With a solid week to let the draft dust settle, moves be made and having a better idea of what went into each pick, it’s a good time to analyze, have a little fun and project forward. A lot of what happens in rookies' careers moving forward will depend on how much work they put in, if they can adjust to the league, fit with the team, how they are used and/or if they get dealt.
Based on what we know from each player’s skill set, production and character, we decided to put together a preliminary list of who we think are "most likely to" lead the league in key categories, obscurities and awards.
If you want to know anything about any of the prospects, feel free to click the links on the names or check out our 2011 NBA draft library of profiles. Keep in mind all of these are theoretical, and none of these may actually come to fruition—they are simply the player we think would be most likely to eventually do it in their careers.
That said, SwishScout.com presents "The 2011 NBA Draft Rookies Most Likely To…"
The Bobcats took Walker for a reason, and that reason was to bring someone in who could create offense and flat out score for a team that needs it. Walker’s speed is about as close to unguardable as it gets for a guard, and he should be facing man to man defense this time around instead of double teams.
He may be the focal point of the other team's defense, but he will make it rain from mid-range and get to the rack with good frequency. When his NBA three-point shooting range and accuracy catches up with the rest of his game, watch out.
There aren’t many great distributors in the 2011 draft class, and Irving is about as pure and good as it gets. The new franchise point guard for the Cavs will be expected to create, distribute and run the offense almost immediately. Irving is an unselfish player who can naturally find cutters and open shooters after penetrating defenses and drawing their attention.
Faried has all the tools to be a great rebounder in the NBA, something that translates at any level. He is distinguished by his great length (7’0” wingspan), great leaping ability, natural strength, basketball IQ, physical "banging" style and high motor. Faried is a beast on the boards who can flat out rebound and could eventually be one of the premier glass cleaners in the league.
Believe it or not, with Shumpert’s combination of length (6’10” wingspan), outstanding athleticism and defensive instincts, he just might be able to lead here, in a Knicks offense that raises the tempo and provides more plays per game—meaning more opportunities for steals on the defensive end.
He was brought in to D up, so expect him to take that to heart and do his best to lock down the perimeter. Wasn’t a huge fan of the pick at 17, but Shumpert is an athletic combo guard who can pick pockets, swoop in on passing lanes and did average 2.7 steals in his junior year at Georgia Tech.
A 7’7” wingspan has to count for something, but when you couple that with explosive leaping ability, natural strength and immaculate defensive instincts, then you have one imposing shot-blocker.
A virtual Serge Ibaka clone from when he first came into the league from the Congo, Biyombo has all those gifts and then some with his combination of physical gifts. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in natural ability, and while it may be awhile until we see the true potential of his game, it shouldn’t be long before you see him turning away multiple shots.
Probably the sweetest pure shooting stroke in the entire draft, Thompson can flat out drill the three, even from NBA range. Shot a career 39 percent from NCAA three-point range and lit up defenses with his confident yet steady stroke, thanks to some fundamental shooting mechanics. Golden State loves to let it fly from distance, and there’s no question that Klay is a fit in that regard.
Harris is a gym rat who works tirelessly on his game. While he averaged a solid 15 points and seven rebounds in his freshman season, he has only scratched the surface of his potential. Has solid size, fundamentals, basketball IQ and talent for an NBA forward and will only get better from here on out.
It may take him a while to find his role with the team and learn how to play in the NBA, but when it all clicks for Tobias, he will be a greatly improved player from now to then.
Going under the assumption that Vesely will win out the starting spot (hence being drafted at the sixth slot), Singleton will get a fair amount of time off the bench with his exceptional defensive play. In college, he had to bail out his teammates' blown assignments on D by making a play on them off help defense, but now, he should be able to concentrate on one man for the Wizards and be able to lock them down.
Expect Singleton to get a lot of respect in the league because of what he can do defensively with his length (7’1” wingspan), athleticism, lateral quickness, instincts and ever improving offensively ability to get to the rim and knock down the open shot.
This one seems like an absolute no-brainer, especially after you see this. One of the best pure athletes in the draft because of his explosive leaping ability, Leslie can absolutely throw down on defenders in traffic and add some flair on open floor transition dunks. He has fair competition from the honorable mentioned players below, but Leslie has a fair amount of tricks in his bag and has already stated he wants to participate in the contest this season.
He caught a lot of flack for being a "work out" player who looked good by himself just based on shooting, athleticism and how his body looks—but don’t forget he can play a little bit too. Scotty didn’t ever meet expectations for his five-star prospect status coming into Tennessee, but he has progressed and gotten consistently better during his NCAA career.
He possesses NBA skills shooting the ball and creating with it on occasion, a great build for a guard/forward, incredible athleticism and solid upside. He has a ways to go in terms of basketball IQ, but he could rock the league as a shooter/scorer if given the chance eventually.
Probably the best pure scorer in the draft and the 12th rated prospect on our board, Hamilton got no respect from the teams picking in the first 25 spots. Jordan’s production increased substantially from his freshman to sophomore year as a scorer, shooter and on the defensive end. At 6’9”, he’s a matchup problem for any perimeter player on D with his high release shooting the ball and that skill set.
This may seem like the all too easy choice to a lot of people, but I just don’t get the fit alongside two ball-dominant players in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, and now they expect another ball dominant player to get them the ball. Fredette can stroke it, but he’s used to creating his own shot off the dribble and having it in his hands, so it will be interesting to see how he does running off ball screens and coming off high pick and rolls to get those shots.
I don’t see this being a long-term solution in Sacramento—I just think that 10th may be too high for player who should be coming off the bench, but that’s why you play the game.
Kyrie has all the makings of a franchise PG with his ability to penetrate, create, shoot, distribute, D up and run the offense. He has a bright future in the league and will be given every chance to succeed in Cleveland, so it only makes sense that he will thrive in that kind of environment with his skill set. He’s an intelligent player and a great decision maker who has plenty of potential and time to develop in that situation, so it would be no surprise if he became a perennial All-Star in a few seasons time.
Valanciunas is the boom or bust pick in this draft, and while he has all the tools to be a great player in this league, his style of play right now lacks a lot of the essentials for a big man. He’s young and naturally needs to put on some muscle to his frame, at least a good 10 lbs., to be a "banger."
He needs to develop a reliable face-up jumper and perimeter stroke to pull out the D, as his entire offensive game is at the basket, where he doesn’t really have many post moves at this point. He doesn’t do a great job of getting post position either, so it's something he will have to do a better job of fighting for (adding strength will also help).
Lietuvos Rytas used him to run a lot of high pick-and-rolls then slip to the basket for quick dump off passes near the hoop, but he will be having a much tougher time with that against the better athletes of the NBA. He has a lot of great attributes that could make him a great pro, but a lot of work to do to get there. There are distressing signs in his game (mentioned above) that you would expect from an NBA center, naturally that he doesn’t do at this point, which could set him back.
This would be pretty much the same argument I made for Irving being an All-Star, so I’ll talk about why the honorable mentions will give him some competition for ROY in 2011-12. Walker is the best pure scorer and creator on his team, so expect him to have the ball in hand a lot—we all know putting up points for him is no problem with his break neck speed.
Kanter could get some time in the paint if the Jazz deal one of their talented forwards, and it helps that he’s a true center. I have no questions about his talent, having seen him put up 34 points and 13 rebounds on Jared Sullinger in the ’10 Nike Hoop Summit, but there will be plenty eager to see him play next season.
Derrick Williams is a gamer, and, while I didn’t think he was their best pick with Beasley still aboard at his position, should be more than effective in his minutes. Irving is the clear cut favorite, though, given the situation for him to step in and play, especially if Baron Davis and/or Ramon Sessions get dealt.