NBA Draft 2011: The Toughest Prospects to Project at the Next Level

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IIJune 21, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: The Toughest Prospects to Project at the Next Level

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars reacts to a call while playing against the Wofford Terriers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Having personally spent the past year closely watching, researching, evaluating and setting up over 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 that we are absolutely on the fence on, as far as their potential NBA impact and future in the league.  These are the guys who have potential and do some things very well, but also present pressing issues in their game for one reason or another.  To us, these are the biggest mysteries of the draft, no matter how hard you try to analyze or pick apart their games. There are still a lot of looming questions and you can’t say with certainty how good they will be unless they are answered. 

    This is the last of a three-part series in which we will break down the players that we really ‘like’, are ‘not high’ on, and are ‘torn’ over.

    That said, SwishScout.com presents “The 2011 NBA Draft Prospects We Are Torn Over.” 

    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 of the respective prospects.

10. Isaiah Thomas (Washington)

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies moves the ball while taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlotte
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Isaiah Thomas (Washington) 

    The immediate issue is his size at 5’10”, but that really doesn’t bother me, given the past success of quicker, stronger guards in the league like Thomas.  He showed potential as a PG in the NCAA, but can he do it the NBA? 

    Is he going to be a reliable shooting threat from the perimeter, or is he just a guy you play off and hope he misses as a streak shooter? 

    Can he be effective off the ball, or is he going to purely be an isolation player?  Love his upside as a guard in the league, however, and I think he could easily be the next Nate Robinson.  

9. Shelvin Mack (Butler)

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Shelvin Mack #1 of the Butler Bulldogs with the ball while taking on Connecticut Huskies during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston,
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Shelvin Mack (Butler) 

    Mack was a stud in NCAA play and an absolute winner that helped carry Butler to the title game.  He’s a gutsy shooter with deep range and a big time shot maker. But there are some puzzling questions. 

    Will he be able to play the point or just be a shooter?  Can his ball handling improve enough to allow him  to penetrate defenses, or will he just settle for the jumper? 

    Can he take smarter shots in the NBA than he did at Butler?  Is he athletic enough to hang with the NBA’s elite guards on D? 

    I could see him being the next Derek Fisher, if he can answer those questions, or just a Voshon Lenard-type shooter if he can’t.  

8. Nikola Mirotic (Montenegro)

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    Nikola Mirotic (Montenegro) 

    Mirotic is an intelligent fundamental player who makes up for his lack of athleticism with his great size-efficient skill set.  However, the pressing question remains: How long he will remain overseas with contract issues? 

    The word is he will remain in Europe for the next three to four years until that contract expires, unless a team buys it out. 

    He’s a pretty good defender, but that lack of athleticism and strength could present challenges for him on the D.  He isn’t great at creating his own shot, so it's very possible he could end up being just a predominant shooter.

7. Demetri McCamey (Illinois)

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11:  Demetri McCamey #32 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the offense against the Michigan Wolverines during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2011 in Indianap
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Demetri McCamey (Illinois) 

    I was very high on McCamey at the start of the year, when he was on an absolute tear.  Even though he cooled off considerably, he still shot over 45 percent from three-point range.  You have to wonder if that poor shot selection could carry over to the pros and catch up to him against better D. 

    He isn’t a great athlete nor that strong, so he could really struggle to get to the basket and finish after contact.  While he averaged over six assists the past couple seasons, he also turned the ball over nearly three times per game, which is too much for a point.  He also doesn’t look very committed to the defensive end at this point, and that could keep him on the bench early. 

    He has solid upside and NBA skills shooting the ball and creating for his teammates, but his faults could limit him to being a perennial backup.

6. Keith Benson (Oakland)

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 18:  Keith Benson #34 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies goes up for a shot against Alexis Wangmene #20 of the Texas Longhorns during the second round game of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 18, 2011 in Tuls
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Keith Benson (Oakland) 

    For a second-rounder, Benson is an intriguing player at center.  His combination of size, length, athleticism and a post game is tantalizing for a team. But you have to wonder if he is skilled enough to put it together consistently in the NBA, after facing Summit League competition the majority of his college career.  Getting dominated by Texas freshman Tristan Thompson in the first round of the tournament definitely popped up some questions. 

    At a meek 220 lbs, he has a lot of muscle to put on his frame if he’s going to be able to ‘bang’ and body up on D.  His shoulder face is fairly narrow, so its going to make it tough for him to add the necessary weight.  While he has a pretty fair post game, he still tends to force a lot of shots on offense. 

    While an interesting prospect, he is much older than the players in the draft, and his ceiling is considerably lower than his peers.

5. Davis Bertans (Latvia)

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    Davis Bertans (Latvia) 

    From what I saw out of Bertans in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit, he definitely looked a long ways away from being NBA ready.  There’s no question as to his potential, as a 6’10” shooting guard/small forward. But he’s got a lot of learning and developing to do.  He’s only 18 years old, so naturally he has to fill out his body and add some muscle onto his frame, which isn’t a huge concern at this point. 

    What is a concern at this point is shot selection and being a little more particular with his looks, instead of just jacking them up with a defender in his face for the heck of it.  He needs to work on his ball handling and ability to create his own shot off the dribble, otherwise all he is in the league is a spot up shooter. 

    He also needs a good deal of experience and a better understanding of how to thrive within the team game as well.  He's a little too raw for a first-round selection, in my book, if you’re looking for immediate impact. But he could be a good choice if a team can afford to wait.

4. Josh Selby (Kansas)

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Josh Selby #32 of the Kansas Jayhawks puts up a shot against the Richmond Spiders during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Josh Selby (Kansas) 

    A projected preseason top 10 pick, Selby now seems like a bargain at this point, falling into the late first round.  He is a great value that late in the draft, just in terms of pure talent and upside.  What is the unknown in his situation is if he can make the adjustment to running the point effectively, after struggling to excel in the NCAA like many had hoped. 

    Kansas obviously wasn’t the best fit for him, but he did little to help himself.  He didn’t really look comfortable and forced things frequently, turning the ball over way too much in limited minutes.  He’s a good shooter but also very streaky and struggled with his confidence as the season went on.  You have to wonder if he’s a guy whose game fits the NBA style better than the NCAA, with his athleticism and skill set. 

    He’s a big risk/reward pick but an affordable one for where he’s projected.  While a year away from contributing to a team, he could either be really good in a few years or just an energy guy who comes off the bench and pumps some octane into your team.

3. Scotty Hopson (Tennessee)

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    PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 20:  Scotty Hopson #32 of the Tennessee Volunteers shoots a three pointer in the second half against the Ohio Bobcats during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament on March 20, 2010 at the Dunkin Donuts Center
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Scotty Hopson (Tennessee) 

    A lot of people don’t seem to be high on Scotty, including NBA teams who think he might just be a "workout player" who excels in practices because of his athleticism and shooting ability.  While Scotty definitely has some NBA-caliber skills, he has a fair share of knocks. 

    For one, he is a scorer who prefers to play as a pure shooter too often, when he should be attacking.  The reason he doesn’t attack is because he struggles to create, due to some very average ball handling.  He had the ball in his hands a fair amount in college and gave it away nearly three times per game as a consequence.  He can play selfishly at times, and if he isn’t shooting the ball well, then his effectiveness is very limited. 

    Defensively, he’s way behind as player with three years of NCAA competition under his belt.  Believe it or not, I actually see a little bit of J.R. Smith in his game, and he may be more effective in the league as a scorer if a coaching staff can unlock his potential as more of a scorer instead of settling for the jumper.  He made a great progression year to year, but a lot of people seem to be down on him because he didn’t live up to his lofty expectations.  

2. Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)

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    Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) 

    This is the quintessential boom-or-bust pick of the 2011 Draft, in my opinion.  He shows a lot of signs that you look for in a standout big man, including outstanding size at 6’11”, length with his 7’4” wingspan, mobility, athleticism, finishing ability at the rim, touch around the basket, strong rebounding and tools to be a great shot blocker. 

    The real knocks on his game are the lack of muscle on his slender frame, his zero midrange game or face up ability and an extremely unrefined post game.  He has gotten by with his size and athleticism in Europe, and while still young, he has a ways to go before he’s NBA ready or even reaches his NBA potential. 

    The other major deterrent is his contract issue and need for a buyout before he can come over and play in the league. This could see his stock drop, if unresolved before the draft.  He has incredible potential, physical gifts and talent, but also a fair share of development left to do. 

    I could see him possibly being a Pau Gasol-type if he can reach his potential, or just another Jason Smith if he can't.

1. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars goes to the hoop for a layup against the Wofford Terriers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Jimmer Fredette (BYU) 

    Easily the most polarizing player in the draft, it seems like people either love him as an NBA player or don’t.  Whether or not you do or don’t, I think everyone can agree he’s one tough nut to crack at the next level.  The obvious pros to his game is that crazy shooting range, shot making ability, big time basketball IQ, great effort and superb ball-handling skills. 

    He got knocked a lot for not being athletic, but had a great turnout in the speed and agility drills in the combine, which quieted a lot of that concern.  He’s definitely not a standout athlete, but he’s better than people thought. 

    He has to adjust to a lesser role and won’t get by as a volume shooter anymore.  There is also the issue of if you play him at the point or at shooting guard as a secondary ball handler.  He was an underrated passer at the NCAA level, but a lot of that was based on his ability to create and penetrate, which is a much taller task for him at this point.  Perhaps the biggest question is his commitment to defense, and is he willing to give the effort? All indications from his interviews and deceiving lateral quickness say he may be able to contain his man, somewhat. 

    I was high on him during his NCAA days, then he kind of fell out of my favor after his NCAA exit against Florida. But he has slowly reemerged as a legit rising player up the draft board.  If I had to project him, I think he’s a shot maker who can create his own looks and comes off the bench like Ben Gordon.  He won’t be a star, but he can be a great spark to a rotation. 

    Jimmer is the personification of this list, in my opinion, and even though I try to define how good he can be, I am still torn. I imagine I could end up changing my mind again before the season starts.  It’s just the nature of the beast when evaluating prospects at this level.