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Scott Howard-Cooper

Mock Draft: San Diego State's Leonard could shape lottery

Posted Jun 17 2011 1:55PM

The Kawhi Leonard landing spot would have been one of the interesting outcomes no matter what, the way some teams think he is worthy of being picked around the midpoint of the lottery and others don't think he is good enough to deserve to be taken at the midpoint of the entire first round. Opinions from front offices are that wildly split.

Only now, Leonard has emerged as such a game changer that his possible early selection, if it happens, becomes an intersection moment next Thursday. He's a possibility as soon as No. 6 to the Wizards, which could drop Brandon Knight or Jan Vesely to the delighted Kings. Or, the San Diego State star is an option for Sacramento at 7, which is a good moment for teams going later in the lottery that didn't have Leonard going so high. (Maybe the Kings take Leonard over Kemba Walker, with small forward a pressing issue. But going Leonard over Vesely is impossible to imagine.)

No other successful college player generates such disagreement. One team rated Leonard the 18th-best player in the draft after San Diego State was eliminated from the tournament, a strong statement even if he moved up since by attrition when several likely lottery picks stayed in school. Another executive, though he had not done his club's mock draft yet, said he wouldn't take Leonard in the mid-teens, the cost of not being a standout shooter or a plus-athlete. And now he could become a central figure in the selection process.

To the third mock draft, with new information gathered at the adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy:

1 Cleveland Cavaliers | Kyrie Irving | PG | Duke

What doesn't show up in the stats: Irving is a tremendous leader. He stepped on to a veteran team at Duke and took control in the earliest practices as a freshman. That will play very well in Cleveland.

2 Minnesota Timberwolves | Derrick Williams | SF-PF | Arizona

The Timberwolves for now, at least. Trade talks, already active, will really start to pick up within the next several days. Minnesota could also deal a player already on the roster and keep the pick.

3 Utah Jazz | Enes Kanter | C-PF | Turkey

Utah is also seriously considering Brandon Knight and Jan Vesely, the athletic small forward from the Czech Republic who has been compared to Andrei Kirilenko and now may be brought in to replace Kirilenko in a twist. But Kanter is the call because the Jazz do like him at this spot and there is no reason to jump back and forth among possibilities.

4 Cleveland Cavaliers | Jonas Valanciunas | C | Lithuania

Some teams feel Valanciunas, though not ready to make an immediate impact, could turn out to be the best of the international prospects. The Cavs, with two picks in the first four, are the perfect team to make the investment with a long-term payoff by adding a point guard and center for the future on the same night.

5 Toronto Raptors | Brandon Knight | PG | Kentucky

Needs to prove he can develop the playmaking skills to go with a shooter's mentality, but there is a lot to like with the package of speed and clutch plays. Plus, he is impressing teams with his personality and intelligence.

6 Washington Wizards | Jan Vesely | SF-PF | Czech Republic

Aggressive, athletic player can play both forward spots with durability at 230 pounds but needs to improve his perimeter game. Teams don't feel his shot is broken, though. Only in need of tweaking.

7 Sacramento Kings | Kemba Walker | PG | Connecticut

More will be known after Leonard's Sacramento workout scheduled for Friday. But nothing will change the fact that the Kings desperately need a leadership upgrade. That's Walker, complete with experience in pressure situations.

8 Detroit Pistons | Bismack Biyombo | PF | Congo

The closer the draft gets, the more some teams believe Joe Dumars needs the safe pick with better odds on a nice return with a new owner and a new coach. Biyombo is definitely not a safe-pick guy,but he projects as a game changer more than anyone still on the board.

9 Charlotte Bobcats | Alec Burks | SG | Colorado

The top true shooting guard available excels in the open court and is good at getting others involved, but needs to develop a consistent perimeter game. Not exactly a small detail for a shooting guard, but if it happens, he could become a very good scorer.

10 Milwaukee Bucks | Donatas Motiejunas | PF | Lithuania

Milwaukee will go for offense. Motiejunas, with size and athleticism, addresses that with the possibility of teaming with Andrew Bogut as bigs who can score and move. The knock from scouts is that he stays away from contact.

11 Golden State Warriors | Chris Singleton | SF | Florida State

Singleton has been moving up the board with workouts that have shown he can be more than a one-dimensional defensive standout. The Warriors need defense and depth at small forward. Good fit.

12 Utah Jazz | Jimmer Fredette | PG-SG | BYU

If Utah goes with Brandon Knight at No. 3, it almost certainly doesn't turn to another guard in the same lottery and the storybook outcome of Fredette moving from Provo to Salt Lake City ends. One thing is for sure: CEO Greg Miller has told GM Kevin O'Connor to make fans happy with wins, not by picking a local favorite, so the Jimmer gets easy relocation if the Jazz think he is the best addition, not because he is the best marketing tool.

13 Phoenix Suns | Tristan Thompson | PF | Texas

Thompson is a nonstop worker on the boards who particularly excels on offensive rebounding. Phoenix taking anyone but the best inside player still available would be a surprise.

14 Houston Rockets | Kawhi Leonard | SF | San Diego State

Houston can't go center here. Ending up with Leonard this late would have to feel like a good value pick.

15 Indiana Pacers | Klay Thompson | SG | Washington St.

One of the best perimeter threats available has worked to show he can put the ball on the floor and be more than a spot-up shooter. Teams all the way up to the top 10 are looking at him.

16 Philadelphia 76ers | Jordan Hamilton | SF | Texas

Hamilton is good enough that he is getting serious looks in the lottery, but there are questions about his drive. He says he is fully engaged and that there is no issue. No one questions that he has the game to become a top scoring threat.

17 New York Knicks | Marcus Morris | PF | Kansas

Power forward obviously isn't a pressing need in New York, an obvious drawback to the pick. But Morris is so solid that most everyone around the league seems him having a long career. That's not a bad selling point this late in the draft.

18 Washington Wizards | Marshon Brooks | SG | Providence

Washington goes frontcourt in the lottery and follows with a scorer/shooter at 18. Kyle Singler is another possibility here, or to fall entirely out of the first round.

19 Charlotte Bobcats | Markieff Morris | PF | Kansas

Tough not considered as good as twin brother Marcus, Markieff has the same potential to become a dependable part of the rotation.

20 Minnesota Timberwolves | Tyler Honeycutt | SF | UCLA

Smooth player who does a lot of things well but nothing great could become a nice complementary piece and the latest UCLA product to go from understated college player to important pro.

21 Portland Trail Blazers | Darius Morris | PG | Michigan

One of the few true, playmaking point guards in the draft, Morris has size and instincts. And the Blazers have a very uncertain future at the point.

22 Denver Nuggets | Kenneth Faried | PF | Morehead St.

Relentless rebounder and defender who put up big numbers against good competition will be an NBA success or crash through walls trying.

23 Houston Rockets | Jeremy Tyler | C | Tokyo Apache

Houston can go center here. Once considered a major prospect coming out of high school in San Diego, he is working to reclaim that level of respect after disappointments as a pro in Israel and Japan.

24 Oklahoma City Thunder | Kyle Singler | SF | Duke

Singler is one of the best options for a team that needs three-point shooting, or just any threat to draw defenses away from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

25 Boston Celtics | Nikola Vucevic | C | USC

His stock was helped when the measurements came out at the Chicago pre-draft camp and it turned out, in a rare moment, he was actually bigger than listed by his college team. But Vucevic also had good showings against Kansas and Texas during the season.

26 Dallas Mavericks | Josh Selby | SG-PG | Kansas

He has the tools to be a serious offensive threat, but could be held back as a player without a position, too small for shooting guard and lacking the ability to be a full-time point guard. Being tutored by a veteran backcourt will only help.

27 New Jersey Nets | Trey Thompkins | PF | Georgia

Thompkins is dropping fast, maybe faster than anyone, thanks to being out of shape at the Chicago pre-draft camp and continuing to be out of shape as he tours for individual workouts. He is creating a lot of head shaking around front offices.

28 Chicago Bulls | Shelvin Mack | PG-SG | Butler

A combo guard who is aggressive and can score, he is versatile enough to force his way into any lineup, even one with Derrick Rose in the backcourt.

29 San Antonio Spurs | JaJuan Johnson | PF | Purdue

Fluid big man who will do better in an open-court system rather than one that will require him to consistently bang inside. The lack of muscle is a concern.

30 Chicago Bulls | Justin Harper | PF | Richmond

A power forward with very good range, in the Channing Frye mode. The Bulls have already established themselves as an elite defensive team and now can work on improving from 13th in the league in shooting.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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