We are approaching the 24-hour countdown to the 2011 NBA draft. While many analysts claim that this year's draft is weaker than most, I, for one, am as excited as ever.
There are a ton of possibilities for surprise picks, last second trades and much more in the lottery picks.
The time has come for my first and final predictions on the lottery.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Mo Williams to the Los Angeles Clippers, they received Baron Davis and the Clippers first-round pick.
After the lottery, the Clippers pick that was traded to Cleveland ended up being this one. The first overall pick. Tough luck for the little brother in Los Angeles yet again.
This can hardly be called a prediction. It has almost been a guarantee that owner Dan Gilbert will begin rebuilding his Cavs with the stud point guard from Duke, Kyrie Irving.
If it were me, I'd be very open to trading the first pick since the Cavs also have the fourth overall pick. There is no Derrick Rose or John Wall at the top of the draft, but I doubt Gilbert and company will do this.
Despite missing the majority of Duke's regular season, the highly skilled and intelligent Irving will don a Cleveland hat tomorrow night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are sure to take either Irving or Derrick Williams with the second pick, depending on who the Cavaliers take before them.
As long as the higher ups in the organization don't pull the trigger on the ridiculous Kevin Love plus the second pick for Pau Gasol move, Williams will be the pick.
Side note: I'm not sure I would even trade Love for Gasol straight up, much less include the second pick. What are the Timberwolves thinking?
The first surprise of the lottery will occur when the Utah Jazz take Brandon Knight with the third pick.
The Jazz fell out of contention last year when they traded their star point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets. They got a lot of pieces in return, including this very pick.
By far the greatest weakness in the Jazz's starting lineup is the shooting guard position, Raja Bell. Both Knight and current point guard Devin Harris are capable of sliding over.
Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because he received payment while playing in his native Turkey.
I have already expressed my reservations about taking players who haven't performed in over a year, but Kanter is still highly regarded.
He is considered the top big man in the draft, and if he turns out to be as good as advertised, a future starting lineup that includes him, Kyrie Irving and J.J. Hickson is formidable.
The Toronto Raptors have a decent starting lineup except for the small forward position.
Enter Jan Vesely, the extremely versatile 6'11" small forward from Czech Republic. Yes, he plays small forward.
Vesely was named the FIBA Young Player of the Year for 2010 and has drawn comparisons to fellow European Andrei Kirilenko. The Raptors starting five with him would be Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Vesely, Amir Johnson, and Andrea Bargnani.
That's a group that could at least be competitive in the East.
The Washington Wizards will hope that I'm wrong so that they can take Vesely with the sixth pick. However, I'm never wrong so the Wizards will have to reach slightly for Kawhi Leonard.
Washington has tremendous athleticism all over the court with John Wall, Nick Young and JaVale McGee. They added Jordan Crawford late in the season as well as the aging small forward Maurice Evans.
Evans is the starter and must be replaced with fresher legs. Leonard is accustomed to playing a perimeter-esque small forward and will be a good fit.
There are talks that the Sacramento Kings could trade the seventh pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Tony Parker. Unless the Kings think they are just one veteran guard away from the playoffs, they shouldn't do this.
And by the way, they aren't.
Though point guard Beno Udrih will never be mistaken for Jason Kidd, the Kings top priority is center.
Samuel Dalembert is in desperate need of some relief. He popped up and had a good March but, over all, averaged just 8.1 points per game last season.
Seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas is the second best big man out there behind Enes Kanter. He is only 19 years old, so he'll have plenty of time to get accustomed to the NBA backing up Dalembert before taking over full time.
The Detroit Pistons need help everywhere. That's why they'll take the best available player regardless of position.
Enter Texas Longhorns standout, Tristan Thompson. He can start at power forward for Detroit right out of the gates over Chris Wilcox.
Thompson must improve his hideous 49 percent free throw percentage. After he does this, he'll be a consistent double-double threat every night along with future teammate Greg Monroe.
The Thompson-Monroe duo is akin to a poor man's Tim Duncan-David Robinson. Keep in mind this is a very poor man we're talking about, but the fact remains. Nice combo.
Here's your reach! I really think Jimmer Fredette will find his way into the top ten, and who better to take him than Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats?
Charlotte's point guard D.J. Augustin didn't completely secure his spot with 6.1 assists and 41 percent field goal percentage from last year.
Fredette plans to play the point and his scoring prowess will be too much to pass on for a point-hungry Bobcats team.
If Augustin and Fredette develop chemistry, Fredette could steal some minutes from shooting guard Gerald Henderson. But at only 6'1", this pick will most likely be a challenge to the point guard position.
The Milwaukee Bucks need to move on from the Michael Redd era. He was good when he was healthy, but at 31 years old and several lost seasons, that day is gone.
Besides Redd, Milwaukee also has 31-year-old John Salmons at the shooting guard spot. They need a young upgrade. Prolific scoring shooting guard Klay Thompson is a great fit for the Bucks.
Thompson shot 40 percent from behind the arc and, at 22.1 points per game, was ninth in the nation in scoring.
He's 6'6", 200 pounds and can contribute on the boards. He ripped down 5.5 rebounds per game with Washington State last year. Thompson is an ideal candidate for the Bucks' Brandon Jennings to assist.
Many people are calling Bismack Biyombo of the Congo one of the best defenders in the 2011 NBA draft. That's precisely why the Golden State Warriors need him.
The offensive-minded Warriors were seventh in the NBA in scoring last season but tied for third worst in points allowed. Fantasy owners loved having Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis because every game was a score-a-thon.
Center is the real weakness on Golden State's starting lineup. Biyombo is short for a NBA center at 6'9", but his strength and wingspan can make up for that.
The main thing head coach Mark Jackson needs to tell him is that his defense is why he's there.
The Utah Jazz will secretly rejoice when they don't have to make the Jimmer Fredette decision when their second lottery pick arrives.
While they understand his local appeal and his on-court talent, they simply won't have an immediate use for him. They will, however, have use for the ACC-star, Chris Singleton.
Singleton led Florida State in points, rebounds, steals, and three-point percentage last season. He was second in minutes and blocks, the former of which was no doubt hurt when he missed most of February with a broken foot.
The foot has healed and Singleton is one of the most versatile small forwards available. Like Biyombo, Singleton has been praised for his defense with a 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2011 Runner-Up finish.
At 6'9", he'll be able to spell both small forward C.J. Miles and power forward Paul Millsap until he finds his niche.
I'm a big Kemba Walker fan. So are the Phoenix Suns. You should be, too.
He is the definition of a gamer, carrying his Connecticut Huskies team to three tournament championships last year (preseason, conference, and national).
His quickness, basketball IQ, scoring ability and leadership reminds me of another fantastic point guard who happens to play for the Suns. Steve Nash is 37 years old, but still holds a lot of trade value in the NBA.
Drafting Walker both injects some youth into an aging lineup and allows Phoenix to listen to offers from teams that can offer more talented youngsters.
Mr. Kinda Irrelevant, the last pick of the lottery, will be Marcus Morris.
The Houston Rockets are in a minor state of turmoil with the center position. Yao Ming's future is of serious concern after a lingering ankle injury continues to worsen.
Houston's other options are Chuck Hayes, Brad Miller and Hasheem Thabeet. Hayes is mediocre, Miller is 35 years old and, take it from a Memphis Grizzlies fan, Thabeet is a joke.
The Rockets need a big man now. Morris could be considered a steal at 14 and all the merrier for Houston.
Besides bringing in great scoring ability in the front court, Morris also has been a winner at every level of the game and will mix in a winner's attitude into a locker room that needs it.