Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Posted: 2:45 p.m.
By Sean Kane
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the big winners in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery. Thanks to a mid-season trade with the Clippers, the Cavs have the first and fourth picks in next month's draft. The last time Cleveland picked first, they took LeBron James in 2003. That same year, Carmelo Anthony (third), Chris Bosh (fourth) and Dwyane Wade (fifth) also went off the board early.
You won't find any LeBrons, Carmelos or D-Wades this year. Many NBA executives are on the record as saying this is the weakest crop of prospects in a couple of decades. Sure-fire lottery picks Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III and Terrence Jones are all returning to school, which only cheapened this class. But the draft must go on. With June 23 just over a month away, the Cavs are on the clock.
Here is our first mock draft (first round only):
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving (6-2, 180, PG, Duke)
The one strong point of this draft is the point guard position, and Irving is the surest bet of the bunch. The biggest knock on the 19-year-old Irving is he played just 11 games during his career at Duke because of a toe injury. Had he not gotten hurt, he likely would have been the national player of the year and even more of a lock to go No. 1 in the draft. He showed enough when he was healthy the ability to score and control the game without scoring to prove he'll be successful at the next level. Irving is a capable shooter, and while he may not have Derrick RoseJohn Wall-type explosion while going to the basket, he has no trouble getting where he wants to go. The Cavs need a point guard, and Irving is their man.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams (6-9, 240, SF, Arizona)
Williams and Irving are on a level of their own when it comes to this year's draft. They are the two elite prospects, and then there's everyone else. Williams went from a little-heralded recruit at Arizona to top draft prospect in just two years. His body and game are NBA ready he is the best athlete in this draft, and is a surprisingly good shooter for a player his size (he shot close to 57 percent from three-point range as a sophomore).
3. Utah Jazz - Enes Kanter (6-11, 260, PF, Kentucky)
The Jazz have a choice to make here. Do they take a point guard and play him in combo sets with Devin Harris? Or do they bolster an already strong frontline featuring Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson? It says here they go big, and the best post player available is Enes Kanter. Unless you've followed Turkish basketball closely, chances are you haven't seen Kanter play. He spent last season sitting on the Kentucky bench after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. He did practice everyday with the Wildcats, but practicing and game action are far different animals. Kanter is billed as an extremely polished and athletic post player, a rare combination of size and skill.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jonas Valanciunas (6-11, 240, C, Lithuania)
After getting their point guard at the top of the draft, the Cavs go big at No. 4. By all accounts, Valanciunas is the top international prospect available (Kanter notwithstanding). In the mold of most foreign big men, Valanciunas is able to get out and run the floor and is very skilled with the ball in his hands. Taking Valanciunas this high is a gamble. Cleveland can only hope he pans out as well as the last Lithuanian big man they drafted Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 1996.
5. Toronto Raptors - Brandon Knight (6-3, 185, PG, Kentucky)
If Knight gets past the Jazz at No. 3, he would be a great value pick for the Raptors here. Toronto's point guard situation is hardly stellar Jose Calderon turns 30 in September and Jerryd Bayless has yet to fulfill his potential as a 2008 lottery pick (although Bayless did produce when given big minutes in the last month of the season). Knight as a freshman was the driving force behind Kentucky's Final Four run, taking and making all the big shots for the Wildcats. He is polished beyond his years offensively, and his size gives him the edge over Kemba Walker, another point guard who will be drafted shortly.
6. Washington Wizards - Kawhi Leonard (6-7, 225, SF, San Diego St.)
Leonard may not be the sixth-best prospect in this draft, but he's a perfect fit for the Wizards. His specialties are rebounding and defense, and Washington was the fourth-worst rebounding team in the NBA last season and gave up the fifth most points. Leonard averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore for a 34-win San Diego St. team. His offensive game needs to improve; he shot just 44 percent from the field last season.
7. Sacramento Kings - Kemba Walker (6-1, 180, PG, Connecticut)
The Kings finally realized that Tyreke Evans is a lot of things, but a point guard isn't one of them. Sacramento could also use a high-character leader in its locker room. Enter Walker, who singlehandedly willed UConn to the national championship last season. He is a shoot-first point guard, so the challenge will be finding enough shots for him and Evans. But Walker is an NBA-ready talent with box office appeal, which is big for a Kings team on the brink of leaving Sacramento.
8. Detroit Pistons - Bismack Biyombo (6-9, 240, PF, Spain)
Biyombo is an unknown quantity, with the only certainties being his defense and rebounding. He is an elite level shot blocker and rebounder, with an NBA-ready body. His offensive game needs big-time work, but the Pistons will take his defense and wait for his offense. The Pistons gave up over 100 points per game last season, and they will see shades of Ben Wallace in Biyombo.
9. Charlotte Bobcats - Tristan Thompson (6-9, 225, PF, Texas)
The Bobcats' frontline needs help, and Thompson has a ton of potential here. He averaged 13 points and eight rebounds as a freshman. Thompson's frame has all the makings of a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. A lefty who is a handful to defend on the low block, he made great strides offensively during his time in Austin.
10. Milwaukee Bucks - Jan Vesely (6-11, 240, PF, Czech Republic)
The Bucks need help up front, and Vesely isn't your typical big man. He is an extremely gifted athlete who can excel on the offensive end right away. Vesely is a high-energy guy who would be a great fit coming off Milwaukee's bench. Consistency is the question mark with Vesely, who can be a bit of a tweener in terms of the small and power forward positions.
11. Golden State Warriors - Marcus Morris (6-9, 220, SF, Kansas)
The Warriors add an NBA-ready prospect in Morris with this pick. Golden State has plenty of guys that like to score and not much else. Morris has the ability to score when needed, but more importantly can rebound, defend and share the ball. The Philadelphia product improved every year at Kansas. He knows the game and made countless 'winning plays' in college. Morris doesn't need the ball to contribute, a welcomed attribute for Golden State.
12. Utah Jazz - Jimmer Fredette (6-2, 195, SG, BYU)
With their second lottery pick, the Jazz get a local boy and scoring machine in Fredette. The long range marksman was the darling of college basketball as a senior. Fredette led the nation by scoring just under 29 points per game and shot 40 percent from three. But he's not just a one-trick pony. Fredette demonstrated the ability to get to the basket, which complements his shooting stroke well. He'll also create a buzz playing in the same state where he starred collegiately. All this will help the Jazz look past Fredette's defensive shortcomings.
13. Phoenix Suns - Chris Singleton (6-9, 225, SF, Florida St.)
Singleton is considered the best perimeter defender in this draft, which is music to the Suns' ears. Phoenix gave up the second most points in the NBA last season. Taking Singleton gives them an immediate boost defensively, but they'll have to be patient for his offensive skills to evolve.
14. Houston Rockets - Alec Burks (6-6, 190, SG, Colorado)
Burks is an athletic perimeter player with skills that fit perfectly with how the high-octane Rockets like to play. His offensive game came a long way in his two seasons at Colorado; he averaged 20.5 points last season as a sophomore. Burks' jump shot needs improvement; he made just 29 percent of his three-point attempts. He is an above average rebounder with an all around game that mirrors Evan Turner.
15. Indiana Pacers - Markief Morris (6-10, 245, PF, Kansas)
The Pacers are in the market for an athletic big man who can protect the rim and run the floor. Morris fits that need perfectly. He was the less heralded Morris twin during his time at Kansas, but he thrived doing the dirty work defensively and on the glass. Morris is an excellent interior defender who averaged 8.3 rebounds as a junior.
16. Philadelphia 76ers - Kenneth Faried (6-8, 225, PF, Morehead State)
The 76ers have plenty of young building blocks for Doug Collins to work with, particularly on the perimeter. But they need a big man, an energy guy that will help them improve on the glass; they finished in the lower half of the NBA in rebounding margin last season. Rebounding was the biggest difference when the 76ers went toe-to-toe with Eastern Conference heavyweights like Orlando and Miami (in the four games they lost to the Heat in the postseason, they were beat on the glass by an average of 8.5 rebounds per game).
No one in college basketball rebounded the ball better than Faried last season he led the nation with 14.3 per game. But his skills aren't limited to the boards alone. He averaged close to 2.5 blocks last season and 17.3 points. He broke onto the national radar in Morehead State's first round upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. With four years of college experience, Faried will be ready to contribute immediately on the 76ers' thin frontline. He won't need the ball to be a factor in the NBA; he's content protecting the rim and rebounding.
17. New York Knicks - Donatas Motiejunas (7-0, 225, PF, Lithuania)
18. Washington Wizards - Trey Thompkins (6-10, 250, PF, Georgia)
19. Charlotte Bobcats - Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 225, SG, Texas)
20. Minnesota Timberwolves - Klay Thompson (6-6, 200, SG, Washington St.)
21. Portland Trail Blazers - Reggie Jackson (6-3, 210, PG, Boston College)
22. Denver Nuggets - Tobias Harris (6-8, 225, SF, Tennessee)
23. Houston Rockers - JaJuan Johnson (6-10, 220, PF, Purdue)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder - Justin Harper (6-10, 225, PF, Richmond)
25. Boston Celtics - Tyler Honeycutt (6-8, 190, SF, UCLA)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Darius Morris (6-4, 190, PG, Michigan)
27. New Jersey Nets - Josh Selby (6-2, 180, PG, Kansas)
28. Chicago Bulls - Shelvin Mack (6-2, 215, PG, Butler)
29. San Antonio Spurs - Nolan Smith (6-3, 190, PG, Duke)
30. Chicago Bulls - Davis Bertans (6-9, 210, SF, Latvia)