The 2011 NBA Trade Deadline become even more fascinating and historical as two picks that were acquired in trades moved up from eight to first and sixth to third.
When the Cavaliers absorbed the contract of Baron Davis along with an unprotected lottery pick from the Clippers, we applauded the bold move while at the same time estimating that it would be a high cost to acquire the eighth or ninth pick in a weak draft. While the trade made sense at the time for the Clippers, this is the inherent gamble of such a move and instead of adding another first overall pick to Blake Griffin, they must convince an outside part to join him (and their owner).
But the Jazz have now become the big winners of the Trade Deadline, turning the less than 100 remaining games on the contract of Deron Williams into Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, whomever they pick at number three and the first rounder from Golden State.
While it has become fashionable to discredit the quality of this draft, the dearth of quality is at the high-end where there is no true franchise star. But every team in the Lottery should pick a player that becomes a valuable starter and a solid rotation player at worst. I see a lot of capable players that will facilitate the true stars and as we are seeing in the Playoffs with the elimination of the Chris Pauls and Dwight Howards, those complementary players are utterly critical.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Clippers): Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
The machinations are interesting for the Cavaliers, because I see Derrick Williams as the more valuable prospect because the difference between Irving and Brandon Knight is exceptionally slim. Irving is the far safer pick, but Knight has every bit as much upside to become an All-Star point guard.
Nevertheless, the Cavaliers need a layup here and can afford to be bolder when they come back at number four. Irving should be a great stabilizer on the floor and in the locker room for Cleveland. I don’t foresee him joining that elite point guard lexicon, but he is a throwback to the early 90s when guys who seemed more human physically like John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway reigned at the position.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona
Williams is comfortably in that two best prospects of the draft realm, but he is quite clearly an overlapping part with Michael Beasley. I would prefer to have Williams in the long-term, but so would a whole host of other teams and given Minnesota’s anxiousness to begin winning at least 20 games per year and the fact that the Clippers own their 2012 pick, I would be shocked to see the team not trade out of their draft slot.
3. Utah Jazz (via New Jersey Nets): Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Jazz will have the most difficult experience on draft night because this is when legitimate decisions need to be made. Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas would both be prudent decisions for Kevin O’Connor, but the Jazz need a point guard for the long-term and this feels like they’re final opportunity to acquire someone of Knight’s caliber for many seasons. Big men are almost always gambles anyways, so acquiring a true center later on in the draft at 12 this season, or by packaging one of their three power forwards feels like the path of lesser resistance.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
What the Cavaliers ultimately do with the fourth overall pick will be a significant indication of what they think of their current personnel. Cleveland will undoubtedly be tempted by Kanter and Valanciunas, but playoff games are largely won in the fourth quarter due to defense and rebounding and Leonard will absolutely be elite at the small forward position in both areas. If the Cavaliers draft him, people will immediately anoint him as the team’s LeBron-Stopper and a playoff series against the Heat by 2013 is something that would set the NBA on fire.
Leonard’s offensive game needs a lot of work of course and he will never be a 20 per game scorer, but he has enough of a foundation in his jumper and in the post where his athleticism fosters it the rest of the way to being a tough cover for opposing teams.
5. Toronto Raptors: Enes Kanter, PF/C, Kentucky
Kanter is the final player on the board with a better than a 10% chance of becoming considered the best member of the class when we reflect back upon it seven or eight years from now. If he was given a chance to play his freshman season at Kentucky, he could have been exposed in ways where his value would have dropped a few slots, but I’m optimistic enough to believe the top-two of Irving and Williams would be a difficult top-three that includes Kanter. I believe he is capable of becoming a true center and he would bring Toronto an interior game as a scorer and rebounder that they haven’t received at all from Andrea Bargnani.
6. Washington Wizards: Bismack Biyombo, PF, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada
I’m really high on Jan Vesely and see him as a superb fit on a John Wall team, but Biyombo has enough potential to be the No. 2 guy for the Wizards while Vesely would just be ‘another piece’.
Biyombo doesn’t have a post game and doesn’t have a ton of experience, but there is no player in the draft that would be a more suitable pick and roll partner for Wall. His upside would only be shepherded by a pure passing point guard and he would have that in Wall and therefore the risk is minimized for Washington than it would be for a team like the Pistons, for example.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
If Walker remains on the board here, it is an extremely easy pick for Geoff Petrie to make. The Kings have a monstrous need at point guard, yet they need a point guard that is also capable of playing off the ball given the way Tyreke Evans dominates the halfcourt. Walker is extremely capable of doing that and also brings a lot of the intangibles Evans and DeMarcus Cousins lacks. Walker is not as purely talented as either player, but I see him becoming the focal point of that locker room and becoming the straw that stirs the drink of returning the Kings to contention.
8. Detroit Pistons: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lietuvos Rytas
A lot of the people I talk to like Valanciunas more than I do and that is reflected in his draft slot here. I don’t trust his hands and feel he lacks the natural control on the floor that you typically expect from centers that will become quality starters. I would prefer to take Valanciunas outside the lottery, but I will admit he is very young with a ton of room for growth and would be a good need pick for the Pistons.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Jan Vesely, SF, Partizan
The Bobcats need to start swinging for the fences and have a few opportunities to do so at the wing position in Vesely, along with the players projected in this mock to go 10th and 11th.
Vesely is probably the best ‘basketball’ athlete in the draft and can become one of the game’s best slasher/spot-up players.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Burks is one of the best shotmakers in the draft and also is versatile in being able to play some point guard. I worry about how he will produce when his usage rate decreases and I would be surprised if he develops into much more than a rotation wing.
11. Golden State Warriors: Marcus Morris, SF, Kansas
The Warriors lack toughness and Morris is the most physical scorer in the draft. He has some versatility in terms of position defense, but see him long-term as a fairly true inside/outside small forward.
12. Utah Jazz: Donatas Motiejunas, C, Benetton Treviso
Even though he is older and doesn’t have as much upside as Valanciunas, I believe Motiejunas will have the better pro career. He has solid basketball athleticism and will be a good jump shooting big. Motiejunas doesn’t get to the rim a whole lot, but his niche with the jumper gives him the potential of becoming an elite pick and pop option.
13. Phoenix Suns: Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
Picking ‘The Other Twin’ again may scare off some in Phoenix, but Markieff Morris is the kind of physical power forward they need on the glass and defensively. He uses his strength really well on both sides of the floor, especially at the rim. He is not nearly as talented offensively as his brother Marcus, but he has good instincts in the post and has some promise on his jumper. Marcus was the much better college player, but I fully expect Markieff to close the gap considerably on the NBA level.
14. Houston Rockets: Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
If you draft Singelton here on the edge of the Lottery, you fully expect him to become a lockdown defender and I think you will get that from him. He needs a little work on his help fundamentals, but he’ll be very good right away on-ball and should be able to contain the Kevin Durants in the world, which is what any team in the Western Conference must think about in terms of choosing their small forward personnel. He won’t provide much support offensively, but he does have a jumper that is better in terms of results than aesthetics.