Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
The following mock draft is not based on what I think will happen but rather what I think each team should do with their picks during the lottery. Enjoy.
1st Pick, 1st Round – Cleveland Cavaliers – Derrick Williams, Forward, Arizona
I’ve been saying ever since the Cavaliers won the lottery that Derrick Williams should be the pick here. Over the past month, I haven’t seen or heard anything to change my point of view. Here’s the thing: Derrick Williams is six-foot-nine, he shot 60% from three during the regular season last year, he carried his team to Sweet Sixteen victory over Irving and his Blue Devils with a 32 point (11-of-17 shooting) performance while adding five three’s, 13 rebounds and two monster dunks, and he’s the best athletes in the draft. On the other hand, Kyrie Irving played in 11 games.
I know, I know, Irving showed flashes of greatness during his 11-game stretch but its just incredibly hard for me to believe that its safer to go with a player that played 11 games in college and is coming off of a serious toe injury rather than a proven star in Williams that excelled during the NCAA tournament, stroking three’s with ease despite a broken finger as some have suggested. I understand that Irving could be a great point guard but everybody has a chance to BE something. But what is he? Right now, there’s no way to know. Most people figure that he won’t be a bust, no matter what, but I just don’t think he’s got the skills to reach the ceiling of Chris Paul that some have set for him.
Instead, I’d go with Williams, who looked like as much of a for sure thing as you can have last season. The only issue with Williams is his position and whether he will be a small forward or a power forward at the NBA level. Either way, I see him being a more athletic version of David West or Paul Pierce at the NBA level and Cleveland could definitely use a star at small forward to replace LeBron James if he ends up playing that position. If he ends up being a power forward, then perhaps the Cavaliers could put together a package revolving around J.J. Hickson to get Rudy Gay from Memphis to play small forward.
To me, that’s a better scenario than building around Irving, who is completely unproven in my eyes.
2nd Pick, 1st Round – Minnesota Timberwolves – Enes Kanter, Forward/Center, Turkey
Obviously, it’d be a train wreck if Minnesota went with Kyrie Irving, especially with Ricky Rubio coming over from Spain earlier this week. Thus, going with Kanter is the obvious move at this juncture. As much as I don’t like going with an unproven player this early in the draft, Kanter has shown enough in workouts to lead me to believe he’ll be a scoring force in the NBA. Kanter did not play in college because of a NCAA ruling that kept him out of Kentucky but his size is valuable and his offensive versatility and smarts make him a strong prospect for the Timberwolves.
Ironically, the worst case scenario for Kanter would be to turn into current Minnesota center Darko Milicic. It may be unfair to throw that comparison at any foreign player in the NBA draft but because we didn’t get to see him last year its hard to say Kanter is a sure thing. Minnesota would be drafting Kanter because of how good he has looked during workouts but workouts aren’t games and its anybody’s guess as to how well he’ll play against NBA competition.
3rd Pick, 1st Round – Utah Jazz – Kyrie Irving, Point Guard, Duke
This would be a dream scenario for the Jazz, who would love to land a long-term replacement for Deron Williams. Unlike Cleveland, taking a gamble on an unproven talent like Irving isn’t that big of a problem for Utah because if he doesn’t end up working out, they still have Devin Harris under contract until the 2012/13 season. There was a time when Devin Harris looked like an all-star point guard but now he’s simply a good player. I don’t really know why he’s had such a decline or if he’s even declined at all. Harris’ numbers have been largely the same over the course of his career until his all-star campaign in 29 but even then the only difference was his scoring, a bi-product of the most shot attempts per game of his career.
Injuries have certainly played a major factor in his career as well and getting a player like Irving could add some insurance for Harris should he get hurt. Two seasons ago Chris Paul and Darren Collison were able to effectively contribute at the point guard spot on the same team and I’d imagine a similar split between Harris and Irving would be in the Jazz’s plans should they take him. Additionally, with the 12th pick in their back pocket, the Jazz will have a chance to improve their wing positions just a few picks down in the first round.
4th Pick, 1st Round – Cleveland Cavaliers – Brandon Knight, Point Guard, Kentucky
Cleveland ends up getting a point guard after all and I’m really not all that sure that he’s behind Irving in terms of talent or skill. It may seem like I’m dogging Irving a lot but I have doubts about a player that played 11 games being compared to Chris Paul. Knight, on the other hand, played the entire season at Kentucky and was able to put up some good numbers despite playing with other lottery level talent. Knight got better as the season went along and as his understanding of the offense improved. In the NCAA tournament Knight had a couple of game-winning shots that showed he’s unafraid of the moment and one of those shots came after a putrid performance in the first 39 minutes, which tells you a little about his resiliency.
Knight is already a steady shooter and he’s a natural scorer that has decent play making skills. Irving may be more of a pure point guard but Knight is just as good of a player in my mind, if not better, and I think that a core of Knight, Williams, Christian Eyenga, J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao is a pretty good start for the Cavaliers in their post-LeBron rebuilding process.
5th Pick, 1st Round – Toronto Raptors – Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward, San Diego State
The Raptors seem to be headed in the right direction. They’ve collected a good amount of talent over the past few years and the hiring of Dwyane Casey earlier this week shows that management is committed to turning the tide on the horrid defense that has prevented them from taking the next step over the past few seasons. A lot of folks think Kemba Walker could go here and I think that’d be a nice pick-up for the Raptors but if they want to take the first step towards turning around their defense, it’d be drafting a defensive specialist like Leonard.
Leonard reminds me a lot of Gerald Wallace (because of the defense, not the cornrows) with a little bit of Rajon Rondo mixed in (because of the freakishly large hands). Leonard could start right away at small forward for the Raptors at small forward, forming a nice offense/defense tandem with DeMar DeRozan at the two. Scouts rave about Leonard’s intangibles and his skillset seems perfect for a team looking for a new defensive attitude like the Raptors.
6th Pick, 1st Round – Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely, Forward, Czech Republic
The Wizards have young prospects at every position except small forward (Maurice Evans is currently listed as their starter though I always slide Jordan Crawford down to small forward when I play with the Wizards in 2K11). Vesely is certainly big for a small forward but that’s the position that he projects to play at the NBA level. Vesely is six-foot-11 and his mobility on the perimeter make him seem like an Andre Kirilenko/swiss army knife type defensive weapon that can guard every position on the floor. Like Kirilenko, he’s a limited offensive player but he’s got some time to improve his offensive game and the Wizards could use an impact defender at the small forward spot even if he’s not an impact scorer in his first few years in the league.
7th Pick, 1st Round – Sacramento Kings – Klay Thompson, Guard, Washington State
There is some chatter around the league that the Kings may end up trading this pick to the San Antonio Spurs in a deal for Tony Parker – which I could not disagree with more – so there’s a chance they won’t be picking here. But if they end up keeping the pick, Klay Thompson is a guy that can come add a shooting dynamic that the Kings could use at the shooting guard or small forward position. Because the Kings have decided to play Tyreke Evans at the two guard Thompson would likely start out as a James Harden-type scorer off the bench but if he shoots well enough he may have a shot to start at small forward for the Kings.
8th Pick, 1st Round – Detroit Pistons – Bismack Biyombo, Center, Congo
Biyombo is Ben Wallace 2.0. A six-foot-nine center with serious Defensive Player of the Year potential with a bulky frame and the ability to block shots at an extremely high rate. Drafting Biyombo will allow Detroit to move Greg Monroe to his natural position of power forward where the Pistons can run offense through him at the high post. Biyombo will also get to play alongside Ben Wallace 1.0 or at least learn from him for two seasons while backing him up. I really think Biyombo can challenge Dwight Howard for DPoY for the next few seasons and being in a Jedi/Padawan relationship with Wallace can do wonders for his career.
9th Pick, 1st Round – Charlotte Bobcats – Kemba Walker, Guard, UConn
The Bobcats are in desperate need of players that can score the basketball and Walker scores in his sleep. I’m not sure if he’ll be as dominate as he was in college at the NBA level but there’s no question that he can score. He’s got a solid mid-range jumper and can get to the basket despite his smaller frame. Walker plays like he is well above his actual height and his confidence is a big reason he was so successful at UConn. Walker and D.J. Augustin is a very very very small backcourt but the Bobcats could use Walker as their bench sparkplug in the form of a Jason Terry.
10th Pick, 1st Round – Milwaukee Bucks - Jonas Valanciunas, Center, Lithuania
According to recent reports, Valanciunas will be unable to play in the NBA next season due to a contract issue with his team in Europe but Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks are one of the teams in the lottery that are fine with waiting until he can be bought out from his foreign club. A frontline of Valanciunas and Andrew Bogut is a scary one to ponder and would make the Bucks even tougher to score on than they already are.
11th Pick, 1st Round – Golden State Warriors - Tristan Thompson, Forward, Texas
The Warriors haven’t had all that much success drafting power forwards recently but Thompson is a solid scorer that contribute right away off the bench behind David Lee. Depending on whether or not the Warriors trade Monta Ellis, their starting line-up for next season seems set but getting a player like Thompson to come off the bench and score will help tremendously for a second unit that struggles to put points on the board inside the paint.
12th Pick, 1st Round – Utah Jazz – Alec Burks, Shooting Guard, Colorado
I know, I know, it would be impossible for the Jazz to pass on Jimmer at this point but Burks makes more sense in this mock because they got Irving at three. Burks is a six-foot-six wing player that has shown some ability to play point in a pinch as well as score the ball at a high rate. His three-point shot is shaky but he’s an athletic player that draws fouls well and can get to the basket often. Burks is exactly the kind of slasher that the Jazz need and adding him with Irving a core of Harris, Jefferson and Millsap puts Utah back in playoff contention.
13th Pick, 1st Round – Phoenix Suns – Jimmer Fredette, Guard, BYU
Having Fredette playing alongside Steve Nash is even more enticing to me than Jimmer playing in Utah. Not only would Jimmer have ample opportunities from deep but having Nash as a mentor for a player of Jimmer’s natural abilities could produce an all-star in Fredette. Jimmer has a tiring work ethic and I’m sure that Nash would immediately appreciate that. Fredette may not have the court vision that Nash has but he does have the stroke and his skillset makes him a nice player for Nash to mold into a star as he enters into the final years of his career.
14th Pick, 1st Round – Houston Rockets – Chris Singleton, Forward, Florida State
Since the Rockets traded Shane Battier, they could use an excellent defender at the small forward spot to fill his role and Singleton is just about as good of an individual defender that there is in the draft. Singleton is a tremendous athlete, versatile, mobile and has some range on his jumpshot. He may not be a great all-around scorer but he can catch and shoot and he has the ability to lockdown on the opposition. The Rockets love players like Singleton and even though Houston already has two small forwards in Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger on the roster, neither of them can defender like Singleton.
That’s it for my mock draft. I didn’t want to go further than the lottery because I’m all that familiar with the players outside of the top 15 or so. I’ll be spending the majority of the next 36 hours watching the other guys on Synergy and will have analysis on every pick in the draft come Friday morning.