Every college basketball player dreams of the moment, that moment when they can walk across the stage of the NBA draft with lightbulbs flashing in what seems to be the distant background. David Stern awaits behind the podium at center stage along with a brand new jersey and hat from your new team. After shaking his hand, the items are transferred to you and you can't help but let a big smile creep across your face as countless pictures are quickly snapped.
Precious few get to actually make that dream turn into a reality.
Fewer still get to be the first one to do so in their respective draft class. Being the first overall pick in the NBA draft is something that should not be taken lightly.
Sure, some players have heard their names called first and turned out to be massive busts, but at the same time, some have become superstars and once-in-a-generation caliber players.
For the last three years, the No. 1 pick has gone on to accomplish great things. In 2007 we saw Memphis' Derrick Rose drafted by the Chicago Bulls. As we all know by now, he's been crowned the league's MVP in just his third season and has his team on the brink of a championship.
Then there was Blake Griffin. The Oklahoma Sooner was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers but appeared to be stricken down by the injury imp that has proved to be so perilous to Clippers draft selections. However, Griffin rebounded (pun intended) and slam-dunked his way towards the first unanimous Rookie of the Year selection since David Robinson in 1990.
The most recent No. 1 draft pick was Kentucky's John Wall. Selected by the Washington Wizards, Wall ran the point from the start and put together an impressive rookie campaign with averages of 16.4 points, 8.3 assist and 4.6 rebounds per game. The former Wildcat had the mishap of being a rookie during Griffin's "rookie" season so he had to settle for a distant second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Hoping to continue the trend of successful No. 1 picks are two men named Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving. While players like Enes Kanter and the rest of the 2011 NBA draft class are talented, it is exceedingly rare to find a mock draft without either Williams or Irving at the top.
A lot of times, the team whose ping pong ball bounces correctly has a specific need and the first pick of the draft becomes blindingly obvious. But this year, that luck contest should be entirely irrelevant. Each and every team in the NBA with a chance at landing Irving or Williams at No. 1 should realize that the Duke point guard is far and away the better pick.
Williams, a sophomore forward for the Arizona Wildcats during the 2010-2011 season, was an absolutely incredible player with a great all-around game. He's athletic enough to make highlight-reel plays on defense and offense alike, plays with great mental toughness and shoots with video game-like efficiency.
But problems exist with Williams' pro potential. He's as ready as anyone to make the jump to the next level even though he's just 19 years old (although he will move out of teenagerdom this month), but Williams still has a lot of work left to do. The forward is slightly undersized for his position on the court, standing just 6'9" and he needs to pack a little more meat onto his bones. Williams also needs to work on both his defense and strength.
But all of the aforementioned flaws pale in comparison to the biggest concern I have with Williams being drafted at No. 1. Even though he's a great basketball player, Williams isn't going to be a superstar. Sure, he may as productive as the Joe Johnsons or Danny Grangers of the league, but he will also have the same ability to fly beneath the radar.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers or whoever else happens to see their ping pong ball come out of the machine are in dire need of a true superstar, both on the court and off the court. Williams may not be able to fulfill that latter role, but Kyrie Irving is a dynamic enough presence that he can.
In the first eight games of the season, Irving took the world of college basketball by storm. He withstood the media storm that comes with playing for Duke and embraced it wholeheartedly, letting neither it nor any defender stand in his way.
To the tune of eight straight wins, Irving was being touted as a potential Player of the Year candidate before a freak big toe injury sidelined him for the rest of the regular season and all of the ACC Tournament. In one fell swoop, Irving went from surefire All-American to bench ornament as the Duke Blue Devils started to look slightly vulnerable.
Irving returned when March Madness finally rolled around and he made his presence felt in the Blue Devils' opening game of the tournament by dropping 14 rather inconsequential points on the Hampton Pirates, leading his team in scoring in the process.
The other two games were successful for the freshman as well. Despite struggling on offense against Michigan for periods of the game, Irving hit a tough runner in the lane during the final minute to preserve the victory, showing tremendous moxie as he took the shot knowing that two seniors' careers rode on his choice.
Then in a loss against, ironically, Williams' Arizona Wildcats, Irving took over the game at times and finished with an efficient 28 points and three assists for the night. His college career ended that night, but his pro prospects took a dramatic upswing.
When you look at a guard, Irving really has everything you could possibly want. He has the explosiveness to burst by defenders and finish at the rim, the shooting ability to drain shots from any reasonable place in a half-court offensive set, the ball-handling skills and passing abilities of a true point guard and the mental fortitude and basketball I.Q. to garner comparisons to Steve Nash and Chris Paul.
More than anything though, he has the chance to be a truly special player at the next level, both on and off the court if he's put in the right situation. When the biggest question mark surrounding a player is his durability, and that is only the result of a fluky injury, it's a good sign.
Williams and Irving are both two of the surest things you can find in the 2011 draft class. But while one has the ability to be a stud in the NBA and the other has the ability to be a transcendent player, you tell me who you would take.
Sign me up for camp Irving.
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