NBA Draft 2011: Derrick Williams and the Player Each NBA Team Should Avoid
Come NBA Draft time, general managers more likely resemble the desperate scratch-off lottery hopeful than overseers of a professional sports franchise. Have you seen those guys? They stop at the local gas station on their way home from work, spend 20 bucks on scratch-off lottery tickets, then temporarily thrust the weight of their financial troubles onto fragile little snippets of paper. Maybe you're one of them. And if you're anything like me, the occasional two dollars you do win goes right back to the clerk in exchange for more tickets. I mean, who wants to double-up that one dollar and call it a day? No, sir. For the scratch-off lottery hopeful, it's big bucks or bust.
The 2011 draft is no exception, and scouts have missed out (or stuck gold on) on many a first-rounder not named LeBron James. This draft, like so many before it, seems to feature only a few "elite" prospects (if any outside of Kyrie Irving). The rest will be viewed with low expectations, begging to be taken like the runt in a litter of puppies up for adoption. However, the guy with a chip on his shoulder (see Manu Ginobili) has often proved to be more valuable than the guy with all-world talent (see Kwame Brown). A motivated underdog can carry his team to a championship even against a seemingly-insurmountable wall of talent (see the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks).
Making that call is no easy task, but the general managers who have done their due diligence can find the right guy and avoid the wrong one. Starting with Chicago, here are the guys each team needs to avoid in the upcoming draft.
PG Shelvin Mack, Butler
Mack has been described as a "poor man's" Chauncey Billups, with great leadership qualities and range to go with a lack of explosiveness and an inconsistent jump shot. Not too bad for the 30th selection, right? Wrong.
After three years in college to polish his game under the tutelage of the well-regarded Brad Stevens, Mack is still considered a late-rounder at best by most accounts. While drawing a backhanded comparison to Billups is nice, he is light years behind the veteran as a passer. His face-off with Kemba Walker in last year's title game did not end well (the few who stayed awake saw him go 4-15 from the field). There is no doubt that the Bulls need some serious offensive help, but they won't find it in a guy who lacks quickness and struggled with his jump shot against longer, more athletic teams (Connecticut, Wisconsin, Florida). Too often, fans and experts alike attribute a lengthy college career to being more grizzled and NBA-ready, but wouldn't Mack have declared sooner if scouts thought he could make it?
29: San Antonio
PG Kyle Singler, Duke
Like Mack, Singler opted for a lengthy college career rather than a jump to the NBA. More so than Mack, he possesses coveted leadership qualities and a pedigree of winning that dates back to his high school days (his team beat Kevin Love's Lake Oswego High to win a state championship). That said, he is drawing comparisons to former Butler forward Gordon Heyward (selected ninth overall by the Jazz in 2010) that, to be polite, are not good for his stock.
Heyward was considered a reach at No. 9 last year, and lived up to that label as one of the league's worst rookie performers last season. Singler most likely has a lower ceiling than his Butler counterpart and shares his lack of strength and agility. A player like Singler is a better fit for a team in need of an extra piece to help push them over the top quickly, not one in rebuilding mode (face it, Spurs fans). Amidst rumblings that Tony Parker could be out the door, a young guard with high upside might be the smart choice. Or, if the Spurs want to put more butts in seats, they could draft Singler at 29 and let him shoot his patented trick shots at halftime.
28: Chicago (via Miami)
PF Trey Thompkins, Georgia
Thompkins is that guy who does several things pretty well (rebounding, ball handling, blocking shots) and nothing really well. After three years of playing against competition in the SEC (an underwhelming conference at best), questions linger about his conditioning and athleticism. Though he displayed versatility as a four, he comes off as a tweener who will most likely never be strong enough to play the four as a pro and never quite athletic/conditioned enough to play the three.
Thompkins would be long at the three (6'10", 7-1 wingspan), which makes his deep shooting ability all the more enticing. However, taking a first-round flier on a guy whose future likely exists as a longer, less consistent Kyle Korver (a guy who the Bulls already have) seems like a wasted pick. The Bulls need guards who can penetrate and threaten to pull up for the mid-range jumper and would be better served passing on this former bulldog.
27: New Jersey (via Lakers)
PF Justin Harper, Richmond
Another undersized four who will most likely be relegated to the three as a pro, Harper shares some of the same flaws as Thompkins. At Richmond, it took him two years to develop into a consistent starter in the Atlantic-10 (not good). While he is significantly more explosive and a much better scoring threat than Thompkins, he is an even worse rebounder who will need to add some strength if he wants to stick. The Nets are better off sticking with Kris Humphries than wasting this pick on another soft four who falls in love with his jumpshot far too often.
SF Davis Bertans, Latvia
Rather than waiting one more year (which could have significantly improved his stock), Bertans decided to take his chances as a bubble pick and declare for the upcoming draft. He averaged about five points and 10 minutes per game for Slovenia's Union Olimpija Ljubljana, which isn't much for teams picking in the first round to go on. An excellent shooter with great size (6'10"), agility and youth (only 18 years old) makes him a very intriguing prospect, especially this late in the first round.
Given his European heritage and ability to hit the deep shot, inevitable comparisons have been drawn between him and Dirk Nowitzki. However, Dallas shouldn't take the bait. If this year's Finals were any indication, great team basketball can overcome great talent. The Mavs should consider a polished scoring threat who could immediately play significant minutes and also develop into a potential star down the road (cough, Nolan Smith, cough). Also, Bertans looks like he's five years old.
C Jeremy Tyler, Tokyo Apache
Aside from playing for one of the best-named sports teams on the face of the earth, Tyler doesn't have a whole lot of immediate value. With Doc Rivers signing a five-year extension and all signs pointing to the Celtics giving it one last go at another title, they have to be thinking about getting better right now.
Tyler has major upside due to his age and elite athleticism (especially for a big), but lacks emotional maturity and is very raw at this stage in his development. Moreover, he opted to skip his senior year in high school to play for Israel's Maccabi Haifa, averaging 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 10 games before quitting the team with five weeks to go. If that's how he handled a small-time payout for his abilities, how can anyone expect him to be mature and dependable when he gets an NBA-sized check? The Celtics need to find an immediate contributor who won't be a distraction, and while it is clear they need to add some size, they shouldn't let that lure them into a bad decision.
24: Oklahoma City
SF Bojan Bogdanovic, Serbia
Of all the prospects to avoid in this year's draft, Bogdanovic may be the only one whose most negative quality is simply not being all that excited about jumping to the NBA. A versatile player capable of doing it all at least somewhat effectively, The Bog has been on the radar of scouts for several years and has particularly come under the spotlight in the last two seasons. He averaged 18 points per game for Cibona last season and has steadily improved his ability as a passer and as a penetrator over the years. Yet like so many European crossovers before him, emotional toughness and a soft body have been cited as major concerns for potential suitors.
After joining Real Madrid in Spain for the 2008 season, he crumbled under the spotlight and retreated to Croatia. He has since flourished, and reports surfaced last month that he has signed with Turkish club Fenerbahce for the upcoming season (making it unlikely that he will make a jump to the NBA this season, if anytime soon). If you're a title contender like OKC, why waste a decent pick on someone who isn't going to help you win in the near future? The move to Spain clearly affected his play, so what would a move to the U.S. do to his game? These questions, on top of his so-so athleticism and the fact that he scored a ton in the Euroleague (which isn't exactly known for its defense), more than outweigh his potential benefits.
23: Houston (via Orlando)
SF Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
In a December matchup at undefeated Kansas last season, Honeycutt essentially carried the Bruins (.500 at the time) to a victory by dominating nearly every aspect of the game. He finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and four assists and hit a game-tying three pointer with just five seconds left in the ballgame. Had teammate Malcolm Lee not committed a careless foul at the end of that game, his one-man show would have ended in a victory and could have provided the momentum the Bruins needed to jump start their season.
However, Honeycutt’s game is more emblematic of the UCLA season that was than the one that could have been. He went on to post abysmal efforts in subsequent match-ups against schools like Cal-Poly, UC-Davis, Montana and Montana State, averaging less than 12 points a game between December 2 and December 22. Not only was Honeycutt inconsistent against more double-teams last season (49 percent from the field as a freshman, 41 percent last season), he appears to be a player who does not handle adversity well. On top of all that, the recent success of players coming out of Ben Howland’s system leads me to believe that someone has to fail soon, and it might as well be Honeycutt.
C Nikola Vucevic, USC
According to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, “Denver is not looking to sign-and-trade Nene, and two NBA sources say the Nuggets, who already have an abundance of small guards, are not interested in [Golden State guard] Monta Ellis.”
The likely return of Nene, coupled with the presence of the young-but-talented center Kosta Koufas and the decent Timofey Mozgov, means Vucevic would enter a crowded center position for the Nuggets and would likely be a wasted pick as a result. There’s no doubt that Vucevic has some upside, and he has been one of the more impressive players in workouts leading up to the draft. The Nuggets should opt for a defensive-minded three or two rather than reach for another raw center.
PG Norris Cole, Cleveland St.
Cole has been shooting up teams' draft boards since impressing scouts at the Deron Williams Skills Academy last August and played like a star last season by averaging career highs in points per game (21), rebounds (six) and assists (five). And yet, he seems to be benefiting from the growing love fest between scouts and “true” point guards. Without a doubt, Cole showed steady improvement throughout a career that culminated in a successful, relatively error-proof season as a senior. However, he lacks elite athleticism and explosion. His size (6’2”, 175) is cause for concern, and he far too often settled for jump shots in games against mediocre opponents (Valparaiso, Old Dominion, Detroit). With no specifically notable skills, Cole is likely to be sucked into D-League oblivion.
20: Minnesota (via Memphis)
PF Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania
An impressive scorer for his size (particularly as a mid-range shooter), Motiejunas could add some offensive firepower to a T-Wolves squad in need of that very thing. But with solid forwards in Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley, this seems like another one of those picks where they end up reaching for an international player that gets lost in the shuffle. If Rubio does make himself available for the entire upcoming season, how much playing time is he going to get behind the experienced Luke Ridnour and the more-athletic Johnny Flynn? With a needle-like body and a reputation as another foreign softy, is he the next Jianlian? Minnesota needs to stop building a team that should be great in five years and focus on adding to a team with the potential to be very good right now.
19: Charlotte (via New Orleans)
PF Kenneth Farried, Morehead State
Before I even get into why this is a bad pick for Charlotte, let me start by noting that Farried is as classy a player as they come, and no matter where he ends up, I’m very confident he will succeed and be a 10-year player in this league because of his work ethic alone. Moreover, I doubt he will slide this far anyway. However, should he be available here (considering there are questions about his size, health and offensive skills), the Bobcats need to let him pass on by. Despite his unmatched ability as a rebounder, he is undersized as a four and won’t make up for it as a shooter. Charlotte already has Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw and should hope that Marshon Brooks falls to them here instead of going for a defensive-minded player like Farried.
18: Washington (via Atlanta)
PG Tobias Harris, Tennessee
Harris is another in a long line of tweeners in this year’s draft, with projections putting him at the four due to a perceived lack of quickness and overall athleticism. Chad Ford recently noted that Harris’s father was “adamant that Harris had played the three his whole life and played out of position at Tennessee.” At the NBA pre-draft camp Harris reportedly put up better numbers than expected in drills, and recent weeks have seen his stock rise significantly. Ford has Washington taking Marshon Brooks here, a much safer pick for a team that could use his ridiculous shooting skills (nearly 25 points per game as a senior) and more atrocious wingspan (7-1).
17: New York
PG Josh Selby, Kansas
Selby struggled immensely for the Jayhawks as a newcomer, going 1-5 from the field in 15 minutes (including 0-3 from three-point range) in their tournament loss to Virginia Commonwealth. Doesn’t exactly sound like a guy you want to use the 17th pick on, does it?
And it’s not as if Selby had one bad game (the biggest of his career, mind you). In 26 games, he averaged 20 minutes per game, eight points, two rebounds and two assists on a team with plenty of talented scorers drawing the defense’s attention away from him. In that one year (which basically provided the only statistical data for scouts to go on), Selby played like a selfish, unnatural point guard who struggled too much as a shooter to project well as a two.
Furthermore, I don’t see how his declaring for the draft after such an underwhelming season can be construed as anything but selfish and immature. And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Donnie Walsh takes him just to leave a rotten egg in New York on his way out.
PF Markieff Morris, Kansas
From one Jayhawk to another, I have to rip these guys for blowing my bracket to smithereens. That game was just ugly. Like, LeBron in the fourth quarter ugly (I know, too easy). Jokes aside, I don’t see the point in Philly adding their fifth power forward to the roster by taking Morris here. The team is getting boring, and fans are probably missing the Allen Iverson days when points were aplenty and “practice” was an afterthought. Morris is a nice defender and rebounder, but the Sixers need to avoid him and hope for Jordan Hamilton at this spot.
PF Tristan Thomas, Texas
It’s unlikely that Thomas will end up here, but if he does, then first-time general manager David Morway will be awfully tempted to grab him. The Pacers didn’t manage to get him in for a workout either (something they were hoping to do), so the pick will be made with even more uncertainty should they go this route. Thomas is an undersized four who needs to add some strength, and he isn’t a great shooter. He really isn’t great at any one thing. The last thing the Pacers need is to add another boring player to their yawn-fest of a roster.
PF Bismack Biyombo, Congo
Should the mysterious Biyombo fall to Houston (he’s being projected to go anywhere from eight to 20), then they’ll likely take him. The Rockets haven’t done particularly well in recent drafts, and could use a big-time pick this year to get the fan base riled up. But according to Ford, Biyombo performed poorly at this year’s Eurocamp and reportedly let the pressure get to him in front of about 100 scouts and general managers. As such a raw prospect whose only experience has come as a role player, the Rockets need to avoid Biyombo and hope that Marcus Morris falls into their lap.
PF Bismack Biyombo, Congo
While Channing Frye certainly isn’t the long-term solution here, he’s going to give you much more over the next two seasons than Biyombo. The Suns are just a few pieces away from being relevant again (which is pretty much all they can hope for in the upcoming seasons), and may be able to shock some people next season if they can land Alec Burks. I’d rather have Fredette than Biyombo at this spot. At least he would be a crowd pleaser.
PG Jimmer Fredette, BYU
The number one reason for the Jazz to pass on Jimmer here? My heart will be broken should he end up somewhere irrelevant, and does it get more irrelevant than the Utah Jazz? In my extremely biased opinion, Fredette will turn out to be a perennial all-star and one of the greatest to ever lace’em up (didn’t I say that about J.J. Reddick? Nevermind). But if he ends up going to Utah, I just won’t be able to control my sorrow. No way can I put on a Utah jersey, even if Fredette is on the back. Do us all a favor, Utah, and save Jimmer’s career by passing on him here.
11: Golden State
PF Marcus Morris, Kansas
All signs point to Monta Ellis being on his way out of sweet California, leaving Reggie Williams and Charlie Bell to fill out the two spot for the Warriors. That would be a travesty, so they’ll probably look to fill that hole with this pick (Ford has Washington State PG Klay Thompson going here). The reason Morris makes this list is not so much that he’s a poor prospect, but that he will be hard to pass on despite the fact that Golden State already has David Lee. Considering the overall lack of talent in this year’s draft, it will be even more difficult for teams to draft with a need-based mentality. The Warriors need to avoid Morris (who falls into that tweener category) and go for the safer pick in Thompson (the son of former NBA player Mykal Thompson).
PF Bismack Biyombo, Congo
Do I have some personal grudge with this guy? That’s not the case, though I do realize this is getting a bit gratuitous. The Bucks already have some effective bigs in Mbah a Moute, Bogut and last year’s pick Larry Sanders, but will be tempted to go with Biyombo because of the intrigue surrounding his wing-span (an absurd 7-7) and shot-blocking ability (four blocks in just 16 minutes per game). The jury’s still out on Sanders, and while Jennings appears to something special, the Bucks are not known for their drafting prowess. An exciting scorer could add some relevancy and take some defensive pressure off of Jennings, who may be able to put this team into playoff contention with a few more pieces.
SF Chris Singleton, Florida State
Singleton has terrific size for a three (6’9”, 230) but has been criticized as a guy who sort of goes through the motions and lacks passion at times. Sub-par through his first two seasons, he didn’t improve much as a scorer in year three and lacks consistency as a deep-threat. The Bobcats need to be thinking offense in this draft, and that means avoiding Singleton in favor of a more well-rounded player such as Marcus Morris or Klay Thompson.
C Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
A young center (only 19 years old) with great size (7’0”, 245, 7-4 wingspan), Valanciunas is a player with unlimited potential who is unlikely to help whoever takes him in the near future. A potential lockout could keep him overseas for at least another season, disappointing since he’s considered by some to be the only pure center in the draft. The Pistons haven’t drafted well in recent years, and new owner Tom Gores will want some young talent on a roster deplete of both. Should general manager Joe Dumars go for the homerun with this pick, he probably won’t be around to see how it turns out.
SF Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
After averaging a double double in 36 games last season and gaining interest in recent weeks with stellar workouts, Leonard is a lock to go in the top 10. With Francisco Garcia and Omar Casspi holding down the three spot for Sacramento right now, it’s obvious that they need help. However, finding a backcourt mate for Tyreke Evans is a more pressing need. Demarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert are effective down low, and adding another rebounder/defender to the fold won’t improve the Kings too much in the short term. Leonard has been hesitantly described as a tweener who may lack the explosiveness necessary to develop into a reliable scoring threat, leaving Kemba Walker as the more rational selection.
C Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
I don’t mean to rehash old drama, but Valanciunas is just a bag of questions that the Wizards don’t need to open right now. He’s a project player who may not realistically be ready to step onto an NBA court for another three to five years, and just how long do you think John Wall is going to stick around? The Cavaliers at least won a lot of regular season games while LeBron was there, and the Wizards don’t appear to be headed toward playoff contention anytime soon. General manager Ernie Grunfield is feeling the heat and needs to focus on adding short term help rather than project players.
PG Kemba Walker, Connecticut
With DeMar Derozan, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless already on their roster, the Raptors would seem to suffer by crowding their backcourt with Walker. For Toronto’s sake, general manager Bryan Colangelo needs to get over his apparent crush on last year’s Final Four MVP. They badly need help at the four and shouldn’t expect to be good anytime soon, so Jan Vesely may be the better choice. Walker will go somewhere and have success, but the Raptors can find a charismatic leader in next year’s draft (where they will again have a high selection). They need a young player with the potential to develop into something special down the road, and Walker seems more like a “what you see is what you get” kind of prospect.
SF Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
As a Cavaliers fan, I can’t help but expect them to do something moronic, like work a trade with Minnesota to deal this pick in some sort of package for their pick at number two in order to take Derrick Williams. Should they hang onto it, I expect them to do something moronic like take Leonard.
Don’t get me wrong; Leonard is a nice player who will develop into a defensive-stopper. But Cleveland needs some kind of reason to be excited about next season outside of Kyrie Irving, and a project player such as Enes Kanter (who has tremendous upside and personality) would make more sense.
3: Utah (via New Jersey)
PF Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
The Jazz are a long way from being competitive, and didn’t help their cause by going with Gordon Heyward, Eric Maynor and Kosta Koufos in their last three drafts. Derrick Favors looks like he will be a fixture at the four, but Devin Harris is their second-most exciting player. Vesely fits their need for a project player with high upside, but he plays weaker than his size (6’11”, 240) and has a virtually nonexistent post game. Brandon Knight is an exciting young player yet to scratch the surface of his potential, and his status as more of a combo guard than a pure point should allow for a smoother transition into the lineup. Plus, imagine how thrilled Devin Harris will be when he looks over and sees Knight instead of Raja Bell.
The Timberwolves are in a bit of a pickle with this pick. Chad Ford is reporting that while the team is claiming they want to keep it, they’re privately shopping it in hopes of landing a decent veteran. If they have to pick someone, it likely won’t be Derrick Williams, since Michael Beasley showed flashes of brilliance last season and Williams appears as if he might stick as an NBA four after all. Ricky “The Spanish Sensation” Rubio should hold the rookie spotlight for Minnesota next season, and adding Williams to the mix would only detract from the fun of watching Rubio fail so charmingly next season.
1: Cleveland (via Clippers)
PF Derrick Williams, Arizona
Kyrie Irving has all but locked this pick up, but enough buzz exists about Williams going to Cleveland that I remain concerned. His statistics in two years at Arizona don’t indicate much improvement in his game from year one to year two, and his label as a tweener (though he helped his case as a legitimate four at the NBA pre-draft camp, topping all prospects with 19 reps on the bench press) leaves much to be desired.
On the plus side, Williams is a known hard worker and will probably use that to his advantage in a league where work ethic often takes a back seat to talent. The only reason Cleveland should reach for Williams here is if they want to increase the likelihood of their holding the top pick again next summer.