Draft Day Mock

Today is my favorite day of the year, and as such, I present my mock lottery for the 2011 NBA Draft.  This year’s draft is so light at the top, but its strength is in its depth — the role players between the late lottery and mid-2nd round are almost entirely interchangeable, rendering the back of the first round nearly impossible to predict. Look for heaps of trades to come throughout the evening, but assuming each team stays in their current slot:

1.  Cleveland Cavaliers — Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

A decimated team gets their floor general to lead them out of the rubble in a few years. Not as explosive as John Wall, but the best of a solid point guard class will limit mistakes with the ball in his hands, while forcing them with his quickness on the other side of the floor. NBA Comparison = Mike Conley

2.  Minnesota Timberwolves — Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona

If David Kahn keeps the pick, he has proven to be aggressive in drafting the best player available, at the expense of team need.  A team full of undersized offense-only players (Jonny Flynn, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love) adds one more — too slow to guard small forwards, too small to guard power forwards.  Williams would be perfect as a pick-and-pop stretch 4, but Minnesota is one of the few teams that would render him redundant.  NBA Comparison = David West

3.  Utah Jazz — Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

Devin Harris is an inefficient, mediocre lead guard who has yet to play a full, healthy season in the league.  In other words, John Calipari’s latest project is better than Harris right now. With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors all locked up for another few years, the Jazz are all set with their frontcourt of the future, making Enes Kanter a luxury they don’t need.  This is not a franchise accustomed to rebuilding projects, and Knight will come out with perimeter scoring from Day 1.  NBA Comparison = Chauncey Billups

4.  Cleveland Cavaliers — Enes Kanter, PF/C, Turkey

Ruled ineligible by the NCAA just before Kentucky’s season, Kanter missed out on the chance to spend the season right under the noses of NBA scouts.  Currently a weak defender, he could project to be adequate on that end with good coaching.  With Irving in tow, Cleveland can either line Kanter up at the 5 with Antawn Jamison, playing with his back to the basket as defenders are drawn to the perimeter, or play him at power forward alongside Anderson Varejao, letting Kanter drift and knock down shots with a rebounding machine underneath.  NBA Comparison = Al Jefferson

5.  Toronto Raptors — Kahwi Leonard, SF, San Diego St

Bryan Colangelo could easily play to the Raptors stereotype, taking Euro bigs Jonas Valanciunas or Jan Vesely.  But the keen eye that drafted mid-major Shawn Marion out of UNLV in 1999 will see his clone in Leonard.  A do-it-all forward with huge defensive and rebounding potential, his offensive game will develop both inside and out in between DeMar DeRozan’s slashing and Andrea Bargnani’s shooting.  NBA Comparison = Shawn Marion

6.  Washington Wizards — Jan Vesely, SF/PF, Czech Republic

Toronto’s Leonard selection leaves Washington scrambling, but they find themselves a nice player in Vesely.  Not the one-dimensional European shooting big man we’re used to seeing, the 6’11 Vesely has great hands around the basket and attacks well from outside. The development of JaVale McGee renders Valanciunas moot, and Vesely can be stashed in Belgrade for another season or two, developing further while the Wizards figure out whether Andray Blatche can harness his talent into trade value.  NBA Comparison = Andrei Kirilenko

7.  Sacramento Kings — Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut

Can you mold him into a true point guard?  That is the big question with Walker — his size handicaps his scoring potential, and he won’t be given the green light the way he was under Jim Calhoun.  While not a natural distributor, his passing is good enough to allow Tyreke Evans to play the 2, or even 3, as Walker learns to get his scoring in the flow of an offense. Sacramento, building a young, exciting team, had to notice the way that Dallas’ small guards provided instant scoring off the bench in the Finals.  NBA Comparison = Jason Terry

8.  Detroit Pistons — Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania

Although his buyout and development will conspire to keep him out of the NBA for two seasons, he will be ready to step on the court as a defensive difference-maker when he hits our shores.  To inch back towards respectability, Joe Dumars must give the Pistons an interior presence again, and Bismack Biyombo is even more of a risk than Valanciunas. Lining up next to Chris Webber lite (Greg Monroe) will allow Valanciunas to operate almost exclusively right underneath the basket, where he will be most effective.  NBA Comparison = Andris Biedrins

9.  Charlotte Bobcats — Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas

Nothing short of a defensive force, Thompson makes up for his lack of size with above-average athleticism and intensity.  With the league’s lack of dominant post scorers, he actually fits in very nicely next to Tyrus Thomas to give Charlotte an undersized, ultra-athletic frontcourt look.  Line either up next to DaSagana Diop for an even more fearsome combination of length and shot-blocking ability.  Unfortunately, none of the three give you anything on the offensive end, but defense-only lineups can be useful in short bursts.  NBA Comparison = Tyrus Thomas

10.  Milwaukee Bucks — Klay Thompson, SG, Washington St

Son of former #1 overall pick and two-time NBA Champion Mychal Thompson, the best shooter in the draft fits in perfectly on a team that’s been in dire need since Michael Redd started getting hurt.  Big enough to mask his average athleticism, he’s a smart, instinctual player on the defensive end as well.  Thompson gets to the line very efficiently for a player who averaged only 9 shots a game from inside the arc, a skill that will translate beautifully to the next level.  NBA Comparison = Allan Houston

11.  Golden State Warriors — Chris Singleton, SF, Florida St

New coach Mark Jackson needs a defensive presence on a team that already has enough ball-dominating scorers.  Singleton can guard ones through fours, and after hounding the ball at that end, can absolutely fly in transition.  A shaky 3-point shooter with awkward ball-handling skills, Singleton could turn into Trevor Ariza or Ron Artest for a championship team if he refines his offensive game.  NBA Comparison = Luc Richard Mbah A Moute

12.  Utah Jazz — Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU

If he’s still available here (and he should be), he HAS to be the pick, right?  Fredette will never be better than a liability on defense, but his shooting and marketing potential leave Utah with no choice.  After losing Carlos Boozer, Jerry Sloan, then Deron Williams within the past year, Jimmer will immediately step in as the face of the franchise, even if he tops out as a first guard off the bench.  As tough as it is to put him in front of point guards in man-to-man defense, the team would be even worse off asking him to defend starting 2’s next to Knight, their earlier draft pick.  NBA Comparison = Mo Williams

13.  Phoenix Suns — Alec Burks, SG, Colorado

When Phoenix was tearing up the league with their “Seven seconds or less” offensive mentality a few years ago, Steve Nash was flying down the court with Marion, Leandro Barbosa, and Joe Johnson next to him.  Now, no one on the team can run with Nash, and he’s left to penetrate and kick to a roster of stationary shooters.  In Burks, Phoenix finds an athletic, slashing wing once again.  Regardless of what the front office decides to do with Nash, Burks can operate effectively as the ball man in pick-and-roll situations and in isolations, as his handle and quickness get him to the rim almost at will.  A good rebounder for his size and position as well, he’s never had a dire need to develop a three-point shot, which he will need to improve as an NBA player.  NBA Comparison = Tyreke Evans

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