NBA Draft 2011: Derrick Williams and the 10 Best Athletes in the Draft

Vince SapienzaCorrespondent IIIJune 21, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Derrick Williams and the 10 Best Athletes in the Draft

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11:  Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats drives on Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans in the first half in the semifinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 11, 2011 in
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The NBA has evolved over the years. The game has gotten faster, quicker and higher.

    Players of all positions are able to jump, run and shoot better and faster than ever before. One of the main things that general managers and coaches look for these days in drafts is not necessarily shooting percentages (which do help), but rather the things that cannot be taught at the next level: height, speed, reach, leaping ability, vision. 

    Players in the NBA today do not just have one position, but two or three positions due to their athletic ability. The athleticism is a huge factor in the drafting process and a major reason why the NBA hosts combines for players to showcase their athletic ability. 

    In this year's draft, athleticism is everywhere, but there are only a handful that are off the charts. 

Kawhi Leonard: San Diego State

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    TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 19:  Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs dunks against the Temple Owls during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at McKale Center on March 19, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Now this may come with some surprise, Kawhi Leonard. Even though he did not wow anyone at the combine with three reps on the bench press and a vertical leap of 32.5 inches, Leonard is as athletic as they come. 

    He may not be the most explosive player, but he is by far one of the smoothest, most graceful players coming out of this draft.

    He has a great first step off the baseline and a terrific perimeter shooter. At 6'7", 230 lbs. Leonard has great speed and is a sure top-10 pick.

Tyler Honeycutt: UCLA

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Tyler Honeycutt #23 of the UCLA Bruins drives for a shot attempt against Erving Walker #11 of the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa,
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Tyler Honeycutt is an athlete. A very tall small forward, standing at 6'8", Honeycutt has a wingspan of 6'9" and has tremendous control in the air.

    Honeycutt is a very explosive jumper, which is a huge advantage as he drives the lane. 

    He moves very quickly and has great agility moving up and down as well as laterally. A player who can guard almost anyone, will be anywhere from a top-20 to 25 pick.

Kenneth Faried: Moorhead State

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles dunks the ball against the Richmond Spiders during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justi
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Listed at 6'8", Kenneth Faried is a beast.

    He has a 7'0" reach with a 35-inch vertical. Combine that with a 3.26 second three-fourth court sprint, and this kid can move at 21 years of age.

    His shooting may not be what offensive juggernauts are looking for, but his high intensity, explosive nature is what many coaches do want. 

    Faried is ranked at about a mid-20 pick, but he could move up based on his combine numbers and terrific athletic measurements. 

JaJuan Johnson: Purdue

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20:  JaJuan Johnson #25 of the Purdue Boilermakers rebounds against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams n the first half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 20, 2011 in Chicago,
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    JaJuan Johnson stands at 6'10" with a 7'2" reach. His vertical comes in at 38 inches, and he recorded 16 reps on the bench press at the combine. His three-fourth court sprint was recorded at 3.14 at 22 lbs. 


    Johnson is one of the freak athletes in this draft, and whoever nabs him will get a steal, seeing as how he is projected early second, late first.

    Johnson will need to add some weight in order to hang inside the paint with the other NBA big men, but he will be a treat to watch at the next level.

Malcolm Thomas: San Diego State

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Malcolm Thomas #4 of the San Diego State Aztecs goes up for the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim,
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Well I am pretty sure that his picture says it all.

    Malcolm Thomas, the most athletic player for the San Diego State Aztecs last year, stands tall at 6'8" which for a small forward is a bit undersized, but his 7'2" wingspan allows him to pay taller than he is.

    Thomas is not the quickest cat in the draft, but he has the ability to beat most defenders with his first step, and the explosion that he possesses allows him to be a solid rebounder when called up. 

    Though he is not projected by many to go in the draft, his combine numbers sure helped his case.

Kemba Walker: UConn

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies goes to the basket against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Housto
    Pool/Getty Images

    We all knew he was going to be on this list.

    Kemba Walker is by no means the tallest tree in the bunch (6'3" on a good day), but his vertical makes up for it tenfold at 39.5 inches. His three-fourth court sprint at 3.16 showcased his motor, but he seems even faster with a basketball. 

    Not only does he have tremendous hops, but when he is in the air, the body control that he has is one of the most uncanny things to watch. A tremendous competitor, proven winner and even though he was the second lightest player at the combine, he was one of the toughest around.

    Should go top five, at worst top 10.

Brandon Knight: Kentucky

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Brandon Knight #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes to the basket against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Hou
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    A top-three pick. Standing at 6'3", Brandon Knight weighed in as the lightest of all draft prospects, but that all proved for not when he put up 10 reps on the bench press.

    Knight has great quickness and explosiveness, with many speculating he will translate nicely into the NBA. 

    With an almost unhealthy body fat percentage (4.2 percent) Knight's three-fourth court sprint was the fastest at 3.07 seconds. Oh yeah, and his vertical isn't too shabby ether coming in at 37.5 inches.

    Knight is poised to do big things in the NBA.

Tristan Thompson: Texas

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 12:  Tristan Thompson #13 of the Texas Longhorns goes up for a shot against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half of the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament championship game at Sprint Center on March 12, 2011 in Ka
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Listed at 6'9", more like 6'7", Tristan Thompson is another athletic freak, with a wingspan of 7'1".

    He has a 35-inch vertical, and his three-fourth court sprint is 3.26 seconds. Now compare that to the others on that list. It really does not make him that special, but when you factor in that he weighs just about 230 lbs, that is pretty impressive.

    Thompson, like the others, has terrific explosion and a tremendous first step off the dribble. However, it will be his leaping, rebounding and defending that sets him apart from the others in this draft. 

    Thompson is ranging somewhere around a top-15 pick.

Derrick Williams: Arizona

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats goes up for a rebound against Jamal Coombs-McDaniel #4 and Charles Okwandu #35 of the Connecticut Huskies during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Derrick Williams is not a physical freak by any means. If anything, it is his above-average measurements in just about every statistical category. Standing at about 6'9" with a wingspan of 7'1.5", Williams has tremendous reach, speed and girth. 

    Williams weighs 250 lbs., but you would never guess that with his three-fourth court speed recorded at 3.23. He recorded 19 reps in the bench press. His explosion and quickness are what set him apart from all the other prospects.

    His body control in the air, not to mention his incredible highlight-reel dunks (Blake Griffin-esque). 

    Like Kawhi Leonard, not overly freakish physically, but the grace, consistency and smoothness of his play make him for an amazing athlete. 

    Should be the second pick overall.

Travis Leslie: Georgia

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18:  Travis Leslie #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs misses a last second three-pointer that would have tied the game against the Washington Huskies during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable A
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The unanimous choice, for this writer anyway, for best athlete coming out of the draft is Travis Leslie.

    At 6'4", he plays at 7-feet. Leslie recorded a 40-inch vertical at the combine with a 3.13 three-fourth court sprint. His smaller, but muscular stature was able to record 10 reps on the bench press at the combine. 

    Leslie is projected in the top 40, but after that combine is stake has only gone up since the end of the season. He shot about 50 percent from the field during the season, and he looks to be a gem coming out of the draft and into the NBA next season. 

    Honorable Mentions:

    Isaiah Thomas: Washington

    Alec Burks: Colorado

    Kyrie Irving: Duke

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