NBA Draft 2011: Prospects Who Should Be High on Your Team's Draft Board
Having personally spent the past year closely watching, researching, evaluating and setting up more than 65 detailed scouting reports of the 2011 NBA Draft class, some players are noticeably going to distinguish themselves from the crowd more than others.
In this case, it’s the players I really like for one reason or another in terms of what they bring to the table for an NBA team.
Not all of these guys are going to be stars,—in some cases, maybe even busts—but it's what I gather to be my ideal selections outside of the obvious candidates (Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight, etc.) if I were running a team.
This is the first of a three-part series in which we will break down the players we like, are torn about or not too high on.
Note: On every player, you can click their name or country to take you to a more detailed profile for an extensive scouting report and highlights on the respective prospect.
14. Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame)
He’s not going to be a starter in the league, but the 2010-11 Big East Player of the Year can be a legit backup PG. He knows how to run an offense, can knock down the open 3, plays hard on the defensive end, and is next in line of those fiercely competitive Hansbrough’s. A great value pick for what he brings a team in the mid-late second round.
13. Jan Vesely (Czech Republic)
What’s not to love about a 6’11” super athletic forward with outstanding length? Vesely is a ‘do it all’ player who is just fine with playing a supporting role on a team and excelling at it. He’s never going to be a star, but he is the ultimate in taking a guy who presents energy, hustle, and playmaking for a player with his gifts.
12. Kenneth Faried (Morehead State)
When you take Faried, you know what you’re getting. He’s easily the best rebounder in this class because of his strength, length, athleticism, basketball IQ and high quality motor. He plays extremely hard on the defensive end and presents outstanding contributions to a team in the post by adding a high level of grit. Forget that he has no polished offensive skills; anything he gives you in points is gravy. He will easily make his money on the high level of play he can give on the boards and on D in the NBA.
11. Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State)
Leonard is an incredible natural talent who proved he could be a star on a team and lead them to victory. Great athlete with a natural feel for the game and a high basketball IQ. He is very composed throughout the game and seems to get better as the game gets tight at the end. He’s what I like to call a ‘magnetic rebounder’ with his huge hands, ability to seek out the ball and come up with in a crowd, as if his hands had magnetics that draw the ball to them. He has terrific handles and doesn’t do too much outside his game. If he ever improves his shooting consistency and defensive lateral quickness, Kawhi could be an even better player than I anticipate he could be at the next level.
10. Nikola Vucevic (USC)
Even before the exceptional measurements in the 2011 NBA combine (7’0” with shoes, 7’5” wingspan, 9’5” standing reach), I recollected watching Nikola favorably as a talented post player during his play at USC in the 2009-10 NCAA season. He’s a skilled post player who has filled out his frame and refined his perimeter-shooting stroke. He doesn’t have great athleticism, but plenty of big men do just fine in the NBA because they are skilled, aggressive, and tough in the paint, and Vucevic is definitely that. In a ’weak’ draft, he is a fairly refined, mature product that is a great get in the mid-first round for instant contribution.
9. Bismack Biyombo (Congo)
The impressive triple-double that Biyombo put up in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit was stuff of legends, as he was extremely more memorable than his predecessor and popular NBA comparison, Serge Ibaka, in that game back in 2008. For being an extremely raw talent, Biyombo has rare talent when it comes to rebounding the ball and blocking shots. He is an incredible athlete with his spring athleticism, freak 7’7” wingspan, and natural strength. This is a player that is only going to get better as he provides immediate service by bolstering up a teams interior play with his incredible motor.
8. Travis Leslie (Georgia)
The immediate, striking characteristic about Leslie is that explosive athleticism, which is amongst the best in the class. However, if you watch him during games, you notice how in tune and honed in on seeking out the ball he is, routinely coming up with loose balls, rebounds, and making defensive plays. Its one thing to be a great athlete, but it’s a completely different ability to be able to utilize it to help your team win a game, and that’s exactly what Travis is capable of with his talent. He’s a ball hawk who can be a great defender with his lateral quickness and perhaps much more as his offense catches up to his D.
7. Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania)
For an extremely skilled and talented seven footer, Motiejunas gets very little love from the NBA Draft crowd. The concerns seem to be over his character and maturity on the court, but he is a natural competitor who can flat out play. He has a game very reminiscent of Andrea Bargnani, and that’s great get for a team drafting in the mid-late first round, if he does indeed fall there as many are projecting. Has an impressive inside-out game and a world of potential to excel in the league with his skill. Could very well be everything that Bargnani is in the league, if not more.
6. JaJuan Johnson (Purdue)
If JaJuan is a second rounder in this Draft, then something is seriously wrong that hasn’t already been brought to my attention. He has a narrow shoulder base and is a little underweight for a post player at 6’10”, but he makes up for it with great athleticism, length, and a refined post game. He can make an impact on both ends of the floor, even if that’s just as a backup in the league, but could just as easily be a starter with his mature game. The 2010-11 Big 10 player of the year gives you everything you want from an NBA post player, and is very under the radar at this point heading into the Draft.
5. Marcus Morris (Kansas)
Watching Marcus in action, it’s readily apparent that he has ‘it’ as an NBA forward. He has an excellent build, strength, and skill for an inside-out player who will be able to man the perimeter and the post for a team. He is one of the most versatile players in this Draft with his tools on the offensive end and plays solid defense. He is one of the more complete players with an advanced skill set and should make an instant impact in the league as a top rookie.
4. Nolan Smith (Duke)
Smith is one of the most refined players in the Draft and has consistently improved year to year before breaking out as one of the premier players in NCAA basketball as a senior. While he’s not a true point guard, he’s a Kirk Hinrich type player who can handle the ball and make plays as a secondary ball handler. He has a great feel for the game with his basketball IQ and can make plays with his creating ability. While he doesn’t offer much in terms of upside, he makes up for it in solid play and instant contributions in a team’s rotation. Smith is getting discounted in the draft as a product of Duke and a streak shooter who scouts must think might be just average, but I see him as an impact player who can add depth or even start for a team in what he brings with his refined skill set.
3. Jeremy Tyler (Japan)
There isn’t one player in this draft that you can definitively claim to have more natural talent or upside than Tyler. At 6’11”, 265 lb.s, Jeremy is an NBA post player specimen with his athleticism, length (7’5” wingspan), and strength. He’s a great pure rebounder and shot blocker who will fit right in for a team off the bench and should eventually take over as a starter for a team. Had it not been for him going overseas, he easily could have been a lottery pick in this year’s draft, if not a top ten pick. I think the character issues are mostly a thing of the past and have tremendous faith that Tyler can be a stud in the league with a game in the mix of DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors.
2. Reggie Jackson (Boston College)
Reggie has been high on my board since the 2011 New Year and I love what he can bring to an NBA team with his athleticism, length (7’0 wingspan), budding point guard skill set, and pure upside. He became a stud in the ACC who almost won games by himself in terms of scoring and setting up his teammates. He has a legitimate injury, but there is a strong speculation he has a ‘promise’ from a team in the first round and to ‘shut it down’ as far as workouts go. With his athleticism and skill, Jackson can create, penetrate and make plays for his team with relative ease as a primary ball handler. While he still has a fair amount to learn and refine on the path to becoming a true PG, Jackson is great prospect for a team to take if they are looking for a ‘point guard of the future’ type. He has all the skills and developing skills you could want from an NBA PG and he plays great defense to top it off.
1. Enes Kanter (Turkey)
You don’t put up an epic Nike Hoop Summit performance of 34 points and 13 rebounds by accident against the nation’s best prep players, and being there in person to witness that performance made me a believer. The list of Nike Hoop Summit participants who had standout performances and went on to have solid NBA careers is quite impressive, featuring the likes of Omri Casspi, Nicolas Batum, Tony Parker, and 2011 NBA Champion Dirk Nowitzki. Kanter is a 6’11” big body with an incredibly advanced skill set for an incoming rookie and in the right situation, should be able to contend for rookie of the year. Had he been eligible to play at Kentucky in 2010-11, I sincerely believe the Wildcats take home the National Championship because of his size and potential contributions. He’s about as NBA ready a big you will find this year and has a complete game. He can score in side, shot from the perimeter, crash the boards, and body up on the defensive end; Kanter can absolutely do it all, and he’s only 19 years old. He has a high basketball IQ and understands how to play, as he proved at a young age dominating the 2009 FIBA Europe U18 Championships for 18 points and 16 rebounds per game. Kanter has all the tools to be high caliber NBA player and the only reason he isn’t being talked about being the potential number one overall pick is because teams don’t have much to go off. Believe me when I tell you though that this is a special talent and an impact player in the NBA.