NBA: Bold Predictions for All 30 1st-Round Picks in 2011-12 Season
The lockout has really put a damper on any and all NBA conversations. One of the saddest casualties of this mess are the summer leagues in which the rookies would have participated. It was exciting to see a lot of the league's young talent going at it.
Assuming the 2011-12 season isn't cancelled entirely, the regular season may be the first time we get to see the likes of Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving.
With that in mind, it's kind of difficult to predict what kind of impact this rookie class will have. Even still, I'm going to try. Here are some bold predictions for each of the 30 first-rounders' rookie seasons...
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1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
Bold Prediction: Kyrie Irving Will Average Less than Four Assists a Game
Irving was considered the top overall prospect in this year's class for months leading up to the draft, but no one could really offer a decent explanation why.
During his short 11-game stint with Duke last year, he often looked like more of a shoot-first point guard than the kind of distributor he was advertised to be.
I don't think he's good enough to play over Baron Davis or Ramon Sessions, but the team will force him into the rotation because he's the No. 1 pick. Even if they can find a way to get him some minutes, I don't see Irving being very productive as a rookie.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
Bold Prediction: Derrick Williams Won't Start More than 20 Games
This one is completely up in the air right now. Williams' success as a rookie is dependent upon whether or not Minnesota makes any more deals this year. There was a rumor that the team might send Kevin Love to Los Angeles. That would open up a starting spot for Williams.
If the roster stays the same as it is today (or even if just Michael Beasley, Love and Williams all stay), there seems to be no reason to start Williams. Beasley and Love are both very good young players who did more in college than Williams and are proven on this level as well.
3. Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter
Bold Prediction: Enes Kanter Will Play Well Enough to Move Al Jefferson to Power Forward
This is such a "boom or bust" draft class. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Kanter winding up as yet another face in the sea of sub-par NBA centers.
However, Kanter is by most accounts, not a typical overseas big man. He has good measurements, fundamentals and an intense demeanor. He looked good at the NBA's pre-draft camp and some felt he would have been a more dominant freshman big than Ohio State's Jared Sullinger had he been eligible.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson
Bold Prediction: Tristan Thompson Makes Tyrus Thomas Look Like a Good Draft Pick
In 2006, the Chicago Bulls picked up fourth overall selection Tyrus Thomas. The LSU big man was supposed to be an exciting and athletic on offense and dominant on defense. As a rookie, he averaged 5.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. For his career, he's averaging eight points and five rebounds a game.
Thomas's numbers and game in college are eerily similar to what Thompson did for Texas last year. I (right along with countless others) was utterly shocked when the Cavaliers took Thompson with the fourth overall pick.
Players drafted on athleticism and potential rarely pan out. I hope I'm wrong, but I actually see less upside with Thompson than I did with Thomas.
5. Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas
Bold Prediction: Jonas Valanciunas Will Make the Raptors Regret Giving Up on Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani was the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, but hasn't really developed into everything the Raptors expected him to be. That has led to rampant trade rumors involving the Italian center.
While he hasn't really been dominant, I don't see Valanciunas being able to replace the numbers the team would lose if they traded Bargnani (he averaged over 21 points a game last season).
To me, Valanciunas's ceiling is somewhere around 2007 Nenad Krstic.
6. Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely
Bold Prediction: Jan Vesely Will Make Everyone Wonder Why Some Called Him the Czech Blake Griffin
Vesely was advertised as one of the most athletic prospects in this year's draft. Have you seen the guy's highlight reel? Sure, he gets a few dunks in the video but if you look at his feet, he's barely getting off the ground.
Against NBA bodies and competition, Vesely will have a hard time finishing at the rim.
7. Charlotte Bobcats (via Sacramento Kings): Bismack Biyombo
Bold Prediction: Bismack Biyombo Will Play Less than 10 Minutes a Game
I actually think Biyombo will develop into a dominant Ben Wallace-type defender. However, his offensive game is so bad right now that I have a hard time seeing him working his way into Charlotte's rotation.
8. Detroit Pistons: Brandon Knight
Bold Prediction: Brandon Knight Takes Rodney Stuckey's Job
Well considering Stuckey's already shaky job security, this one might not be that bold. Knight has the potential to be the best true point guard in this class.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker
Bold Prediction: Kemba Walker Will Win Rookie of the Year
Because of his confidence and the situation he's in, I see Kemba walking away with the award honoring the league's best rookie.
D.J. Augustin did a solid job in his first year as the full-time starter, but Walker may have his job a month or two into the season.
10. Sacramento Kings (via Milwaukee Bucks): Jimmer Fredette
Bold Prediction: Jimmer Fredette Will Average Over 20 Points per 36 Minutes
He may only put up eight or nine points a game, but that will have next to nothing to do with his ability to produce. Fredette was a pick the owners pushed and coaches weren't sold on. Having to win over his coaches in year one is a big hurdle.
The reasons for Jimmer not playing a ton of minutes will be varied. Obviously, plenty of people will go straight to the token, nebulous criticism leveled at every white American guard: lacks lateral quickness, not athletic enough, can't defend, etc.
Another reason will be the more legitimate issue of the ball-dominating Jimmer coexisting with fellow shoot-first guards Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. Throw in a volatile big man with an attitude of entitlement in DeMarcus Cousins, and it's hard to see Jimmer developing any chemistry with this team.
11. Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson
Bold Prediction: Klay Thompson Will Not Be as Effective as Reggie Williams
Thompson averaged a decent amount of points in the Pac-10 with Washington State, but doesn't look like anything more than the next Martell Webster to me.
The Warriors already have a solid 6'6" wing in Reggie Williams who's proven he can be a very effective scorer and long-range shooter. He averaged over 15 a game as an undrafted rookie in 2010 and pitched in a solid 9.2 a game in his first full season this past year. For his career, he's 41 percent from downtown.
12. Utah Jazz: Alec Burks
Bold Prediction: Alec Burks Will Hit Less than 25 Percent of His Three-Point Attempts
This is another one that may not be so bold. The Burks pick made some sense for Utah, but they were unable to address a major need in this draft (outside shooting).
They were one of the worst perimeter teams in the league last year, and this shooting guard won't help solve that problem. He hit 29 percent of his attempts from behind the college three-point line last year (that'll be a mid-range shot in the NBA).
Unless he makes major strides with his shot this summer, he's going to struggle to score at the next level. It's hard for one-dimensional scorers to be effective.
13. Phoenix Suns: Markieff Morris
Bold Prediction: Markieff Morris Will Break Phoenix's Streak of Drafting Players Who Aren't as Good as Their Brothers
Over the last few years, the Suns have employed Blake Griffin's brother Taylor and Brook Lopez's brother Robin. Those picks didn't work out and I'm afraid this one may struggle as well.
Markieff does have a chance to break Phoenix's curse though. Like every other player in this year's draft class, both Morris brothers are "boom or bust" selections. Markieff is the better rebounder and defender and hit a better percentage of his threes, so maybe he will translate to the next level better than Marcus.
14. Houston Rockets: Marcus Morris
Bold Prediction: Marcus Morris's Rookie Year Will Look Just Like Patrick Patterson's
For the second year in a row, the Houston Rockets have drafted a power forward (not a position of need) with the 14th overall pick.
A lot of people thought Patterson would be a nice pickup, but with all the power forwards Houston already had, he couldn't crack the rotation. Now, he's another one in front of Marcus Morris.
I would be pretty surprised if Morris's rookie numbers end up being better than Patterson's 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
15. San Antonio Spurs (via Indiana Pacers): Kawhi Leonard
Bold Prediction: Kawhi Leonard Will Take Richard Jefferson's Job
San Antonio may have pulled off the steal of the draft when they landed Leonard. His game (non-stop motor) makes him a perfect fit for Gregg Popovich's squad.
He's an elite rebounder for a small forward (think Shawn Marion in Phoenix) and may lead the Spurs in that department as early as his second season.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Nikola Vucevic
Bold Prediction: Nikola Vucevic Will Have a Better Rookie Year than Any Center Taken Before Him
Vucevic is in a better situation than Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas. He's headed to a team that could really use a solid true center (though I don't personally think Spencer Hawes got enough of a chance or time).
Doug Collins obviously wasn't sold on Hawes last year and Vucevic could take his spot. He averaged 17 and 10 for USC last year and is a legitimate seven-footer. I think he may be this year's first-round sleeper.
17. New York Knicks: Iman Shumpert
Bold Prediction: Iman Shumpert Will Be New York's Starting Point Guard After the All-Star Break
Most of the predictions on this slideshow have either been lukewarm or not bold at all. This one's real bold.
The only prospect this year that might be more athletic than Shumpert is Isaiah Thomas. That will help him be perhaps the best defender in this year's crop of rookies. It will also help him break down defenders, get into the lane and distribute the ball.
He needs to do a lot of work on his outside shooting to become a really effective D'Antoni-style point guard, but he brings some things to the table that Steve Nash never did.
Even if he's not totally ready for the role from an offensive standpoint next year, the versatility, defensive prowess and size (6'6" and 6'7") of a Shumpert and Landry Fields backcourt is intriguing to say the least.
And if he does play well enough to start, the Knicks could move Chauncey Billups and his expiring contract for a defensive-minded big man.
18. Washington Wizards: Chris Singleton
Bold Prediction: Chris Singleton Will Have a Less Productive Rookie Year than Corey Brewer
Singleton has been sold as the best defender in this draft. The problem is, he doesn't really do anything else.
Corey Brewer averaged 5.8 points and 3.7 rebounds a game as a rookie. I'm thinking the Wizards small forward may put up even less.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Charlotte Bobcats): Tobias Harris
Bold Prediction: Tobias Harris Will Be in a Suit for at Least 30 Games
Harris is the youngest player in this year's class and doesn't really have any one skill he's great at. It will take him a few years to develop into a productive player (if he ever does).
For now, he'll have to learn from the bench and at practice.
20. Houston Rockets (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Donatas Motiejunas
Bold Prediction: Donatas Motiejunas Will Average Three Points a Game as a Rookie
His rookie year won't actually take place for a few years (he'll spent some more time overseas). Whenever Motiejunas comes over, I see him joining the group of overseas first-rounders who never panned out.
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Nolan Smith
Bold Prediction: Nolan Smith Will Have the Same Impact Jerryd Bayless Had as a Rookie
I think Smith is one of the most underrated players in this year's class, but he's headed to a bad situation for himself in Portland.
The fit is really bad. Smith can play both guard positions but the Blazers already have Raymond Felton and Patty Mills at point guard and Wesley Matthews and Brandon Roy at shooting guard.
Portland picked up another combo guard in the 2008 draft in Jerryd Bayless. He had plenty of people ahead of him on the depth chart as well. His average of four points over 53 games may not be far off of what Smith will do.
22. Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried
Bold Prediction: Kenneth Faried Will Average 10 Rebounds a Game
If the Nuggets do the smart thing and let Kenyon Martin leave in free agency, Faried may be Denver's starting power forward.
He's by far the best rebounder in this year's class and his tenacity and instincts will instantly translate to the NBA.
23. Chicago Bulls (via Minnesota from Houston): Nikola Mirotic
Bold Prediction: Nikola Mirotic Will be the Next Linas Kleiza
Mirotic could be a decent NBA player, but he won't make Bulls fans forget that the team didn't even take a chance on a shooting guard in this draft.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Jackson
Bold Prediction: Reggie Jackson Will Screw Up the Already Fragile Thunder Chemistry
Oklahoma City made the worst selection of this year's draft when they took Jackson. They already have a shoot-first guard that cost them a shot at last season's Finals.
Adding yet another ball-stopper was the last thing they needed (why didn't they get a backup small forward!?).
25. New Jersey Nets (via Boston Celtics): Marshon Brooks
Bold Prediction: Marshon Brooks Will Average More Points than Klay Thompson and Alec Burks
There were only three true shooting guards taken in the first round of this year's draft. Brooks may have heard his name last out of the three, but he'll be the most effective.
He's in the best situation, he's the best all-around scorer, and he's playing with a point guard that makes everyone around him much better.
26. Denver Nuggets (via Dallas Mavericks): Jordan Hamilton
Bold Prediction: Jordan Hamilton Will Average Over 10 Points a Game
A lot of people were confused about the Nuggets acquisition of Hamilton on draft night. He's an intriguing wing, but Denver already has Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler. How will he ever be able to crack the rotation with all those guys ahead of him?
There's another way to look at it too. Perhaps picking up Hamilton signalizes that Denver may be willing to let Smith and Chandler go in free agency this summer.
If that happens, Hamilton could backup both Afflalo and Gallinari.
27. Boston Celtics (via New Jersey Nets): JaJuan Johnson
Bold Prediction: JaJuan Johnson Will Be More Effective than Glen Davis
Johnson was another vastly underrated prospect this year. It's very strange that a 6'10", very athletic forward who averaged 21 and nine in the Big 10 was a first-round bubble pick.
This stigma that college seniors have is stupid.
28. Miami Heat (from Minnesota Via Chicago): Norris Cole
Bold Prediction: Norris Cole Will Stabilize Miami's Point Guard Situation
In my heart of hearts, I'm thinking Miami's point guard position will be just as much of a mess as it was with Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo last year.
But this is about bold predictions, right? So with that in mind, I'll say that Cole will hit it off with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and all will be well for the self-indulgent kings of the basketball universe.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Cory Joseph
Bold Prediction: Cory Joseph's Play Will Pave the Way for a Tony Parker Trade
OK, this goes way past bold and into stupid territory. Cory Joseph was a wild pick for the Spurs, but they rarely mess up in the draft. So what do I know?
I do still think there's a good chance of Parker being moved, but not because Joseph is ready to light up the NBA.
30. Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler
Bold Prediction: Jimmy Butler Will Make it Possible for the Bulls to Get Dwight Howard
Now I'm way off in left field. Everyone's seeing the best center in the league in Los Angeles, but I think Chicago can put together a decent offer for him.
Luol Deng (expendable with Butler in place?), Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and draft picks, for Dwight Howard and Quentin Richardson works under the current CBA.
Crazier things have happened, right?
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