bunches. Burks fits that role perfectly.
6. Sacramento Kings
Out goes Samuel Dalembert (maybe), in comes Jonas Valanciunas. With two 6'11" monsters patrolling down low, the Kings will have a solid foundation with Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Valanciunas.
Valanciunas is incredibly lengthy and uses that size to score easily over his opponents, but how will he fare when facing guys of equal size?
7. Detroit Pistons
Brandon Knight did something John Wall couldn't do, even though Wall's 2009-10 UK team has four first-round NBA draft picks, including himself.
Knight led Kentucky to the Final Four and was two points away from the national title game as a freshman. Imagine what his game will be like as a college senior. We'll never found out though. He's not falling below the seventh pick if he goes. The latest on him and Terrence Jones is right here, via Real GM. Knight must cut down turnovers on the next level.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
NBADraft.net is incredibly high on Motiejunas, comparing him to Andrea Bargnani. You can't teach size, and Motiejunas has plenty of it at 7'0" and 224 pounds. A frontcourt of Derrick Williams, JJ Hickson and Anderson Varejao with Motiejunas developing off the bench seems pretty stellar.
9. Milwaukee Bucks
With Luc Richard Mbah a Moute off the books, a spot opens up for Marcus Morris alongside Andrew Bogut. Morris offers the Bucks size, versatility and stability in the frontcourt, traits the Bucks definitely need.
10. Charlotte Bobcats
I was sold on Kawhi Leonard to the Charlotte Bobcats for quite some time now, but then I realized D.J. Augustin is in the lower third among NBA point guards in efficiency and PER. Also, starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson is shooting 21 percent from three-point range.
Couple these things with a jaded fanbase who isn't showing up to games or watching them on television, and owner Michael Jordan finds himself in a situation where he needs to select Fredette with the 10th pick.
I've written enough about Jimmer Fredette in my mock drafts and player rankings that I'm giving B/R's resident Fredette expert, Andy Bailey, a run for his money, but Fredette is going to score in the teens at least and will be a good point guard.
Charlotte's system is more plodding and defense-oriented, but Paul Silas is a decent coach and a great person who will be patient with Fredette and teach him the ropes defensively. This marriage may actually work out.
11. Golden State Warriors
The cupboard is getting bare. The Warriors sorely need a defensive stopper, but one or two good defensive players are not going to cure Golden State's defensive ills when it has Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee starting every game with a crappy system to boot. It's like trying to fix a shark bite with a Fred Flinstone band-aid.
By virtue of me having no damn clue here, the player with the best upside, Jan Vesely, gets the nod at 11.
Vesely is a 6'11" small forward who is most comfortable attacking the basket like a rabid hyena attacks his prey. The Warriors need some bench help, and Vesely could fill in at backup small forward and power forward.
12. Utah Jazz
Terrence Jones get the nod here since the Jazz will lose Andrei Kirilenko in free agency and need to fill that small-forward gap. While Jones' court presence is lacking, at 6'8" and 244 pounds, he can do things on the court without even trying, such as grabbing nine rebounds per game last season. A Devin Harris-Alec Burks-Terrence Jones-Paul Millsap-Al Jefferson starting lineup will be one of the most athletic, well-rounded units in basketball.
13. Phoenix Suns
Need or value? Nolan Smith or Markieff Morris? The Phoenix Suns would love a shooting guard, or maybe a point guard to replace Steve Nash in two years if he leaves, but Nolan Smith is not a good value pick at 13. Morris goes here since he fits the Suns system.
14. Houston Rockets
Kawhi Leonard has dropped in mock drafts even though more players have been coming back to school. NBA teams may be sacred of his ability to score on the next level with him being 6'7" at small forward and not possessing a reliable jumper. Still, he's very athletic and fits both the need and value descriptions for the Rockets.
15. Indiana Pacers
We have now entered the segment of my mock draft called "throwing darts." There is an enormous dip in talent between the top two and everyone else, but there is even a bigger dip between the top 14 and everyone else.
With Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster off the books next season, the Pacers need some depth in the frontcourt. Trey Thompkins is the most well-rounded big man available.
16. Philadelphia 76ers
No player remaining can do one thing better than Chris Singleton can defend (aside from our next prospect), if that makes any sense.
The 76ers don't need another player who is a poor outside shooter, but there aren't any marksman shooting guards available who will be able to get off their shot nearly as well as they did in college. Versatile defenders are hard to come by come draft time, so Singleton should get the nod here.
17. New York Knicks
The Knicks' need for a defensive-minded center is well-documented, but here's a news flash: They don't grow on trees. Plus, if a hard cap is put in place with the new CBA, kiss getting a serviceable free-agent center good bye.
You say Faried doesn't have much of an offensive game? I say he'll never get to shoot on the Knicks anyway. You say Kenneth Faried is too small to guard NBA power forwards? I say NBA power forwards don't have Faried's leaping ability, speed and stamina. You say Faried played in a zone defense for the duration of his college career? I say the Knicks don't play defense most of the time, so who cares? You say you want a player with sweet dreadlocks who plays like Dennis Rodman and comes from the great state of New Jersey? I say damn right I do.
Faried-Knicks 2011. Let's get it done.
18. Washington Wizards
A 6'10" power forward who will probably play small forward at the next level most of the time, Justin Harper made almost 45 percent of his three-pointers last season. Washington would get much-needed physicality and length and power forward and small forward with the Enes Kanter and Justin Harper picks.
19. New Orleans Hornets
Marco Bellineli is a spot-up three-point shooter who is unathletic for an NBA guard.
Travis Leslie likes to drive to the lane and is very athletic, even for a future NBA guard. With their powers combined, they will become a nice platoon in New Orleans should the Hornets go this route.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Honeycutt was being taken in the top 10 of mock drafts earlier in the season, but his off-shooting nights and inconsistent offensive production overall have dropped him out of the lottery. There is also some concern about his slight 6'8" frame, but he does things well enough on defense and the glass to warrant a pick from Minnesota. Honeycutt is the most talented player left at this point.
21. Portland Trail Blazers
Lucas Nogueira is an incredibly raw center prospect at 7'0" who is rail thin but has better length than almost anyone in the draft. Watch this tape and notice his incredible shot-blocking ability. Watch it closer, and you'll see that the guys playing with him look six inches smaller.
Still, Nogueira has room to grow and get stronger. He may not develop much of an offensive game (right now it looks contained to the five-foot area around the rim), but with Marcus Camby possibly leaving via free agency, the Blazers could use some help down low aside LaMarcus Aldridge.
22. Denver Nuggets
Who's the best college power forward left, JaJuan Johnson or Jordan Williams? If you want to go for the international upside bent, is it either Bismack Biyombo or Nikola Mirotic?
I'm going with Bismack Biyombo, simply because he is 6'9" but has a 7'7" wingspan and 9'3" reach. He can hold each end of Gheorghe Muresan in his hands. The Nuggets will probably not re-sign 34-year-old Kenyon Martin, so power forward will be a need. With the amount of depth that Denver has, brass there can afford to wait for Biyombo to be great. He ranks seventh on Draft Express.
23. Phoenix Suns
Hey, what do you know? Phoenix was able to draft for value and need after all. The wise pupil Nolan Smith can learn behind the even wiser teacher Steve Nash for a year before possibly taking the reins of the Phoenix Suns offense.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City has the third-worst three-point shooting percentage of any impending playoff team this season. At 6'10", Nikola Mirotic, one of the best players at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, can be instant offense as a sixth man a la Vinnie Johnson in the 1980s, John Starks in the 1990s and Jason Terry in the 2000s. He could play small or power forward depending on what lineup Oklahoma City wants to throw out.
25. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are reeling from the shortsighted Kendrick Perkins trade, and at No. 25, Jordan Williams is the best bet to replace him. Problem is, he projects as a largely immobile power forward on the next level. Still, he is a road grader and a double-double threat who will add some toughness down low for the Celtics at 6'10" and 260, especially if Glen Davis takes off via free agency.
26. New Jersey Nets
Travis Outlaw is solidifying himself as perhaps the worst starting forward in the NBA.
Enter Jeff Taylor, the best small forward prospect remaining should the Vanderbilt junior declare. He is a good, improving shooter and plays excellent defense. At 5.5 rebounds per game, Taylor also rebounds well for his position.
27. Dallas Mavericks
The last draft-eligible, reigning Big Ten Player of the Year who was not picked in the first round of the NBA draft was Terrence Dials in 2006, who went straight to Europe.
Johnson, at 6'10" and 220 pounds, will have trouble finding a niche in the NBA, but he is too talented to fall out of the first round.
28. Chicago Bulls
The biggest knock on Keith Benson, Oakland's 6'11", 225-pound center, is that he lacks defensive toughness and may not be able to hang inside with NBA centers.
What better place to learn how to play good defense than Chicago, where Tom Thibodeau is a defensive wizard and Joakim Noah reins the paint? Benson's offensive game is pretty solid, but if his defense catches up, he will provide nice frontcourt depth off the bench.
(Note: I had the Miami Heat drafting BC point guard Reggie Jackson here before. Thanks to two people who made comments below who noticed the error.)
29. Chicago Bulls
Not the greatest three-point shooter, but Marshon Brooks knows how to score. He led the Big East with 24.6 PPG and also grabbed seven boards per contest. The 6'5" shooting guard can challenge Keith Bogans for the starting spot next season. Brooks can also play a little defense (2.7 combined blocks and steals per game).
30. San Antonio Spurs
I closed my eyes, put 10 names in a hat and came out with Tobias Harris to round out the first round.
Well, not really, but I'm not sure how many NBA mock drafts have accurately picked the last selection of the first round correctly. Probably very few. For his upside, the freshman Harris gets taken here.