The Fast Break: 2011 NBA Draft Primer
Posted Jun 16 2011 1:06PM
"The Fast Break" is Scott Stanchak's weekly NBA notebook column that features interviews, insight, international news and more. New every Thursday at NBA.com/fastbreak.
Secaucus, N.J. – Kyrie Irving doesn't have to travel far to learn where he'll be playing next season. Sure, he'll likely sleep in a swank midtown Manhattan hotel next Wednesday night. But if Irving wanted, he could stay at his childhood home in West Orange, N.J., where posters of Chris Paul and other basketball heroes once hung on his bedroom walls.
The town of West Orange is a nine-mile drive from the Prudential Center in Newark, home to this year's NBA Draft. It is there Irving will begin his path of becoming the next boyhood hero.
The NBA Draft is a fresh start for college players. Statistically, none are better than the other, each one with zeros across the back of their NBA trading cards. There’s only what they’ve done and where they are going, the latter only speculation. This year’s draft class doesn’t have the big names that will leave fans on the edge of their seats throughout the night, hoping and praying “this guy” falls. Lackluster names don’t mean the talent is not there though. In fact, this has the potential to be one of the classes we look back in five, 10 years and realize there were a two or three stars and many good role players.
Picking who’s going where in a mock draft is one big crap shoot. Outside the top two selections, it’s just a jumbled mess of preference. That’s why I’m aiming to get your focus more off of my potential blunders and looking at the ones teams have made over the years. So instead of only filling you in on who I think will land where, I decided to break down each lottery team’s history in the early part of the draft.
The lottery came into effect in 1985 as a way of preventing teams from tanking in order to get better positioning. The system was revised in 1990 to a weighted system, giving the worst teams better odds at landing the top overall pick. In 2004, the number of lottery teams increased to 14, a number that stands today.
Since 1985, every team in this year’s top fourteen has made a selection in the lottery portion of the draft. It’s easy to look back, analyze stats and years played to give a definitive bust label to someone. I’m unfavorable towards criticizing teams on their selections, but only if it was a very early pick. At the time, unless it was a stretch selection, most other teams were licking their chops to hold a top pick and would have likely gone in the same direction. (Despite taking Bryant Reeves three years prior, the Vancouver Grizzlies probably would have taken Michael Olowokandi in 1998 with the number-one overall pick. Denver, who ended up at three, almost definitely would have.)
There’s some fun though in taking the retro machine back to 1985 and pulling out the name of a player who panned out wonderfully and one who didn’t. That’s what I did for each team in this year’s lottery. To make it even more enjoyable – maybe painful, depending on your fandom of a team – I also included a player of the same position who was passed over for the worst lottery selection in team history.
Let’s take a look at the mock big board (keep in mind, these are my opinions and nothing official):
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (From L.A. Clippers): Kyrie Irving, PG – Duke
Analysis: Irving doesn’t have the college resume as others in this draft, but that won’t stop the Cavaliers from calling his name number one. Irving missed most his freshman season at Kentucky with a ligament injury in his toe. The Cavs aren’t concerned though and are poised to find the heir apparent to their last top-overall selection, LeBron James.
Best Lottery Selection: LeBron James, 2003 – 1st Overall
Note: You can’t be a king without any jewelry. James led the Cavs to one Finals appearance in seven seasons, but that series ended with the Spurs capturing their third title in five years. He’s the youngest player ever to 10,000 points and became a two-time MVP along the way. Despite James’ failure to execute in the postseason, he is arguably the second best player in the league (Kobe Bryant being No. 1) with or without the words “Cavaliers” on the front of his jersey.
Worst Lottery Selection: Luke Jackson, 2004 – 10th Overall
Note: The University of Oregon forward lasted just two years, 46 games, in Cleveland. He totaled 125 points and 46 rebounds during that span. He’s still balling though, having spent last season with the NBA D-League’s Idaho Stampede. Jackson was an All-Star for them in 2009, too.
Passed Over: Al Jefferson, 15th overall to Boston
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, SF – Arizona
Analysis: There’s no doubt that Irving and Williams are the top two players in this draft. Even if Minnesota trades out of this spot, which is still a possibility, the team coming in will grab this former Arizona Wildcat. Williams averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds last season. He’s the type of athlete who should have a small learning curve entering the NBA.
Best Lottery Selection: Kevin Garnett, 1995 – 5th Overall
Note: It’s hard to imagine that Garnett spent 12 seasons with the Timberwolves. He led them to eight straight playoff appearances – they haven’t returned since he left – seven of which ended in the first round. Garnett is Minnesota’s top player in franchise history, having scored a majority of his 23,323 points there.
Worst Lottery Selection: William Avery, 1999 – 14th Overall
Note: I wanted to go with Ricky Rubio here, but now that he announced he’ll likely suit up for Minnesota in 2011-12, I’ll defer to Avery, who averaged just 2.4 points and 1.4 assists in 142 games. Avery was the first of Mike Krzyzewski’s players to leave for the Draft before picking up his diploma, setting the bar low for those who followed.
Passed Over: Ron Artest, 16th overall to Chicago
3. Utah Jazz (From New Jersey): Brandon Knight, PG – Kentucky
Analysis: The Jazz expect Knight to be here when their turn arises. I expect the Jazz to pull the trigger and select Deron William’s replacement. Knight’s opportunity to shine at Kentucky came from John Wall fleeing town for the draft last year. Knight didn’t disappoint in Wall’s place, dropping 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game in his only college season.
Best Lottery Selection: Karl Malone, 1985 – 13th Overall
Note: The Mailman put together a Hall of Fame career in Utah, where he spent 18 seasons. Malone was a two-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, two-time All-Star Game MVP, the list goes on. He’s recognized as one of the top forwards in the history of the game.
Worst Lottery Selection: Kris Humphries, 2004 – 14th Overall
Note: My apologizes to Humphries, who put together a nice season in New Jersey this season, but his tenure in Utah was short (two years) and uneventful (3.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg). Also working against Humphries is that the Jazz have had only five lottery picks in the last 26 years, including Malone, Gordon Hayward, Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer.
Passed Over: Al Jefferson, 15th overall to Boston
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter, C - Turkey
Analysis: The Cavs need to make this pick count if they want to beat the Heat to a championship. They’ll get their point guard at No. 1 and now they need to secure the spot in the paint. Kanter is 6-foot-11, 260 pounds and a raw talent. He was ruled ineligible at the University of Kentucky, the primary reason he’s entering the draft this year. While he hasn’t played against top-tier talent, scouts don’t seem to be too concerned.
Best Lottery Selection: See No. 1
Worst Lottery Selection: See No. 1
5. Toronto Raptors: Kemba Walker, PG – University of Connecticut
Analysis: Here’s where the draft gets a little harder to predict. The next tier of players consists of several coming to the U.S. from overseas. I don’t see general manager Bryan Colangelo going the international route though; instead he’ll grab Walker to create the backcourt of the future in Toronto with DeMar DeRozan. I haven’t forgotten about Jose Calderon, but his contract is pricey and that could be a reason to move him.
Best Lottery Selection: Chris Bosh, 2003 – 4th Overall
Note: Bosh gets the nod over Tracy McGrady because of years spent in Toronto (seven to three). The 6-foot-10 forward gave hope to a city that had just lost Vince Carter in a deal with the New Jersey Nets. In Toronto, Bosh averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds. He also made five straight Eastern Conference All-Star teams, six if you count his first year with the Heat.
Worst Lottery Selection: Rafael Araujo, 2004 – 8th Overall
Note: Araujo never lived up to his potential in Toronto, or the NBA for that matter. In two seasons, Araujo was a 2.7 ppg and 2.9 rpg guy before being dealt to Utah ahead of the 2006-07 season. He’s now made a career playing overseas, where he’s best known for shattering backboards.
Passed Over: Andris Biedrins, 11th overall to Golden State
6. Washington Wizards: Kawhi Leonard, SF – San Diego State
Analysis: The Wizards have been building a solid, youthful core in recent years. The one spot they could use help in the starting lineup is at small forward. Leonard fills that void. The 20-year-old averaged a double-double (15.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg) last season at fun-to-watch San Diego State.
Best Lottery Selection: Juwan Howard, 1994 – 5th Overall
Note: Howard might not be the biggest name the Wizards have selected, but he’s someone who put in enough time and had enough productivity to warrant this nod. He was an All-Star in 1996 and averaged 14.9 points or more in each of seven seasons.
Worst Lottery Selection: Kwame Brown, 2001 – 1st Overall
Note: There were some bad lottery picks for the Wizards over the years, ala Kenny Green in 1985, but Brown takes the cake. There are certain standards that come along with being the top-overall pick, and Brown failed to meet every one of them. Brown spent four seasons in Washington, where his best season came in 2003-04 when he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. He’s now playing in Charlotte for the man responsible for drafting him: Michael Jordan.
Passed Over: Pau Gasol, 3rd overall to Atlanta
7. Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette, SG – Brigham Young University
Analysis: With Sam Dalembert all but surely not coming back, the Kings would love to grab a center here. There are no big men worthy of going in this slot though. They’d love it if Leonard was here, but he won’t be. That leaves two options: shooting guards Alec Burks or Fredette. I’m going to go with Fredette, knowing he’s a popular name who the organization could market itself around. Sacramento did extend a qualifying offer to shooting guard Marcus Thornton, but there’s no certainty he’ll be back.
Best Lottery Selection: Peja Stojakovic, 1996 – 14th Overall
Note: The three-time All-Star and one of the top 3-point shooters in the league at one time was a big-time choice for the Kings in 1996. Sacramento went to the playoffs every year Stojakovic was in uniform. The only downside to this selection is Steve Nash went one slot later to Phoenix.
Worst Lottery Selection: Pervis Ellison, 1989 – 1st Overall
Note: Kings teammate Danny Ainge once called him “Out of Service Pervis.” That’s due to the fact that he was sidelined 48 of 82 games his rookie year. The next season the Kings sent him to Washington. Ellison had a decent 11-year career, but his one in Sacramento is forgettable.
Passed Over: Shawn Kemp, 17th Overall to Seattle
8. Detroit Pistons: Jan Vesely, PF - Serbia
Analysis: The Pistons could use help at a number of spots, and they’ll be elated if Vesely falls to them. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound power forward would be able to start immediately. Fellow forward Jonas Valanciunas is also an option.
Best Lottery Selection: Grant Hill, 1994 – 3rd Overall
Note: Pistons fans were absolutely thrilled to land Hill out of Duke in 1994. He rewarded the Motor City’s faith in him with a Rookie of the Year trophy and four All-Star appearances in six years. Injuries took a toll on his career after he left Detroit, but he’ll be remembered as one of the best to done the red, white and blue, or teal, orange, red, black and white from that one forgettable era.
Worst Lottery Selection: Darko Milicic, 2003 – 2nd Overall
Note: Having made the playoffs the year before, there were no glaring needs on the Pistons’ roster. That led to going with the best “available” after the Cavs snatched up hometown hero LeBron James. To be fair, Milicic never got much playing time, one of the reasons he later questioned why the Pistons even drafted him. He averaged just 5.7 minutes in three seasons, so you can guess what his numbers looked like.
Passed Over: Chris Bosh, 4th overall to Toronto
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Jonas Valanciunas, PF - Lithuania
Analysis: The Bobcasts are another team that needs a center, but they’ll settle for a power forward instead. Whoever the Pistons don’t take, they’ll snatch up. In this mock, it’s going to be Valanciunas. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut better player right now among the two, so really it’s just preference.
Best Lottery Selection: Emeka Okafor, 2004 – 2nd Overall
Note: Okafor was the first draft pick in Bobcats history, and a good one at that. The former UConn big man was outstanding his freshman campaign, taking home Rookie of the Year and three Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors while compiling 15.1 ppg and 10.9 rpg. He owns a career double-double average, only now he plays for New Orleans.
Worst Lottery Selection: Adam Morrison, 2006 – 3rd Overall
Note: Having a stellar NCAA Tournament run does not always translate to success in the NBA. Morrison is a testament to that. The former Gonzaga forward played just a season and a half in North Carolina before being dealt to Los Angeles. Chalk Morrison up as another one of Michael Jordan’s failed picks.
Passed Over: Rudy Gay, 8th overall to Houston
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Marcus Morris, PF - Kansas
Analysis: This is where close-to-playoff teams start to come into the mix. A player from here on could be the difference between the postseason and sitting on the couch watching them. The Bucks need a power forward and Morris is the best available. Morris is more seasoned than the other fours selected ahead of him, having spent three years at Kansas, where he shot over 50 percent from the field.
Best Lottery Selection: Glenn Robinson, 1994 – 1st Overall
Note: Robinson was a staple in the Bucks lineup for eight seasons, two of which he was an All-Star. It’s surprising Robinson, who has career averages of 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a night, only made it to the midseason classic that number of times. The Bucks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals only once in Robinson’s tenure, losing in seven games to Philadelphia.
Worst Lottery Selection: Joe Alexander, 1998 – 8th Overall
Note: Alexander fell out of favor quickly in Milwaukee, which is why he only spent one season there. His coaches thought he was soft and tried moving him to the three, but he was meant to be a four. Alexander only has 67 games under his NBA belt and is now one of the NBA D-League’s top players. He got a sniff from the Mavericks last season, but a contract never got put in front of him.
Passed Over: Jason Thompson, 12th overall to Sacramento
11. Golden State Warriors: Alec Burks, SG - Colorado
Analysis: In my book, the Warriors were the best on-paper team to miss the playoffs in 2010. With Monta Ellis on the trading block, they’ll look to fill his spot. New coach Mark Jackson wants more offense out of his team and Burks can add that. In fact, many consider him one of the best all-around scorers in the draft.
Best Lottery Selection: Chris Mullin, 1985 – 7th Overall
Note: The Hall of Fame guard went through a six-year stretch in Golden State where he averaged nearly 25 points and over five rebounds. Mullin was one of the top guard-forwards in the NBA for more than that number of seasons. He’s always been known as one of the hardest workers in the gym, which clearly translated to success on the floor.
Worst Lottery Selection: Chris Washburn, 1986 – 3rd Overall
Note: Washburn came into the league one season after Mullin and he was out less than two years later. Drug abuse played the major role in that, as in 1989 he was banned for life from the NBA after failing three drug tests in three years. His career numbers: 222 points and 176 rebounds in 72 games.
Passed Over: John Salley, 11th overall to Detroit
12. Utah Jazz: Chris Singleton, SF – Florida State
Analysis: The Jazz and Cavaliers are the only two teams to hold two lottery picks this year. They got their point guard of the future with their first pick. Now they’ll pick up an outside scorer. Singleton is one of the draft’s top risers, known for his defense slightly ahead of his offense. Letting him learn from Andrei Kirilenko, who plays a similar style, will only improve his chances of success.
Best Lottery Selection: See No. 3
Worst Lottery Selection: See No. 3
13. Phoenix Suns: Tristan Thompson, PF - Texas
Analysis: The Suns are hoping Fredette falls to them, but I don’t see it happening. This draft just isn’t that deep, meaning teams will take chances on certain players. Thompson is best available at this point, despite fifth-year guy Channing Frye being cemented at power forward. Thompson is only 20 years old, so sitting on the bench isn’t a bad thing.
Best Lottery Selection: Amar’e Stoudemire, 2002 – 9th Overall
Note: The Suns went the high school route in the 2002 draft. What they got was a youngster with huge upside. Unlike many other players who skipped college to enter the pros, Stoudemire has grown into one of the top players in the game. He spent eight seasons in Phoenix, is a six-time All-Star and can be found perennially among the league’s top scorers. Stoudemire left Phoenix for New York ahead of the 2010-11 season.
Worst Lottery Selection: William Bedford, 1986 – 6th Overall
Note: Drugs were the essential reason behind Bedford’s failure to live up to his potential. The Suns needed a big man and grabbed the University of Memphis 7-foot center at No. 6. He’d play just 50 games for Phoenix, averaging 6.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in close to 20 minutes. He was traded a season later to Detroit, where he won a championship in 1990.
Passed Over: John Williams, 12th overall to Washington
(Side Note: The Clippers traded Bedford, along with Don MacLean, for Williams in Oct. 1992.)
14. Houston Rockets: Jordan Hamilton, SF - Texas
Analysis: I’m well aware Bismack Biyombo hasn’t made my draft board. At 14, he’s a possibility, but I want to go with needs and small forward is a big one for the Rockets. Hamilton is considered a top scorer with big-time range. He has the ability to be a 15-and-5 guy a night.
Best Lottery Selection: Yao Ming, 2002 – 1st Overall
Note: Houston made Ming the first international player selected with the top pick in the draft in 2002. The Rockets still grabbed Ming despite so much uncertainty whether China would even allow him to play in the United States. It was a good thing for the Chinese economy that he did. Ming is on the downside of his career, but after eight All-Star appearances and nearly 10,000 career points, he certainly has put together an outstanding resume. The only thing missing is a title.
Worst Lottery Selection: Michael Dickerson, 1998 – 14th Overall
Note: First off, apologizes to Michael, who had a respectable 10.9 points per game in his rookie season. He also finished sixth in 3-point percentage (.433) and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. Dickerson was dealt a year later and retired in 2003 after suffering a number of injuries. The Rockets simply didn’t have that many lottery picks since 1985.
Passed Over: Matt Harpring, 15th overall to Orlando
15. Indiana Pacers: Marshon Brooks, SG - Providence
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Bismack Biyombo, PF - Congo
17. New York Knicks: Klay Thompson, PG – Washington St.
18. Washington Wizards (From Atlanta): Markieff Morris, PF - Kansas
19. Charlotte Bobcats (From New Orleans via Portland): Nikola Vucevic, C - USC
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (From Memphis via Utah): Donatas Motiejunas, PF - Italy
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Josh Shelby, PG - Kansas
22. Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried, PF – Morehead State
23. Houston Rockets (From Orlando via Phoenix): Tobias Howard, PF - Tennessee
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Singler, SF - Duke
25. Boston Celtics: Jordan Williams, C - Maryland
26. Dallas Mavericks: Justin Harper, PF - Richmond
27. New Jersey Nets (From L.A. Lakers): Nolan Smith, PG - Duke
28. Chicago Bulls (From Miami via Toronto): Shelvin Mack, PG - Butler
29. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Tyler, C – Tokyo Apache
30. Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic, SF - Serbia
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