When LeBron James left Cleveland, he created a figurative crater of epic proportions. Losing the best player in the league left the Cleveland Cavaliers with no scoring, no dynamic offensive talent and, most importantly, no leadership.
If one is forced to think of one positive outcome of LeBron leaving Cleveland, it's that Cleveland was bound to have a streak of good karma.
That good karma manifested itself when the Cavaliers turned a midseason deal with the Los Angeles Clippers into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Cavaliers will look to capitalize even further on that good karma by dealing with the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Completing such a deal would give Cleveland the opportunity to draft the only "sure things" in the draft, cerebral Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and crazy-athletic Arizona forward Derrick Williams.
The rookie duo would give the rebuilding Cavaliers an instant boost and would help rally the already passionate city around the new core.
After LeBron left, Dan Gilbert guaranteed Cleveland a championship before LeBron. Seeing the Miami Heat progress, this season, Gilbert better get started if he wants to make good on that promise.
Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers are unable to make the deal to acquire the second pick, it's safe to say they'll draft Kyrie Irving ahead of Derrick Williams. It's much easier to build around a point guard than a tweener forward.
Irving reminds many of Chris Paul with his quickness and ball-handling ability. Some still don't realize how good of a shooter he is. Irving will be an immediate deep threat for a team that had serious offensive shortcomings last season.
This mock draft will abide by Chris Broussard's trade, therefore sending the second pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers to draft Derrick Williams.
To summarize the rest of the trade:
Cleveland gets: No. 2 pick and Richard Hamilton (They will likely buy out his $25 million contract).
Detroit gets: Anderson Varejao (I added this part, partly due to my indefensible hatred of Varejao. I don't want him on a team with Kyrie Irving and Williams, because that's a team I would like).
Minnesota gets: The No. 4 and No. 8 picks.
If Cleveland is able to make this draft, they will undoubtedly be the winners of the draft having snatched up the two best, NBA-ready players.
After Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, the talent pool drops off a considerable amount. Brandon Knight might not even be the second-best point guard available (Kemba Walker and, dare I say, Jimmer Fredette?), but he's certainly the safest.
Knight's 6'3'' frame is what separates him from the undersized Walker and Fredette. He won't be overpowered by bigger guards as many speculate Jimmer will.
Tough luck for the Utah Jazz, landing the third pick in a two-deep draft.
I love this pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves. By drafting the premier center in the class, the T'Wolves' starting five (hopefully) looks as such: Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Enes Kanter.
Maybe I have a soft spot for the Timberwolves, but, again, that sounds like a team I'd like to watch.
It'll be fun to watch Rubio try to figure out the NBA game on the fly. Johnson is a typical (fun to watch) athletic swingman. Beasley is one of the league's most polarizing players; you either hate him or love him. Love put up a freakin' 30-30 this past season.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the team will be watching opposing centers the first time they get posted up on or fouled hard by Enes Kanter as he looks to shed the Euro-soft label before it ever applies.
"Playing it safe" prevails as the Toronto Raptors pass on international dunker Jan Vesely to draft a NCAA champion point guard in Kemba Walker.
Tough break for Kemba here, as his fiery personality won't be fully appreciated by the dull Toronto crowd. It'd be great to watch him light up the New York City or Golden State crowd, but I digress.
Walker should be an immediate starter for the Raptors. Jose Calderon is overpaid and on the decline and Jerryd Bayless is much more of a shooting guard than a point man.
It wouldn't surprise me if Walker averages 18 points per game as a rookie. It would surprise me if it mattered, as I don't see the Raptors even sniffing the playoffs.
Is that Jesse Eisenberg? Mark Zuckerberg?
Nope. Jan Vesely is the, allegedly, hyper-athletic forward from overseas who seems to have springs in his shoes compared to his below-the-rim counterparts.
It should be fun to watch the flashy point guard John Wall run the fast break with Vesely. Alley-oops galore. Playoffs, not so much.
I'm sticking with my assertion that Jimmer Fredette would be a good fit on the Sacramento Kings. The Kings need a point guard to ease the burden on Tyreke Evans, allowing him to play his more natural shooting guard position.
Jimmer fits nicely because of his shooting ability. Evans will still get to the rim a ton, and it'll be a luxury for him to have a knock-down shooter waiting for a kickout.
Also, after drafting Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, it might be nice to draft a guy whose religion should prevent him from getting into any trouble (or drinking coffee).
The Minnesota Timberwolves are two-deep at point guard (Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour; they'll probably deal Jonny Flynn) and center (Enes Kanter and (Free) Darko Milicic).
By drafting the solid but unspectacular Kawhi Leonard, the Timberwolves fulfill the eight-deep requirement for a good team (think 2008 Boston Celtics; don't think 2011 Miami Heat).
Leonard will never be a superstar in the league, which is fine. But every good team needs a Shane Battier or a Marquis Daniels: a bench player that can guard multiple positions and contribute offensively if needed.
It's a pretty weak draft when you're drafting an undersized power forward with a top-10 pick. But that's just what this draft is, so Marcus Morris goes to the Charlotte Bobcats in the ninth slot.
I'm not a fan of the Morris brothers; they both remind me too much of Glen Davis (who needs to get out of Boston).
Morris will bring his 17 points per game to Charlotte and impress with his maturity and development. But we all know that's just another way of saying he's not that good.
The Milwaukee Bucks need a scorer, and Alec Burks is just that. He's got good size for the shooting guard (he can also run the point) position and should be able to get to the rim right away.
Burks might even start right away because John Salmons and Corey Maggette are both old and on the decline (and possible trade bait). I still expect it to be another disappointing season for the Bucks.
I was going to move Washington State's Klay Thompson into this spot amidst rumors of a Monta Ellis trade. But, it turns out that's not happening, so Tristan Thompson remains.
Thompson fills the Golden State Warriors' need for an athletic big man to compliment David Lee and Andris Biedrins. He should see solid minutes right away.
Chris Singleton remains at No. 12 to the Utah Jazz as Andrei Kirilenko heads into free agency.
Singleton is one of, if not the best, perimeter defenders in the draft. He probably won't score a lot of points, but there's no reason to think he can't fulfill a James Posey role for a contender (note: the Jazz lost "contender" status the moment they lost Deron Williams).
Again, I'm not a fan of the Morris brothers, Markieff and Marcus, but they are safe picks.
In my last mock, I had the Phoenix Suns taking Marcus Morris at this slot. Since he's moved up, we'll just slide Markieff Morris in at this slot. He'll compliment Hakim Warrick's above-the-rim style with a more balanced offensive attack.
Word on the street (internet) is that Yao Ming may be done for good. Not good news for Houston Rockets fans, as Yao was truly one of the best players in the league when healthy.
If that's true, the Rockets will need a center to step in right away. Jonas Valanciunas will struggle against NBA centers due to his "Euro-soft" label, which in this case is probably going to be proven right.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers don't get the trade done for the No. 2 pick, expect Valanciunas off the board at No. 8 to the Detroit Pistons.
Klay Thompson, the sharpshooter from Washington State, will be getting looks as high as Sacramento at No. 7.
He's got the size (at 6'7'') to get his shot off against NBA shooting guards. With Darren Collison and T.J. Ford running the point, Thompson should get plenty of looks on kickouts this coming season.
Andre Iguodala is back on the block, possibly to the Clippers for Chris Kaman.
Nobody the Philadelphia 76ers draft will be able to match Iggy's scoring and defensive prowess, but Jordan Hamilton provides them with, at the very least, a similar body type to integrate into the gameplan.
Hamilton nailed 2.5 three pointers per game this past season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves need to deal Jonny Flynn; The New York Knicks need a point guard who can speed up the offense while still deferring to Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. See what I did there?
The Knicks send the No. 17 pick to Minnesota for Flynn and immediately place Chauncey Billups on the trading block (or, maybe, buy out his contract to clear some space). Flynn also acts as more attractive trade bait for Chris Paul.
With the pick, the Timberwolves take Bismack Biyombo, the rebounder / shot blocker of unknown age from Congo. With the pick, the T'Wolves cement their place as my favorite non-Boston team ever.
I know, this is a stretch and Biyombo probably won't fall this far. Let me have my fun.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford, Marshon Brooks is Nick Young with a "killer instinct" that could "make him a star." Works for me.
It'd be nice for the Charlotte Bobcats to be able to pick up a point guard with D.J. Augustin (really more of a shooting guard) getting most of the time.
Josh Selby missed a bunch of games for Kansas in his only season and averaged just eight points per game. He only played 15 minutes and was held scoreless in Kansas' NCAA tournament loss to Virginia Commonwealth, but scouts like him, so here he is.
Yes! Minnesota Timberwolves 2012! We goin' to the ship!
Rebounding translates to the NBA (see Love, Kevin). Faried averaged 14.5 as a senior at Morehead State.
He won't keep that pace up in the NBA (no one does), but he'll compliment LaMarcus Aldridge very nicely.
One of the youngest players in the draft (18) actually has a very NBA-ready body. Tobias Harris from Tennessee averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and a block per game as a freshman. He'll produce right away for whichever team he lands on.
Donatas Motiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas team up on the Houston Rockets to form the softest version of the Bash Brothers of all time.
ESPN's Chad Ford writes:
Sam Presti is an opportunist, and he is patient. Mirotic, based on talent, is a lottery pick. But a massive buyout means he won't be playing in the NBA anytime soon. If he stays in the draft -- a big "if" at this point -- someone will gamble on him. If it's Presti, he could be getting a major steal down the road.
Wishful thinking as a Boston Celtics fan has USC center Nikola Vucevic falling this far. The Houston Rockets could snatch him a few spots earlier.
Vucevic fills the Celtics need for a big man and also has some range on his shot. He'll fill the Rasheed Wallace role.
Wow, look how skinny he is.
Davis Bertans is the (alleged) sharpshooter out of Latvia who's being compared to Dirk Nowtizki. I say alleged because the one YouTube video I watched had him missing half of his shots. Must have been an off day.
Justin Harper adds a nice shooting touch to the New Jersey Nets where the power forward position is currently manned by Kris Humphries and his banging style.
JaJuan Johnson is also a reasonable pick here. No way the Nets go small as they try to find a way to keep Deron Williams in town.
Another complimentary pick here as the Chicago Bulls look for a long forward to stretch the defense in ways that Carlos Boozer can't. Johnson is also a possibility as high as No. 20 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It's a shame we never got to see Johnson and Robbie Hummel together, healthy, at their peaks.
After puzzling scouts by skipping his senior year of high school and college to play in Israel and Japan, Jeremy Tyler is finally hitting the NBA.
He's a long, athletic center that gives the San Antonio Spurs an inside presence that Matt Bonner doesn't provide.
Travis Leslie is an explosive athlete who, hopefully, will put an end to the Keith Bogans era in Chicago (maybe the NBA). A few years down the road, he could be Courtney Lee or Shannon Brown.