We're just about a month and a half away from the 2011 NBA draft, and the general consensus is that this particular class is among the weakest in recent memory.
The top 10 or 15 players in the class are an odd amalgamation of largely unknown international players, blue chip high school recruits that struggled in their one year of college and late bloomers that had little buzz coming into this past season.
No matter who teams choose to take early, they will be taking a significant risk.
Take for example Enes Kanter. Kanter played one up and down season of high school ball in Simi Valley, Calif. after moving to the states from Europe. He was set to play his college ball at Kentucky, but ended up being suspended for the entire season after it was found that he played professionally in Turkey. He also already has a history of knee injuries at the age of 19.
In short, a guy with injury troubles that has never played above high school ball in the states and sat out all of last season is likely going to go in the top five picks.
Exhibit B is a player like Kyrie Irving or Brandon Knight. These two were can't-miss, blue chip players coming out of high school last season. They were expected to help take their college teams, Duke and Kentucky, respectively, to the national championship this season.
Neither guy accomplished what they had set out to do with their team and on an individual level.
Irving missed all but eight games with turf toe. When he did return to the team late in the season, he struggled to fit in and was only successful in spurts.
Knight was healthy all season, but things never clicked for him. He had a more than respectable points per game average (17.3), but most of those points came on isolation or freelance situations for Knight and not on plays within the flow of the offense.
At times, that entire Kentucky team (Knight included) looked like they were playing one on five basketball on offense. Knight will have to get acclimated to playing within a more structured system at the next level.
Neither of those players strike me as a sure-fire stars, but they will be drafted highly as if they are.
Then you look at someone like Derrick Williams of Arizona.
Williams had a solid freshman campaign for the Wildcats averaging 15 points and seven rebounds. His numbers improved to 19 and eight in his sophomore season, but in a draft class as weak as this one, that was enough to shoot him all the way up some draft boards to No. 1 overall.
Williams was among the most clutch players in college basketball last season, but ultimately, he's an undersized power forward with an underdeveloped face-up offensive game.
If I'm drafting first overall, I want more of a sure thing than that.
For historical perspective, the current leader in the clubhouse for weakest NBA draft is the 2000 draft.
The best players in that class turned out to be Kenyon Martin, Jamal Crawford and Michael Redd.
I don't think any of those players can be considered stars. Martin is a solid rebounder and post defender. Crawford is a spark plug sixth man and Redd was at one time an elite spot up shooter.
That's ultimately what I think this draft gives us. Several players that fit specific roles and can carve out good careers based on one or two skills.
For instance, BYU's Jimmer Fredette could easily be a shooter off the bench for a good team. He doesn't defend well enough to play him 35 or 40 minutes a game, but if he is surrounded by other scorers, he could stand around the three-point line and bomb away.
Think of him as what the Miami Heat hoped Mike Miller would be going into this season.
I see Florida State's Chris Singleton as a lock down wing defender and Bismack Biyombo from the Congo as a Tyson Chandler-type rim defender. These guys aren't stars, sure, but they can be role players with long careers.
There's no disputing that the buzz around the NBA draft is low. There just isn't the usual star power that drives conversation about the event.
I'd even go so far as to agree with the sentiment that there are no stars in this draft. There are good players to be had, though, and that's what makes this draft so intriguing to me.
There are no sure-fire picks in this draft, but what is for sure is that general managers will earn their pay deciding which players to take risks on.
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