June 17, 2011

Hoopistani Mocks the 2011 Draft

We are just 6 days away from perhaps the least anticipated NBA Draft of all time. I'm sorry if that's the worst possible way to start an article about the Draft, but it's true - this year promises to present one of the weakest draft classes in a long time. It's going to be slim pickings for the teams announcing their pick on June 23rd, and what's worse is, it's hard to get excited about the future of these youngsters in the league when there is the dark cloud of 'possible lockout' (TheLWord) hanging gloomily above it - how can we be excited for the future if we aren't sure of a future?

That said, at the end of the day, NBA teams will be adding fresh new talent to their squad and hope for them to become the stars of the future. Before writing this article, I checked out the players who are the stars of today, and I'm going to simplify the 'star' argument by choosing the 2011 All Star Teams. In the pool of 25 players in the 2 teams (Yao Ming was selected but injured, so a replacement was chosen), there are an amazing six former #1 draft picks, and 18 overall picked in the top 5! Criticize the choices of NBA owners all you want, but 18/25 picked in the top 5 shows that some of them know what they're doing (and others pick Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh).

But there's hope for the low picks too. Amongst the seven players outside the top 5, we find the last four NBA Finals MVPs: Dirk Nowitzki was a 9th pick, Kobe Bryant was a 13th pick, Paul Pierce was a 10th pick, and Tony Parker, who didn't make the all star team this year but was the 2007 Finals MVP, was picked 28th. The lowest all star in terms of draft ranking? Manu Ginobili, who was shockingly picked 57th in 1999.

What does this all teach us? You'll get an all star when you pick high, but don't knock the low picks, because there could be a champion hidden somewhere.

So without further ado, here are my predictions for the lottery teams (top 14) of the 2011 NBA Draft. I have used knowledge from three reliable sources to help me come up with my list: DraftExpress.com, SLAM Online Mock Draft, and NBA.com Mock Draft. Of course, this prediction is made considering that there will be no picks traded to other teams, in which case, different teams will have different needs to fill:

1) Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
2) Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
3) Utah Jazz: Kemba Walker
4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonas Valanciunas
5) Toronto Raptors: Brandon Knight
6) Washington Wizards: Enes Kanter
7) Sacramento Kings: Jan Vesely
8) Detroit Pistons: Bismack Biyombo
9) Charlotte Bobcats: Jimmer Fredette
10) Milwaukee Bucks : Kawhi Leonard
11) Golden State Warriors: Marcus Morris
12) Utah Jazz: Alec Burks
13) Phoenix Suns: Chris Singleton
14) Houston Rockets: Tristan Thomas

I feel I should explain a few decisions.

Kyrie Irving seems to be the lock for the first pick, and most people believe that Derrick Williams follows next. When Cavs won the draft lottery, I was sure that they would translate it into the Duke PG. The 2nd pick seems to be settled for Derrick Williams too.

This is where things get interesting, and unlike most rankings, I have picked Kemba Walker to go over the likes of Brandon Knight and Jonas Valanciunas. Scouts be damned - all I know that inspirational college winners are a good sign of winners in the pro league too. If I'm Utah, I'm bringing Kemba in and making him the permanent replacement to Deron Williams.

Since Cavs have already picked a PG in Irving, I say they skip Brandon Knight and pick Valanciunas with their 4th pick.

The other choice I feel I must explain is Jimmer Fredette to Charlotte. Jimmer's stock as been up and down the last few weeks, with teams failing to understand whether or not he could become a star in this league. He was college basketball's best scorer but there are doubts about his ability to play in the pros and defend the bigger guards. For the draft, some say he could go to the Kings, as high as 7, while others have him slipping to Utah or Phoenix at 12-13. I feel 9 is a good spot for him: The Bobcats could certainly use his scoring tenacity and he will learn a thing or two about defense down there, too.

I am also intrigued to see how the international prospects in the draft - Jonas Valančiūnas (Lithuania), Enes Kanter (Turkey), Bismack Biyombo (Congo) - perform in the lottery.

So let's cross our fingers and wait. Let's hope that some of these players become all stars and MVPs of the future, and let's hope there is a season on time come November so we can see them in action!

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