NBA Draft 2011: Ranking Kyrie Irving and the Top 50 Prospects Available
The 2011 NBA draft is tonight, everybody, and I couldn't be more excited.
That means terribly awesome suits, David Stern getting booed, a raucous crowd of New Yorkers who will boo whoever they pick but cheer when Adam Silver comes out, awkward interviews between Stuart Scott and whatever international players may be in attendance and futures changing with the tick of the clock.
Plus my favorite sports-related phrase, "We have a trade!"
Everything about the NBA draft is completely underrated, and after what seems like a lifetime of watching it, it still hasn't gotten old. There are always new goofy players doing their best to be remembered for something they did on draft day, because hey, it might be the only NBA-related thing they are remembered for.
Forget all of those people out there calling this a weak draft—the players have character and personality, and that's all you need for an interesting draft.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the clock, and everybody knows who they are taking with the No. 1 pick, but directly behind the Cavs sits the most unpredictable man in the NBA for the past five years, David Kahn.
Who knows what is going to happen at tonight's draft, and who knows who will be a bust or a steal? That's part of the fun of the draft.
So instead of me rambling about how much I love the draft for another 500 words or so (which I could totally do), I'll go ahead and give you guys my top 50 prospects—my big board, if you will.
It may not be as meticulously researched as Jay Bilas', but at least I don't try to make up new adjectives to describe the length of some guy's arms every year.
50. Gary Flowers, Southern Miss
Gary Flowers is a big guy that is more poised to play power forward in the NBA but could potentially be a small forward as well.
Flowers was once a highly touted recruit at Oklahoma State, where he ran into legal troubles, but he has matured and turned into an offensive machine.
He definitely needs work on his defense, but he could be a steal late in the second round or even undrafted for a team willing to take a chance.
49. Greg Smith, Fresno State
Don't confuse him with Greg Smith of Colorado State—Greg Smith of Fresno State is built like a Mack truck.
He has measured anywhere between 6'9" and 6'10.5" and is most likely built to be a power forward in the NBA but could be a smaller center.
Something that must be mentioned about Smith is about his hands. They are the size of car doors. Go to a grocery store and pick up a grapefruit; that's what Smith looks like with the ball in his hands. He actually has the biggest hands in the history of the combine.
48. Chris Wright, Dayton
Chris Wright is the guy that led Dayton to a disappointing exit in the first round of the NIT, but there are some intriguing qualities to look at in the late second round.
"Top Flight" Wright has as much athleticism as anyone in this draft; he just doesn't have the skills of the other guys.
If anything, he could become a good defender and be a decent bench player in the NBA.
47. Andrew Goudeluck, Charleson
Andrew Goudelock may very well be the best long-range shooter in the draft, shooting 40 percent from three last season with the College of Charleston, where he was the heart and soul of the squad.
One of the things to love about Goudelock is how active he is on the offensive end and how good he is at getting his own shot, even though he has been looked at as just a spot-up shooter at the next level.
Goudelock also has a good defensive skill set and could turn into a decent player at the next level.
46. Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech
Iman Shumpert has all the things a guy needs to play in the NBA—except for the whole jump shot and basketball IQ thing, which are kind of important, you know.
Shumpert is extremely athletic, he can defend well and he is big and strong for a guard in the NBA. He just needs to work on his actual basketball skills before he can be something good in the NBA.
45. Travis Leslie, Georgia
There are some people that look at his athleticism and fall in love, while others look at his lack of basketball skills and walk away, so there is some uncertainty when it comes to Travis Leslie.
There is one thing I am certain of, though: Travis Leslie can jump.
Possibly the most athletic prospect in this year's draft, I could see a team taking a chance on him as high as the late first round just because of his athleticism and despite his skill set, which is minimal on offense and defense.
44. Justin Harper, Richmond
Derrick Williams and Jon Diebler were two of the most efficient scorers in the NCAA last season, but would you really expect Justin Harper to be included with those two guys?
Isn't he supposed to be the guy that led Richmond to the A-10 title by scoring in bunches?
Well, he did score in bunches, but he did so efficiently, shooting 59 percent from inside the three-point line and 47 percent from outside.
At the very worst, you could have yourself a fine three-point shooter at the next level, or he could turn into a legitimate producer.
43. DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky
DeAndre Liggins showed how good a perimeter defender he was in Kentucky's tournament game against Ohio State, which is a skill that is extremely desired in the NBA.
He is one of those late second-round guys that could step in and be a good bench player almost immediately in the NBA, but his ceiling isn't as high as some of the other guys.
I really think Liggins could be a nice surprise and a steal in the second round for a team that decides to take a stab at him.
42. Keith Benson, Oakland
How would Lady Gaga describe Keith Benson? He's raw raw, raw raw raw.
Okay, even I feel terrible about that joke. I completely apologize. We'll have no more of that.
He is nearly seven feet tall but only 217 pounds, so he is going to have to add some bulk to play in the NBA, so two or three years down the road he could end up being a serviceable center at the next level.
41. Chandler Parsons, Florida
I can't really decide what I think about Chandler Parsons.
On one hand I have a rule (I like to call it the Adam Morrison Rule) that drafting white guys to play shooting guard or either of the forward positions is a bad idea.
On the other hand, he is a good size for an NBA small forward, is a great passer and looks like an all-around good player.
I would take a shot on him in the second round. If he turns into something good, act like you knew it would happen the whole time; if not, just call it a "calculated risk."
40. Norris Cole, Cleveland State
Seeing Norris Cole from time to time over the past four years has really impressed me.
For the first two years of his college career he really worked hard on his jump shot and became a great shooter, and then he worked hard on his ball-handling and point guard skills in general and became a good point guard.
Cole has a high basketball IQ and has a pretty good upside, potentially turning into a good backup point guard in the NBA.
39. Josh Selby, Kansas
There are two versions of Josh Selby, which should turn any general manager off from wanting to draft him in the first round.
First there is the uber-hyped high school sensation who looked like he could jump right to the NBA were it not for the one-and-done rule. Then you have the struggling, inconsistent scoring, poor ball-handling, bad-passing Selby that disappointed Kansas fans all year long.
I would take a shot on Selby in the second round, maybe late in the first round, in this draft, but don't be disappointed if he absolutely flops.
38. David Lighty, Ohio State
David Lighty is a high-IQ guard who could step into the NBA right now and be the eighth or ninth guy in a rotation.
He is unselfish and plays basketball with little to no mistakes, plus he has been a part of a winning team for his five years at Ohio State.
37. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
Jon Leuer is a big American white guy, so you know he probably won't turn into more than a backup center, but everybody needs a big white guy to sit at the end of a bench and give out high-fives.
He's an amazingly hard worker, which is great for any team just to have a guy like him driving up the level of competition in practices and garbage time.
36. Jimmy Butler, Marquette
Jimmy Butler isn't athletic, he isn't highly skilled and he isn't highly consistent (in other news, I'm good at raising expectations for a guy that I like), but he is a team guy.
He is an average player in the NBA at best, and he knows that, so the way he plays makes him seem like he could be above average (if that makes sense at all).
Butler is a great defender, chases every loose ball and every offensive rebound and keeps balls alive and makes extra passes, so I would love to have him on my team.
35. Kyle Singler, Duke
The guy drips with sweat just from taking off his warm-up, but as soon as he takes that warm-up off he is in fifth gear the whole game.
Kyle Singler doesn't have great defensive skills, and he isn't very fast or strong, but he does have a great jump shot and is a pretty good ball-handler.
34. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
JaJuan Johnson is in need of about 20 more pounds on his frame, but he does have some low-post moves that will allow him to score when he gets the ball in the lane.
Johnson has a great motor to go along with his righty hook and a fadeaway jumper that make him rather unpredictable at times when he has the ball in his hands.
Johnson could easily crack the top eight in any lineup as long as he puts on some muscle.
33. Jeremy Tyler, USA/Japan
Jeremy Tyler was a hyped prep school product who decided to opt for Europe over college, desiring money over education.
Tyler has the ability to become a good NBA player, and with a little luck, he could be a bit better than good, but he has had off the court issues that have many teams questioning whether or not he is worth the risk.
32. Malcolm Lee, UCLA
Malcolm Lee is like DeAndre Liggins with a better jump shot.
He is a great perimeter defender and could potentially crack the top six or seven in an NBA lineup if he keeps working on his offensive game.
Where he does excel on offense is in the transition game, where he is exceptionally long and quick, giving him the ability to push the ball up the court and outrun the defense.
31. Nikola Mirotic, Montenegro
Nikola Mirotic is an international prospect who has worked his butt off to even be considered in this year's draft.
He has clawed his way up the depth chart for Real Madrid. Once buried on the depth chart, he got out from behind two guys ahead of him to make a huge impact.
Mirotic has been very good on offense, which is why he has gotten more playing time in the past year, but he needs to put more effort forth on the defensive end if he wants to unbury (if that's a word) himself from an NBA depth chart.
30. Shelvin Mack, Butler
Aside from Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack was the reason Butler made it all the way back to the national championship game this season.
He is always under control, unlike many of the young players that get drafted, and he is never in a rush to get to the rim or get the pass that he is looking for, which is something NBA teams usually value highly when looking for a draft pick.
29. Nikola Vucevic, USC
Nikola Vucevic is rocketing his way up mock drafts all over the country ever since the draft combine proved what he was telling people all along: He can play center in the NBA.
Vucevic measured at seven feet tall (some were guessing he might not even crack 6'10"), plus he has a wingspan of 7'4".
Measurements may not mean a lot about basketball skills, but when you are seven feet tall, they mean the world. Seriously, DeSagana Diop is still in the league for no reason but his height.
28. Nolan Smith, Duke
Everyone was talking about Kyrie Irving all year long, but when Nolan Smith stepped in to fill his shoes, not many eyes were batted, even though he performed at least as well as Irving did before his injury.
He is more vetted than Irving and was a part of their national championship team in 2010.
Smith is a great free-throw shooter, a good three-point shooter and a good defender and has a sky-high basketball IQ.
27. Reggie Jackson, Boston College
It's not Mr. October, but maybe he could be Mr. April or May down the line as the sixth man for a playoff team.
The Boston College star has a seven-foot wingspan even though he stands at just 6'3", plus he is extremely strong and athletic.
Jackson gets hot from penetration (that sounded less dirty in my mind) and then steps outside and starts draining threes when he is feeling it.
26. Davis Bertans, Latvia
This is probably the international prospect that I know the least about, so everything I know about Davis Bertans is through hearsay and word of mouth.
From various YouTubeings I've seen that he has Reggie Miller range (shooting from the logo in the corner about five feet from the three-point line), plus the scouts say he has some good court vision.
25. Marshon Brooks, Providence
Marshon Brooks is the guy that has been talked up so much over the past few weeks that he may end up getting drafted around No. 15, but some of the talk may be a bit too much.
Hell, there are those out there that are calling him the next Kobe Bryant, which to me is somewhere between asinine and certifiably insane.
Brooks has a great skill set, don't get me wrong, and could end up as a good sixth man or even a starting shooting guard at some point down the road, but he isn't the next Kobe.
24. Jordan Williams, Maryland
Chuck Hayes has made me believe in the undersized center (the dude is freaking 6'6"!), so Jordan Williams coming in at 6'9" can at least be serviceable.
Williams is an extremely hard worker, which seems to have spurred from his size, so he has turned into a physical banger that uses his body to get position for the rebound, plus he has a good jumper, which is surprising for a guy that makes his living on defense by throwing his body around.
I wouldn't mind having him as my backup center in the least bit.
23. Trey Thompkins, Georgia
Like everyone else in the world, I am convinced that Trey Thompkins can improve upon his outside shooting, which was very good two years ago but seemed to disappear this year.
What he does have, however, is a low-post game that he developed over the past year that has many scouts intrigued.
If Thompkins can get his long-range jumper back and pair it with his new post game, he could end up looking something like Channing Frye in the NBA.
22. Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Jordan Hamilton is built like Joe Johnson, plus he has a nose for the basket, which could prove to be helpful in his foray into the NBA.
Hamilton will have to work very hard on his defense to stay high in a team's rotation, as his impressive finesse moves on offense will only get him so far.
21. Tobias Harris, Tennessee
There is one thing that has me extremely excited about Tobias Harris coming into the NBA: There is going to be a guy named Tobias in the NBA! There hasn't been such a blatant old man name drafted into the league since Boris Diaw was drafted by the Hawks in 2003.
Besides his name, Harris is good for some really smart basketball and a great work ethic.
20. Markieff Morris, Kansas
I don't have much faith in Markieff Morris' potential for the NBA, but the rest of the world insists that I have him up here, so I'll put him as a top-20 guy for now.
'Kieff is strong, physical and explosive, plus he is a big body, which is enough to make it in the NBA initially, but that will only take him so far.
My biggest beef with 'Kieff is that he doesn't seem to have a very high basketball IQ, frequently fouling out, as he was the eighth-most foul-prone player in the NCAA last season.
19. Darius Morris, Michigan
Darius Morris is the purest of the pure point guards in this draft, and after watching him in a few games with Michigan this year, I'm pretty convinced that he could at least be a good backup in the NBA.
Morris has the ability to just go off and score and could have just chucked shots all year at Michigan, giving the perception that he is a good scorer.
Instead, he spent his year trying to win games, getting the ball out to his teammates and making them as good as possible to get his team as far as he could get it.
18. Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
Tyler Honeycutt's build reminds me a lot of Tayshaun Prince with his skinny frame and long arms, but it's kind of hard to nail down exactly who he plays like.
Basically, put Josh Childress, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Chase Budinger and Trevor Ariza into a blender and put it on high until it's well blended. The contents will be Tyler Honeycutt's game. Whether that's good or bad remains to be seen.
17. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
I've fallen in love with Kenneth Faried's game, if only because I'm almost positive that he will last at least until 2017 in the NBA.
Faried was an amazing rebounder in college, the best since Ben Wallace, which is a skill that is the easiest to translate to the NBA.
Aside from that, Faried could be a great defender at the next level, and if he continues to put on bulk, he could make the Ben Wallace comparisons even more realistic.
16. Jimmer Fredette, BYU
The jury is still out on Jimmer Fredette. There are some out there who still say that he can play in the NBA, but there is an army of analysts who swear up and down that he will be nothing better than a spot-up shooter.
I say, with the weakness of this draft, why not take a chance on him? If it works out, then you have a great guard; if not, then you have a great spot-up shooter. That sounds like a win-win to me.
15. Klay Thompson, Washington State
Another prospect for whom comparisons have gotten a bit out of hand, Klay Thompson has started to draw Reggie Miller comparisons over the past few weeks.
I find it interesting that everyone was so quick to dismiss this draft as weak, but when they started to break down the players individually, they start comparing them to the superstars of the past two decades.
I'm just waiting for someone to call Alec Burks the next Michael Jordan, at which point I will hurl myself into a volcano.
14. Chirs Singleton, Florida State
Chris Singleton is a guy you could go to war with.
He isn't going to be scoring 20 points a game—hell, it might take him four or five years before he scores anywhere near 20 points in a single game—but I have a feeling he will be cracking a starting lineup in the next three years.
Singleton is the best all-around defensive player in this draft and can guard the perimeter along with the low post, racking up good numbers in blocks and steals last season.
13. Tristan Thompson, Texas
The other dude from Texas, Tristan Thompson is a quick power forward who could track down rebounds with the best of them in college.
He is a lefty, which is a huge plus, and he is turning from a chubby teenager into a strong, cut guy in his 20s, putting all kinds of muscle onto his frame.
Size may be a concern with Thompson, but I'm convinced that you can't really call size a concern until you actually see these guys play in the NBA.
12. Marcus Morris, Kansas
While I'm pretty low on Markieff, I'd still say I'm low on Marcus compared to some of the other guys out there, although I think he can make it in the NBA.
Marcus has a better jumper than his brother, plus he is a smarter basketball player altogether, which is very evident when you see them play side by side.
11. Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania
The first of the two big Lithuanians in this draft, Donatas Motiejunas has a very high ceiling but has a ways to go to get there.
He is a finesse big man but has some size so that he can bang down low with some of the bigs in the NBA, plus he is relatively quick for someone nearly seven feet tall.
Motiejunas has a jumper, but it isn't refined at this point, plus his drive has been criticized, as he takes plays off and gets lazy at times, something a young player just can't do in the NBA.
10. Bismack Biyombo, Congo
I'll admit it—I am smitten with Bismack Biyombo. Part of me wants to see the Cavs trade out of the No. 4 spot just to take a chance on him, but I know that that is irresponsible.
Biyombo has all the intangibles that you could ask for. He has arms that are as long as stretched-out Slinkys and athleticism that we haven't seen on a big man since Shawn Kemp (aka LeBron's daddy).
I feel like he will be a defensive game-changer at the very least, and if someone can teach him to play offense, then he is going to take the league by storm.
9. Alec Burks, Colorado
Ladies and gentlemen, the next Michael Jordan!
Totally joking, everybody—just checking to see if you are all still paying attention.
Alec Burks is a very long shooting guard with some good passing and dribbling skills, a decent jump shot, good defense and great free-throw shooting.
Burks will need to add some bulk to his skinny body to deal with some of the bigger players that he may be asked to guard.
8. Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
Jonas Valanciunas (AKA Big V) seems to be the better of the two big Lithuanians in this year's draft with his soft hands that allow him to catch and pass in the post at the drop of a dime.
Valanciunas moves very fluidly with agility and finesse for a man his size. He is also a hard worker and a guy with a good basketball IQ for an international prospect.
His post moves aren't as polished as teams would like, and he is a bit skinny and lanky at this point, but all of that can change with some reps both on the court and in the weight room.
7. Kemba Walker, UConn
Kemba Walker showed two things in UConn's run to the national championship this year.
First, he showed that he can penetrate and score like it's nobody's business. Second, he showed that he can be the leader of a winning basketball team. There are your tangible and intangible basketball skills laid out for you.
Also helping Walker's case is the fact that he measured in at 6'1" at the combine when some were speculating that he wouldn't crack 6'0".
6. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
Kawhi Leonard may be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft aside from Derrick Williams.
He has drawn probably what I would say is the most complimentary comparison of anybody in the draft, as many are calling him the next Gerald Wallace.
What that says to GMs all over the league is that he is an extremely hard worker willing to put his body on the line for an extra possession or two, showing that he genuinely cares about winning basketball games.
5. Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
People have raved about Jan Vesely's athleticism for the past month and have started to compare him to Andrei Kirilenko as a mold-breaking European prospect, and there is no question that he is that.
He is an impressive player in the open court, but like most European players he is quite raw and needs to work on developing pretty much every aspect of his game in preparation for the NBA.
4. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Brandon Knight is an extremely fast point guard who can push the ball up the court about as fast as anybody else in this draft, plus he has a jump shot that is nearly lights-out and heats up quicker than a spoon in a microwave.
The best part about him is that he is such a smart player; otherwise his point guard skills wouldn't be much to speak of.
Knight isn't a great passer for a point guard, and he needs to improve his patience when he is working in the half court.
3. Enes Kanter, "Kentucky"
Enes Kanter is the great mystery of this draft, as he has had some issues with his knees in the past, but at only 19 years old, it's hard to look at him and not want to drool at his basketball potential.
It seems pretty plain and simple to me that Kanter is potentially a franchise center just waiting to be picked. The only thing that is up in the air is how early teams are willing to take the risk on a guy that could be a huge windfall or just a waste of a pick.
2. Derrick Williams, Arizona
He's a tweener, but who cares?
Josh Smith is a tweener. Gerald Wallace is a tweener. Lamar Odom, Michael Beasley, Rashard Lewis, Antawn Jamison, Boris Diaw, Al Harrington, Andrei Kirilenko and Toni Kukoc are or were all tweeners because of their skill set or size.
It's been almost like a scarlet letter for Derrick Williams, but he should embrace his "tweener" label. I'm starting to think he is more of a new-age power forward for the NBA instead of a guy stuck between two positions.
1. Kyrie Irving, Duke
All the speculation that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to change their mind about drafting Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick is for naught.
Irving is without a doubt the class of this draft. He may end up being quite good, or he might not, but Cleveland has the best chance of getting a great player by drafting Irving No. 1, so it will.
Enjoy the draft, ladies and gentlemen, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, please do @JDorsey33.