With the 2011 NBA Playoffs advancing to the conference finals, there are only four teams still playing. Meanwhile, the other 26 organizations are using this time to try to figure out how to better themselves in the offseason.
One of the main ways of improvement in the NBA is the NBA draft; just take a look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. They drafted Kevin Durant (No. 2 overall 2007), Russell Westbrook (No. 4 overall 2008), Serge Ibaka (No. 24 overall 2008) and James Harden (No. 3 overall 2009), all key contributors to their playoff success this season.
Obviously, for some teams it will take multiple drafts, but there are other teams that are just a smart selection away from reentering the playoff picture in 2011.
This is a look at the 10 best prospects in the draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @jeffeb91
Follow Brandon on Tumblr: http://i-w-r-i-t-e.tumblr.com/
We kick off the list with the 2011 Naismith National Player of the Year winner, Jimmer Fredette. Coming off a stellar senior season for the BYU Cougars, Fredette averaged 28.9 PPG (No. 1 in the Nation), 4.3 APG, 1.3 SPG and shot 39.6 percent on three-pointers.
Fredette's main strength is his shot. He is a threat to make it from anywhere on the court and was given the freedom to do just that at BYU. He is able to excel at both catch-and-shoot and off the dribble opportunities.
However, Fredette is at best an average athlete and a below-average defender. These are two things that he must work on considerably before he can become a star at the professional level. He has become a better playmaker through the years and needs to continue to improve in this area as well.
Fredette may not immediately replicate his NCAA stats in the NBA, but there is one thing he will be able to do the moment he sets foot into a NBA gym: Shoot the ball. You can never have enough players who know how to shoot the ball.
Best Fit: Utah Jazz
Marcus Morris has been the star of Kansas basketball for the past two years along with his twin brother Markieff. Both have decided to enter the 2011 NBA draft, but it is Marcus who is the better prospect of the two.
Marcus has seen steady improvement during his three years playing for the Jayhawks, raising his averages from 7.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG as a freshman to last season's totals of 17.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG.
Morris excelled in the post in college and thanks to good footwork and body control should be able to hold his own down low at 6'9" and 235 lbs. However, Morris can step away from the basket and show off his impressive face-up game too.
Marcus won't be a star in the NBA, but he can easily be a Taj Gibson/Glen "Big Baby" Davis type of forward: someone who comes off the bench for a championship-caliber team and provides nothing but effort and energy during his time on the court.
Best Fit: Milwaukee Bucks
Donatas Motiejunas is one of three top-tier international prospects in the 2011 NBA draft. If you've heard the name Motiejunas before, it is no surprise; he participated in the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit (21 points and eight rebounds) and was expected to put his name into last year's draft.
Motiejunas elected to play another year in Italy and in Eurocup posted averages of 10.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 27 MPG. Donatas fared better in Italian League play, upping his PPG average to 13.0.
Donatas is a superb shooter and skilled offensive player for a seven-footer, but he is more Andrea Bargnani than Dirk Nowitzki at this moment.
Given time and the right coach, Donatas could easily light up other NBA big men with his perimeter game.
Best Fit: Phoenix Suns
Brandon Knight is next in line in John Calipari's lineage of "one-and-done" point guards, joining names such as Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. Knight had a spectacular finish to his freshman season and impressed many in the Kentucky Wildcats' NCAA tournament run.
Knight averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.2 APG and 4.0 RPG for the Wildcats and shot an impressive 37.7 percent from three-point range.
Knight was able to emerge as the leader of a team mixed with young talent and veteran players and even became the team's closer in tight games. This wasn't anything new for Brandon, as he had been doing the closing for all of his high school career.
Brandon is a poised floor general who is willing to take and capable of making big shots. He has great size for the position at 6'3" and a great feel for the game as well.
Best Fit: Houston Rockets
Alec Burks is a lanky, athletic swingman from the University of Colorado. Burks stuffed the stat sheet for the Buffaloes, piling up averages of 20.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.1 SPG.
Burks leaves Colorado after playing just two years for the soon to be Pac-12 school. Alec was able to excel in isolation and fast break situations. His most glaring weakness right now is his jump shot, more specifically his form.
Even with the shaky shot Burks still shot 46.9 percent from the field and 82.5 percent from the free-throw line, but it shows when looking at his three-point percentage, a dismal 29.2 percent.
Given time to fix his shot and additional weight (6'6", 200 lbs.) Burks can easily become a great player in the NBA. Only time will tell.
Best Fit: Charlotte Bobcats
Jan Vesely, like Donatas Motiejunas, is not new to the NBA draft process. He too was expected to enter his name in last year's draft, but he chose to stay overseas to "continue to learn," and learn he did.
Vesely isn't what people would normally associate with a 6'11" European big man (such as Dirk Nowitzki or Andrea Bargnani). His game has much more athleticism to it than other Europeans.
Vesely WILL dunk on any defender in his way and doesn't shy away at the rim. In the 2011 Eurocup Vesely averaged 9.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 26.9 MPG.
His rebound numbers are disappointing for a player of his height, but Jan is more of a wing player who only goes to the basket to flush down a dunk on another defender's head.
Best Fit: Golden State Warriors
Kemba Walker took the NCAA by storm in the 2010-11 season. It all began with the Maui Invitational Tournament (where the Walker-led Connecticut Huskies took home the title). Walker embraced the role of superstar and brought home a national championship to UConn.
Walker is at his best off the ball, where he is able to get to his spots without having to run the offense as well, but he can also break down the defense with pick and rolls and an evolved passing game.
At 6'0" Kemba's height will be a disadvantage for him; what he lacks in height he makes up for with basketball IQ, step-backs and speed.
Kemba is a proven winner (Maui, Big East tournament and NCAA tournament) and has the work ethic and drive to keep improving at the next level.
Best Fit: Sacramento Kings
Derrick Williams' rise from unknown recruit to University of Arizona superstar took a mere two years to complete. Williams imposed his will on opponents this season and had a stat line of 19.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG.
Derrick was the man for the Wildcats and due to his hard work was able to lead Arizona all the way to the Elite Eight when many thought it wouldn't even win the Pac-10 Conference.
Williams is able to control both the paint and perimeter thanks to great athleticism and touch. He shot 59.5 percent from the field and a staggering 56.8 percent from three.
Williams is a Rashard Lewis type of player, a stretch 4 who can cause matchup problems for other teams with less athletic forwards.
Best Fit: Washington Wizards
Kyrie Irving may have only suited up for 11 games for the Duke Blue Devils, but in those 11 games he was flat-out amazing. He thoroughly outplayed Kansas State and Michigan State star guards Jacob Pullen and Kalin Lucas head-to-head.
However, a toe injury limited Irving for most of the season and may be a cause for concern going forward (Kyrie did return for the NCAA tournament). If he can show that he will be the same player he was to begin the season, then watch out.
Irving has the quickness, the handle, the shot, the ability to finish in traffic and enough athleticism to be one of the next elite point guards in the NBA and is easily one of the best players in this year's draft class.
Best Fit: Cleveland Cavaliers
Enes Kanter will be the next great big man in the NBA—mark it down. Kanter did not play this season for the University of Kentucky, but if he did UConn might not have been cutting down the nets in early April.
Kanter has the body, physique, skill and finesse that scouts droll over in big men. In his last game against pro-level talent (Jared Sullinger and Patric Young) at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, Enes dropped 34 points and 13 rebounds for the World Team in only 24 minutes.
The key for Kanter is whether or not he was able to keep himself in top shape during his one year at Kentucky even though he did not step on the court at all during the season.
Kanter is an impressive prospect, and once draft workouts begin, expect to hear more and more about this kid.
Best Fit: Toronto Raptors