NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving and the Ten Most Marketable Athletes in the Draft
The NBA Draft is seen as a beacon of hope for many teams. It provides the chance to draft a dynamic young player who can help turn the fortunes of their franchise around.
Almost as importantly, it gives the team an opportunity to draft a player that they can market as the future of the franchise. The hope is that in turn, he can help sell a ton of tickets and jerseys.
Draft the right player, and a team will see a huge windfall not only because of an increase in wins, but because every fan will want to buy that player's jersey and buy tickets to see him.
New draftees also bring buzz to a franchise. Buzz around the team brings more national media exposure, which brings more nationally televised games, which in turn brings the team even more money.
Let's take a look at the ten most marketable players in this year's draft.
1. Kyrie Irving- Duke
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Kyrie Irving is a dream player for any team's marketing department.
He plays the most glamorous position on the court, point guard. He will have the ball in his hands a large portion of the time. He's known for his fast-paced, exciting game. He played his college ball at a national power everyone is familiar with.
He's also just flat-out good. He missed much of the season with an injury, but when he came back, he fit right in immediately. He fits the mold of a true point guard, but he can also do his share of scoring. He shot 53 percent from the field, 90 percent from the free throw line and 45 percent from the three point line.
Assuming Irving is at least a decent player early on, he won't be a hard sell for whichever team drafts him.
2. Brandon Knight- Kentucky
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Brandon Knight is a big risk for teams because of his skill set, but he has great potential as a player that a team can market as a franchise-changer.
Knight has an attractive game, as he's at his best when he is slashing and cutting to the basket. He is also a flashy passer. While he might drive his team nuts with turnovers on these types of passes, the fans and media will love it. Knight can break your ankles and then get a pass off before you realize he's already gotten rid of the ball.
It certainly won't hurt that Knight played his college ball at Kentucky. No team personifies glitz and glamour in college basketball better than the Kentucky Wildcats.
Knight has huge boom or bust potential both on the court and as a marketing tool. His flashy style lends itself to being a huge star for a team, but if the team isn't winning, his score-first mentality can wear thin with fans.
3. Kemba Walker- Connecticut
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Kemba Walker is the type of player that doesn't need a marketing push. Thanks to UConn's recent national championship run, he sells himself as a player.
Fans will fall in love with Walker's gritty, blue collar attitude. No one works harder on the court. Walker put up a ton of points in his college career, but none of them came easy. He spent as much time on the floor as any player in the nation.
As good as he is offensively, you would assume that he's subpar defensively. That's just not the case. Walker has great lateral quickness and he has a way of getting right up in his man's face.
With so many fans convinced that all NBA players are spoiled brats who only care about themselves, a kid who was raised in the Bronx and works as hard at his craft as Kemba Walker does will be a breath of fresh air.
4. Alec Burks- Colorado
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While Alec Burks may not be a household name to many, some NBA team will hit the jackpot in terms of marketability.
Burks is the most versatile scorer in the draft. He gets his points inside, outside, on drives down the lane and on spot-up jumpers set up by his point guard. He can truly fill it up from anywhere on the court and is a joy to watch.
Alec loves to get out on the fast break and would be a good fit for a team like the Warriors or Suns that like to push the tempo. In those types of offenses, he could become a volume scorer similar to a Monta Ellis with a better post game.
Burks has yet to really grow into his body, but when he does, he'll be a superstar.
5. Jimmer Fredette- Brigham Young
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As it stands today, Fredette is probably the most well-known player in the entire draft. His run through the NCAA tournament with BYU captivated a huge TV audience.
His "aw shucks" attitude makes him very likable and easy to market to middle America, a tough demographic for the NBA.
Jimmer is best served in a smaller market like Salt Lake City, Indianapolis or Oklahoma City, where his unassuming demeanor will really be appreciated.
The one thing keeping Jimmer from being among the top two or three most marketable players is the question of whether or not he can be a star. If a guy is only averaging 10 or 15 minutes a game, it's hard to make him the star of a marketing campaign.
6. Bismack Biyombo- Congo
Generally international players aren't marketing darlings. Biyombo is going to be an exception. I see him playing an enforcer role similar to a Dikembe Mutombo or Charles Oakley.
If he ends up on a team that values post defense, he could be a star. If Biyombo ends up blocking shots left and right with a signature scowl on his face, you could have the makings of a team similar to the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 80s and early 90s.
Biyombo won't be a TV or radio media darling thanks to his shy disposition, but sometimes a quiet enforcer is as intimidating as someone who spends the entire game jawing at the opposition.
7. Derrick Williams- Arizona
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Derrick Williams is likely going to be gone in the first two or three picks of the draft. He may end up going first overall. Why, then, is he ranked seventh on this list?
For me, it's just that his game isn't that flashy. He is productive, but flash sells much better than production when all else is equal. He isn't an elite athlete and most of his scoring comes down low in the post.
Williams' production will help sell him, though. Winning and production cures a lot. Last season, Williams scored at will in the post despite his underwhelming size at 6'7.
Drafting Williams alone would go a long way toward turning a team's offense around. If great offense doesn't sell, I don't know what will.
8. Jordan Hamilton- Texas
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When teams look for marketable young players, attitude goes a long way. You want a player that knows he's elite and wants to be "the man" on his team.
Jordan Hamilton fits that bill. Early in his career, his attitude was detrimental to himself and to the Texas Longhorns. Last season, though, he put it all together. He was more efficient and he embraced his role as the star player on the team.
While it's almost a guarantee that he won't be the star of his NBA team right away, you like to see a player like Hamilton with the confidence of one.
The fans sense this in a player as well. That type of attitude makes them want to support him and get behind him. He can also be sold as the next coming of Kevin Durant. He has a very similar build and skill set and he played his college ball at the University of Texas, just like Durant.
One day, Hamilton will be a star. When that time comes, you know he'll be ready.
9. Klay Thompson- Washington State
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Like Alec Burks, Klay Thompson isn't a name many are familiar with, but he sure is fun to watch. He was the offense for Washington State last season.
He scored from long range, from the post and everywhere in between. He also seems to be having a ton of fun every time he is on the court.
If there's one thing we know about fan behavior, it's that they cling to players that take a boyish approach to the game and play every game like it's their last. Thompson plays that way, making him a huge sleeper from a marketing standpoint.
10. Norris Cole- Cleveland State
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Sometimes what makes a player marketable has less to do with how he plays and more to do with him being or looking unique.
And boy, does Norris Cole have a unique look to him. Cole sports an MC Hammer-style high top fade. Watching him run down the court is like watching a point guard from 1990 run down the court.
He's also a dynamic player. He averaged 21.7 points and 5.3 assists per game last season, and nearly led his team to an NCAA tournament appearance.
Cole is one of my sleepers that could end up a solid point guard in the NBA and a marketing star.