With the 2011 NBA Draft only half an hour away, it is time for a first-round mock that will likely be dismantled by trades, including players like Raymond Felton, Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Lamar Odom. Yet it is the younger players that are the main focus of the draft. With this draft being labeled as extremely weak, the players in top half of the draft, at the very least, have potential to be starters one day in the NBA. With that in mind, here are the projections for the top half of the 2011 NBA draft.
1) Kyrie Irving: What can anyone say about Irving that hasn't been said. A pure point guard, Irving has court vision like no one else in the draft. His shooting prowess from the perimeter has been outstanding, and his overall talent level can easily be compared to New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul.
2) Derrick Williams: Williams will likely not be in a Timberwolves uniform next season, as the No. 2 selection in the draft will be on the move to another team via a trade. No matter who selects Williams, they will get a versatile forward who can play the 3 or 4 and provide athleticism, scoring and leadership right away.
3) Brandon Knight: Devin Harris has All-Star potential, but he is constantly injured and is turning 30 sooner than later. Knight provides size and scoring for a guard but lacks the court vision of a pure point. He may turn out to be just an average point guard, in the mold of Jrue Holiday, rather than a star like Derrick Rose. If Knight doesn't develop the killer instinct Rose has, Utah may regret not selecting Enes Kanter.
4) Enes Kanter: If Utah doesn't select Kanter, he falls into the laps of the Cavaliers, who would otherwise take Jonas Valanciunas. The Cavs may even surprise a few people and trade this pick (for say Atlanta's Josh Smith) if Kanter is available. Otherwise, Kanter has to be the choice. The Turkish big man would bring size, scoring and rebounding to a Cleveland team that needs it. With J.J. Hickson starting at center sometimes last year, the could use Kanter and allow him to grow with Irving for the next 10 years.
5) Jonas Valanciunas: The Raptors are in Canada and have a deep love for international players. J.V. fits that mold. He is a rarity as a tough European big man with a nice touch around the basket. He may stay in Europe the next couple of years and develop, and the Raptors are in a position to wait as they rebuild.
6) Jan Vesely: I'd guarantee this pick with money down if I could, as the Wizards need a player with Vesely's intensity and hustle. He reminds me most of Andrei Kirilenko, because of his willingness to defend and rebound as well as lack of great offensive skills.
7) Tristan Thompson: With the Bobcats in control of the No. 7 pick, Thompson is the best choice. He'll give the lowly Bobcats interior defense and rebounding and hopefully develop a better offensive game. His free-throw shooting is atrocious, and he'll eventually need to get above the 50 percent that most Texas players average during their time as Longhorns.
8) Bismack Biyombo: It's right about this time where a player like Biyombo is picked, based on his potential. He has bust written all over him but may develop into a Samuel Dalembert type of player down the road. With Greg Monroe at PF with a great offensive skill set, Biyombo would be a complimentary defensive piece. With Detroit's team chemistry in flux, they'll gamble and take the big man from Congo.
9) Chris Singleton: Charlotte takes a player who may remind many fans of a former Bobcat, Gerald Wallace. Singleton automatically brings defense and intensity to a team in great need of it. With Thompson and Singleton at the forward spots, Charlotte will be extremely happy with its two rookies.
10) Jimmer Fredette: The Jimmer will be a Sacramento King, barring some trade up into the top 10 by another team looking for the former BYU star. The Kings will hope Jimmer can start at the point and move Tyreke Evans over to shooting guard or small forward. Marcus Thorton's role on the team would be in question if and when Fredette is drafted.
11) Kawhi Leonard: Golden State has been in discussions for Andre Iguodala for the past few weeks, without any success. However, by selecting Leonard, they have a chance to bring in a defensive player who may eventually fit in the same role with his energy and length.
12) Jordan Hamilton: Utah needs someone to replace Andrei Kirilenko, and Hamilton is it. He gives the young Jazz a small forward who isn't afraid to shoot with the clock winding down. Without much perimeter scoring, the Jazz will need to draft or sign a wing player with a scoring mentality. If this pick isn't traded, Hamilton may be it.
13) Alec Burks: If someone can name the Suns' starting shooting guard when Vince Carter is let go, I'd be shocked. Burks can score the rock and Phoenix is not known for their defensive intensity. So a player like Markieff Morris will likely be ignored in favor of the better scorer in Burks. Iman Shumpert may also be an option if his stock continues to rise.
14) Marcus Morris: Houston is looking to trade Kevin Martin, and in order to do that, they need to bring back a small forward or center. The Rockets are always looking to compete, so they'll take the ready-made scoring small forward in Morris over a project like Nikola Vucevic, who may contribute down the road at center.
15) Klay Thompson: The Pacers have had Danny Granger on the block for what seems like forever, with Paul George ready to step into the small forward spot. Yet Indiana needs a replacement for George at shooting guard, and Thompson may be it. With George being more of the slashing type, Thompson fulfills the role of shooting on the perimeter. If they don't feel confident in Darren Collison, however, Kemba Walker may land in Indiana.
Expect trades to rule this draft, as players may look to trade up for Donatas Montiejunas, Walker, Vucevic, Marshon Brooks and Shumpert. As weak as this draft may be advertised, there will be serious managerial action during it. The Cavaliers may be the biggest trade partner as they have a trade exception with the fourth pick and are trying to acquire another pick.
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