The 2011 draft class isn't considered a deep one as far as talent is concerned, but that doesn't mean anything. The players are the ones who will ultimately decide how successful the draft class will be.
I may be the only one who feels this way, but this draft class should prove a lot of critics wrong after they have been in the league a couple years.
Here are the players in this draft who may be getting slighted by scouts, but will turn out to be above average players at least.
Height/Weight: 6’3''/185 pounds
Nolan Smith just finished his senior year at Duke. After winning the NCAA championship his junior year, they were eliminated by Arizona in just the sweet 16 of this year's NCAA tournament.
Smith is a point guard overlooked because it took him four years of college to become this good, but because of his experience he should contribute to any team right away.
He has an extremely high basketball IQ and doesn’t make many mistakes. His use of pick and rolls are comparable to that of Steve Nash.
He has developed into a reliable mid-range shooter and has the ability to get hot from behind the arc as well. When driving to the rim, he does not lose track of his teammates and will make the necessary pass if crowded.
On defense, Smith enjoys playing up close and taking advantage of nonchalant ball handlers.
NBA Comparison: Raymond Felton
He isn’t as fast as Raymond Felton, but his IQ and mid-range game are very similar. Neither are excellent scorers, but both are more than capable. Like Felton, Smith can fit the ball into tight windows and sees openings before they are actually open.
Height/Weight: 6’3''/180 pounds
Brandon Knight is the latest one-and-done point guard for the Kentucky Wildcats. In the NCAA tournament, he led Kentucky to the Final Four with timely plays and clutch shots.
His quickness allows him to blow by defenders with the first step, and he effectively uses the floater in the lane. He has a quick release and the ball handling to create his own shot.
One asset Knight has that most players in this draft lack is a consistent three pointer. If left open, or if he finds a crease, he can be deadly from behind the arc.
He is an unselfish player and prefers to set his teammates up than to score himself. Displaying maturity for just a freshman, Knight doesn’t turn the ball over much and makes the correct reads most of the time.
NBA comparison: Ty Lawson
Like Ty Lawson, Knight has a great three-point shot and playmaking ability. He would rather only take shots when he has to instead of creating them, but either way is no problem.
Knight should be a mainstay on any NBA roster for years to come.
Height/Weight: 6’9''/230 pounds
Tristan Thompson is another freshman in this year’s draft with amazing potential. He has a high motor and work ethic that should allow him to develop very well at the next level.
Thompson is a slim big man, but has a frame that should allow him to effectively add bulk. He works hard for rebounds as he finds a man to box out every time a shot goes up.
His length will be a great asset for him in the NBA until he gets stronger, which will be an advantage once he does. He uses it well to keep the ball alive on offense, and disrupt shots on the defense.
Thompson has an average offensive game right now, but already possesses a solid turnaround jumper. His athleticism allows him to consistently beat his man down the court, and he also has a great leaping ability.
Once his offense rounds out, Thompson will be a solid power forward in the NBA.
NBA comparison: Lamarcus Aldridge
Thompson is similar to Lamarcus Aldridge because of his length and what his offense has the potential to be. Thompson has shown that he is going to work hard to develop a consistent mid-range game, and as mentioned already, he has a turnaround jumper comparable to Aldridge’s.
Neither player is considered a power player, but neither one is a slouch either.
Height/Weight: 6’1''/180 pounds
Josh Selby is leaving Kansas after just one year to become an NBA superstar. He has been in the spotlight since high school and was poised for an outstanding freshman campaign until he couldn’t seem to stay in the line-up for various reasons.
He is predicted to go in the bottom half of the first round but he will turn out to be a steal for whoever drafts him. His potential is unlimited because of his ability to score the ball, but another year in college would have benefitted him greatly.
Selby is a good shooter off the dribble and outstanding in the catch and shoot. He is one of those J.R Smith type of players, but with better one-on-one moves. Once Selby gets one shot to fall, three or four more are likely to follow and that is where his energy is derived.
He isn’t a big player, but he drives the lane fearlessly and with great athleticism. His first step and acceleration keeps defenders behind him once he gets by them.
NBA comparison: Ben Gordon/ Monta Ellis
Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis and Josh Selby are all shooting guards in point guard bodies.
Selby has so many moves to create shots and get to the rim, but he will be a defensive mismatch nightly in the NBA. Like Gordon and Ellis, Selby should not be put at the point guard position but his scoring will force coaches to keep him on the court.
Height/Weight: 6’5''/190 pounds
No other player in the college ranks made a bigger improvement from season to season than Marshon Brooks did this year. He seemingly came out of nowhere, and is now going to be a first- round pick.
A senior graduating from Providence, he got better in nearly every major stat category than in his junior season. He went from 14 points per game to 24, four rebounds a game to seven, and the list goes on.
Brooks has the best offensive game in the draft, period. He exploits defenders one-on-one using fakes, hesitations, and crossovers to get open shots or create driving lanes. When driving, he doesn’t need much space to finish in traffic. He even had a 52-point outing this year.
He isn’t a reliable shooter yet, but he is certainly capable from anywhere on the court. His game in the NBA will most likely be a slasher until he can consistently knock down long range shots.
NBA comparison: Dwayne Wade
When I compare to him Dwayne Wade, I mean Wade’s early career.
Brooks is an excellent one-on-one player who will look to get to the bucket and draw fouls his first few years in the league until he can shoot his jump shot confidently. He is a thin shooting guard though, which may pose a problem on defense until he bulks up.
I fully expect Brooks to become a premier scorer in the league.
Height/Weight: 6’7''/225 pounds
When San Diego State small forward Kawhi Leonard is drafted in the lottery, the average hoop fan may have never heard of him. He will not be drafted this high by mistake though.
Leonard is an athletic wingman who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work on the court. He is a great rebounder, especially on the offensive end. He has a high motor and can impact any game without scoring or dominating the ball.
A dangerous transition player, Leonard attacks the basket relentlessly. He is also a good passer and can create shots for his teammates off of penetration.
Defensively, Leonard takes pride in forcing tough shots, and can guard multiple positions.
NBA comparison: Andre Iguodala
Leonard draws comparison to Iguodala because of their similar offensive and defensive games.
Like Iguodala, Leonard is capable but not a solid mid-range or three-point shooter. They prefer to attack the basket and have above average passing skills. Also, they both are quick and strong enough to guard multiple perimeter positions.
If Leonard keeps working hard to develop his offense, the sky is the limit for him.
Height/Weight: 6’2''/190 pounds
Jimmer Fredette wowed the nation this past season with his incredible scoring ability. Even the NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant called him the best shooter in the world.
Fredette is one of those rare players that has in-the-gym range. If he shoots from anywhere on the court, it has a real chance of going in. Even his misses look good.
Fredette is very much a lights out shooter, but is also a creative finisher in the lane. He uses his body well to shield defenders from the ball and draw fouls. At the foul line, he is pretty much automatic.
His passing ability is overlooked because he had to handle so much of the scoring load for BYU. He has good court vision that will only shine more as he won’t have to score as much in the NBA.
Also, Fredette has shown he will be a great system point guard at the next level. He uses screens to perfection already because of his high basketball IQ.
NBA comparison: Steve Nash
Fredette may never be the kind of passer Steve Nash is, but his shooting ability and creative finishes in the lane are right on par. Like Nash, Fredette is an excellent pull-up jump shooter. Also like Nash, Fredette will have to really on savvy instead of athleticism to be effective.
Height/Weight: 6’1''/175 pounds
Kemba Walker established himself as one of the best players in the NCAA from the very first game of the season, and carried UCONN all the way to an NCAA championship.
Walker’s ball handling is unparalleled in this year’s draft. He is very quick with the ball, can get by defenders at will, and has great change of direction. His speed from end to end make him scary in transition as he excels in the open court.
He is a smart player who knows when to dominate with his scoring and also when to get his teammates involved. He has drastically improved his shooting and is as consistent a mid-range shooter as you’ll find in the NCAA. Additionally, he is working hard to keep improving his three pointer.
Walker absorbs contact when going to the rim and gets to the free throw line frequently. When going to the rim though, he keeps his head on a swivel and willingly dishes the ball when the defense collapses.
Also, he is a pesky defender who plays the passing lanes well.
Walker is the fiercest competitor in this draft, proven by how he didn’t let UCONN lose any games in tournament play the entire year. His competitiveness and heart will be his best assets in the NBA.
NBA comparison: Deron Williams
Like Deron Williams, Walker is an outstanding scorer from all angles.
Although guaranteed to get his own points, he will also have a high volume of assists because of his smart decisions with the ball. Also like Williams, Walker has devastating crossovers which make defenders not want to play him closely.
Height/Weight: 6’9''/240 pounds
Perhaps no other player benefitted more from the NCAA tournament than Derrick Williams. He catapulted himself into the top prospects talk when he single-handedly eliminated Duke in the second round.
Williams has the ability to shoot from distance as well as pound the ball down low. He is extremely athletic with above average handles for someone his size. Naturally, he loves to get out in the open court as he is an explosive finisher at the rim.
When on the block, he has an array of moves to score the ball and does not shy away from contact. He uses spin moves, head fakes, and his muscular frame to get defenders off balance. If guarded by a bigger opponent, he can draw them away from the basket then use his quickness to get around them.
A capable defender, Williams is known for powerful blocked shots. This may also serve as a weakness though, as sometimes his aggressiveness gets him in foul trouble.
He is a lead by example kind of player. He gets the best out of his teammates by crashing the boards hard and showing great intensity.
NBA comparison: Lebron James
A poor man’s Lebron James, Williams plays a similar yet different game.
He plays on the block a lot more than James but his build, athletic ability, ball handling, and shooting range cannot be overlooked. He is a mix between a small and power forward and will be a matchup problem nightly once adjusted to the NBA.
Height/Weight: 6’2''/175 pounds
Duke super freshman Kyrie Irving became a household name after playing just eight games before missing the rest of the regular season and ACC tournament with a turf toe injury. He would later return to the lineup for their two NCAA tournament games before they were defeated by Arizona.
Although visibly a step slower and rusty when he returned, Irving had already done enough to solidify himself as the nation’s best point guard. He has standard size for a NBA point guard and displayed NBA qualities during his brief tenure for the Blue Devils.
Considered the only pure point guard in the draft, Irving plays an unselfish game but can score at will. He has great change of direction and outstanding handles.
His playmaking and quickness are his best attributes. He excels in the open court, and makes the right decisions in the half court too.
Also, Irving isn’t afraid to drive the ball amongst the giants and is a creative finisher.
NBA comparison: Chris Paul
Irving is never going to be one of the strongest point guards in the league, but his skill set is favorable to Chris Paul’s. His court vision will only get better as he develops, but he is a much better scorer than Chris Paul was at this point in his career.
As all potential No. 1 picks should be, Irving will be the cornerstone as the franchise (most likely Cleveland) that drafts him.