Mock Draft

Pistons pick could come down to Biyombo or Thompson

Kyrie Irving is going to Cleveland with the No. 1 pick. After that … well, take your best shot. Irving played all of 11 games as a Duke freshman last year, but in this draft that qualifies him as a sure thing.

Enes Kanter could be the second pick and he hasn’t played a meaningful game in two years, sitting out last season as a Kentucky freshman over NCAA eligibility issues and playing the year before that at an obscure California prep school.

No one had heard of Bismack Biyombo six months ago. Jonas Valanciunas probably can’t play for the NBA team that drafts him for at least one season. And so it goes.

Yet you don’t have to turn over too many rocks to find NBA personnel evaluators who like this draft on some level. Houston GM Darryl Morey’s Twitter account on Wednesday said the Rockets handed out 22 first-round grades this year, three more than the high end of the range for a normal draft year.

There isn’t one player in the draft anyone feels comfortable declaring a dead-solid lock to be a future multiple All-Star – but there could be as many players who earn that distinction over time as any other draft. The number of scant resumes merely means there’s a higher boom-bust ratio among the top 10 picks than usual.

For teams holding one of those picks – as the Pistons are, with the No. 8 selection – that could be interpreted as scary stuff or great opportunity. Because there is so much uncertainty at the top of the draft, it could turn out that a player who should have gone in the top three – if teams had only been able to get a better handle on his potential – winds up slipping to eight.

Here’s a brave attempt at how the first 33 picks of Thursday’s draft will unfold – the complete first round through the first three picks of the second – with the caveat that trades are likely and will mangle whatever little logic exists in the construction of this exercise. The Pistons are picking 33rd, a pick obtained from Toronto to complete the 2007 trade for Carlos Delfino. They also pick 52nd, a pick obtained from Denver for the 2009 trade of Arron Afflalo. The Pistons do not own their own second-rounder; that’s held by the Clippers as part of the 2009 trade involving Alex Acker.

First Round

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
1. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving has been the presumptive No. 1 pick since he declared for the draft, yet you won’t find many who believe he’s an inevitable game changer for the Cavs. The fact Cleveland wouldn’t publicly commit to Irving throughout the process indicates Cavs management at least toyed with the idea of drafting Derrick Williams No. 1 and hoping Brandon Knight (or even Irving, perhaps) was still there at No. 4. Irving’s addition means somebody has to go from a crowded position that also includes Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
2. Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams was considered a throw-in to Sean Miller’s first recruiting class at Arizona two years ago; now he’s widely considered a top-two talent in the 2011 NBA draft. It’s not a great roster fit. Most NBA execs see Williams as a power forward, where Kevin Love is entrenched and Michael Beasley fits best. Look for the T-wolves to attempt to move Beasley and hope Williams and Love are compatible enough to log significant time as a tandem. Enes Kanter remains a possibility here.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
3. Brandon Knight
There is nowhere near a consensus No. 3 talent in the draft, but Utah – after acquiring Derrick Favors, last year’s No. 3 pick, in the Deron Williams trade – is stocked up front with Favors, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur. Even with Devin Harris on board, it’s believed the Jazz are looking for another point guard and Brandon Knight – the Kentucky freshman who was considered Irving’s peer as 2010 McDonald’s All-American teammates – probably has a higher NBA ceiling than Kemba Walker.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
4. Enes Kanter
Nobody would trade Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter for LeBron James, but you could do a lot worse than wind up with the consensus best point guard and big man in the draft if you’re the Cavs. The Cavs need help on the wings desperately, but they also don’t have anyone up front who represents a scoring threat. Kanter appears physically ready to play now – at least in as much as you can project that sort of thing from a guy who hasn’t played since the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, an all-star game at that – as opposed to Jonas Valanciunas.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
5. Kemba Walker
The Raptors could go any number of ways. But Kemba Walker has a chance to lend a face to a team badly in need of an identity. Among the other possibilities are Jonas Valanciunas, though it would be tough for the Raptors to wait out his buyout; Jan Vesely, though how he’d fit with finesse center Andrea Bargnani is problematic; and Kawhi Leonard, a tough, defensive-minded small forward who will have to find ways to score in the NBA.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
6. Jan Vesely
The Wizards hope Enes Kanter falls to them – and they’re likely attempting to trade into No. 3 with Utah in the event Minnesota passes on Kanter at No. 2. But if they can’t swing the deal and Cleveland (or somebody else) scoops up Kanter, then Jan Vesely is a rumored favorite of Wizards coach Flip Saunders. The thinking is that Vesely’s athleticism will nicely complement John Wall’s transition skills, giving him a lob target. Vesely’s presence might also allow the Wizards to package Andray Blatche for wing help.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
7. Kawhi Leonard
There is a rumored split between the Maloof ownership group, pushing for BYU scoring whiz Jimmer Fredette – and the immediate box-office appeal he would generate as the Kings go into a make-or-break season for their future in Sacramento – and management’s interest in Kawhi Leonard (or anybody else, probably). Leonard’s stock has been on the rise with a series of impressive individual workouts where he’s exhibited his toughness and rebounding skills. The Kings have a need at small forward, where Omri Casspi’s momentum seems to have stalled.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
8. Bismack Biyombo
The choice for the Pistons, if the draft plays out this way, almost certainly will come down to Bismack Biyombo or Texas frosh Tristan Thompson. And you can flip a coin as to whom they’ll take. You can bet the war room conversation will be spirited, but the Pistons are going to come out of there feeling pretty good. They like the high character, competitiveness, toughness, rebounding and defensive mind-set both players represent. Biyombo probably has both the higher ceiling and the lower floor. If they hit, he could be a dynamic frontcourt partner for Greg Monroe for the next dozen years.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
9. Chris Singleton
Chris Singleton fills a need at small forward that Charlotte created with the trade-deadline deal that shipped Gerald Wallace to Portland. Much like Wallace, Singleton is a player who’ll show up at the defensive end and get points via hustle plays, using his athleticism and length, and in transition. A junior out of Florida State, Singleton wasn’t a consistent college producer but shows flashes of being a Trevor Ariza-like force.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
10. Klay Thompson
The Bucks thought they’d addressed wing scoring concerns caused by the absence of the oft-injured Michael Redd – whose massive contract is finally off the books – last summer by trading for Corey Maggette and re-signing John Salmons. But the Bucks struggled mightily to produce offense in a disappointing season that saw them miss the playoffs. Klay Thompson, son of former NBA big man Mychal Thompson, is one of the top handful of shooters in the draft and in a battle with Alec Burks for top shooting guard.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
11. Alec Burks
The Warriors have been linked for the past few weeks to Klay Thompson. If he’s gone, it’s really uncertain which way they might go. It’s possible they’ll be the team to take the plunge and draft Jonas Valanciunas, even if they’ll have to wait on him for a season or more. But the buzz that the Warriors feel an urgency to get bigger in the backcourt won’t dissipate. If that means Monta Ellis is on the trade block, sticking Alec Burks into his spot would make sense.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
12. Jonas Valanciunas
If the Jazz address their backcourt need at No. 3, it would be unlikely – local public pressure or not – for them to grab Jimmer Fredette here. They’re a team that could feel comfortable enough with what they have and what else the 12th pick could yield to grab Jonas Valanciunas here and allow him to spend at least one more season in Lithuania until his contract buyout becomes more palatable. That would lessen the urgency to trade one of Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson and give Utah a potentially dynamic frontcourt of Valanciunas and Derrick Favors for the future.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
13. Tristan Thompson
If the Pistons opt for Bismack Biyombo over Tristan Thompson, Thompson could get picked anywhere along the way. But it’s doubtful he’d get past Phoenix, which desperately needs some frontcourt toughness and defensive potential. Thompson doesn’t have a developed post game yet, but his tenacity as an offensive rebounder and ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the basket made him a prolific foul shooter at Texas – though he shot less than 50 percent from the line.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
14. Marcus Morris
The Rockets have generated a lot of noise about making a bigger splash than this – they’ve been active in trying to package this pick at 14 with another first-rounder at 23 to move into the top 10 – but if they stand pat, Marcus Morris makes sense for them. A good all-around player with scoring skills and ballhandling and rebounding ability, Morris could go at any number of spots ahead of this pick. Too much value to slip much farther.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
15. Jimmer Fredette
The Pacers took a few big steps forward last season, the development of 7-footer Roy Hibbert significant among them. Adding a shooter as prolific and fearless as Jimmer Fredette would give them another dimension. They wouldn’t need Fredette to come in and take over the point – they’ve got Darren Collison for that – so the BYU gunner could be utilized to play to his strengths as a scoring threat off of the bench. The bonus is he’ll have instant fan appeal for a franchise that could use the jolt.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
16. Markieff Morris
The 76ers could have taken Greg Monroe, Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins with the No. 2 pick last year and been that much farther ahead in their development in spite of a promising first season under Doug Collins that saw Philly give Miami a fair tussle in the first round of the playoffs. Logic says they need to go big here and the next best big man on the board is a Philadelphia native, Markieff Morris, a sort of poor man’s Rasheed Wallace and twin brother of Marcus.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
17. Nikola Vucevic
The Knicks really don’t need another scorer, not with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire soaking up a huge percentage of shots. They could go in any number of directions here – Kenneth Faried would make sense – but Nikola Vucevic will give them a big body with surprising nimbleness and skills. Vucevic’s athletic shortcomings might not do much to immediately improve New York’s defense, but Mike D’Antoni will appreciate having another weapon at his disposal.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
18. Iman Shumpert
Nobody has done more for his draft stock since the college season ended than Iman Shumpert. NBA scouts have been aware of him since his Chicago schoolboy days, but he was up and down at Georgia Tech and was considered a likely second-rounder as recently as six weeks ago. Then he showed up at the Chicago draft combine and wowed everyone with his size, strength and athleticism. He can be a solid backup to John Wall for a team that desperately needs one, but Shumpert’s ability to defend three positions could eventually make him much more than just Walls’ No. 2.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
19. Kenneth Faried
Michael Jordan valued tough, defensive-minded, rebounding forwards like Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman and – especially – Charles Oakley during his playing days. Kenneth Faried, leading rebounder in NCAA history, might come the closest in this draft to possessing those qualities. And with a coach like Paul Silas – who embodied those qualities as a player – he’ll find a kindred spirit.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
20. Donatas Motiejunas
Had Motiejunas entered last year’s draft, he was projected as a likely lottery pick. A year later, after what was considered a productive season in Italy and in a weaker draft, he could tumble well out of the lottery this year. If he gets to Minnesota, which has a highly regarded international scouting staff that includes ex-Pistons executive Tony Ronzone as assistant GM, Motiejunas – a skilled 7-footer perhaps in the mold of Andrea Bargnani – is a likely favorite.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
21. Reggie Jackson
The Trail Blazers are tough to read with upheaval the order of the day in their front office. Interim GM Chad Buchanan, though, has been instrumental in past drafts, where Portland clearly is comfortable making picks that go against convention. With a need at point guard, where aging Andre Miller could be traded a year ahead of free agency, don’t rule out Boston College’s Reggie Jackson, who has been unable to work out for any teams while rehabbing what’s believed to be a minor knee injury.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
22. Tobias Harris
One of the more difficult college players to project is Tennessee freshman forward Tobias Harris, a multiskilled scorer who could be a classic tweener – the game of a power forward in a body that might be best suited to small forward. He’ll be one of the youngest players drafted, but he’s got a basketball IQ that gives him a shot at integrating quickly, especially under a coach as inventive as George Karl.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
23. Jordan Hamilton
In every draft, there are players who wind up tumbling inexplicably. If Jordan Hamilton lasts this long, he’ll be one of those guys. He could be under consideration as high as the late lottery. Hamilton is a gifted scorer – maybe one of the few in this draft with the potential to score 20 a night – whose high ceiling is likely to appeal to Rockets GM Darryl Morey.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
24. Kyle Singler
The stars are in place in Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. They’ll be the players around whom Scott Brooks builds his playbook, probably for the next 10 years. Role players are GM Sam Presti’s priority, and who fits that description better than Kyle Singler, accustomed to having to fit in to a star-studded roster during his four years at Duke?

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
25. Jeremy Tyler
Danny Ainge loves swinging for the fences. Before the NBA mandated that players needed to be at least one year removed from high school to be draft eligible, Ainge gambled on Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson and Gerald Green. Jeremy Tyler is the ultimate hit-or-miss project, a 7-footer who skipped his senior year of high school and has spent unremarkable years playing professionally in Israel and Japan since. His size and athleticism give him a chance to help plug the massive holes left by the departures of Perkins and Shaquille O’Neal.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
26. Davis Bertrans
The defending NBA champions face long odds of finding anyone at this spot who can crack their rotation next season, so a roll of the dice on the baby-faced Davis Bertrans, an 18-year-old Latvian, makes perfect sense. Bertrans, who has been compared to a very young Dirk Nowitzki, could develop into a gifted and versatile scorer. He showed off a gorgeous shooting stroke during April practices for the Nike Hoop Summit game, generating enough momentum off of that performance to enter the draft.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
27. Justin Harper
Parting with Derrick Favors as part of the package to land Deron Williams means the Nets are again looking for someone who can complement Brook Lopez up front. Justin Harper is the opposite of Favors – a 40-plus percent 3-point shooter at Richmond, not the play-above-the-rim athlete Favors represented. With Williams’ ability to run the pick and roll, shooters who can spot up at the 3-point line become an integral part of the offense.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
28. Marshon Brooks
The Bulls are looking for upgrades on the wings, particularly at shooting guard, and there weren’t many college players last year who scored with the relentless consistency of Providence’s Marshon Brooks. When he measured out so impressively at the draft combine – a 7-foot-1 wing span on a 6-foot-5¼ frame – NBA teams became very intrigued. Brooks also had a series of very impressive workouts and is believed to be under consideration by teams as high as Indiana (15) and New York (17).

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
29. Nikola Mirotic
There were many rumors in the days leading to the draft that the Spurs were dangling Tony Parker or George Hill in an attempt to move up into the lottery. If they keep this pick, look for the Spurs to invest in the long-term future as they have in the past with picks like Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. Nikola Mirotic isn’t likely to come to the NBA for at least a few seasons, but in this draft the skilled power forward has lottery talent.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
30. Tyler Honeycutt
Another athletic upgrade over what the Bulls possess now on their bench at the wings spots would come from UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt. If he had produced at the levels his skills suggested were within his reach, he would be talked about much higher than the late first round. But so many UCLA players under Ben Howland have produced numbers in the NBA beyond their college levels, Honeycutt could fall in line.

Second Round

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
31. Charles Jenkins
There’s almost a unanimity of belief that the Heat are going to grab the best point guard available to open the second round, with many of the opinion Pat Riley is hoping Reggie Jackson slips to this spot. If not, Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins is a fine alternative, a highly productive four-year star who carried Hofstra’s offense and draws high marks for character and toughness. Duke’s Nolan Smith and Michigan’s Darius Morris are other possibilities.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
32. Jimmy Butler
Whoever drafts Marquette’s Jimmy Butler will make their head coach happy. Butler will bring toughness and defensive intensity in spades. At 6-foot-8, he will be able to guard everything from shooting guards to power forwards. The Cavs have openings at all of those positions and Butler’s character and versatility will be awfully appealing to a team with so many needs.

Pick Team Player What Keith Says:
33. Keith Benson
There would be a storybook appeal to the Pistons drafting Keith Benson, who grew up in nearby Farmington and blossomed into a great college player at Oakland University from a little-known recruit who played sparingly at prep power Detroit Country Day. With a 7-foot-3¾ wing span and 9-foot-1½ standing reach, Benson can play both ends of the floor – scoring both inside and out and standing out as a collegiate shot-blocker. If the Pistons land Biyombo in the first round, they can afford to let Benson focus on bulking up his body to better withstand the NBA pounding he’ll take.