2011 NBA Draft: Five Dark Horse ROY Candidates
After many evaluations of this year's draft class, the consensus has been that there are two elite talents, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, and the rest are merely average prospects.
While this may end up being true, there are still a few players that have the talent and ability to post solid rookie season numbers.
If drafted by Cleveland, Irving is destined to be its starting point guard of the future, but will he slide into that spot at the start of the season? Will he have to fight for minutes with Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions?
If drafted by Minnesota, Derrick Williams will be thrown into a tough situation where he will be fighting for minutes among Minnesota's other "tweeners," including Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster.
While both are still likely to get good minutes and produce at a higher rate than most of their fellow draft class, there are a few players that could challenge them for Rookie of the Year, especially if drafted to the right team.
1. Kemba Walker
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Lots of people seem to think Walker is the third best point guard prospect in the draft, behind Irving and Brandon Knight. While this may be true, Walker may be in line to post the best rookie season numbers of any point guard in the draft.
Walker, who is currently projected to go to either Toronto at No. 5 or Sacramento at No. 7, should be able to use his speed, athleticism, and shooting ability to his advantage in the NBA next season.
The perfect fit for him is in Sacramento, where he would be able to play alongside Tyreke Evans. He would be able to create his own shot at any given time, due to the defense that would have to be played on Evans and Cousins. This would bolster Walker's first season point total.
I'm sure his assist count wouldn't be too shabby either while playing with Evans and respective scoring threats Marcus Thornton and Omri Casspi.
If these projections are correct, and Walker gets taken by Sacramento, he would be my preseason pick for ROY. No question.
2. Jimmer Fredette
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Last year's Naismith Award winner has a great opportunity to put up solid rookie statistics, but that's only if he gets drafted by the right team.
There's been a lot of skepticism about Fredette leading up to the draft, and it isn't unwarranted. While Fredette was without a doubt the best scorer in college basketball last season, he played zero defense and was ultimately labeled a ball hog among experts and critics, including "The Sports Guy" Bill Simmons.
But what happens if Jimmer gets drafted by a team that allows him to be a solid bench scorer? It's not out of the question that he could gain the intangibles to become a starting guard in the NBA, but if he gets drafted with the intentions of becoming a primary bench scorer, he could post huge numbers that should garner ROY recognition.
For me, this team is Golden State, but only if the Monta Ellis for Andre Iguodola trade goes through. If Ellis stays, the Warriors have no need for Jimmer.
3. Marshon Brooks
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If Jimmer is the best scorer in the draft, Marshon Brooks has to be a close second.
In his last season at Providence, Brooks averaged 24.6 PPG while shooting 48 percent from the field. Like Jimmer, Brooks may be destined to be primarily a bench scorer in his rookie season, but also like Jimmer, this could end up benefiting his stats.
The two best fits for Brooks are the New York Knicks at No. 17 and the Charlotte Bobcats at No. 19. His playtime should be similar with either team, but if he goes to New York, the D'Antoni offense could help him produce some inflated stats.
Regardless of which team he gets drafted by, he would instantly be relied upon to score.
4. Nikola Mirotic
As far as foreign players go in this draft, Mirotic may not be the first name to come to mind when you're talking about potential ROY candidates. Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo are all more likely candidates, right? Maybe not.
Mirotic is a fantastic scorer, and he is likely the best shooter among all forwards in the draft. Mirotic will have to develop his frame and work on his defensive game to be a starter in the league, but like the other dark horse candidates, he is likely to be a valued bench scorer.
I really like Mirotic going to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 24. Mirotic would be a great back-up to Kevin Durant, and his scoring off the bench should allow James Harden to move into a starting role.
Mirotic may not produce the same numbers that Walker, Fredette and Brooks will, but his role will be just as valued.
5. Charles Jenkins
As far as dark horse candidates go, this is the farthest reach of the article. That being said, I really do think that Jenkins is a great prospect and he could be in line to turn in an impressive rookie debut.
Jenkins, if taken in the first round, could find himself on the Chicago Bulls. If this happens, he would be an immediate upgrade as back-up to MVP Derrick Rose. Also, the Bulls could try to work him at shooting guard, or at least a pseudo shooting guard, that would have him playing alongside Rose.
His stats probably wouldn't be terrific if this were to happen, because the Bulls would still have at least three, if not four or five players they could rely on before asking Jenkins to be an offensive threat.
But what if Jenkins falls out of the first round? What if he gets drafted by Miami as the first pick in the second round? Mike Bibby is done. Mario Chalmers has underperformed. Maybe Jenkins will get his chance to prove why he should have been a household name all last season while at Hofstra.
He very well could play himself into the starting role in Miami, and as we saw this year, Bibby and Chalmers got plenty of open looks. Jenkins would be in line to benefit offensively, in both his points and assists totals.
Is this going to happen? Maybe not, but if it does, I can at least say I called it before it happened.