Jun 22 2011 1:05AM

The 2011 NBAge Draft Rankings


David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images

Michael Bradley wrote our excellent NBA Draft preview for HoopMag.com.

Chad Ford is the ultimate ESPN insider for his draft insights all year long too ... And I'd be remiss to leave out the other top-notch sites like Draft Express and NBADraft.net, who always keep us looking toward the future.

All of 'em have Kyrie Irving being the next No. 1 pick in an NBA Draft ala John Wall last year ... and I can't say I disagree with them. Irving is a great 19-year-old prospect.

But I like to use something a little different in my way of arriving at that conclusion

I call it the NBAge Draft Rankings, which rates prospects based on the year they were born. After covering 17 NBA Drafts, I learned early-on that young prospects were generally passed over for more experienced ones.

A great example comes from the last time I published those NBAge rankings for HoopMag.com in 2009.

Jrue Holiday was my steal of the draft, after he was taken 17th by the Philadelphia 76ers. Holiday was ranked third on my NBAage list overall--and second for his age group for players born in 1990, only trailing Ricky Rubio, who was taken fifth overall.

If you were to re-do that draft again today, I guarantee you Holiday goes Top 5. And I wouldn't be surprised if he went second or third.

This is how I view the NBA Draft, with a look to the future, not the present.

Line 'em up by age and pick accordingly.

The variables seldom change from year to year.

Generally speaking, every draft is going to have two perennial All-Stars ... Every draft is going to have seven players who will average 30-plus minutes over their careers ... And every draft will have about 20 guys who will go on to be good role players, which in my opinion, means you've amassed 10,000 NBA minutes over your career.

That said, using my 2011 NBAge rankings, you can determine that ...

1. Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams will be the two perennial All-Stars.

2. The other players who I think will play 30-plus minutes per game on average are Kawhi Leonard, Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker.

3. The additional players who I think will play 10,000-plus minutes in their careers are Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas, Tobias Harris, Alec Burks, Jordan Hamilton, Bismack Biyombo, Nikola Mirotic, Tyler Honeycutt, Josh Selby, Iman Shumpert, Davis Bertans, Jeremy Tyler and Jereme Richmond.

I don't want to sell the other guys in the draft short. I think there are 14 other players that are worth drafting in the first or second rounds: Chris Singleton, Darius Morris, Jimmer Fredette, Greg Smith, Klay Thompson, Kenneth Faried, Cory Joseph, Nikova Vucevic, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, Jon Leuer, Jordan Williams, Markieff Morris and Justin Harper.

It's just that the numbers say only 20 stand the test of time. So you've got to draw the line somewhere.

If you're curious what the NBAge list looks like, here you go. I'll show you the Top 10s for each age group too.

If you notice some blanks on the list, it's only because I left out names of players still overseas or in college.

And remember, the NBAge list operates off the following theory: Would you rather have the 12th best 22 year old or the second best 18 year old? The 22 year old may be better now, but in time, you'll regret passing on the teenager.

OVERALL 2011 NBAge LIST

1. Kyrie Irving

2. Derrick Williams

3. Kawhi Leonard

4. Enes Kanter

5. Tristan Thompson

6. Brandon Knight

7. Kemba Walker

8. Jan Vesely

9. Jonas Valanciunas

10. Tobias Harris

11. Alec Burks

12. Jordan Hamilton

13. Bismack Biyombo

14. Nikola Mirotic

15. Tyler Honeycutt

16. Josh Selby

17. Iman Shumpert

18. Davis Bertans

19. Jeremy Tyler

20. Jereme Richmond

21. Chris Singleton

22. Darius Morris

23. Jimmer Fredette

24. Greg Smith

25. Klay Thompson

26. Kenneth Faried

27. Cory Joseph

28. Nikola Vucevic

29. Marcus Morris

30. Donatas Motiejunas

31. Jon Leuer

32. Jordan Williams

33. Markieff Morris

34. Justin Harper

BORN IN 1992

1. KYRIE IRVING

4. ENES KANTER

6. JONAS VALANCIUNAS

7. TOBIAS HARRIS

8. BISMACK BIYOMBO

10. DAVIS BERTANS

BORN IN 1991

1. Derrick Favors, Jazz

2. DERRICK WILLIAMS

3. KAWHI LEONARD

4. TRISTAN THOMPSON

5. BRANDON KNIGHT

7. Xavier Henry, Grizzlies

8. ALEC BURKS

9. NIKOLA MIROTIC

10. JOSH SELBY

BORN IN 1990

1. Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves

2. Jrue Holiday, 76ers

3. Greg Monroe, Pistons

4. John Wall, Wizards

5. Paul George, Pacers

6. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings

7. KEMBA WALKER

8. JAN VESELY

9. JORDAN HAMILTON

10. Al-Farouq Aminu, Clippers

BORN IN 1989

1. Blake Griffin, Clippers

2. James Harden, Thunder

3. Brandon Jennings, Bucks

4. Serge Ibaka, Thunder

5. Tyreke Evans, Kings

6. DeJuan Blair, Spurs

7. Michael Beasley, Timberwolves

8. Patrick Patterson, Rockets

9. Eric Bledsoe, Clippers

10. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors

When you compare this list to conventional wisdom, there are several things that stand out.

1. Irving and Williams are clearly the two best prospects, no matter how you look at this draft. From my NBAge perspective, Irving is the No. 1 player born in 1992 and Williams is the No. 2 player born in 1991. So, not only are they the top two prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft, they also rank in the top two for their respective age groups. No other prospect meets that criteria this year.

2. I think Tristan Thompson and Tobias Harris are two players who might not go in the lottery that should be taken in the Top 10.

3. I think Marcus Morris, Klay Thompson and Chris Singleton are the three likely lottery picks who are a little overrated. What can I say? NBA teams like good 21 year olds more than they like good teens like Jonas Valanciunas, Tobias Harris, Alec Burks, Davis Bertans and Jeremy Tyler.

4. My second-round sleepers, based on draft conventional wisdom, are Josh Selby, Jereme Richmond, Darius Morris, Greg Smith, Cory Joseph, Jon Leuer and Jordan Williams.