The 2011 NBA Draft begins tomorrow at ESPN, 6 PM central. My first round predictions:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
from the Los Angeles Clippers (32-50)
Derrick Williams, PF, University of Arizona
Many believe that Duke’s PG Kyrie Irving is the best selection for this choice. However, I believe that Williams would be taken by Minnesota at 2 or Utah at 3. Minnesota has Ricky Rubio coming in from Spain as well as Jonny Flynn who can run; Utah has an established player in Devin Harris at the point guard position. Cleveland should take the 6’ 9” Williams while he is still around.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-65)
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
The Detroit Pistons were in the exact situation the Minnesota Timberwolves were in in the 2003 NBA Draft, selecting Darko Miličićwith the second pick. Miličić hasn’t exactly panned out to be the pro the Pistons thought he might be as he now is a role player for the Timberwolves, but he was not exactly played much and given many chances during the dawn of his career. The Timberwolves are stocked with guards, particularly 2009 draft pick Ricky Rubio finally making the transfer over from Spain. Kevin Loveneeds some help down low with rebounds; the Turk is also an excellent shooter, something the Timberwolves do not have much help with other than Love. Kanter also spent a year most recently at the University of Kentucky; he was, however, ineligible to play on their basketball team because of his previous stints in Turkey as a professional player.
3. Utah Jazz (39-43)
from the New Jersey Nets (24-58)
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State University
The fans may want in-state talent Jimmer Fredette here, but it is for the betterment of the team that the Jazz take Leonard here. The Jazz may not be selecting the best player here, but the Jazz already have Devin Harris running the point, and one of the best young duos in the paint in Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Gordon Hayward still has a high likelihood of not panning out, so Leonard seems like the best option.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke University
Fans have not gotten over the fact LeBron James left them hanging to dry after "The Decision" last summer; James joining the Miami Heat alongside Chris Bosh
and Dwayne Wade (well, Wade was already there). The city of Cleveland has been looking for a leader since the departure of James; Kyrie Irving is your man. Despite only contributing minimally to Duke's basketball team this past season, this was only was due to a toe injury, Irving averaged 20.5 points per game in his one season with the Blue Devils. Irving is what they need: a point guard, a leader. Who knows, when all is said and done; he could have “not 5, not 6, not 7…multiple championships”.
5. Toronto Raptors (22-60)
Brandon Knight, PG, University of Kentucky
The Raptors, under newly hired coach Dwane Casey, are in need of a consistent point guard. Brandon Knight seems to be the best selection here. Knight was a smart student and the only Kentucky Wildcat I have respected, from what I can remember. He was a 4.0 student in his one year at UK, and will have to accept not being the #1 pick despite his wishes.
6. Washington Wizards (23-59)
Jan Vesely, SF, Czech Republic
A small forward is a position the Wizardsdo not seem very strong on. Sources also say the Wiz are very high on Vesely and would try to select him were he to be available at #6. Vesely could also be helpful on the defensive effort, almost like Dirk Nowitzki, as he stands tall at 6’ 11”.
7. Sacramento Kings (24-58)
Kemba Walker, PG, University of Connecticut
The Kings were 4th in rebounding this past season, so big men are not much of a worry this draft. However, Tyreke Evans needs some help bringing the ball around. Walker may be a point guard, but is an excellent shooter as well. Walker is also a great leader; he lead UConn to the Big East and national championship titles without having lost a game in either tournament. Having two men who have great abilitiy to bring up the ball would be a plus for the mediocre Sacramento Kings, who may move shop to Anaheim come next season.
8. Detroit Pistons (30-52)
Jonas Valančiūnas, C, Lithuania
Detroit doesn’t seem to have a consistent strong defensive player; the one defensive player they clearly have is center Ben Wallace, who is 36 years old. Jonas Valančiūnas seems to be an excellent blocker and rebounder, and could be able to be an old school NBA center by getting most of his points through offensive rebounds. And hey, were I in his shoes, being mentored by Ben Wallace to usher a new defensive era in Motor City would be very nice.
9. Charlotte Bobcats (34-48)
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State University
There will be many big men left come pick #19, the Bobcats’ next selection. That’s why I think they should hold off from selecting a power forward or center. Thompson is one of two great guards left, the other being University of Colorado shooting guard Alec Burks. Thompson has a few inches on Burks is why he is the better selection. Stephen Jackson is also getting older and not being worth the $8.45 million he is being paid. Stay patient, Charlotte.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (35-47)
Alec Burks, SG, University of Colorado
Speak of the devil and he may appear. John Salmons and Michael Redd aren’t getting any younger. Both are beginning to enter the twilight of their careers as they are both now 31 years of age. Alec Burks of Colorado seems to be a prime candidate to take over for the two of them. Burks average more than 20 points per game in Boulder, and the Bucks should take advantage of a guard still being on the board that are lottery-worthy.
11. Golden State Warriors (36-46)
Tristan Thompson, PF, University of Texas
Thompson’s draft stock has actually been rising, according to multiple reports. Golden State is in need of a big man while having great young guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. The Warriors need someone who will compliment David Lee down low. Tristan Thompson, who has fallen enough, will be snatched up by Golden State here.
12. Utah Jazz (39-43)
Jimmer Fredette, PG, Brigham Young University
Do you Jimmer? Jimmer Fredette led the Brigham Young Cougars to a Sweet 16 bid this past season, being among the top scorers in the NCAA this past season with 28.9 points per game and being awarded several honors during his prestigous college career. The main question is now where Jimmer will play. Fredette is an icon in the state of Utah, so selecting him would greatly increase ticket sales. The Jazz are also in the need of a guard. Jimmer can easily create his own shot, as proven by the 1,000+ points in his career. For ticket sales, and team success, Jimmer Fredette is the best option for the Jazz here.
13. Phoenix Suns (40-42)
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
The Phoenix Suns are in need of a small forward as they begin to rebuild with Vince Carter, Steve Nash, and Grant Hill all 34 or older. Look for Singleton to be a great player within 2-5 years and a leader on this team.
14. Houston Rockets (43-39)
Jordan Hamilton, SF, University of Texas
The Houston Rockets honestly seem to be going into rebuilding mode; a new coach in Kevin McHale, and an additional first round selection at #23. Hamilton is a home-grown product, who, at 6’ 9”, could contribute down low as well as shooting. All the highly-touted big men, as expected, are taken, and Hamilton could fit in nicely in Houston.