2011 NBA Mock Draft: Which Teams Will Take the Biggest Risks?
The word most fitting of this year's draft is risk, because so many teams will be taking one.
The talent in the draft isn't very good. Some scouts feel like there is less talent in this draft than in any draft since 2001.
As such, teams are willing to take more risks. With fewer sure things, teams are left with the choice of making a safer pick, who may be a solid contributor, or taking a relative unknown that may blossom into a star, but might also be out of the league in three years.
Unless there is a player they feel fills a specific need, teams are more likely to take a stab at hitting one out of the park with a high-risk, high-reward player.
Let's take a spin through the first round and see which teams are most likely to take these risks.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving going first to the Cavaliers seems like the obvious choice here.
Irving is the best point guard prospect in the draft and the Cavaliers don't have an incumbent point guard. After a midseason deal, Baron Davis ran the point for them. He certainly isn't a long-term option, though.
Daniel Gibson is a solid role player, but is more of a 2-guard for my taste.
Irving may not ever be a star on the Chris Paul level, but who really is? Irving will be a solid starter in the league for years to come. He has all the skills of a true point guard, but also has upside as a scorer.
Cleveland really won't be sticking their necks out there with this pick and I can't blame them. I can't find anyone who doesn't think Irving won't at least be a good starter at the point guard position.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
With Jonny Flynn already on the roster and Ricky Rubio ready to come over from Spain, the Timberwolves won't be in the market for a point guard like Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker.
Williams will give them a post scoring option to go along with all those point guards. He will also provide a long-term option for the team if the rumors are true that Minnesota is kicking around the idea of trading Kevin Love.
Williams is often compared to David West of the Hornets and if Rubio is as good as they hope he will be, the Timberwolves may have a reasonable facsimile of the Chris Paul/David West relationship in New Orleans.
Williams is another safe pick for the T-Wolves (or whoever ends up picking him). He was a highly productive player in college and his best skills, post scoring and rebounding, translate easily to the pro game.
3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight
By selecting Brandon Knight, the Jazz would be taking the first big risk of the draft.
Knight had one up and down season at Kentucky where he really struggled to fit in. Part of it was his raw point guard skills, but maybe a bigger part of it was that Kentucky tends to be an offense that relies on freelancing by their star players. That's a tough situation for someone to come into.
The Jazz recently parted ways with franchise point guard Deron Williams and are looking for someone to step into his shoes. While I don't know that anyone thinks Knight will ever be that level of player, he has the most superstar potential of any point guard in the draft.
As raw as he looked as a freshman last season, he still managed to average 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game. He also made 37 percent of his three-point attempts. He is an incredible athlete and was among the quickest point guards at the NBA combine.
If Knight's point guard skills like court vision, ball handling and limiting turnovers never come along, Knight will simply be one in a long line of shoot-first point guards that never developed.
If he does grow into a true point guard, though, he could be the one mega-star in this draft.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter
After selecting Kyrie Irving with their first pick, the Cavaliers would go a long way to solidify their front court by taking Enes Kanter.
Kanter is another risk. We know little about him. He played a little high school basketball in the states and was going to be on his way to Kentucky. He was ruled ineligible, though, when it was found that he was paid by a Turkish professional team a few years back.
Kanter has the look of a smooth offensive player that would be a good complement to the defense and rebounding-minded Anderson Varejao. He moves well for someone who stands 6'11" and weighs 260 pounds. He has a quick release on his jump shot and is reasonably explosive.
The biggest negative is his lack of significant playing time at a high level. It's likely that he will have a steep learning curve in the NBA. Once he gets over that curve, Kanter has the tools to be a solid player.
5. Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard
After years of taking long-term international prospects and swinging and missing on college players, the Toronto Raptors will certainly be looking to take a safer player this year.
Kawhi Leonard is the best fit for that reason.
Leonard isn't a phenomenal athlete and has been slapped with the dreaded "tweener" label. But there is a lot to like. Leonard averaged a double double on a San Diego State team that flirted with going undefeated in the regular season.
He is a hard worker, has a knack for getting to the basket and rebounds well. Those are all skills that don't go away in pro ball.
Leonard will contribute right away and give the Raptors a young post player to work with for the next few years.
6. Washington Wizards: Jonas Valanciunas
Taking any international player is a risk and Jonas Valanciunas is no exception. Jonas is a typical European center in that he is tall, wiry and handles the ball like a much smaller player.
Some mock drafts have the Wizards taking Jan Vesely here, but that Euro player profiles too closely to many players the Wizards already have like Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young.
While his range doesn't extend all that far, Valanciunas profiles as a silky smooth shooter in the paint. In the super-competitive Euroleague, Jonas shot 70 percent from the field and over 91 percent from the free-throw line.
The Wizards have at least a few more seasons of rebuilding to do before they are anywhere close to contenders. That's why Valanciunas is perfect. If need be, Jonas can stay overseas for more seasoning and come over when he, and the Wizards, are ready.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kemba Walker
As talented a player as Tyreke Evans is, it has become clear that he is not a point guard. He is a square peg in a round hole at that position.
That's where the Kings would hope that Kemba Walker comes in. Walker was the most productive player in college basketball last season. He averaged 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
His true point guard skills still need some work, but otherwise, he is a polished product. He works hard for every basket, plays willing defense and is a surprising athlete.
Walker measured out at 6'1" and 185 pounds, making him very stout for the position. At the combine, he surprised many with his 39.5-inch vertical leap.
Walker is a player that is best served as a point guard if his skills come along. If they don't come along, though, he is a good enough athlete that he could probably still find a niche in the league.
8. Detroit Pistons: Jan Vesely
The Detroit Pistons badly need a spark on their roster. As they are currently assembled, they have an aging roster full of role players and mismatched parts.
Vesely would give them a player with more upside than anyone on their roster. At 6'11", Vesely looks like a post player, but his skill set is that of a much smaller player.
Vesely is an explosive athlete who is still learning how to harness his skills. He gets many of his points on drives through the lane ending with huge dunks. His ball handling is off the charts for someone of his size.
He projects to be more than a rim-rocker, though. Although he had a tough shooting season last season percentage-wise, he has a quick release and smooth form. Vesely will be a good shooter before it's all said and done.
If Vesely blossoms like many hope he will, a front court of him and Greg Monroe in Detroit would be fun to watch.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Marcus Morris
The Bobcats have made no efforts to hide the fact that they love Marcus Morris. Most mock drafts have them taking him.
Some teams were scared off by the fact that Morris wasn't an elite athlete and he didn't measure out well. The Bobcats, though, choose to see the positives. Morris has a huge offensive repertoire and he got the best NBA training one could ask for by playing his college ball at Kansas.
Morris gets his points in a variety of ways. He can score off the dribble, with his back to the basket and on jump shots. At 59.7 percent shooting last season, Morris showed that he is an efficient scorer no matter what kind of shots they are.
Best of all, Morris is a mature player who quickly emerged as a leader for the Jayhawks. The Bobcats seem to be a team that is having trouble finding leadership on the floor. Morris would immediately bring that to the table.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Burks
Alec Burks is another one of the big risks in the first round. Burks came out of nowhere to put up huge numbers at Colorado.
He is among the most versatile scorers in the draft. At 6'6", he has the size to post smaller players. He handles the ball well enough to score off his own dribble and he has good touch on his jump shot.
Burks isn't a big defender, so he will have to improve there, but defense isn't what teams are interested in. Burks will give the Bucks (or any other team) an immediately scoring option.
For the Bucks, he would take some of the scoring pressure off of Brandon Jennings and keep the Bucks from having to run so much of their offense through Jennings or Andrew Bogut.
11. Golden State Warriors: Bismack Biyombo
The way the Warriors will look at their pick has likely changed now that they have hired Mark Jackson as their head coach.
Jackson says the team will continue to play up-tempo, but defense will be their calling card.
Before, I would have had the Warriors taking a gunner like Klay Thompson. Now that defense is more important to the franchise, I feel they'll want to take an enforcer like Biyombo.
Some will look at Biyombo and assume he is a huge risk, but I don't see it that way. Any team that is drafting Biyombo is doing so because he will rebound the ball and block shots. Those skills translate well to the pro game and there is no reason to believe that he won't continue to do those things in the NBA.
12. Utah Jazz: Jimmer Fredette
The temptation to take hometown boy Jimmer Fredette in the first round will be too much for the Jazz to resist.
Having a local kid play ball in Salt Lake City isn't the only draw to Jimmer, though. He may be the best player on the board at the time as well. After parting ways with players like Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and even Kyle Korver, the Jazz are in need of some guys that can score the ball.
Jimmer is obviously that type of player. His range is limitless. He could probably score from the parking lot.
There is a school of thought that says that Jimmer won't be a good NBA player because he doesn't have any other NBA-level skill, but I disagree. Shooting is a skill that doesn't go away and while he may not have another elite skill, he has average ball-handling skills and is a deceptive athlete.
13. Phoenix Suns: Klay Thompson
The Suns would probably like to get their hands on Jimmer Fredette. His range and lack of a conscience offensively would fit in well with the Suns offense.
Jimmer will likely be gone, but Washington State's Klay Thompson will be a nice consolation prize.
Thompson is a great athlete who would have no problem getting up and down the floor with Steve Nash running the show.
He shoots a high percentage from the field and doesn't have a problem scoring from anywhere really. He can score in the paint, from midrange and from the three-point line.
Thompson couldn't be a better fit for what the Suns are trying to do.
14. Houston Rockets: Jordan Hamilton
The Rockets would love to draft Bismack Biyombo as they badly need size inside, but when he is taken, they will take Texas Longhorn Jordan Hamilton.
Hamilton is a volume scorer that some say profiles to be similar to Tracy McGrady. He may not handle the ball as well as T-Mac right now, but the trade-off is that he is already a better shooter.
Hamilton emerged as the Longhorns' star last season, averaging over 18 points per season. The Rockets will be hoping he can duplicate that at the next level.
The Rockets need a star. At this stage of the draft, Hamilton has the biggest star potential.
15. Indiana Pacers: Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson is a very athletic big man who will pair nicely with Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is a more defensive-minded player, while Thompson profiles as a scorer.
Thompson measured slightly shorter than anticipated at just 6'7.5", but his skills translate well regardless of size. Thompson moves well without the ball, scraps for everything around the basket and finishes well at the rim.
Even at his size, he is a good rebounder. He positions himself well and never gives up on a ball.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Markieff Morris
Like his brother Marcus with the Bobcats, the Sixers don't hide their interest in Markieff Morris. Morris is not as sure a thing as his brother, but he is the superior offensive player.
Morris shot 42 percent from the three-point line and showed a knack for getting his own shot.
He matches that finesse game with solid rebounding and good hustle on both ends of the floor. He has an aesthetically pleasing offensive game, but don't mistake that for him being soft.
Morris would give the Sixers much of what Andre Iguodala gives them should they decide to trade Iguodala.
17. New York Knicks: Donatas Motiejunas
With a high payroll and not much money to throw around this offseason, Donatas Motiejunas is the perfect pick for the Knicks. He will likely spend a few more years in Europe. Those are years where the Knicks won't have to pay him.
Motiejunas is a well-developed offensive player both in the paint and on the perimeter. He also doesn't mind sticking his nose in there and fighting for rebounds inside.
He appears wiry now as he only weighs 224 pounds on his 6'11" frame, but his body type is one that should be conducive to adding weight.
18. Washington Wizards: Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris would give the Wizards a versatile player in a frontcourt that has way too many one-dimensional players.
Harris has a solid NBA body that will allow him to bang around with players as big or bigger than he is. He has a good feel for his post game and tends to find a way to get his shot off in there.
He is not a great defender as he is too small to defend many power forwards and not quick enough to guard many small forwards.
After taking a European player with their first pick, the Wizards would do well by taking a guy in Harris who can come in and do a lot of things well right off the bat.
While far from a sure thing, Harris would be a pretty safe pick here.
19. Charlotte Bobcats: Chris Singleton
With this pick, the Bobcats should take the opportunity to take one of the more NBA-ready players in the draft in Chris Singleton.
Singleton is ready to step in as a wing defender right now. He has the size at 6'9" and the requisite quickness to probably guard shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards.
His size and length will make him a good rebounder as well.
He is raw offensively, but he did some scoring at Florida State. Any NBA team that is drafting Singleton should take any offense that he gives them as a bonus. His calling card will be his defense.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Marshon Brooks
Marshon Brooks is probably the best scorer in this draft whom no one has heard of. Brooks put up great numbers on a bad Providence team that got lost in the shuffle of the excellent Big East Conference.
At 6'5" and 195 pounds, Brooks has the ideal body for a shooting guard. He still has the quickness to get around defenders, but he has the bulk to wear down his defender with his physical play.
Brooks can get his shot off in any situation, which may come in handy when the T-Wolves are breaking in a new point guard in Ricky Rubio. Brooks is pretty safe pick here as well. Anyone who scored as well as he did in college should have no trouble scoring in the NBA.
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Nikola Vucevic
While the Blazers are certainly still holding out hope that Greg Oden can become a force inside, it's also time to begin thinking about his replacement.
That's where Nikola Vucevic would come in. Vucevic has an NBA body at seven feet tall and 260 pounds. Vucevic averaged a double double at USC and established himself as a force in the low block.
Vucevic boasts a smooth jump shot and at one point made 11 straight three-pointers this season. His perimeter shot isn't what's coveted, though. Vucevic has the body and skill set to become a fierce post defender and rebounder. Over time, he will be asked to do more offensively, but he will be selected for his potential on defense.
22. Denver Nuggets: Iman Shumpert
While the Nuggets certainly understand that they can't replace a player like Carmelo Anthony in one move, Shumpert may go a long way toward filling the void.
Shumpert is a point guard by trade, but he is raw as a point guard. He doesn't have the instincts you like to see in a point guard and sometimes he is too much of a score-first player.
That wouldn't be a problem if he were more efficient. As it is, Shumpert's shot selection is often questioned.
Shumpert will stuff the box score and wow you with his athletic ability. For those reasons, he passes the eye test. He looks and carries himself like a star.
Shumpert could get there, but it's dependent on him learning how to be a better point guard. While he has the size to be a shooting guard, particularly on the defensive end, he isn't an efficient enough scorer.
23. Houston Rockets: Kenneth Faried
The Rockets missed out on Bismack Biyombo earlier in the draft, but by selecting Kenneth Faried, they hope to nab the size and strength in the post that they so badly need.
Faried was a beast on the boards in college. Admittedly, he played against weak competition, but with his determination and aggressiveness in the post, Faried would have been successful anywhere.
I guess you could nitpick and say that Faried is a little undersized at 6'8", but I don't know that it matters. He rebounded over bigger opponents for his entire college career, so I don't see any reason it won't continue.
The Rockets have a guy on the roster now in Chuck Hayes that could show Faried a thing or two about rebounding against bigger guys.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Honeycutt
Tyler Honeycutt would fit in well with what the Thunder try to do on offense. Honeycutt is a quick big man. He stands 6'8", but he moves like a shooting guard.
He can get up and down the court with anyone and can play in an up tempo offense. Honeycutt can get his points at the basket and he can shoot the ball from the perimeter reasonably well.
With the acquisition and signing of Kendrick Perkins and the incumbent Serge Ibaka, the Thunder are able to use this pick on an athletic wing scorer and not a post defender like they would have had to draft if they didn't have those two.
25. Boston Celtics: Trey Thompkins
The Celtics are paper thin inside after they dealt Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder. Jeff Green is a talented player, but he isn't that much of a post scorer.
Thompkins is a highly skilled scorer and may be among the top two or three post scorers in the draft. He isn't a great athlete, but he has incredible footwork and touch.
Thompkins is long, but he isn't much of a defender or shot blocker .The Celtics would have to make sure to have someone else in there with him who can defend the post.
Thompkins has bust potential similar to some of the European bigs and would represent a risk for the Celtics.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Justin Harper
When you get as far as the Mavericks have this season, your needs are few. It's times like that when a team can take a real high-risk, high-reward player like Justin Harper.
Harper is a fluid offensive player who plays like a smaller player. He shoots the three ball well and can also create his own shot off the dribble. He doesn't have a post offense mentality necessarily, but his frame is conducive to adding weight for that.
Harper does have bust potential, but when you are as good as the Mavericks, you can afford to take chances like this.
27. New Jersey Nets, Josh Selby
With as many needs as the Nets have, they certainly wish they had a draft pick higher in the draft. They traded that pick to the Jazz, though, and it ended up being the third pick overall.
Faced with a pick so low, the Nets will have to swing for the fences for a player like Josh Selby. Selby was a 5-star recruit to Kansas, but then had a very inconsistent season there. He never really fit in and his highlights were few and far between.
He was a highly rated recruit for a reason, however. Selby is incredibly explosive and can get his own shot as well as anyone in the draft. He really excels at beating his man.
The fear is that Selby will never develop into a player that can work within an offense.
The risk here is huge. Selby has bust written all over him, but he has a ton of potential and is an electric athlete.
28. Chicago Bulls: Charles Jenkins
On paper, the selection of Charles Jenkins makes little sense. Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP and he isn't going anywhere.
Jenkins would just give the Bulls a different look at point guard and could even fill in at shooting guard. Jenkins was a prolific scorer in college. If he had put up the numbers he did at a school bigger than Hofstra, he would likely be a bigger prospect.
Jenkins is not just a volume scorer. He is a dead eye shooter that can hit from all over the floor. He can create his own shot and move without the ball to get open for a pass from a teammate.
Jenkins wouldn't be asked to do much given the talent Chicago already has in place. He would be allowed to just do what he does best: score the ball.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Davis Bertans
The Spurs have a keen eye for spotting international talent and I think that continues with the pick of Davis Bertans.
Bertans is a slick scorer thanks to his great touch and quick release.
One of his bigger downsides is that he is wiry and as such, he doesn't take contact well.
His ball handling skills are raw as well, which limits Bertans' offensive abilities to mostly spot-up shooting.
The best part about Bertans is that he is just 18 years old. He will have time to refine his skills and grow into his body in Europe. The Spurs will allow him to season and then bring him over when he is ready to contribute like they did with Tiago Splitter.
30. Chicago Bulls: Jeremy Tyler
Jeremy Tyler is an interesting case study regardless of where and when he gets drafted. He chose the Brandon Jennings route to the NBA. That is, he chose to play overseas rather than play a season or two of college ball in the states. Tyler just took that plan to the next level. He decided to not only skip college, but skip his senior year of high school as well.
Tyler has been up and down in his time overseas. More recently, though, he has begun to find his stride while playing in Japan.
Tyler has an NBA body as he is now. He stands 6'11" and weighs in at 260 pounds. He has the frame and length to really be a defensive force in the post.
The Bulls certainly wouldn't ask Tyler to contribute immediately. He would be given time to learn behind veterans and acclimate to the NBA game.