NBA Draft 2011: The Best First-Round Fit for Each Team
NBA Draft 2011: The NBA Draft is still over 140 days away and there is plenty that can happen between then and now. But we should take the opportunity to take note of the top players in the country.
These are the players that will have the most to gain as we head into the thick of college basketball season. The next NBA stars will be found in this list of gems.
Keep in mind a few things.
There is no telling who will be a lottery team or what the order will be. Who knows? Maybe the Cavaliers get better in the next few weeks. OK, I will stop with the ridiculous banter.
There are also a few teams that do not have a pick in the first round. Let us part with these formalities.
This list is all about two things: Who are the best players to make the jump to the NBA this year and what are each team's needs?
With out further adieu, let's mock this joint.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Perry Jones PF Baylor
The Cavaliers need help at every position. They would draft a whole new franchise if it were possible. The best all-around player with tremendous upside is Perry Jones.
The kid is 6'10" and still growing. He is a huge forward who can handle the rock like a guard; he has Lamar Odom skills with a true power forward body.
His knock has been that he passes off too early and often in Baylor's system. But that does not mean he is not a scorer.
Jones can hit from anywhere on the floor. He does not have the hype of being LeBron James II. But he is skilled. That is more than I can say about the current lot in Cleveland.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Terrence Jones SF Kentucky
Allow me to extrapolate the inevitable: Jones has slowly been climbing the charts of mock drafts this season. He is clearly a top-10 pick who will only get better.
He is proving that he has no issue scoring but, more importantly, he is playing hard. Jones had the stigma of being a soft player going into 2010. Now he is a leader the Wildcats can rely on.
Imagine grooming a player with that skill set as he comes off the bench for Michael Beasley. I initially thought Minnesota could do well taking Enes Kanter, but they already threw the kitchen sink at Darko Milicic.
3. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes SF North Carolina
The Kings are in need of a great many things. You can even count a stadium as one of them. The team that once had 20-point-a-night wunderkind Kevin Martin will be in the market for a baller that can shoot.
Barnes has a high basketball IQ and has no issues learning a new system, which will make his NBA transition all the easier.
But the one thing I like about him is his shooting. He is deadly from 20 feet on in but he has to work on his consistency beyond that. He would do well to hog the ball a little more. As it is, scouts are questioning his killer instinct.
They need more Kobe and less Lamar.
4. Toronto Raptors: Jared Sullinger PF Ohio State
The Raptors have been missing something in recent years: grit. They don't have an explosive player that is willing to do the little things to win. That may be because winning is always an uneasy proposition in Toronto.
Sullinger is an old-school power forward. He rebounds a ton and he is not afraid to bang with anyone on the inside.
He may be a tad small for his position, but then again so was Charles Barkley. Sullinger will have to find a consistent shot before we can legitimately make that comparison.
5. Washington Wizards: Enes Kanter C Turkey
It is doubtful the JaVale McGee can remain as your starting center and still be successful. It is a good thing Enes Kanter will be available come draft time.
The Turkish center has tried and failed for the last time to become eligible to play in college. But that has not deterred scouts from claiming Kanter as a top five pick.
Kanter is a bit of a departure from most European players. He is a bit undersized but does not mind shaking things up inside.
He is a scoring center that likes contact. Think Vlade Divac with a spine.
6. New Jersey Nets: Derrick Williams: SF Arizona
The Nets may have lost out on Carmelo Anthony, but help could be on the way. The cost would be far less as well.
Williams is not the prolific scorer that Melo is but then again, who is? What Williams does give you is a solid small forward who can drain buckets from almost anywhere on the floor.
He is having a great season so far at Arizona. His knock is that he is a bit of an in-betweener—he may be too small for a forward and too long for a guard.
But that fits perfect for the Nets which could use both positions.
7. Detroit Pistons: Kyrie Irving PG Duke
It is clear that the Rodney Stuckey and Tracy McGrady tandem will only be a one-season thing. That is, I hope for Pistons fan's sake it is.
Irving and Stuckey in the backcourt may not be a landslide victory, but the Pistons need talent and Irving is it.
Irving is a point guard who has no problems scoring. More than that, he is a lock-down defender—it reminds me of the classic sensibilities of Detroit Pistons basketball.
Maybe now the Pistons can actually stop some teams from scoring.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Hamilton SF Texas
The Clippers are actually making strides to make fans believe they are actually an NBA team. The only thing left is depth and a small forward worth his salt.
What Hamilton does well would be a blessing to the run-and-gun Clippers. He runs very well in the open court and has excellent court vision. His passing seems to be improving with every game and soon those Blake Griffin alley-oops will come from the wing.
Hamilton is a quick agile scorer. He is another Clippers highlight waiting to happen.
9. Indiana Pacers: Jan Vesely PF Czech Republic
Jan is a perfect fit for the Pacers. They can stand to use some toughness out of the position. Some scoring wouldn't hurt either.
Jan needs some work, but that is perfect as he can come off the bench behind Tyler Hansbrough while he works the kinks out. I liken his play to Dirk Nowitzki's.
He is a tall forward with a three-point shot. He needs to work on his back-to-the-basket moves but he can finish at the rim like no one.
The Pacers are doing well as they slowly fill their roster with young talent and Vesely could be that missing link to offensive production.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Kemba Walker PG Connecticutt
The Bucks really should not be drafting this high, but the team that should be battling for postseason position has fallen on tough times. I think they just need a great point guard.
The one knock on Walker is that he is too quick to shoot. That may be because he is the best player on his team, but having NBA personnel surround you on the court may change some things.
But you have to like his athleticism. Walker is quick to the bucket and deadly from the perimeter. Think John Wall without the passing acumen.
The NBA will have another guard that can blow up for 20 a night in Walker.
The Bucks will thank their lucky stars if they nab him.
11. Golden State Warriors: Jonas Valanciunas PF Lithuania
The Golden State Warriors are on the right track. They can score with the best teams in the league. Now they have to add depth and an inside presence on defense.
Jonas may not be a prolific scorer, but the Warriors hardly need one. What Jonas gives you is a tall presence in the middle that can shot block at a fantastic clip.
The best part is he runs extremely well for a big man.
All of this has to make the Warriors giggle with glee at the possibility of actually keeping a team to under 100 points.
12. Houston Rockets: Donatas Motiejunas PF Lithuania
The international love-fest continues. The Rockets' days with Yao Ming at Center are numbered and there is no true center worth the time and effort at this pick.
The best big man is Donatas Motiejunas. His real issue is size—he is much too skinny to bang with the bigs of the league and needs to put on a few dozen pounds to be a real force.
But then again, Shawn Bradley carved out a nice little career for himself.
Donatas would give the Rockets a big man inside that can score around the rim. That is something they could be missing from here on out with Yao's absence.
13. Phoenix Suns: Jimmer Fredette PG BYU
Why not? The comparisons to Steve Nash's shooting style are ubiquitous, why not just interchange the two guards?
Nash is in his final days in an NBA uniform. He will need to transition with another point guard to take on some minutes in the next couple of seasons. What better guard to do that than Jimmer?
Jimmer has the scoring touch to make it in the NBA. The only thing that will keep him from being a star is his defense, as he lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with the better guards in the Association.
The Suns would have a liability on defense. Seeing as how they play little of that portion of the game now, it should not be an issue.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Brandon Knight PG Kentucky
Mike Conley is handling his own in Memphis, but Brandon Knight has the making of something special. There is a very real possibility that the young point guard could go much higher than this. We will have to wait and see how the next couple of months pan out.
Knight is everything you want in a court general. He is a great passer and understands the intricacies of the position and is also a fine scorer.
He will have no trouble getting to the rim in the NBA with his dribbling and speed. There is a lot to like about Knight.
The Grizzlies will hardly miss O.J. Mayo's number with Knight coming off the bench.
15. Charlotte Bobcats: Kawhi Leonard SF San Diego State
The Bobcats are making great strides in putting together a solid team from castoffs. Boris Diaw is an underrated player who gives the team great ability in his defensive presence, but the man needs some help.
Enter Kawhi Leonard.
The kid is a highlight reel waiting to happen. The Bobcats could use a player to jazz up the arena and sell some seats and Leonard fits the bill as a dynamic leaper who can also defend.
He is a work in progress, which is perfect for Charlotte. Seeing as how nobody watches their games anyway, Leonard has plenty of time to grow and mature.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: John Henson PF North Carolina
John Henson is a little bit of a project coming into the NBA—he needs to add a great deal of bulk and his outside shot could also use some polishing.
That is perfect for the 76ers. With Elton Brand in tow for the time being, Henson can get some much needed tutelage at the next level. Let's just hope that he doesn't follow in Brand's footsteps.
The best part of Henson is his defense. He is a great shot blocker that uses his wing span to his advantage.
Philadelphia will enjoy getting a much needed boost in the rebound department as well.
17. New York Knicks: Mason Plumlee PF Duke
The Knicks can go ahead and slot their next small forward as Carmelo Anthony. The worst kept secret in the business is that he wants to marry himself to the Knicks.
With him and Amar'e running the floor, there is little hope for anyone else to get a shot. Mason fits in nicely. He has a solid 15-footer that falls with regularity. Aside form that, he is all hustle and defense.
Plumlee is a great rebounder and adept at passing the ball. He has no qualms about putting the ball on the hardwood if need be. He is, in a sense, a mobile big man that will one day learn to score around the rim.
The Knicks could do much worse than Plumlee.
18. Portland Trailblazers: Josh Selby PG Kansas
The Blazers are on the hook for $7 million for Andre Miller this season. They have the same amount next season but may wish to exercise a team option. There is no telling what evils the new CBA will bring. If that is the case, the Blazers will need some depth at point guard.
One player that could make great strides in improving his stock is Josh Selby. If Selby continues to improve, he could very well crack the top 10.
He is not your prototypical pass-first point guard. He does not as of yet have a polished jumper—he gets production off his ability to penetrate and break down the defense.
He is another Russell Westbrook waiting to happen.
19. Utah Jazz: Marcus Morris PF Kansas
The Jazz could very well be without the focal point of the post-game next season as Paul Millsap could be a free agent at the start of next season.
This means Jerry Sloan will be clamoring for a big man to fill that hole.
Walker is an undersized power forward that is using his athletic ability and hustle to make up for height. He can rebound and shoot. But it is his workhorse mentality and desire to improve that caught my eye.
That sort of ethic goes a long way in the Jerry Sloan era of Utah Jazz basketball.
20. Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried PF Morehead State
There is no telling what travesty will soon befall the Nuggets. The only certainty is that they will be without the services of one of the best players in the league.
They will have to pull a trigger on a trade soon. What they get back in that trade remains a mystery. Until then, I give them the best talent on the board remaining.
Faried does not have a prolific offensive presence yet. But watching just one of his games gives you the impression that this kid is going to be good. He can jump out of the building and rebounds at a nation-leading clip.
He offers solid defense and the faith that the scoring will come in due time.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Trey Thompkins PF Georgia
Trey Thompkins is a bit of a gamble.
He could be a fine NBA player but he has struggled with conditioning. That will send a red flag to NBA general managers. If Trey can prove otherwise, he is a steal this late in the draft.
Thompkins is a great rebounder who can function inside or out as his range can take him behind the three-point line.
The best part is the Hawks can keep Al Horford at center and dispense with the dead weight known as Jason Collins.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Leslie PF NC State
The Thunder have settled on a style of play that gets out in the open court and punishes teams that turn the ball over. They have a bevy of players that can run the court well and finish at the rim.
Here is one more player destined for that style of play. Leslie has taken some heat for taking plays off but that can be ingrained at the next level. The real plus is his otherworldly athletic ability.
Having him on the court at the same time as Jeff Green would give the Thunder some production when Nenad Krstic needs a rest.
23. Orlando Magic: Tristan Thompson PF Texas
The Magic have reloaded their roster with enough scoring to last a lifetime—just as soon as Gilbert Arenas remembers how to find the basket.
What the Magic really need is a presence down low to coincide with Dwight Howard. Tristan has not yet found his shooting touch, but in that lineup, he doesn't have to.
What he does bring is defense.
He has a huge wingspan that gets to rebounds and those wishing to drive to the hoop. With him and Howard underneath, teams will find it very difficult to drive and come away unscathed.
24. Dallas Mavericks: Chris Singleton SF Florida State
The Mavericks have found what life is like without Caron Butler. There is no telling who will be his backup going into next season.
In Singleton you get an NBA project with a tremendous amount of upside. He can drive and finish with the best of them. He does not possess a consistent scoring touch, but as we all learned with Caron Butler, that will come.
Singleton stretches the floor as he can hit from three-point range. He needs to work on hitting that with some regularity. The Mavericks are stacked. This will buy Singleton some time to evolve his game.
25. New Orleans Hornets: Kyle Singler SF Duke
Kyle Singler is somewhat of a mystery.
There is a lot to like about his overall talent. He just has not put together a string of games that would amaze NBA scouts. His draft status looms on the success he finds the rest of the season.
He is a basketball player with a great head for the game. He is a point-forward that handles the ball well and Singler is unselfish almost to a fault.
If he can work on his low-post game, he could be a threat from anywhere on the court.
26. Chicago Bulls: Alec Burks SG Colorado
Alec Burks is a prototypical two guard: He can score with abandon. Burks has no issues running the floor and he can drive to the bucket in an instant.
He needs to improve his outside shot however. As it stands, he is a 35 percent three-point shooter. He will need to show he can shoot with more consistency to make a mark at the next level.
Other than that, he has the ability to put a ton of points on the board.
That would be a blessing as the Bulls get little-to-no help from that position as is. The Bulls will be in the market this offseason for scoring. Burks would be a cheap way to fill that need.
27. Miami Heat: Patric Young C Florida
Patric Young is yet to hit his stride. He is a young explosive talent that needs some time to find his scoring touch.
This does not mean scouts are not enamored with his skill-set—he has the body to do some damage down low.
The biggest plus he gives the Heat is rebounding. The team is forced to corral its efforts when the likes of Joel Anthony takes the floor. This is what Young excels at currently.
He is a great defensive presence that does not mind doing the dirty work to clean up the boards. The Heat are desperate for some depth down low. Young could be the answer.
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Lucas Nogueira C Brazil
Lucas Nogueira will have to be a long-term project for whichever team takes him in the draft. He has the height to make it in the NBA, he just needs the bulk.
But at 18, he is already a top rebounder and significant presence defensively.
The Lakers are very slim on the inside after Pau and Bynum. They have also proved they have no qualms about taking their chances on a project.
There is always the hope they will find the next Andrew Bynum looming where no one is looking.
29. Boston Celtics: Thomas Robinson PF Kansas
At this point in the draft, teams are not looking for talent that will start the next season. They are looking at talent that will bloom into role players that can help the team down the road.
Robinson will need a couple of seasons in the NBA before he finds his scoring touch. But his talents are perfect for the Celtics.
His body is already that of an NBA player. He is a brute that can bang inside.
Best of all, he is one of the better defensive forwards in the draft. We all know how much the Celtics love their defense.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Tyler Zeller C North Carolina
If things keep going this way, the Spurs could find themselves with a title and the last pick of the first round.
The pick here has to be for size. It has become ever more difficult to find a center that can handle his own in the league.
Tyler Zeller has the tools to carve a nice little niche for himself. He needs to gain some weight to matter on the defensive end, but he has great hands and can score with some pristine touches around the basket.
He reminds me of a European player in that regard. Some may see him as soft coming in. I will go ahead and call him a finesse player.