2011 NBA Mock Draft: Kyrie Irving and Other Smart Picks for Each Lottery Team
Every year, we fans dream of bright futures for "our teams."
We dream of: selfless point guards who make anybody look good; quality shooting guards who provide that off-the-ball outside threat; thrashing small forwards who spread the floor and create opportunities; explosive power forwards who wear down opponents with their incredible athleticism; dominant centers who demand respect and control the paint; and hybrid prospects who possess more than one of these traits.
We look for that star player who can instantly change our franchise. Sadly, such players are rare and usually out of reach. When draft day comes around, smart teams draft based on their needs—not popular consensus. This is, of course, because you can't always believe the hype.
No team can worry about drafting the next Jordan; even "His Airness" wasn't picked first. Each team must draft players according to their specific needs. After all, Jordan won six championships spanning 14 seasons.
That left eight championship titles to other competitive franchises. At the end of the day, great teams win championships and great players win individual accolades.
The following slides are meant to highlight what I feel each team's weaknesses are, and what picks are smartest for each team out of the given options.
The draft order here is based solely on team record. Even though team draft positions may change, I've specified each team's weaknesses and likely thought-process, narrowing down their selection.
If a team doesn't land a particular pick, each slide will provide the general area in which that team would look to fix, and hopefully give an idea as to what alternative moves would be made.
Derrick Williams or Kyrie Irving—that seems to be the question.
Derrick? Well the Wolves small forward Michael Beasley is having a great year, so bringing in Derrick Williams would create a little tension on the roster.
Kyrie? Now the Wolves do own the rights to Ricky Rubio, but will he actually play for them?
I'd go with Kyrie. This would be a sure thing for Minnesota. If Rubio doesn't come to the NBA, then Minnesota will have a star point guard in Kyrie. If Rubio does come, then they have options at point guard and one could be trade bait.
If the Wolves pick Williams, they could trade either Williams or Beasley next year for something nice, but would they get anything equal to what Irving or Rubio could fetch?
If the Wolves end up with both Irving and Rubio, they could possibly trade one to L.A. for Bynum. Bynum's relationship with the Lakers has been shaky, and LA is rumored to be looking towards acquiring Dwight Howard or Nene.
L.A. is also in need of a young star point guard. Irving could give them just that. Or Rubio could inspire his fellow Spanish star, Pau Gasol, to be more aggressive and consistent. And the Wolves get a top-five big man.
Kyrie Irving, and trade Rubio for some experienced talent.
Cleveland has a lot of work to do. They lack a quality center, small forward and shooting guard. Above all, they lack a true star. If the Cavs get the first pick, this is a hard one...Derrick or Kyrie? If they get the second pick, then this should be easy.
The best bet for Cleveland would be picking Derrick Williams. With Baron Davis under contract for a couple more years, they have time to find a replacement point guard. Baron is still more than capable of making his teammates shine. Not sure I have much faith in Ramon Sessions. Who knows—maybe they can find a quality point guard at their next pick.
Some scouts project Derrick Williams as a power forward at the next level. With his inside and outside game, he could be a deadly wing player. Play Williams at small forward, and with his size advantage at the position he would be their replacement to LeBron, with less of an ego.
The Raptors have a great offensive presence in their center, Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani is young and holds his own in the paint at 7'0" and 250 pounds. He is averaging 21 points a game in the absence of the Raptors' former star player, Chris Bosh, who left Toronto for Miami last summer.
Bargnani has no problem picking up the slack offensively, but his rebound and block percentages have dropped some. He needs help in the frontcourt. Some believe the answer will be finding a center in free agency, but the reality is not many marquee players think of Toronto as an attractive franchise.
Others suspect that the Raptors will grab the first of a handful of international prospects in the draft. Jonas Valanciunas (pictured left) and Enes Kanter (pictured right) are at the top of that list. While both are evenly matched and Kanter is more of a media favorite, I believe Valanciunas is a better fit.
Kanter has the better offensive game, although Valanciunas is the longer of the two. Bargnani's outside game limits his rebounding capabilities, being so far from the hoop. Kanter has the same range, which doesn't help the Raptors. What's needed is a long power forward who can attack the glass when Bargnani is on the perimeter. Valanciunas is comfortable playing the post.
He has an aggressive "attack the basket" mentality, which leads him to the foul line more often than not. He is a high-percentage free-throw shooter as well. He just needs to put more muscle on his frame, but 19-year-olds can add muscle faster than 40-year-olds add fat (that's pretty fast).
Jonas Valanciunas' inside attack and hustle coupled with Bargnani's outside game may develop into a well-balanced frontline.
The Wizards are far from set in the frontcourt, and small forward is an obvious weakness in their lineup. I see them either picking Terrence Jones or Enes Kanter. Kanter has expressed that he would prefer to play power forward rather than center, and he would fit nicely at the 4 spot.
Andray Blatche has done well, but Kanter could be a star. Kanter has the outside game and enough inside muscle to complement Mcgee.
Some scouts are projecting Terrence Jones as a power forward in the NBA. Though Jones has a muscular build and may very well develop into an explosive power forward, I believe he fits better at the small forward position.
If I were to draft Jones, I would play him at small forward, and maybe in four years if he develops a low-post player's body I might put him into those rotations. But I expect his success to be at the small forward position.
Jones would be a nice addition to the Wiz. He and Wall could make a good combination, maybe becoming the East Coast "Sonic Boom" (Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp alley-oop duo).
Although there will be plenty of quality small forwards to bid on in free agency (Wilson Chandler, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Green, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince...), the Wizards could also pick up a decent small forward at the 18th pick.
Kanter and McGee could make a premier frontcourt.
The Sacramento Kings have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.
Some mock drafts have Sacramento picking Enes Kanter. This baffles me, since the Kings have DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. I doubt they would inject any more youth in their frontcourt.
The Kings moved Cousins to power forward, where they found he fits best. Dalembert's length was a great pairing for Cousins. Jason Thompson has Dalembert's length with a youngster's energy and attitude. This leads me to believe that with Dalembert's contract up, Thompson's fourth season in the NBA will be as a full-time starter.
The Kings have a hole to fill at small forward. Additionally, they lack a true point guard. As with the previous slides, I have come down to the top two options for this team. As for this slide, I have no true favorite; I'm split down the middle.
Terrence Jones would fit this roster perfectly. There isn't much I need to say about Jones that hasn't already been said. I will add that those who doubt Jones' mental toughness are in for a surprise—he is a natural leader. This leadership quality could be the rock that grounds these young Kings.
Brandon Knight, in my opinion, has the surest future in the NBA. I may be wrong putting Knight before Walker, but I see him as a better fit here. Knight is evenly talented on both offense and defense.
His talent, confidence, build and intelligence will put him amongst the elite. He just led the Wildcats to the Final Four as a freshman. With his skill set and being only 18 years old, expect his game to develop fast at the next level. Picking up Knight would tie Sacramento's offense together.
If I had to pick right now...
Let's face it: The Jazz didn't trade away Deron Williams believing Devin Harris to be an adequate replacement. They acquired a backup forward in Derrick Favors, and a couple draft picks as well.
With this first draft pick, the Jazz would be best off picking a star point guard. I threw in Brandon Knight for the conversation in the case that Sacramento didn't pick him up. Even though I'm more confident in Knight's future at the next level, I see Kemba Walker as the better fit for Utah.
Kemba's confidence and leadership would shape Utah's new identity. His speed and athleticism, a la Derrick Rose, would be a nice change of pace in Utah.
His speed also could be used very effectively off of a screen from Jefferson or Millsap and if the lane closes up on him, expect his drive to evolve into a give-and-go with his big men—dawning a new age of Utah Jazz "pick and rolls."
The Detroit Pistons have the seventh-worst record in the NBA.
The Pistons have some serious decisions to make this summer. Next season, Detroit could look completely different. Four veterans are not expected to return next season. Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady's contracts are expiring.
Ben Wallace is contemplating retirement. Trading Richard Hamilton is considered a top priority. Also, head coach John Kuester looks like he's out of a job.
The Pistons are set at center with Greg Monroe. Power forward Jonas Jarebko has reportedly recovered from surgery, and should be their starting power forward next season. Villanueva, if only due to his contract, will likely be Jarebko's backup.
Detroit seems ready to move forward with Ben Gordon as their shooting guard. Now as for point guard, some believe they should let go of Stuckey and pick up a lead guard in the draft. I see them keeping Stuckey after letting go of coach Kuester. Stuckey may become this team's leader once their veterans go.
This leaves a hole to fill at small forward with Tayshaun gone. If Terrence Jones (pictured right) falls to the Pistons they should grab him. Jones would be a welcomed star on the Pistons.
A star role would most likely force Jones to develop his shot sooner than later. He has the ability to knock down the long ball, and with a star role, he should become more consistent. Jones has been compared to Lamar Odom, due to his ball-handling skills. His 7'3" wingspan would come in handy also.
On the other hand, Kawhi Leonard (pictured left) would be a great addition. He may not have the potential star quality of Terrence Jones, but his all-around game is invaluable. This man's hustle is amazing, and he can score outside and in. Don't forget this small forward pulled down 10.6 rebounds per game this year and 9.9 per game last year.
It's a split, but Detroit needs a star. If Jones is available, his strength and size could push him over the edge.
There are no NBA-ready starting centers in this year's draft. They could pick up a project big man or two with their two second-round picks. Cleveland could also grab a center from free agency. With their second lottery pick, the Cavs need to pick up a point guard who can be the future of their franchise.
Everyone seems to have forgotten about Nolan Smith. If he stays under the radar come draft day, the Cavs would be wise to pick him up.
Everyone is in love with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. I myself have him going No. 1, although only because I don't see him falling out of the spotlight.
Don't forget Nolan led Duke while Kyrie was injured most of the season. Don't forget Nolan won a NCAA title with Duke last year. Don't forget Nolan is a mature senior and his game has been consistently improving year to year.
He also has averaged 5.1 assists per game this season; that's more than Kyrie Irving (4.3), Brandon Knight (4.2) and Kemba Walker (4.5). What's more is he's humble enough to let the next man shine (example: Kyrie).
I had to put this video in. You cannot deny this kid's crossover.
The Bobcats are another team whose roster needs an overhaul. Stephen Jackson is 33 years old and he is their top scorer, putting up 18 points per game. That's not a good sign. They need help all around. I don't see Charlotte picking up a small forward to replace Jackson.
I suspect team owner Michael Jordan wants to try to get Harrison Barnes in next year's draft. One positive for this team is that they will be freeing up a lot of cap space this summer. Jordan is rumored to be ready to spend the money necessary to sign star players.
Hopefully, for Charlotte fans, Jordan is able to acquire quality free agents this summer to fill key roles. He may save cap space for 2012's free agency.
The Bobcats' biggest problems are their post positions. There are no game-changing centers in this draft class—at least none with an immediate impact—so an NBA-ready power forward should be their focus.
An offensive-minded power forward with the size and length to compete in the NBA is what Charlotte needs. One of the Morris twins would give the Bobcats some size on the block and an instant offensive impact. The Bobcats could pick up a project center with the 19th pick.
Markieff Morris has the size to bang in the post, standing 6'10" and weighing 245 pounds. Markieff is an athletic big man with a solid jumper, shooting 42.4 percent from behind the arc and 58.9 percent overall.
He also has some of the length the Bobcats need. Markieff pulled down 8.3 rebounds per game this season and blocked 1.1 shots per game on average. Markieff had better averages than his brother Marcus in every category other than points.
Marcus' higher scoring average is simply a result of the Kansas offense moving through Marcus more than Markieff. While Markieff made a bigger mark on defense at Kansas, the Bobcats will need his offensive game. Expect him to contribute early and often on the offensive end.
With the team rebuilding over the next two years, Markieff will have the time to refine his game and develop into a top power forward.
Markieff Morris (No. 21 pictured right).
The Milwaukee Bucks have the 10th-worst record in the NBA.
The Bucks have one of the most dominant big men in the league, Andrew Bogut. Second-year point guard Brandon Jennings is developing well. Carlos Delfino seems to have won his spot at starting small forward, with Corey Maggette their to back him up. Rookie power forward Larry Sanders is looking at a starting role next season.
Overall, this roster isn't bad. The two weakest areas are shooting guard and backup center. With Michael Redd's contract expiring, plus Earl Boykins and a little more dead weight, the Bucks will have over $20 million coming off the books. Whether the Bucks can use that cap space to fill their needs through free agency or not is uncertain.
If the Bucks can pick up a star shooting guard in free agency (J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Nick Young), then they may want to add some depth to their frontcourt. Donatas Motiejunas, 7'0" and 220 pounds, is an interesting international prospect.
Motiejunas wouldn't need to fill a starting role right away. He could develop well in a rotation at power forward with Larry Sanders. If Motiejunas can put 20 pounds of muscle on his frame, he could be Andrew Bogut's much-needed backup. Motiejunas has great range on his jumper, which would come in handy off the bench as he develops.
With so many other teams looking for a star shooting guard—a couple playoff teams included—Milwaukee may not be able to land their guy. It might be smarter for them to target a quality backup center in free agency, a seemingly easier task. This would make finding a scoring guard in the draft a priority.
Alec Burks is only a sophomore and may need some development. He's still a dynamic scorer who gets to the basket, draws fouls and has a good mid-range jump shot. Burks is only 19 years old, and putting muscle on his 6'6", 185-pound frame shouldn't be too hard.
Alec Burks could develop into a franchise player for Milwaukee.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have the 11th-worst record in the NBA.
All in all, this season was very successful for the Warriors if you factor in that they had a practically brand-new roster and a new coach. Team chemistry has been inconsistent, but it has also been profound at times. Those profound moments should stand out as signs of things to come.
What Golden State needs most is size and depth in the post. They lose most games due to second-chance points in the paint. Even when big men Udoh and Lee are playing well on both ends, they get fatigued and have no quality reserves.
The Warriors have a solid backcourt, no matter what some critics may say. After playing second fiddle to the egos of Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette, Monta Ellis has finally emerged as a team leader.
The duo of Ellis and Curry are averaging a combined 42.7 points per game, 11.4 assists per game, 7.4 rebounds per game and 3.6 steals per game. Ellis and Curry need a better supporting cast for them to be appreciated and judged fairly.
A defensive reserve player for offensive-minded David Lee would provide balance in Golden State's low-post rotation. They should look for a player who they can mold to fit team needs, so as not to conflict with any existing egos on a team still growing together.
The importance of this is that once you have key players in place, it's not always wise to provide them with competition for their spot.
Bismack Biyombo (pictured twice above) is a long and athletic defensive-minded power forward who just wants to fill his team's needs. He has only been playing organized ball since he was 14 years old. Hakeem Olajuwon didn't play basketball till he was 15 years old. Biyombo is just 18 years old, and one of the rawest prospects in the draft, but this could be a plus. His drive and hunger are rare qualities.
He does whatever the coach says. Coach says box out, and he boxes out his opponent every chance he gets. He's still very impressionable. My point is he has tremendous talent and his desire to please his coaches, matched with his ability to do so, will make him invaluable.
Biyombo would get most of his points off of hard-fought rebounds. He would develop well within two years as a reserve player to David Lee. Biyombo actually has a decent jump shot. He's just not confident enough in it, because all his coaches put more focus on utilizing his length around the glass.
The Dubs could pick up a reserve guard like David Lighty or a reserve center like Jordan Williams in the second round.
Bismack Biyombo. With the right coaching, the sky is the limit.
The Utah Jazz have the 12th-worst record in the NBA.
After taking care of their need at point guard with the first of their picks, the Jazz would look to fill their other glaring weakness.
Utah is set with a solid frontcourt of Millsap and Jefferson. These two combine for an average of 35.9 points per game, 17.3 rebounds per game and 2.8 blocks per game.
Rookie Gordon Hayward has earned a starting role at small forward with his performance this season, especially the last five games. Hayward closed out the season scoring in double figures for four of the Jazz's last five games, all against Western Conference playoff teams (22 against LAL, 10 against POR, 14 against NOH, 34 against DEN).
What the Jazz need to pick up with their second lottery pick is a shooting guard.
If Alec Burks is still available, the Jazz would have to take a realistic look at him. Burks is a dynamic scorer and a media favorite. However, Klay Thompson's stock has been on the rise also. Klay can get to the basket just as easy as Burks, but that's not his only option.
Klay has better three-point range than Burks and he has an NBA-ready build. Burks' main option is to attack the paint, which could be due to lack of range on his jumper. Burks doesn't shoot well beyond 16 feet from the basket, and he still needs to put some muscle on his bones.
With Kemba as the team's first pick Utah would be smart to pick up a pure shooter like Klay to complement Kemba's slashing style. Don't forget Klay lead the Pac-10 in scoring—Derrick Williams was second.
The Phoenix Suns have the 13th-worst record in the NBA.
Phoenix has a solid core of players; Gortat at center, Frye at power forward, Nash at point guard and Hill as their veteran swingman. Jared Dudley has stepped up his game when it counts most, but the Suns can't be a contender with him as a starter.
Grant Hill is 38 years old but he has reinvented his game. Hill is one of the top defenders in the league. He is expected to re-sign with the Suns next season because he has chemistry with the team and he likes Phoenix. Nash is 37, but he has a couple seasons left as well. These two vets still have a lot to offer and a lot to teach to future Suns players.
I see two prospects who fit the Suns' mold. First is Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer has proven he can score, has an NBA-ready build and has the confidence to play at the next level. However, Jimmer's passing game and court vision are in question.
With Nash as the Suns starting point guard for at least two more years, who better for Jimmer to learn from. A couple years with Nash's tutelage and Jimmer could become an All-Star "floor general."
If Kawhi Leonard is still available he could be a starting small forward for the Suns next season. Some scouts rave about "freakish" length—well, Kawhi has "freakish" hands. Once his giant hands grab the ball he can't let go of it; that's how he pulled down 10.6 rebounds per game.
That's crazy for a 6'7" small forward. At the next level, he may not be able to carry a team on his shoulders offensively, but Phoenix doesn't need that. This kid's heart and hustle could glue this team together. Kawhi has an above-average offensive game to go with his defensive presence. His all-around game should earn him a spot on the Suns.
The Houston Rockets have the 14th-worst record in the NBA. They will most likely pick last in the lottery, unless they get lucky. Houston also owns the Magic's rights to the 23rd pick.The Rockets have some serious decisions to make. Though their record doesn't show it, they have one of the five weakest rosters.
With Yao being a seven-foot question mark, Chuck Hayes has filled in and shown great hustle, but a 6'6" starting center doesn't work. Stats of 7.9 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game should be reserve numbers, not a starter's numbers.
Newly-acquired Hasheem Thabeet hasn't had much of a chance in Memphis or Houston to prove himself. His third season may be his time to shine. Other than center, the Rockets are weakest at small forward.
Two of the best small forwards left by this pick are Tyler Honeycutt and Jordan Hamilton. Hamilton is a knock-down shooter with an NBA-ready body and above-average ball-handling. However, he is considered selfish at times and inconsistent. Hamilton also lacks defense. He has averaged double figures in points but the rest of his stats are mediocre.
UCLA small forward Tyler Honeycutt isn't projected to be picked this high on most draft boards, but why not? Scouts compare his build and length to Tayshaun Prince. He recorded 68 blocks this season, and he lead the Pac-10 in blocks with two per game.
That's a small forward leading his division in blocks—the same division as Derrick Williams. Tyler can score and his range goes as far back as the NBA three-point line. Although, he is praised more for his defense, basketball IQ and passing. That's an impact starter in my book.
Some scouts actually think Tyler is too unselfish, and that he is timid and hesitant to shoot, but he still averaged 12 points per game.
If this isn't just speculation and there is a problem there, it shouldn't be too hard to overcome once given a starting role on a rebuilding team. He just needs to add 20 pounds to his frame (6'8", 188 lbs). As I've stated before, these 20-year-olds can put on muscle fast and easy.