2011 NBA Mock Draft: Why Underclassmen Rule the Top of the Board

Alex CurtlandCorrespondent IApril 14, 2011

2011 NBA Mock Draft: Why Underclassmen Rule the Top of the Board

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    Because of the rule change forcing incoming freshmen to play at least one year in college before declaring for the draft, it's now a rarity to see upperclassmen at the top of a draft board. 

    In the 2010 draft, the first senior was taken with the 23rd pick (Trevor Booker).  The 2009 draft was similar, with the first senior being taken with the 11th pick (Terrence Williams).

    It is becoming rarer and rarer for players to bypass millions of dollars and entering the NBA for a chance to win an NCAA championship.

    This draft is no different.  Top prospects Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes are either freshmen or sophomores.

    The draft order is still to be determined, but going by overall win-loss records, here is a complete NBA mock draft, full of underclassmen.   

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Arizona F Derrick Williams

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    19.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, .595 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Anytime you shoot close to .600 from the field, it's a good thing.  Williams' vast offensive arsenal (he can bully his way into the paint and still drain the three) makes him the most complete offensive player in this draft.

    His basketball IQ is astonishing.  He is great moving without the ball, setting screens and getting to the foul line (7.5 attempts per game).

    While not a great defensive player, he has a seven-foot wingspan and is a good shot-blocker.  He understands positioning, only averaging 2.5 personal fouls a game.   

    His only weaknesses are his slightly undersized frame (only 6'9") and lack of a consistent midrange jumper.

    Why He Fits with Minnesota

    Kyrie Irving is the other top prospect in this draft, but Minnesota already has young talent at the PG position in Johnny Flynn and (if he ever comes) Ricky Rubio.  Williams should be the pick.   

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Duke G Kyrie Irving

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    17.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, .529 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Has great quickness; able to blow by the majority of defenders he will face. Understands passing lanes and has great vision. 

    A great shooter from all areas of the floor, Irving is the prototypical NBA PG who "has a chance to be special" according to NBA draft analyst Aran Smith

    There is some risk with Irving however.  Durability is a concern after only playing 11 games his freshman season.  Was last season's injury a fluke or a sign of things to come? 

    Why He Fits with Cleveland

    With Williams already off the board, the Cavs have an easy decision.  Take Irving, regarded by many as the top prospect in this draft.  

3. Toronto Raptors: North Carolina F Harrison Barnes

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    15.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, .423 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    After a slow start, Barnes turned it on at the end of last season, showing why he was the top recruit coming out of high school. 

    He is an excellent three-point shooter, and probably the most athletic player in this draft.  

    He still has a lot of upside.  He must learn to become more consistent on the offensive end. 

    Why He Fits with Toronto

    Toronto needs help in a lot of areas, but with Barnes they will at least add scoring.  He would pair nicely with center Andrea Bargnani.   

4. Washington Wizards: Kentucky C Enes Kanter

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    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Kanter was ruled ineligible after receiving improper benefits from his Turkish club team, and he was unable to play his freshman season for the Wildcats. 

    Even so, he is the most polished big man in this draft.  He is surprisingly athletic for someone his size, has long arms (and soft hands) and a variety of moves in the post.

    Durability is a concern, as he had a number of knee injuries in Turkey.  There's also the question of whether he will adjust to the American game after playing in the Euroleague.

    Why He Fits with Washington

    Washington has talented big men in JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, but neither has the potential as Kanter.  

    Young superstar PG John Wall played very well with a talented big in college (DeMarcus Cousins), and Washington should look to pair Wall with another top-tier big man in Kanter.  

5. Sacramento Kings: Colorado G Alec Burks

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    20.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .469 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Burks was not on the most talented team in Colorado, but that did not prevent him from putting the ball in the basket. 

    He is a good shooter, and a great scorer.  He finds ways to score buckets, and is very gifted in transition. 

    He has good height for a SG (6'6"), but his small frame has some scouts worried he will get pushed around at the next level.  Aran Smith writes he "could add up to 30 pounds of muscle." 

    Why He Fits with Sacramento

    The Kings already have their PG of the future (Tyreke Evans) and big man of the future (DeMarcus Cousins).  They should look for another scorer at a different position to help the two young stars.  

6. New Jersey Nets: San Diego State F Kawhi Leonard

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    15.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, .444 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Leonard is the type of player who does a variety of things well, but nothing great.

    He has a long, athletic frame, and can step back and hit the three.  His biggest strength is his rebounding; he is very skilled at boxing out defenders. 

    However, he has trouble creating his own offense, and his stats may be skewed a little playing in a mid-major conference. 

    Why He Fits with New Jersey

    The prospects drop off at this point in the draft.  The Nets have Deron Williams at PG and Brook Lopez down low, so instead of drafting the best player, they should take Leonard to complement the two, even if it means reaching a little.  

7. Detroit Pistons: Kentucky G Brandon Knight

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    17.3 PPG, 4.2 APG, .423 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Knight's strength and speed make him difficult to guard one-on-one.  He can blow by slower defenders and post up smaller PGs. 

    He a great leader and clutch shooter, with two game-winning shots in the NCAA tournament and the game-winning three in the McDonald's All-American game. 

    His biggest issues are his shot selection and decision-making—two easily fixable problems. 

    Why He Fits with Detroit

    Washington, Sacramento and New Jersey all passed on Knight because they had a PG.  Detroit does not, and should feel lucky to get a player of Knight's talent at the seventh pick.  

8. L.A. Clippers: UConn G Kemba Walker

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    23.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, .428 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Like Irving and Knight, Walker is very fast.  He has a fluid way of getting into the lane, and has a nasty pull-up jumper (just ask Nasir Robinson of Pittsburgh). 

    He is very coachable; a proven winner and leader. 

    But at only 6'1", some worry whether he will be able to effectively guard the other elite PGs in the NBA.

    Why He Fits with L.A.

    The Clippers are the laughingstock of NBA GMs, with only two winning seasons since moving to L.A. in 1984.  Walker is a proven winner and PG is a position of need—the stars seem aligned for Walker to join Blake Griffin in L.A. 

9. Charlotte Bobcats: International C Donatas Motiejunas

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    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Motiejunas is from Lithuania, and at 7'0" he is the tallest player in this draft. 

    He has drawn comparisons to Mavericks PF Dirk Nowitzki because of his inside-out scoring ability. 

    Maturity is an issue, as he can take plays off and there are rumors of him being lazy in practice.  

    He still has a lot of untapped potential, but as with all international players, it may take a while for him to make an NBA roster—he is still very much a project.

    Why He Fits with Charlotte

    The Bobcats are a rebuilding franchise, so they have the luxury of allowing time for Motiejunas to develop.  They have many areas of need, so they should take the player with the highest upside.  

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Kentucky F Terrence Jones

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    15.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .442 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Jones is a very polished offensive player.  He has a variety of post moves, can hit the three and is a great ball-handler. 

    But, at only 6'8", he lacks the height to play PF and the shooting touch to play SF.  He is the definition of a "tweener." 

    Why He Fits with Milwaukee

    Jones' mental toughness fits in with the Bucks mantra.  They have inside-out scoring with Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, and should look to add a complement to the two in Jones.  

11. Golden State Warriors: Texas F Tristan Thompson

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    13.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, .546 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Thompson is a skilled player in the low post, using his size, strength and quick feet to get to the basket. 

    He is a smart player who is great at positioning and gets a lot of points off putbacks.  Despite his lack of size, he is also a great shot-blocker. 

    Thompson needs to work on his shooting touch however.  Teams will play off him, daring him to hit the midrange jumper.  Until he adds that aspect to his game, he may have trouble scoring in the NBA. 

    Why He Fits with Golden State

    The Warriors have plenty of outside scoring with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.  They need to become less of a finesse team and add toughness down low.  Thompson helps in both those areas.   

12. Utah Jazz: Brigham Young G Jimmer Fredette

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    28.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, .452 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Jimmer will live or die in the NBA based purely on his shooting.  He already has range beyond the NBA three-point line, and is very good at getting into the lane (with either hand). 

    Despite his small height, he can still score down low among the big men with a variety of floaters and runners in the paint. 

    His awful defensive and poor ball-handling may limit his effectiveness at the next level.  At only 6'2", he is too small to play at SG.

    Why He Fits with Utah

    Utah needs a bright new PG to carry the torch after the abrupt trade of Deron Williams.  It remains to be seen if Fredette can be that guy, but coming from BYU, he will at least improve ticket sales for a rebuilding franchise.  

13. Phoenix Suns: UCLA F Tyler Honeycutt

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    12.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, .406 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Honeycutt is an athletic, lockdown defender from the SF position.  He creates turnovers, is a great rebounder and can defend multiple positions. 

    He is often compared to Pistons guard Tayshaun Prince. 

    However, his offensive game needs work.  His midrange jumper is decent, but he has no range from three.  Most of his buckets come in transition.  He needs to learn how to create his own offense.

    Why He Fits with Phoenix

    Honeycutt would be a great replacement for the aging Grant Hill.  Phoenix's running style of play would give him scoring opportunities in the open court.   

14. Houston Rockets: Kansas F Marcus Morris

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    17.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, .570 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Morris is a little undersized, but has a complete offensive game.  He uses his strength to get into the lane, and has a very effective jumper from 12-15 feet. 

    He doesn't give much defensively however.  He plays with a high motor, but is not a great rebounder and has no shot-blocking skills.  His short wingspan (6'7") limits his effectiveness.

    Why He Fits with Houston

    Yao's injury issues never seem to stop, so Houston needs to find a successor at the C position.  Morris is the best big man left, and fits in well in coach Rick Adelman's system.   

15. Indiana Pacers: OSU William Buford

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    14.4 PPG, 2.9 APG, .462 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Buford has grown a lot during his three years at Ohio State, improving his three-point shooting from .361 his freshman year to .442 last season. 

    He is a great shooter, and athletic as well.  He should be more adapt at driving to the lane because of his quick feet—he still needs to shore up that aspect of his game. 

    His ball-handling is also suspect, as are his court vision and passing. 

    Why He Fits with Indiana

    Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Rush are not the answer at the SG position, so the Pacers must once again look for a solution.  Buford's three-point shooting would be very helpful on a Pacers team that lacks a true outside shooter outside of Danny Granger.  

16. Philadelphia 76ers: International C Jan Vesely

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    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Vesely is still very much a work in progress, but has a lot of potential. 

    He has just begun to develop an arsenal of moves in the post, but still needs work in that area.  He is already a skilled three-point shooter. 

    He plays with a lot of energy and emotion, making him an excellent defender.  He is able to guard multiple positions as well. 

    His two biggest areas of improvement are his errant passes and he needs to add some muscle to his small frame. 

    Why He Fits with Philadelphia

    Elton Brand has been a major disappointment since coming over from the Clippers, so the Sixers have a need for a big man.  And, they have a young team, so they have the time to let Vesely develop. 

17. New York Knicks: Kansas F Markieff Morris

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    13.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, .589 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Markieff is the lesser of the Morris twins, but is still one hell of a player.

    He is a better three-point shooter and rebounder, but less gifted in the paint offensively.

    Why He Fits with New York

    He runs the floor well, and with his ability to hit spot-up three-pointers, he would fit in very nicely with New York's transition offense.  Also, he would provide toughness down low for a rather soft team.    

18. Atlanta Hawks: Villanova G Maalik Wayns

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, .399 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Wayns is one of the faster players in this draft, and is a world-class athlete, but his offense needs major improvement. 

    He is not a good shooter and, while a gifted passer, he has some problems with turnovers.  His ball-handling needs improvement. 

    Why He Fits with Atlanta

    Mike Bibby is gone, and Kirk Hinrich is not the answer.  Atlanta needs to find a true PG to get the ball down low to Al Horford in the post or Joe Johnson on the wing.  

19. New Orleans Hornets: International C Jonas Valanciunas

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    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Valanciunas is another lean, tall player from the Euroleague to become a top NBA draft pick. 

    Skilled at running the floor offensively, he has long arms and is good at making plays around the basket. 

    He is still a work defensively, as he often gets in foul trouble. 

    Why He Fits with New Orleans

    The Hornets will likely lose David West and Chris Paul to free agency and will likely be rebuilding; why not take a chance with Valanciunas?  His upside is enormous.   

20. Memphis Grizzlies: Georgia F Trey Thompkins

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    16.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, .481 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Thompkins is very athletically gifted both in the half court and in transition.  He has no problems creating his own shot. 

    He has virtually no jump shot however.  He often has lapses defensively, leading some to wonder if he always gives 100 percent. 

    Why He Fits with Memphis

    Thompkins would be a lesser version of Zach Randolph coming off the bench.  Memphis has a solid foundation, and should now look to add depth.  

21. Portland Trail Blazers: Texas F Jordan Hamilton

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    18.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, .440 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Hamilton has a very strong body and often finishes plays even when fouled.  He is a versatile scorer, equal in both shooting and driving ability. 

    He can be streaky, and although he is a good slasher, his ball-handling is lacking.  He is fine defensively, but slow feet allow faster guards to get around him. 

    Why He Fits with Portland

    Portland, a great defensive team, would benefit greatly from Hamilton's offense.  

22. Denver Nuggets: Morehead State F Kenneth Faried

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    17.3 PPG, 14.5 RPG, .623 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Faried led the NCAA in rebounding and field-goal percentage last season—quite an accomplishment. 

    But he did so playing for a mid-major in Morehead State.  Also, many of his points were off putbacks; he lacks post moves. 

    Still, he is a tough, rugged big man who will do the dirty work down low.  Think of him as a lesser Kendrick Perkins.

    Why He Fits with Denver

    Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin are good, but unspectacular.  They have plenty of weapons in the frontcourt so Denver should address their big men.  

23. Orlando Magic: Purdue C JaJuan Johnson

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    20.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, .494 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Johnson is a gifted player at both ends of the floor. 

    His tall frame (6'10") makes him a great shot-blocker, and is very skilled at running the floor offensively. 

    Still, he only has one established post move (his righty left hook), and his small frame has scouts worried. 

    Why He Fits with Orlando

    After trading away Marcin Gortat, the Magic are thin at C behind Dwight Howard.  Adding Johnson would provide Orlando with a solid backup, who may eventually develop into a starter should Howard leave in free agency.  

24. Boston Celtics: FSU F Chris Singleton

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, .434 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Singleton is a great on-ball defender.  He stays out of foul trouble and is able to guard multiple positions. 

    While his moves in the post have improved, he is still rather limited offensively.  

    Why He Fits with Boston

    By now, the Celtics should be regretting the Kendrick Perkins trade.  While not as big and strong as Perkins, Singleton is more versatile and would provide the Celtics with the same toughness and effort Perkins did. 

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Wisconsin F Jon Leuer

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    18.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, .470 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Leuer is not the prototypical 6'10" big man; he is more of a finesse player.  But his versatility is what makes him such a difficult matchup. 

    He can spot up from three in transition, and shoots over 80 percent from the line.  He also has some good moves in the post.

    Why He Fits with Oklahoma City

    The Thunder could use a big man to spread the floor in transition.  Adding Kenrick Perkins and Cole Aldridge added defense; Leuer would add offense.   

26. Dallas Mavericks: International C Lucas Nogueira

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    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Nogueira is still a prospect, but shows a ton of potential.  He already is a gifted finisher in the post, and runs the floor very well. 

    At 6'11", he is an excellent shot-blocker as well.

    But apparently he already has a "star's attitude" according to Aran Smith.  He is often called out for being lazy.

    Why He Fits with Dallas

    The Mavs have a great history of drafting international players; Rodrigue Beaubois and J.J. Barea are prime examples.  Why change what works?   

27. L.A. Lakers: Duke G Nolan Smith

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    20.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, .458 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Smith is a proven winner and improved his game each of his four years at Duke. 

    He has become a skilled shooter, great from beyond the arc and with a great crossover. 

    He is not exceptionally quick, and his biggest problem at the next level will be getting separation from his defender. 

    Why He Fits with L.A.

    Derek Fisher has little life left in his old legs, and L.A. needs to get younger at the PG position.  Smith's winning mentality would fit in nicely.  

28. Miami Heat: Florida F Chandler Parsons

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    11.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, .480 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Parsons does a lot of things well, but nothing great. 

    He is a good three-point shooter, but he is inconsistent.  His lanky frame makes him a good defender, but he has slow feet. 

    He is a very gifted passer for someone his size. 

    Why He Fits with Miami

    The Heat have a need for outside shooting and big men; Parson's versatility would help fill both needs.  

29. Chicago Bulls: UConn G Jeremy Lamb

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    11.1 PPG, 1.6 APG, .487 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    Lamb shows last season that he is a very gifted scorer, doing so with limited shots playing alongside the great Kemba Walker. 

    His defense is average, but he still has plenty of time to improve.  He needs to become a better passer and look for his teammates more in transition.

    Why He Fits with Chicago

    Their starting SG averages less than five points a game, and the Bulls need more outside scoring to help out Derrick Rose.  

30. San Antonio Spurs: Maryland C Jordan Williams

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    2010-11 Season Stats

    16.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG, .538 FG%

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    His broad shoulders and wide frame make him a menace to guard down low.  

    He has a soft touch in the paint, and is a great rebounder. 

    But his conditioning needs improvement, as he is still a bit out of shape.  He lacks an outside shot.

    Why He Fits with San Antonio

    Williams could spend a year or two learning under one of the all-time greats in Tim Duncan, then hopefully be the replacement for the aging big man.