In one month’s time, David Stern will be gracing the stage in Newark, NJ to announce the future stars of the NBA at the 2011 NBA Draft. Since the off season really gets me fired up, I decided to put together a mock draft. I’m usually good for one (maybe two) version per year, so why stop now? I’m sure there will be changes between now and then and I’m hoping to reflect those changes in a 2nd and possibly a 3rd version.
The picks that I make for the teams are based on what I think that the general managers will make, not what I would do with the picks. With that said, let’s get in to the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving – G, Duke
First pick of the draft is a freshman point guard who missed significant time in his only collegiate season. Sounds about right for this draft. All things aside, Irving has great size, decision making, athleticism and a reliable jumpshot, making him a great building block for this struggling franchise. The only question now is whether or not he will start over Baron Davis right away.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams – F, Arizona
It is rumored that Minnesota is looking to move this pick. David Kahn, GM of the Timberwolves, has recently come out and said that they will not be trading it. No matter who makes the second pick of this draft, the player will be Derrick Williams. He’s a bit of a tweener between the two forward spots, but he’s ready to make an impact immediately. Minnesota already has Michael Beasley and Kevin Love on the roster, but Williams is the pick if they keep it.
3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight – G, Kentucky
I personally do not think that Knight is the third best prospect in this draft, but the Jazz have plenty of bigs to build around (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Mehmet Okur) that they can pass on who I think should be a top-3 pick and select Brandon Knight. Knight has good size and a knack for hitting big buckets, especially in the NCAA tournament. Devin Harris is now on his third team and showing that he is not a franchise point guard, so time to look elsewhere.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter – F/C, Kentucky
If Kanter was eligible to play at Kentucky this season, I think he would have given Irving a run for the top pick in the draft and certainly would be the second pick. But with him not playing competitive basketball for almost a year, he slides down to the fourth slot and Cleveland pairs him with Irving. These two will be great to build around.
5. Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas – C, Lithuania
With GM Bryan Colangelo signed to an extension, he has time to take a project player. We know he loves international players as well, so I’ll give them Valanciunas over Vesely here. Jonas should add much needed height down low as Andrea Bargnani isn’t much of a post presence at all.
6. Washington Wizards: Kawhi Leonard – F, San Diego State
Star forward for the surprising San Diego State Aztecs, Kawhi Leonard proved in just his sophomore season that he is ready for the NBA. He’s a physical specimen, great athlete and defender and is an animal on the glass. He’s been flashing a new and improved jumpshot in workouts and should give the Wizards an instant-impact player early on in the season.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kemba Walker – G, Connecticut
Seems to be a consensus that Kemba Walker will be a King if available at No. 7. Tyreke Evans is not a point guard, but Walker may not be either. If you put both on the floor, they could split point guard duties while allowing both to play off the ball as well. Could be a great combination.
8. Detroit Pistons: Jan Vesely – F, Czech Republic
The Pistons need some athleticism and energy from their big men and Vesely can give that to them right away. Has some good upset, but needs to be developed.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Bismack Biyombo – F/C, Congo
The Bobcats desperately need some rebounding help with Gerald Wallace now playing in Portland and Biyombo will give them that. Questions about his age don’t seem to be going away until they can get some proof, but someone will grab him in the top-10.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Burks – G, Colorado
The Bucks need serious help at the shooting guard position. Alec Burks is the best shooting guard in the draft. Looks like a match made in heaven.
11. Golden State Warriors: Tristan Thompson – F, Texas
If the Warriors take Thompson, it will basically be a re-do on their Brandan Wright pick a few years back. Thompson is shorter than Wright, but is very active on the glass and has skills that can be developed into a good power forward in the league.
12. Utah Jazz: Chris Singleton – F, Florida State
If the Jazz didn’t already draft a dynamic scorer and playmaker at No. 3 (Brandon Knight), I would have gone with Jordan Hamilton here. Since Knight is already in the fold, they can go with the best defensive player in the draft in Singleton, allowing them to let Andrei Kirilenko leave without worrying about a premiere defensive player on their roster.
13. Phoenix Suns: Jordan Hamilton – F, Texas
Here’s a list of the shooting guards and small forwards on the Suns roster: Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Mikael Pietrus, Vince Carter, Josh Childress. That swing man position is in desperate need of a makeover and Hamilton adds a versatile scorer to a roster that is getting old fast.
14. Houston Rockets: Marcus Morris – F, Kansas
In desperate need of a small forward, Marcus Morris can give the Rockets an inside-out player they sorely lack. Many draft pundits are higher on Marcus Morris than I am, but I don’t see him sliding any further down the draft board than this.
15. Indiana Pacers: Klay Thompson – G, Washington State
The Pacers have lacked a reliable scoring guard since Reggie Miller has retired. Jimmer Fredette is an option, but Thompson’s shooting is almost as good as Fredette’s and he is four inches taller. Thompson has more than adequate handles as well, so this could be a very good pick for the Pacers as they look to win a series in the playoffs next season.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Markieff Morris – F, Kansas
I wanted to go with a high-upside international player here, but they need some serious help in the front court and Markieff Morris is the best big available.
17. New York Knicks: Josh Selby – G, Kansas
Many said Selby was making a great mistake by declaring for the draft after a dismal freshman season. Coming in as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, he didn’t quite live up to the hype. He has reportedly been playing great in workouts and out-playing some of the higher regarded prospects. The Knicks have passed up on plenty of dynamic guards in the past few drafts and may not want to pass this one up.
18. Washington Wizards: Jimmer Fredette – G, Brigham Young University
The Legend of Jimmer will continue in Washington. With Nick Young a free agent, the Wizards could desperately use some shooting off the bench and there may be no better shooter in the draft than Fredette. He can handle enough to compliment John Wall, but do not look for him to be a staple in the starting lineup.
19. Charlotte Bobcats: Donatas Motiejunas – F, Lithuania
I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m predicting that Michael Jordan selects two international prospects in the first round. With Biyombo solidifying the rebounding and shot blocking department, Motiejunas could be a perimeter scorer at the power forward position. The comparisons to Andrea Bargnani seem to be worthy. If Motiejunas could be the player Barnani is now, this will be a steal for Charlotte.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Marshon Brooks – G, Providence
I debated back and forth between Brooks and an international big man and very well may change in future versions, but for now I’ll stick with Brooks. The Timberwolves really don’t need to get any younger and very well could be looking to deal this pick or grab an international player to stash for a year or two, but they could use a scoring two guard. Wesley Johnson didn’t work out well at shooting guard and needs to be moved to his natural small forward position.
21. Portland Trailblazers: Kenneth Faried – F, Morehead State
The Blazers need help on the glass and Faried was the best rebounder in the nation last season. He may be undersized, but he has great timing, positioning and desire to grab every loose ball and rebound. A player of his caliber will be a great addition to a playoff team’s bench.
22. Denver Nuggets: Tobias Harris – F, Tennessee
Is he a small forward or power forward? We don’t know at this point, but with the Nuggets roster currently constructed, he could play both positions coming off the bench behind Gallinari and Chandler. He’s still very young and could turn out to be a very good player in three or four years.
23. Houston Rockets: Nikola Vucevic – C, USC
Measuring in at 7’0″, Vucevic is a very good post player and could develop into a good center. With the uncertainty of Yao Ming’s career, the Rockets need to add to the front line.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nikola Mirotic – F, Serbia
Back-to-back Nikola’s? Has got to be the first time in American draft history. Is there any chance that Sam Presti doesn’t go international with this pick? A team that is in the Western Conference Finals with the third youngest roster in the league can gamble with a player like Mirotic and hope he continues to develop and can bring him over when his buyout is reasonable.
25. Boston Celtics: Jordan Williams – C, Maryland
A 6’10″ sophomore center, Williams declared early for the draft after showing growth in his game from his freshman campaign. He’s a thick kid, standing to lose some of his “baby fat”, but so wasn’t Kendrick Perkins when he came in to the league. He’s got great touch around the rim and uses his wide body to keep defenders on his hip. He’s got great hands when it comes to catching passes and hauling in rebounds. His conditioning leaves him needing rest more than you would like, but adding Williams to the Celtics’ bench would be a good start when looking towards the future. He’s a young kid with tons of room to grow, but already skilled enough to contribute to a team right now.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Honeycutt – G/F, UCLA
Deshawn Stevenson is arguably the worst starter in the entire league. Honeycutt would be an instant upgrade at the position. He is a very good shooter and uses his great length to his advantage on defense.
27. New Jersey Nets: JaJuan Johnson – F, Purdue
The Nets, outside of Brook Lopez, do not have a big man worth mentioning. Johnson is a long, athletic power forward with some resemblance of an outside game, so pairing him with Lopez may actually work out very well. The Nets could also look at drafting a point guard in case Deron Williams decides to leave once his contract is up.
28. Chicago Bulls: Davis Bertans – F, Latvia
With two first round picks, the Bulls can think about stashing a player overseas with their first pick. Bertans has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, but is a long ways from fulfilling those expectations. A low risk/high reward pick at this point of the draft for Chicago.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Tyler – C, USA
The Spurs need help in the post next to Tim Duncan as Antonio McDyess is fully expected to retire. Tyler left San Diego High School after his junior season to play in Europe. After leaving his team in Israel over a dispute about playing time, he ended up in Japan and resurrected his professional career. Now he is charging into the first round and if any team can fulfill a player’s potential it is the Spurs.
30. Chicago Bulls: Shelvin Mack, G – Butler
Looking for some help at the shooting guard spot, the Bulls grab a proven leader in Shelvin Mack. He’s got great range on his jump shot and could play off the ball next to Derrick Rose. Also has the handles to be able to play some backup point guard.