NBA Draft 2011: Predicting the Lottery
On May 17th, the NBA will hold its annual draft lottery awarding the non-playoff teams their draft selections based on the drop of a ping pong ball.
For those of you who do not know, each team is awarded a number of balls based on their record, with the worst teams receiving the most balls. So the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had the worst record in the league, receive 250 balls (25 percent chance), while the Houston Rockets will receive five (.5 percent chance).
Unlike in years past, the NBA only draws for the top three picks now, instead of the entire lottery, and the rest of the lottery is then set up according to record. This means the worst position the Timberwolves can end up in is fourth, the Cleveland Cavaliers (who had the second worst record) can fall no lower than fifth, and so on.
For the purposes of this slideshow I will assume everything falls as it should, and project according to record.
Here are the lottery picks if everything falls as it should.
No. 1: Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Derrick Williams
Most draft boards have Duke's Kyrie Irving going number one but, while he may be the best talent in the draft, Minnesota has no need for another point guard. The T-Wolves drafting Irving would be like a NFL team spending four straight first round picks on a wide receiver—it would never happen (sorry Lions fans, I couldn't resist).
I personally think the top two picks this year are interchangeable though, with Arizona's Derrick Williams or Irving being the top two by far. This is certainly no LeBron or Carmelo year, where the top two could be instant stars, but in the long run I think both will be solid NBA performers and fairly equal in terms of status.
With Johnny Flynn already on the roster, and David Kahn foolishly believing he will win his standoff with Ricky Rubio, Minnesota will go with Williams to help add athleticism and length on the wing.
As has been documented repeatedly in other posts of mine, Williams cannot play the two-guard in the NBA, but should be a solid three if he spends the summer working on his ball-handling. He was a solid outside shooter, and his ability around the rim and his finishing power should help a T-Wolves team that finished first in the NBA in rebounding, but 25th in assists and last in points allowed.
No. 2: Cleveland Cavaliers Draft Kyrie Irving
I have read more than one theory suggesting that Byron Scott's hiring has a lot to do with the Cavs looking ahead to drafting a guy like Irving, as Scott has developed some of the best point guards in the NBA. Yes, they were already good, but Scott developed Jason Kidd into a more potent scorer and helped Chris Paul become one of the top five point guards in the league. The Cavs will hope he can add Irving to the list.
An interesting fact, though (that Cavaliers fans may not want to know) is that since the 1993 NBA Draft, 17 of the 19 picks have either been horrible busts (Shawn Bradley, Stromile Swift, Jay Williams, Darko Milicic, Marvin Williams) or have been on different teams within four years. Only Kevin Durant (way to learn from the Sam Bowie draft, Portland) became that franchise player for their team, with Evan Turner being the most recent pick.
Irving can break the mold if all of the hype is correct. Those of you who read me often know how I generally feel about Duke guys in the NBA—while they are fundamentally sound, they don't generally deliver for their teams where it counts. But people say that Irving is different than any player Duke has ever had, and the general feeling I get from Cavs fans is they want him, so it is a match made in heaven...or somewhere.
No. 3: Toronto Raptors Draft Enes Kanter
Bryan Colangelo generally has his fingers on the pulse of the various Euro stars and, while there are numerous concerns about his future with the Raptors, I have to assume he will still be in charge and making this pick.
With that being said, Kanter seems like what the Raptors would look for.
He has excellent footwork around the basket, good instincts for rebounding, and would add interior toughness to a team that ranked 17th in points scored and 26th in points allowed and 21st in rebounds per game. It also could pave the way for the Raptors to move Andrea Bargnani, either to small forward or another team.
No. 4: Washington Wizards Draft Marcus Morris
This could be a bit of a reach for the Wizards, as Morris really seems to be without a position as he lacks the foot speed to guard other small forwards—his lack of weight and length do not make him an ideal power forward. In the end, he may become a Marcus Fizer-type player, a sub at both forward positions for short periods of time, much like Shane Battier who doesn't possess good speed at all.
For now, though, the Wizards will try to draft a young talent to pair with John Wall, Jordan Crawford, and JaVale McGee. Sullinger and Barnes deciding to return to school hurts the Wizards because Kanter is really the only top-flight big man in the draft, and he will almost surely be gone by now.
Don't be surprised if the Wizards try to trade this pick to a team with a surplus of young big men, the Bulls for example. If they can't trade up to get Kanter, as they seem desperate to move Andray Blatche and Taj Gibson, plus the surplus of draft picks the Bulls, it may be just what they are looking for.
No. 5: Sacramento Kings Draft Brandon Knight
It is hard for me to imagine the Kings keeping this pick. They seem to be the most developed team at the top of the draft and with Jason Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings seem to be a team in major need of a veteran swingman to help settle the young guys down.
That being said, I am not convinced that Marcus Thornton is in the Kings future plans, as he needs the ball in his hands and takes possessions away from Tyreke Evans which makes Evans press at times. Knight is a tremendous and decisive passer who can run an offense with stars right now. He can shoot well, and get to the basket. He needs to work on finishing at the rim, and his defense at times, but his size and speed is ideal to what the NBA is becoming at the point guard spot.
No. 6: Utah Jazz Draft Jimmer Fridette
The Jazz have a major logjam at the forward position, specifically up front with Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, and the newly acquired Derrick Favors. You would think they would try to address that during the draft, especially because they have two lottery picks, but I think that if they stay here then Fredette is the pick.
Devin Harris was incredibly disappointing this season, and he still has two more seasons on his contract, though it is pretty tradeable. As a result, I think the Jazz will try to go P.R. friendly here as well as pick up a guy who can score from the wing.
Fredette makes sense for both. He will be a fan favorite since he is a local guy and, since the Jazz have no one else outside to design plays around, he should get the chance to control the ball like he did in college. There are serious doubts about his ability to be a point guard in the NBA, but I think the Jazz will take a chance here, especially since they have another pick later in the lottery.
No. 7: Detroit Pistons Draft Markieff Morris
The Pistons are a dangerous team on the trade front. They have 73 guards on the roster and a lot of large contracts that would seem unmovable. I don't think they are though, and I expect the Pistons to be very active on the trade front whenever the new collective bargaining agreement is in effect.
If they keep the pick, I think Morris is the smart pick. The Pistons need strength and size up front; someone to pair with Greg Monroe who seemed to come on towards the end of the season. Markieff has more of a power forward's body than his twin brother, as he is an inch taller at 6'10" and about twenty pounds heavier. He lacks a large assortment of post moves, and his lack of dribbling ability would make him more of a catch-and-shoot scorer. But he does has decent range, up to twenty feet, and is a physical presence in the post.
This is something the Pistons sorely need.
No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers Draft Klay Thompson
If all of the big men are gone by the time this pick rolls around, the Cavs may look to move it to acquire more assets. The Bulls have two picks in this draft as well as the Bobcats' pick conditionally starting next season (it isn't completely unprotected until 2016). The Bobcats also own two picks, 9 and 18, so the Cavs could opt to try and trade with one of them.
If they keep it, I would expect them to take Klay Thompson. Thompson is the best "pure shooter" in the draft. He moves very well without the ball, plays within the offense and takes good shots, and has an advanced in-between game. He can shoot from distance as well as up close. He doesn't have tremendous foot speed, though he is a very smart defender with long arms and good instincts. He could really help bring out the best in Irving, and help score in the halfcourt. He isn't very athletic, but he can be deceptive, much like Ray Allen.
Plus, his father is Mychael Thompson.
No. 9: Charlotte Bobcats Draft Tristan Thompson
With all of the North Carolina players basically going back to college next season, Michael Jordan doesn't know who to draft. No, but seriously, this is an important draft for the Bobcats as they can lose their draft pick any of the next five seasons. The pressure should be on for Jordan to build a winner so that the Bulls aren't inheriting the number one overall pick in five years.
That being said, the Bobcats played well at the end of the season behind the improved play of Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustine, but now they need to find a post player to add to that core. At 6'9" Thompson is a little small and light at 225 lbs., but he plays bigger than his size and is a physical presence in the post. His athleticism should make him an instant contributor while he learns more about playing in the pros.
He is not the son of Mychael Thompson, but that is ok...
No. 10: Milwaukee Bucks Draft Jan Vesely
The Bucks desperately need to add a young wing player who can score, and don't be surprised if they try to get with the Cavs on a deal for that eighth pick if Klay Thompson is there. If not, and they stay here at 10, the pick should be Vesely.
He is tall, long, extremely athletic, and a capable shooter from deep, but most of his points will come in the post at first while he continues to develop his inside game. His hustle and great emotion will make him a staple in the Bucks lineup for as long as Scott Skiles is the coach, as he possesses the skill sets that Skiles loves.
No. 11: Golden State Warriors Draft Trey Thompkins
This is another pick that will surprise me if it isn't traded.
The Warriors seem to want to move Stephen Curry and build around Monta Ellis, and they aren't very far from being able to, but they need to fix their interior. David Lee is very tradeable in a package with Curry—with Ellis and an improved Dorrell Wright, the Warriors have plenty of shooters to be able to pass on Kemba Walker.
That being said, I think they will take Trey Thompkins if they keep the pick. Whether they trade David Lee or not, Thompkins is an ideal fit. While not the most athletic athlete, he is very solid fundamentally with very high basketball I.Q. and is already very polished. He could help in the halfcourt as well in transition, and plays well after contact. He even hits free throws. He would be an ideal piece for the Warriors to add, especially because he is such a good rebounder.
No. 12: Utah Jazz Draft Alec Burks
The Jazz need wing players, as I documented before, and they still may trade the pick. If they keep it, and Burks is still on the board, don't be surprised to see him picked right away.
He can shoot, handle the ball, and drive to the basket. He can finish with the best of them, and as he adds weight he will only get better. He sometimes takes bad shots, but if paired with a guy like Fredette or Harris, guys who control the ball and will set him up for good shots, that should be reduced in the NBA.
He will need work on his all-around game to continue to advance at the next level, but that is more about coaching, and he has all the makings of another Jamal Crawford-type player.
No. 13: Phoenix Suns Draft Kawhi Leonard
The biggest knock on Kawhi Leonard is that he isn't yet developed enough to be able to create a shot on his own. This is actually the reason I think the Suns will draft him. On the Suns, Steve Nash creates everyone's shot.
Leonard is long, agile, athletic, and can score from anywhere on the court, though he prefers the perimeter, and he can body with the best of them in the post.
He seems more the hybrid forward type, as opposed to a true three or four, but his rebounding is fantastic, mainly due to his length and great instincts. With proper coaching he could become a lock down defender.
No. 14: The Houston Rockets Draft Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker can play for any team that I am a fan of, and I would not argue with any team that took him before this pick. Someone told me once that he is too short to score in the NBA and that his step back jumper would get swatted in his face. Possibly, but here's what I know from watching UConn way more than I ever want to again in my life. Kemba Walker wins, and will do whatever it takes to win.
That is more important than anything else. This guy has Ben Gordon written all over him, which is not a bad thing—he's a volume shooter who scores in bunches and doesn't take much to get heated up.
His size is a problem, and his decision making can use improving, but he is quick and explosive and has shown that he will find a way to score as all good scorers do. He will have to improve on his ability to distribute as well, as he occasionally has turnover problems, but he seems to have those intangibles that GMs look for when they draft.
Tune in May 17th for the Lottery
Remember that this was just based on if the lottery falls like it is supposed to, which it never does.
Also, I made what I thought were the smart picks based on how I see each team's roster.
Many people (including me) have said that this draft lacks a real superstar at the top, but it seems incredibly deep in terms of players who can contribute right away, or even develop into solid players in the future. It should be exciting to see how the ping pong balls fall, and what teams think they need established players as opposed to drafting another young player.
It should be exciting.