2011 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections on Eve of Lottery
The NBA draft lottery is just hours away, which means it's time to start speculating how this year's selections are going to turn up.
The top prospect rankings are full of players with question marks and limited playing time, including Duke guard Kyrie Irving, who, despite injury in 2010, is still projected to be a top pick in this year's draft.
What other picks will be just as intriguing?
Read ahead to find out.
Pick No. 1: Minnesota Timberwolves
Selection: Kyrie Irving
Despite the presence of Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in desperate need of a star player who can not only score and help the team win, but also draw attention to a franchise buried in irrelevance.
Irving is the answer. As a point guard, he will be the center of attention. He's a proven scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game as a freshman with the Duke Blue Devils.
He missed a lot of action last season with an injury, but the time he did spend on the court was well utilized by the freshman.
Some claim Derrick Williams will go here, but it's hard to imagine the T-Wolves sticking with Luke Ridnour or Johnny Flynn at point guard.
Pick No. 2: Cleveland Cavaliers
Player: Derrick Williams
Williams will come off the board second, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland is in a similar situation as Minnesota, desperately needing a big and youthful name on their roster to help the franchise build a base.
Derrick Williams is an explosive and aggressive athlete who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability and range, which makes him a versatile player who can help win games, but also a player who can tear down the rim and bring attention to Cleveland.
He and J.J. Hickson could combine to create quite the tandem. If Cleveland takes Williams, they can play him at the three or four position, and move Hickson from the four to five, giving them a lot of room for experimenting. There is definitely talent in that interior, but Williams could add some serious toughness and adrenaline to a team that desperately needs it.
Pick No. 3: Toronto Raptors
Player: Donatas Motiejunas
Worst case scenario, this draft pick gives the Toronto Raptors the best name in professional sports. Best case scenario, the Raptors could have a dominating post player with endless scoring potential.
Donatas Motiejunas, a youthful and raw prospect from Italy, has all of the tools and skills to be an All-Star player in the NBA. At 7'0", he's highly advanced offensively for his size.
His upside is huge, and his offensive ability is unrivaled, but he will need to hit the weights and add some tenacity to his defensive game to excel at the next level.
Pick No. 4: Washington Wizards
Player: Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter was one of the biggest names in college basketball last year, despite never hitting the floor for the Kentucky Wildcats.
He was declared ineligible to play with his transfer status, which was a heartbreak for the program. Kanter brings his skills to the NBA, nevertheless, and is sure to be a top-10 selection.
Washington has their talent on the edge, but they need an interior presence, and Kanter will definitely bring that. He's apparently a great defensive player, at 6'11", and plays with high energy.
He will have to stay healthy, and prove a lot, due to the fact that he doesn't have a lot of tape for scouts to fall back on.
Pick No. 5: Sacramento Kings
Player: Brandon Knight
If things go accordingly, the Kentucky Wildcats will have three players go in the first five selections. So much for this group not living up to the NBA hype as the 2009 team, right?
Knight is a crafty scorer at the point guard position and could possibly play the two spot at the next level.
He brings good size to the point position, at 6'3", however, and would fit very well as the point guard for the Sacramento Kings. He's lightning quick and has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
He's a player who has a rare ability to shoot a high percentage from the middle area between the paint and the three-point line, which adds a dynamic to the game.
Pick No. 6: Utah Jazz
Player: Jan Vesely
A 6'11" forward with big-time offensive ability, Jan Vesely could become a big-time mismatch maker for the Utah Jazz, or any other team that takes him for that matter.
Like most international prospects, Vesely intrigues us most with his upside and offensive potential, mostly due to his paramount physical attributes, especially his height.
Getting players of this altitude with big time offensive ability is huge, and Utah will definitely hit gold with this pick. Vesely's only knack is his lack of mobility. He's strictly an interior player, who can play all three interior positions.
Pick No. 7: Detroit Pistons
Player: Tristan Thompson
Thompson will bring a big-time defensive presence to the Detroit Pistons. He's a furious shot blocker, if gigantic interior wall doesn't serve as a better description.
At 6'9", he doesn't have incredible height, but his length and athleticism make him just as much of a defensive asset as the next big man.
He scored 18.0 points a game for Texas, but he definitely needs to still develop an offensive game. Shooting is an issue for Thompson, and most NBA scouts who are not as high on him see that as a big-time red flag.
Pick No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers
Player: Kemba Walker
Talk about a winning draft for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's likely that Kemba Walker falls here if the already mentioned teams do in fact go after an interior player with their first pick.
Cleveland could be sitting right here and jumping all over Walker, which would bring experience, scoring ability and even more popularity to the team.
He might be a better fit for Cleveland, with maturity, experience and an undeniable desire, Walker could be the mental glue and driver of the flashy new wheels of the Cavaliers team.
He scored over 23 points a game in his senior season with Connecticut and was obviously as clutch as any college player has been in recent memory.
Pick No. 9: Charlotte Bobcats
Player: Jonas Valanciunas
Another raw, skinny, but tall and athletic prospect, Valanciunas has received mixed reviews by most scouting reports.
He's 6'11", 240 pounds, and highly talented, He absolutely has to add weight to his frame, but his skills are off the chart and Charlotte could use some inside scoring to look to.
Pick No. 10: Milwaukee Bucks
Player: Marcus Morris
Morris is a big-time talent, and an experienced player to boot. He's 6'9", physical, long, athletic and has a pretty polished arsenal when it comes to scoring the basketball.
He scored over 17 points and averaged over seven rebounds for the Jayhawks in 2010, and we all know just how energetic and enforcing he was on the court.
Morris might be the safest pick in this year's draft.
Pick No. 11: Golden State Warriors
Player: Kawhi Leonard
School: San Diego State
Leonard, at just 6'7", would definitely be a three for whichever team takes him. Golden State could use a three and a big-time interior scorer.
Leonard is a balanced player, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season with the Aztecs.
He's great at attacking the basket and is a high energy player, but he must learn to obtain some type of jump shot if he is ever going to succeed at the next level.
His overall ability is too useful to let slip out of the first round, however.
Pick No. 12: Utah Jazz
Player: Markeiff Morris
Marcus' brother won't have to wait long for his shot. He doesn't display quite the flawless game that Marcus does, but obviously the apple doesn't fall far from, well, the other apple.
You can't go wrong with taking Markeiff here. He's 6'9" and a tough defensive presence. His enthusiasm and basketball mentality is on another plane than most other prospects.
He's an energy guy with potential to grow into a player much like his brother.
Pick No. 13: Phoenix Suns
Player: Terrence Jones
If Phoenix misses Amar'e Stoudemire as much as we think they do, then there is no question Jones fits the bill with their first pick in this year's draft.
Jones is a tall, physical and rare prospect that almost literally shrinks the floor. His ability to get from point A to point B in a flash, thanks to his athleticism and length, makes him an invaluable player.
He's definitely a three in the fact he makes a living off attacking from the wing, which is rare to see from a player of his size. He can also shoot, but his form could use just a little bit of refinement.
Pick No. 14: Houston Rockets
Player: Bismack Biyombo
Some believe the Houston Rockets need a big time shooting element in their offense, but honestly they've gone too long without the full game of Yao Ming.
Biyombo is a highly talented and young center who can play either the four or five spot. He's 6'9", 240 pounds, which will definitely seem undersized to Rockets fans, if not the rest of the NBA.
But Biyombo could be a very consistent player for Houston and a productive one. Obviously, if he's listed as a center prospect, he has the skills to play that position if needed, but either way he's a steal if he even falls this far back in the draft.
Pick No. 15: Indiana Pacers
Player: Howard "Trey" Thompkins
Thompkins might be the silkiest-smooth player in this year's draft, regarding his offensive ability.
He's crafty when scoring in the paint. He's highly advanced when shooting from 10 feet and in, and he has the ability to shoot from three.
If you want an offensive Juggernaut, then Thompkins is your guy. His only downfall is raw defensive tactics, and many think he's too soft, especially when falling into foul trouble.
Pick No. 16: Philadelphia 76'ers
Player: Tobias Harris
Harris, especially in SEC country, might be considered interchangeable with Thompkins, which is why he could easily fall next in line with the 76'ers.
He's 6'8" and around 220 pounds, which makes him very small, but he obviously makes up for it with great athleticism.
Harris had a very good freshman campaign with the Tennessee Volunteers, arguably the best player other than Scotty Hopson.
Pick No. 17: New York Knicks
Player: Tyler Honeycutt
Honeycutt doesn't appear to be physically prepared for the NBA, especially as a small forward, but man is he ever.
He averaged 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Bruins. Those numbers don't appear daunting, but his shooting and rebounding has gone through the charts in certain games.
He's got plenty of talent, but needs to find ways to bring it every night. At 6'7", he possesses a few two guard skills, such as great ball handling and very good shooting.
Pick No. 18: Washington Wizards
Player: Jimmer Fredette
School: Brigham Young
If Washington wants the return of a big-time scorer like they had with Gilbert Arenas, Fredette could be the guy.
Jimmer Fredette was a sensation in 2010, but many doubt his ability to play at the next level. That's all loads of baloney. Fredette is a proven scorer, and there is no way he should slip out of the first round if general managers have their brains screwed all the way in.
Fredette and could John Wall could make the Wizards a very, very feared team in the coming future.
Pick No. 19: Charlotte Bobcats
Player: Jordan Hamilton
It would be a Texas two step for the Longhorns if Hamilton follows Triston Thompson in the first round, which will likely happen.
Hamilton is a 6'7" forward, who has never displayed the statistics to appear to be a big-time prospect. But Hamilton is a well-known player amongst scouts and is highly regarded despite lack of productivity.
Offensively, he's great, but defensively he needs to toughen up and show some enthusiasm.
Some are a little worried about his mental focus, which might be unmanageable, but his talents are worth taking a shot at.
Pick No. 20: Minnesota Timberwolves
Player: Chris Singleton
School: Florida State
If Minnesota chooses point guard over forward with the second overall pick, it's likely they will pay attention to the three or four spot with their second pick in the first round.
Chris Singleton, a highly touted athlete, would be a really nice fit.
His numbers were very solid, averaging 13.8 points and seven rebounds for the Seminoles, but it's his defense that's so unrivaled amongst his peer prospects.
The T-Wolves have a scorer in Kevin Love, but they can't win without tenacity on defense. Singleton could combine with Love to create a very tenacious and respectable core.
Pick No. 21: Portland Trail Blazers
Player: Kenneth Faried
School: Morehead State
This guy's statistics really jump out at you.
He averaged 17.6 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game. 14.5 rebounds?
Yeah. That's something special right there. Faried may not be an all-around offensive weapon, in fact most think that he will struggle with offense, but his defensive approach is stellar, and that might be an understatement.
He's a proven team player with a great attitude and toughness, making a name for himself despite playing at a third tier school.
He's a lot like Al Horford in terms of the presence on the court and, like Horford, will have to develop an offensive game. Horford did, so who says Faried can't?
Pick No. 22: Denver Nuggets
Player: JaJaun Johnson
Johnson would be a perfect fit for Denver, who needs a player to replace the skills of Carmelo Anthony.
Johnson averaged over 20 points a game for the Boilermakers in 2010.
As a three guard, at 6'10", he's very intimidating and brings a seriously unique aspect to the offense he's on.
Pick No. 23: Houston Rockets
Player: Nolan Smith
You can't go wrong with Nolan Smith. The fact that Smith is projected by most to be a late first-round pick is baffling, considering his resume.
He's a scoring machine, and a smart and experienced player. Houston needs an offensive guard of the future, and Smith could bring more than just offense.
He's flat out a true basketball player, in every sense of the term.
Pick No. 24: Oklahoma City Thunder
Player: Jordan Williams
Williams is a 6'10" forward who could possibly move around from the five and three at the next level.
His college statistics are right up there with the best of them, scoring over 16 points and averaging over 11 rebounds per contest.
He's a high energy player who never quits on plays and would give the Thunder that extra dimension of toughness. If there is one knack against the Thunder, they don't have interior presence, at least not when it comes to physicality.
Williams would bring that edge to their team.
Pick No. 25: Boston Celtics
Player: Travis Leslie
Leslie is the epitome of a tweener. He's super talented around the rim, but at 6'4" he will never be able to play the small forward position at the next level.
As a shooting guard, Leslie must develop his jumpshot, but the only real reason people see him as a first-round selection is the fact that his shooting percentage and confidence skyrocketed in 2010.
He's definitely a player who can learn and improve on his game, but he's athletically the most gifted player in this year's draft. Some think he should have stayed at Georgia one more year, but he's still a huge talent.
Pick No. 26: Dallas Mavericks
Player: Shelvin Mack
Dallas won't have Jason Kidd forever, so drafting at point guard is definitely a priority here.
Mack and Nolan Smith will likely be the two for the picking, but since this mock has Smith gone, Mack is the guy to get drafted here.
He's a big-time scorer and clutch performer, and many have called him a poor man's Kemba Walker. That might be a stretch, but Mack still could be a future staple for the Mavericks offense.
Pick No. 27: New Jersey Nets
Player: Jeremy Tyler
This guy is an interesting story. The 6'10" forward left the U.S. to play basketball internationally, instead of finishing his senior year in high school.
He ended up in Japan, playing for Tokyo, and has shown improvements for the past year.
He's raw and an experiment, but his potential to be a very good post player is definitely there for the taking.
Coaching has pushed this kid a long way in the past year alone, so if there is a positive on his scouting report, it's that he might have hit a level of maturity and learning capacity that NBA coaches would love to toy with.
Pick No. 28: Chicago Bulls
Player: Kyle Singler
You can't leave Singler out of the first round, can you?
As a 6'8" forward who returned for his senior season at Duke, instead of heading for the big leagues, it's hard to not respect the man and give him the honorary late first-round nod.
He scores, rebounds and defends as well as the next guy, despite his lack of flashiness.
Pick No. 29: San Antonio Spurs
Player: DeAndre Liggins
Here's my wild-card pick of the draft.
Liggins is a 6'6", 180-pound guard from Kentucky.
He's a fantastic shooter and could play the one or two position at the next level.
How often do you find a point guard at 6'6"? He could even shift all the way down to the three spot, which makes him extremely versatile and valuable for NBA managers.
He brings security, as long as his game is developed and he's improving constantly. I think he would fit well in San Antonio, which would be a fantastic learning environment. If Liggins could pack on some pounds and work on being an ultimate utility, he could sneak his way into the next generation of very good Spurs players.
Pick No. 30: Chicago Bulls
Player: Chandler Parsons
This might be more of a "best player available" selection, at the 30th pick for the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are pretty set with a nice roster, but they definitely could use depth.
Parsons is a versatile player who plays with passion and intensity.
It's hard to find a player who fits the mold here, but Parsons definitely would be a nice pickup.