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NBA Draft 2011: Why the Cleveland Cavaliers Should Select Derrick Williams No. 1

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after defeating the Duke Blue Devils during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Roy BurtonContributor IMay 21, 2011

If the 2011 NBA Draft was conducted based on sheer bravado, Derrick Williams would be the No. 1 overall pick.

Not that the former Arizona Wildcat is cocky, necessarily. But Williams doesn't want for confidence in his abilities, and fully believes that he's the best player in the entire draft class.

Just ask him.

"I think I'm the No. 1 pick because I have more star quality," said Williams while comparing himself to his peers during a recent interview with ESPN. "Just a bigger person...a big star like LeBron that [Cleveland is] missing...that missing piece."

Now anyone who has watched the Cavaliers in the A.L. (After LeBron) era knows that they're far more than a single missing piece away from anything at this point. But selecting Williams with their No. 1 pick is a step in the right direction for an organization looking to recover from a dreadful 19-63 campaign last season.

Those in the know had already pegged the 6'8", 235-pound Arizona forward as a potential lottery selection at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. However, his performances during the NCAA Tournament this past March served as Williams' unofficial coming-out party.

After strong outings against Memphis and Texas, Williams exploded into the national consciousness during Arizona's Sweet 16 matchup with Duke. Against the Blue Devils, Williams scored 32 points—25 in the first half—while displaying a dazzling array of moves that left fans buzzing on Twitter.

Ironically enough, Duke's leading scorer that evening was point guard Kyrie Irving, Williams' primary competition for the No. 1 pick in this June's draft. In only his third game back from a toe injury that kept him out for most of the year, Irving finished with 28 points off of the bench in just his 11th—and final—game in a college uniform.

Both players are ready to step into an NBA starting lineup today, and Cleveland will be well off regardless of which player they ultimately wind up taking. But given their current roster, Williams makes the most sense with the first overall pick.

Choosing Irving first means that the Cavaliers would basically have to pray that Turkey's Enes Kanter fell into their lap three picks later. A true center, Kanter—who was slated to play at Kentucky this past season, but was ruled ineligible—would pair nicely in the frontcourt with the emerging J.J. Hickson.

If Kanter doesn't fall to No. 4, they'd probably take Czech-born forward Jan Vesely who, while talented, is not nearly as ready to step into an NBA starting lineup as Williams.

Selecting Williams with the first overall pick gives them a myriad of options at No. 4. Although Irving will be off of the board by then, the Cavs can quickly address their point guard issue as either Kentucky's Brandon Knight or UConn's Kemba Walker (or perhaps both) will still be available.

Knight is the latest in a long line of blue-chip point guards developed by John Calipari. While only 19 years old, the 6'3" former Wildcat has all of the tools to become a successful lead guard in the NBA.

In Walker, the Cavs would get an explosive point guard who can fill both seats and box scores at a moment's notice. Despite being the primary focus of opposing teams' game plans each and every night, Walker was the most productive player in college basketball last season, averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals, as he led the Huskies to a national title.

Either Knight or Walker paired alongside Williams would be an impressive draft haul for a team trying to sort through the wreckage left after LeBron's departure. Along with Hickson, the Cavaliers would quickly have a solid foundation which they could build upon for the next several seasons.

The keystone of their rebuilding movement should be Williams, whose impressive skill set will make him one of the more difficult matchups in the entire league. While he has the length to be a stretch four, Williams is adamant about playing the three-position in the NBA.

"I'm not a power forward. I want to clear that up," said Williams at the NBA draft combine on Thursday. "I'm a small forward that can play the four."

While the position he winds up playing may still be up for discussion, there should be no debate that Cleveland is the perfect landing spot for Williams. As Nick Gilbert (son of Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert) would say: "What's not to like?"

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