2011 NBA Mock Draft: Full 1st Round, How Many International Players Will Go?
International players are some of the most intriguing players in each year's draft. Regardless of how they play in their respective leagues, there is no such thing as a sure thing.
With the recent success of Dirk Nowitzki, many teams may be looking for the next versatile, shooting big man. While he may not come in this year's draft, there are plenty of talented foreign players.
In this mock draft, I have seven international players (that did not play in college, excluding Enes Kanter) being selected in the first round. I think each of them will fit well with his respective team, but their contribution will depend a lot on their work ethic in the coming years.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is still the best player in the draft. That has not changed, nor will it change between now and draft day.
The former Duke Blue Devil can do everything a franchise point guard should be able to do, and he will need to deliver. Some Cleveland Cavaliers fans have jumped on the Dallas Maverick bandwagon, but they will quickly return to the Cavs once Irving plays well.
He will have a lot of pressure, but Irving is a mature player, and he should respond by having a solid rookie season and eventually a good career.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
Although he has been the consensus No. 2 player, Derrick Williams has not always been the consensus No. 2 pick.
Some (like me) believed the Timberwolves would pick Enes Kanter here. Now, however, they seem to be looking at the most talented player left. Even though he is not a perfect fit for the Wolves, that player is obviously Williams.
There is still a good chance the Timberwolves trade the pick, but regardless of who selects at No. 2, Williams will be the player coming off the board.
3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight
This is a perfect match. The Utah Jazz are looking for a new franchise point guard, and many believe that Brandon Knight could be the best point guard to emerge from this draft.
He is a physically gifted guard, and Knight shouldn't have trouble adjusting to the physicality of the NBA. Once his talent catches up with his body (consistent jumper, pure passer, etc.), Knight will be able to dominate games.
Knight is going into a situation with good players around him, which should help him flourish immediately.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter
It seems that Enes Kanter is the no-brainer fourth pick; however, the Cleveland Cavaliers are weighing their options. They are looking for someone to partner with Kyrie Irving, and they would like to develop two All-Stars simultaneously.
While they are looking at other players, I think Kanter is the best choice here, for he can do a lot to take pressure off Irving.
His physicality will immediately change the mood in Cleveland, which should help the Cavs transition back to being a playoff team. Kanter just seems like their best option.
5. Toronto Raptors: Jan Vesely
Regardless of where he's taken, I believe Jan Vesely will be the first international player taken. While Bismack Biyombo has been climbing many people's boards, Vesely has been there from the beginning.
He is a good offensive player with a vast skill set, and once Vesely puts on weight, he will be a force in the NBA.
It is tough to gauge how players will transition to the NBA, and some GMs are worried that Vesely was only a role player for his team. That, however, would bring him maturity, which will only help him develop into a successful NBA player.
6. Washington Wizards: Kawhi Leonard
The Washington Wizards are slowly piecing together a tough, young team. They are looking to add defense and/or frontcourt help. Kawhi Leonard brings both.
He is one of the hardest workers in the draft, and at this point he is probably the most talented player left. He can defend, rebound and score whenever his team calls on him.
His offensive game is unpolished, but with John Wall finding him in the open floor, Leonard should have a fine transition into the NBA.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kemba Walker
While Kemba Walker's stock is not as high as it was at the beginning of April, he is still a lottery pick. He is a good floor general, and more importantly, he is a good team leader.
Walker will not score as often as he did in college, but he will always have the ability to put up points in a hurry. As he develops into more of a "pure" point guard, the Kings will only improve.
After an embarrassing few seasons, Sacramento will look to Walker for a change in mentality and hopefully a change in record.
8. Detroit Pistons: Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas has tremendous upside. While this is normally a nerve-racking statement, I think it could hold true for Valanciunas.
He needs to put on weight, which will take some time. Once he starts to bulk up, he should actually be able to hold down the center position in the league.
The Pistons are looking for some bright spots, and Valanciunas could slowly become a bright spot for them. There is still a chance they trade this pick, but if they keep it, they should end up with the second international player of the draft.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Jordan Hamilton
It's tough to predict where Jordan Hamilton will get drafted. He is one of the best scorers in the draft; however, some GMs are wary of picking him because of his attitude.
Hamilton has poor shot selection, and he has been noted as a selfish player.
While those are not good tags to have, Hamilton can score the basketball, and I think Michael Jordan will try to get the best offensive player available.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Burks
Alec Burks seems like an extremely good fit for the Milwaukee Bucks. They have a point guard and a center, but they need a perimeter scorer.
Burks is good at getting into the paint and finishing. Once he bulks up, his finishing will only improve. The Bucks are near the playoffs, and Burks could make them a playoff contender.
The Bucks have plenty of good pieces, and Burks would be just another solid addition.
11. Golden State Warriors: Marcus Morris
Marcus Morris is a tremendous athlete, and he has the rebounding ability that a team like Golden State needs. His offensive game is still developing, but he could score in double digits in the NBA next season.
Marcus is considered the more developed of the Morris twins, and he can do a lot on the court. He can score in a variety of ways, and he can rebound as well as anyone.
Although he is a bit undersized for a power forward (according to Chad Ford, Morris is insisting he is a 3 in his interviews), Morris provides an athletic rebounder that the Warriors desperately need.
12. Utah Jazz: Chris Singleton
As much as I would love for Chris Singleton to drop to my Minnesota Timberwolves, I just don't think that is going to happen. His talents couldn't hide forever, and his draft stock has skyrocketed.
The Utah Jazz are looking for a defensive stopper, and Singleton is an absolute lockdown defender. His offensive game is subpar, but he is a streaky shooter that could swing games in his team's favor.
Singleton's stock has risen tremendously, and for good reason. His hard work and excellent motor will facilitate his development into a young star in the league.
13. Phoenix Suns: Bismack Biyombo
I have written multiple articles on the draft, and I am still not sold on Bismack Biyombo.
Then again, I'm not an NBA scout, so I probably don't have the grounds to stand behind that statement.
He is a great athlete, and his length allows him to be a great shot-blocker and rebounder. The Phoenix Suns need some toughness in the paint, and Biyombo would immediately provide that.
Plus, he gets to play with Steve Nash, which should help his development as an offensive player.
14. Houston Rockets: Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson is regarded as one of the best athletes in this year's draft.
His game is unpolished, but his athleticism makes up for his shortcomings. Once he develops an offensive game, he will be a star in the league. Plus, his athletic abilities will allow him to become a premier defender, given the right instruction and work ethic.
Thompson is a great player now, but with the right amount of work and coaching, he could become one of the best players from this year's draft.
15. Indiana Pacers: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in the draft. He has range for days, and he can hit a shot at any time.
While playing guard in the NBA, however, Thompson will have to improve his ball-handling. It was sufficient for the college game, but he will need to improve if he wants to become a full-time, starting guard. He is also regarded as (relatively) nonathletic, which is something he will have to work hard to overcome.
Great shooters find their roles. As long as Thompson keeps knocking down treys, he should have a spot on an NBA roster.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Donatas Motiejunas
As the fourth international player to go in the draft, Donatas Motiejunas might not have the expectations of those who go before him, but he could make an even bigger impact.
Philadelphia prided itself on its defense, but Motiejunas brings strictly offense. He is much too thin to be a defensive force, but he sure can score the basketball.
By adding an offensive threat to their roster, the 76ers could elevate themselves into the top half of the Eastern Conference.
17. New York Knicks: Jimmer Fredette
This prediction is half pipe dream and half Mike D'Antoni logic. The New York Knicks are interested in scoring a lot of points without playing much defense.
Who better fits that description than Jimmer Fredette?
The former BYU star will thrive in an offense that encourages everyone to shoot whenever they feel like it. Jimmer will, however, have to become a better pure point guard if he wants to be successful. D'Antoni's system is designed for a pass-first point guard, but Jimmer could manage that while taking seven or eight three-pointers every night.
It would be an interesting experiment, but I think Jimmer could make it work.
18. Washington Wizards: Tyler Honeycutt
Tyler Honeycutt will be a fantastic role player in the NBA. He can defend, shoot and even handle the ball.
Although he can't create his own shot very well, he can knock down jumpers with the best of them.
With John Wall running the point, Honeycutt will be able to hang around the perimeter and hit jumpers all game long.
When you factor in his ability to pass to the open man and to defend the opponent's best player, Honeycutt could make an instant impact for the Wizards next season. With Kawhi Leonard (whom I have the Wizards selecting), JaVale McGee, Wall and Honeycutt, the Wizards could instantly turn into a defensive force.
19. Charlotte Bobcats: Kenneth Faried
Kenneth Faried's draft stock has risen over the past couple months. Mainly, it has happened because of his designated role.
Everyone knows Faried will be a rebounder. He is a relentless workhorse that will continue to battle on the boards. Faried is an explosive athlete, and he usually gets any rebound he wants.
The Bobcats could use a tough rebounder in the middle, and if Faried develops any sort of offensive game, that is just a bonus they won't be expecting.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Marshon Brooks
Marshon Brooks is a slasher. The Minnesota Timberwolves need a slasher.
With Ricky Rubio on his way and Kevin Love establishing himself as a star, Brooks could emerge as a perimeter scorer. Wes Johnson was unimpressive for most of last year, and a little competition could propel both of these players to new heights.
While the Wolves could pick a more defensive player here, Brooks would be the most talented player left, and David Kahn has proven that he will pick the talent.
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Markieff Morris
With LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers have all the low-post scoring they could ask for. In fact, Portland is in good shape at nearly every position.
By drafting Markieff Morris, they are drafting a hard-working, defensive-minded rebounder that would complement Aldridge extremely well.
Morris is still unpolished, but his upside looks good. If he develops an offensive game, this could become the steal of the draft.
22. Denver Nuggets: Tobias Harris
This is a no-brainer for the Nuggets. They have an excess of wing players, and they need some low-post skill. Tobias Harris provides just that.
He is a well-rounded player, and he does a number of things well. Harris will draw defenders inside, which will allow their shooters to keep shooting.
Harris is a good (not great) athlete, which would allow him to run up and down the floor with Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson. When necessary, he can even shoot the ball from mid-range.
At this point in the draft, Denver must take him.
23. Houston Rockets: Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic improved each season at USC. That is exactly what NBA scouts like to see.
He has a good touch around the basket. Plus, Vucevic can face up and knock down outside jumpers. While a lack of athleticism raises some flags, Houston could use a healthy big man.
Vucevic impressed a lot of scouts in his workouts, which should foreshadow a solid NBA career.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nikola Mirotic
At this point, Oklahoma City does not need immediate help. If the Thunder could somehow draft someone to control Russell Westbrook's shot selection, then they would get him immediately. Unfortunately, there is no such player.
Nikola Mirotic can score in the low post, and he has range on his shot.
He has some contract issues, which could keep him out of the NBA for a while, but that could work perfectly for Oklahoma City. They can sit tight while he continues to develop, and the Thunder could pull him out of their back pocket in a few years.
The Thunder draft well, and whomever is selected by them will most likely pan out at some point.
25. Boston Celtics: Lucas Nogueira
Lucas Nogueira is a hard-working rebounder that would provide the Celtics with some much-needed size.
Although he isn't a great offensive player, he could complement Kevin Garnett in the low post, especially defensively. Without their patented toughness, the Boston Celtics were easily bounced from the playoffs. Enter Nogueira.
He has a great motor, which allows him to earn tough rebounds. If he develops quickly, these familiar Celtics might have one last run in them.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Davis Bertans
Davis Bertans is regarded as one of the best shooters in the draft. He can sometimes shoot too much, but by the time he enters the NBA, that shot selection should improve.
NBA champions are usually looking for a long-term project, and I think Bertans fits that mold perfectly. Like a lot of shooters, Bertans needs to put on some weight. In doing so, he could make himself a threat to drive, allowing him to get more open jumpers.
Bertans may not help the Mavs immediately, but he could be a star for them down the road.
27. New Jersey Nets: Justin Harper
Justin Harper is an athletic forward that can step back and shoot.
Sounds like a pretty good pick-and-roll player to me, right?
Pairing him up with Deron Williams could do wonders for the Nets. If the two hit it off, they could become one of the most dynamic pick-and-roll duos in the NBA.
Harper is not the greatest rebounder, but he will be able to make that up by scoring a bunch for New Jersey.
With a little weight and some toughness, I wouldn't be surprised if Harper becomes one of the best players from this draft.
28. Chicago Bulls: Nolan Smith
The Chicago Bulls are set at most of their positions, but they could use some relief for Derrick Rose. With Nolan Smith, the Bulls are adding a mature, calm leader to spare the league MVP some minutes.
Smith can score quickly, and he doesn't turn the ball over too much, which is incredibly important for a backup point guard.
Smith played hard-nosed defense at Duke, which should help him while he adjusts to the Bulls' style of play. Basically, the Bulls need a backup floor general, and Smith is the most reliable player available.
29. San Antonio Spus: JaJuan Johnson
The San Antonio Spurs always seem to make good use of their picks. JaJuan Johnson would be a great use.
He can rebound, block shots and hit outside jumpers. He needs to gain some weight in order to be successful on the low block, but there is plenty of time for that.
Some have questioned Johnson's basketball IQ, but I'm sure a week with coach Gregg Popovich will change that immensely.
30. Chicago Bulls: Travis Leslie
Travis Leslie is a fantastic athlete who would be a perfect complement to Derrick Rose. He can get to the rim, make cuts and overall alleviate some pressure from the MVP.
According to Chad Ford, Leslie "puts on a dunk highlight reel on a nightly basis." Doesn't that sound like a great teammate for Rose?
Leslie doesn't have great range, but with a shooter like Kyle Korver on the bench, Leslie won't have to be a great shooter. As long as he can get to the rim and take pressure off Rose, Leslie will be a successful guard for the Chicago Bulls.