NBA Draft 2011: 50 Bold Predictions for Draft Day in June
With only a few weeks left until the 2011 NBA draft festivities kick off in New Jersey, it's getting a little bit easier to make predictions.
Teams are now expressing interest in certain players, the combine has come and gone and we have a pretty good sense of what will unfold.
From pick No. 1 through pick No. 60, read on for 50 bold predictions about the 2011 NBA draft.
Kyrie Irving Goes No. 1
The Cleveland Cavaliers organization has expressed a good bit of interest in the former Duke Blue Devils point guard and it shouldn't be that surprising at all when the Cavs make Irving the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Kyrie Irving played only 11 games in college thanks to an injured toe, so we'll see how well he can adjust to another big jump in level.
Derrick Williams Becomes a Bust
Right now, I expect Derrick Williams to be a top-two pick. There have been no indications that this is going to change for any reason.
But Williams is never going to be a star in the NBA. He will be a successful player, but won't ever be a ticket draw or an All-Star. That qualifies him as a bust in my book.
Ends Up Winning Rookie of the Year
With as much talent as anyone on the draft boards, Kyrie Irving just needs to be put in the right situation. A franchise like Cleveland that's devoid of talent and longing for success will not hesitate to immediately insert the talented guard into its starting lineup.
With that chance to play and a relatively weak draft class, Irving should have no problem taking over the crown currently worn by Blake Griffin.
Enes Kanter Is the 1st International Player Drafted
He has some competition in Jan Vesely and Jonas Valanciunas, but Enes Kanter, the center from Turkey, should come out on top and become the first international player selected in the 2011 NBA draft.
Kanter has loads of talent, but hasn't played in a while after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
Brandon Knight Goes Before Kemba Walker
Right now, the competition for the honor of being the second guard drafted is between Connecticut's Kemba Walker and Kentucky's Brandon Knight.
Knight, a freshman for the Wildcats, improved dramatically as the season went on and showed off his scoring skills in big moments when postseason play started. We all know Walker's story of postseason success.
But scouts are more impressed with Knight's size and scoring, so he will be drafted first.
But Kemba Is More Successful
That said, Kemba Walker is going to be the more successful player of the two. I've learned not to bet against Walker and you should do the same if you're still doubting him.
It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the point guard average 20 points per game and make an All-Star squad during his career.
Walker Is Best Dressed
I also have a sneaking suspicion that Kemba Walker will end up being the best-dressed member of those attending the NBA draft on June 23rd.
Walker seems to handle himself well both on and off the court while seeming like a pretty cool guy. I can't wait to see the suit he picks out.
Marcus Morris Is the 1st Twin Drafted
Of the two Morris brothers from Kansas, Marcus is the one with the higher upside. He's also the riskier pick because he doesn't have as diverse a skill set as his brother.
But in the NBA, upside rules all and taking an NBA-ready forward with high potential is usually a smart thing to do. Because of that, Marcus will be off the boards a few picks before his brother Markieff.
Kawhi Leonard Is the Draft's Biggest Bust
Something about Kawhi Leonard rubs me the wrong way.
Maybe it's the fact that he caved in big moments and never took over games. Maybe it's the fact that he's pretty good at everything but not great at any one thing.
Whatever he is, I don't think he'll be able to justify being a potential top-five pick in the draft.
Markieff Slips Out of the Lottery
It's not that Markieff did anything wrong; it's just that other players have been creeping up the draft boards past the safe pick from Kansas.
When it's all said and done, Markieff will most likely be left outside the lottery, looking in. I expect to see him become a Philadelphia 76er at pick No. 16.
5 International Players in the Lottery
Out of the 14 picks contained in the lottery, five of them are going to be from outside the United States.
Enes Kanter will be a top-five pick, then the two Lithuanian forward/centers named Donatas Motiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas should also go in the lotto. There's also the Czech Republic's Jan Vesely and Congo's Bismack Biyombo.
Alec Burks Becomes a Huge Steal
If you've read my other articles about the NBA draft, you know by now that I'm a huge fan of the Colorado guard.
Alec Burks isn't that well known, but he's an incredibly talented and athletic player that will be unstoppable on the offensive end as soon as he can get his 6'6" frame to shoot a good jump shot.
Jimmer Stays in Utah
The Utah Jazz have two picks in the lottery portion of the draft, the third and the 12th. I'd be absolutely stunned if they spent the first selection on Jimmer Fredette.
But that said, I'd also be shocked if the Jazz didn't succumb to the local pressure and take the former BYU superstar with their second pick.
Bismack Biyombo Turns into a Star
Bismack Biyombo has taken the draft world by storm with his 7'7" wingspan, ridiculous potential and athleticism, and defensive prowess.
He can't score the basketball proficiently to save his life, but that will come with time for the 18-year-old. Teams are going to be willing to give him a chance because of his competence in the paint on defense and let him grow on offense.
Expect to hear Biyombo's name for a long time.
But Fredette Becomes Nothing More Than a Role Player
Fredette may be able to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and he may have finished third at the combine in the lane agility drill, but to stay on the floor he'll still have to be able to create his own shot and play defense.
It has yet to be seen whether or not Jimmer can do either of those things in the NBA. I have a feeling that he'll end up as the seventh or eighth guy in a rotation who's expected to come in and take a few open shots then go back to keeping the bench warm.
Chris Singleton Defends His Way into the Top 20
It's pretty rare to see a defensive specialist work his way into the top 20 picks, but that's exactly what's happening in this strange draft class.
Chris Singleton is the best defender available and the former Florida State Seminole has some offensive skills. Expect to see him sneak into the top 20.
Jordan Hamilton Inexplicably Falls
Jordan Hamilton is a very gifted scorer, as he showed over and over again for the Texas Longhorns.
In fact, this past season he averaged 18.6 points while still pulling down over seven rebounds per game. Yet because of his limited athleticism, Hamilton keeps slipping farther and farther down the draft boards.
It really doesn't make sense to me, and Hamilton will play with a chip on his shoulder for the rest of his career.
Marshon Brooks Becomes a Household Name
Marshon Brooks, on the other hand, has been steadily ascending draft boards as we near June 23rd.
A gifted scoring guard from Providence, Brooks has all the tools to become an absolute stud in the NBA. Don't be surprised if he's one of the best players to be drafted in 2011.
Kenneth Faried Drops on Draft Day
Everyone knows what Kenneth Faried is: a skilled rebounder without much hope on offense, and that limits how high he's going to go.
The lack of mystery around Faried's game prevents him from rising up too high and will allow other less-talented players to be drafted ahead of him. Faried may even slip out of the top 20 on draft day.
But Faried Becomes the Next Rodman
Once again, we know what Faried is. The Morehead State graduate is a very talented rebounder.
In fact, he passed Tim Duncan this season to become college basketball's all-time leader in that category. Rebounding is one of the skills that usually translates seamlessly to the next level, so Faried should be able to be as successful in the pros at cleaning the glass as he was in college.
Davis Bertans Makes People Wonder If He's Really a Basketball Player
Look at that picture for a minute.
Yes, I promise he is a skilled basketball player who will soon be in the NBA.
But don't worry, other people will have the same reaction you just did when they see Davis Bertans on their television for the first time during the draft.
Trey Thompkins Almost Slips Out of the 1st Round
The red flags got as red as Trey Thompkins' jersey when he weighed in with 15.5 percent body fat, the highest percentage of any player at the combine.
Thompkins is as skilled as they come in the low post, but his bad mentality and attitude are raising huge concerns. Not too many teams will be willing to take a chance on the former Georgia Bulldog who should be spending one more year at school.
Josh Selby Says Something Stupid
It seems as though every time we turn around, Josh Selby is making another immature decision.
After "going" to Kansas for just one year and riding the pine for most of it, scouts know that he has potential but don't know how ready he is quite yet, especially mentally. If any player is going to mess up during an interview at the draft, it would be Selby.
Jeremy Tyler Barely Makes It into the 1st Round
At one point during his career, Jeremy Tyler was hailed as a potential top-five pick. But then he stupidly decided to play overseas in Israel instead of here in the States for a collegiate team.
That didn't exactly go well and now immaturity and a lack of production have forced his draft stock down into borderline first-round status. Still though, his talent alone should keep him from slipping to the second round.
Same with Kyle Singler
Kyle Singler is a very intriguing player because he was absolutely incredible during his Duke career, but he doesn't have any one special skill that can become his calling card in the NBA.
It's hard to believe that Singler will ever become more than a bench player, but the school attached to his name should be enough to push him into the first round.
Kansas Has the Most 1st-Round Draft Picks
With Nolan Smith dropping to the second round in all likelihood, that leaves Kansas as the school with the most first-round draft picks.
Marcus Morris is certainly going to be picked in the lottery. His twin may be picked in the same range, but will most likely go around 16. Then there's Josh Selby, who should be picked near the end of the round.
Unless You Include the Internationals
Kansas only takes the crown if you don't include the rest of the world as one "college."
If you do, the rest of the world wins by a long shot, as seven players should be taken before the second round begins.
They are: Enes Kanter, Donatas Motiejunas, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Davis Bertans and Lucas Nogueira.
JaJuan Johnson Is the Steal of the Draft
It boggles my mind how a lanky, 6'10" forward with post moves and an outside shot can slip so far, but that's exactly what's happening with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson.
Chandler Parsons' Matchup-Nightmare Problems Don't Translate
The reason that Chandler Parsons was named the SEC Player of the Year this past season was because he did everything proficiently. And the reason he did everything proficiently was because his size and diverse skill set made him the prototypical matchup nightmare.
Well, matchup nightmares don't translate well to the NBA, as Parsons will soon find out. Don't expect this Gator to be as successful as other recent Florida draftees.
Jon Leuer Just Confuses People
I'm guessing that right before this picture was taken, someone said, "Jon, what do you expect to do in the NBA?"
And Leuer didn't know how to respond. After all, he's a 6'11" big man who doesn't really know how to do much beside taking jump shots.
Norris Cole Is Another Good Steal
Another great scorer that no one has really heard of in this year's draft class is Cleveland State's Norris Cole.
A score-first, pass-second point guard, Norris Cole averaged 21.7 points last year and simply knows how to put the ball in the basket. I fully expect for him to make an impact in the NBA.
Nolan Smith Falls to the 2nd Round
As good as Nolan Smith was in college, playing both on and off the ball, he's still going to fail to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Questions about Smith's size and athleticism are hurting his case for that elusive first-round selection and now the Blue Devil will have to be content for second-round pay.
Nikola Vucevic Does as Well
The same can be said for Nikola Vucevic, USC's massive center.
Vucevic impressed many people at the combine, most notably the NBA executive who compared him favorably with Enes Kanter, who will be going at No. 3.
But the only way Vucevic will go at No. 3 is if we're talking about the third pick in the secound round.
Vucevic Is a Huge Steal
Like I said on the last slide, Nikola Vucevic has been compared to Enes Kanter yet he's almost certainly going in the second round.
Sounds like a draft-day steal to me, don't you think?
Andrew Goudelock Drafted as Derek Fisher's Replacement
Andrew Goudelock, a talented scoring guard from the College of Charleston, is a fairly one-dimensional player who's quite good at his one dimension.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who currently have four picks in the second round of the draft, are going to be looking for an eventual replacement for Derek Fisher and may very well spend the 41st pick of the draft on Goudelock.
Cory Joseph Goes Too High
Cory Joseph only averaged 10.4 points and 3.0 assists per game as the freshman point guard for the Texas Longhorns and didn't even look like he belonged on the same floor as the other guards at the combine.
He is nowhere near ready to play in the NBA, but some team in the middle portion of the second round is probably going to end up taking the guard. It will be a mistake.
Travis Leslie Makes a Team Take a Flyer
The most athletic player in the draft, Travis Leslie, put up his fair share of highlight-reel plays in the University of Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum.
That astounding athleticism is going to make a team take a flyer (pun intended) on the former Bulldog, whose basketball skills are not at all ready for the professional game.
Leslie Ends Up Being Better Than Tony Allen
During his interview at the combine, Travis Leslie made headlines by saying that he wanted to be compared to someone better than Memphis' Tony Allen.
Well, after a few seasons in the NBA, he may very well get to look back on that day and say "I told you so."
But then again, that may just be the Georgia fan in me talking.
Keith Benson Never Learns How to Play Defense
Keith Benson is an incredibly gifted offensive big man without much hope on the defensive end of the court. If basketball were only played by offensive players, he'd be a lottery pick.
But as Benson showed when he was forced to guard Texas' Tristan Thompson late in the season, he has no shot at shutting down an NBA-quality big man. That's the reason that he's going to slip—and slip and slip—down draft boards on June 23rd.
David Lighty Ends Up Being an NBA Glue Guy
Every team needs one, but they're hard to find. What are we talking about? Glue guys of course.
David Lighty is the prototypical glue guy: a player with a diverse skill set who won't become a star but is still content to help the team in any way possible while providing leadership.
Whoever drafts the former Buckeye will love that about him.
Iman Shumpert Keeps Tech Hoops Relevant
The high-flying guard from Georgia Tech, Iman Shumpert, is the Yellow Jackets' only player with any shot at being drafted in 2011.
The school will revel in the fact that Shumpert is being taken by an NBA team before slipping back into ACC obscurity as it adjusts to life after Paul Hewitt.
Gary Flowers Is Another Steal
The Southern Mississippi forward is a very athletic forward with a deft scoring touch, but he's hindered by the fact that he played for the Golden Eagles.
As we've seen before, playing for a small school doesn't always get you the recognition that you deserve. That will come back to bite the teams that pass on Flowers.
Atlanta Makes Another Bad Pick
The Atlanta Hawks have developed a reputation for making the wrong choices time after time in the NBA draft. To see the worst of the worst, read the following article: "NBA Draft: 5 Worst Picks by the Atlanta Hawks Since 1980."
This year, they'll probably end up taking another high-upside, high-risk forward even though they really don't need one.
Or they could take a guard or center and surprise everyone by making the right move, but it's unlikely.
Scotty Hopson Makes the Flat-Top Popular Again
When you see Scotty Hopson soaring through the lane on his way to a rim-rattling, momentum-shifting dunk, the first thing you think isn't going to be, "Wow! What a play!"
No, it's going to be, "Wow! That flat-top looks so cool on him!"
Isaiah Thomas Is the Last Player Drafted
The Sacramento Kings have the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft and should use it to select the most talented player available, regardless of need.
Isaiah Thomas will most likely still be available, and despite his 5'10" frame, he can still jump with the best of them. Thomas is a very gifted guard (what else would he play at his height?) who has a chance to follow in the footsteps left by Earl Boykins.
Ben Hansbrough Falls Out of the Draft
One of the biggest names left out in the cold will be Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough, the younger brother of current Indiana Pacer Tyler Hansbrough.
Ben was a great leader for the Fighting Irish and enjoyed his coming-out party during his senior season when he averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game en route to a high seed in March Madness.
It won't be enough to get him drafted though.
Ridiculous Amount of International Talent Taken
When it's all said and done, the rest of the world will have produced quite a large portion of the 2011 draft class.
Here's a list of the players that will most likely be taken on June 23rd:
Enes Kanter (Turkey), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania), Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), Bismack Biyombo (Congo), Lucas Nogueira (Brazil), Davis Bertans (Latvia), Nikola Mirotic (Montenegro) and Robin Benzing (Germany).
Good luck pronouncing all of those, Mr. Stern.
People Keep Talking About How the Draft Is Weak
One thing about the draft is an absolute certainty.
Everyone is going to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about just how weak this year's draft class is. Many comparisons will be made to the 2000 draft class, which produced just about no quality players.
Honestly, this will be brought up way too often even though it's true.
Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones Are Discussed
Part of the discussion about the weakness of the draft class will center around the controversial decisions of these four players who elected to return to school.
Those players, all of whom were freshmen, were Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, Baylor's Perry Jones and Kentucky's Terrence Jones.
All four of them would have been top-10 picks in this year's draft but decided to return for another year of experience (and education?).
People Forget That It's Quite Deep
Maybe it's the optimist in me, but even though the draft is weak this year, I still like to think that it's a very deep class.
Sure, the top is devoid of potential superstars, but the bottom is still full of quality players. Players like Scotty Hopson, Chris Wright, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas and many more all have opportunities to be successful. They have the talent necessary.
So instead of focusing on the negativity surrounding the draft class, focus instead on the fact that the second round this year is actually going to be significant.