With the NBA Draft Lottery behind us, it is full-scale draft season. The fan favorite to win the lottery was unquestionably Dan Gilbert’s exuberant 14-year old son, Nick, who has fought a rare illness his entire life. The life-size good luck charm definitely came through as the Cavaliers were able to secure the #1 position through the draft pick acquired in the Mo Williams – Baron Davis trade with the Clippers though there was only a 2.8% chance of it winning the lottery. The Utah Jazz also jumped into the top 3 picks via their trade with the New Jersey Nets that sent Deron Williams to the east coast.
Despite the joy coming from the Cavs’ entourage, there were many team representatives that were even more disappointed than usual due to this year’s draft class. Some have called this a “bad” or “weak” draft but it depends on your perspective. If you’re in the lottery and don’t have a top 2 pick then you may be in a bad situation but teams in the mid-late first round may be very pleased with the draft.
I expect a lot of movement around in this draft, especially in the 3-9 range, as teams attempt to trade down or completely trade out of this draft to get better value. Right now it appears that Kyrie Irving is the clear #1 pick but I'm very interested to see if the Cavs open up to possibly drafting Derrick Williams and using the #4 pick on a second tier point guard like Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker. Right now Alonzo Gee and Antawn Jamison are the team's small forwards... Taking Williams to fill the greater need and getting a formidable lead guard is definitely reasonable. We'll see.
The 2011 Draft lacks many “can’t miss” prospects (if there is such a thing) that are capable of turning around a franchise. Whether you accredit it to the lockout or more personal, sincere reasons this draft class lost most of its star power when Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, and Perry Jones- three bonafide top 5 picks - decided to return back for their sophomore years in college.
There is a lot of uncertainty throughout this draft with major question marks surrounding how a number of players translate to the NBA. There are the relatively unknown/unseen international players: Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motijunas, Bismack Biyombo, Davis Bertans, and Nikola Mirotic. You also have the tweeners that will need to define their position and refine their skills to succeed in the NBA: Jimmer Fredette, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and Chris Singleton (among others). Then there are also players with traditional concerns like size (i.e. Kemba Walker) or readiness (i.e. Darius Morris). If it seems like I listed off a lot of players that’s because there is a lot of ambiguity.
That being said, I believe that there are a number of prospects later in the first round that will stick in the NBA. Players like Chris Singleton, Kenneth Faried, or Nolan Smith may not be able to resurrect a franchise but they are experienced and should be able to contribute down the road for a playoff team within their rookie contract. This is a solid draft for teams looking to find players to fit a niche and develop into solid role players in the NBA.
Though the ceilings for many of the lottery picks seem low, I think this draft also has a few nice sleeper picks that can thrive in the right decision. Specifically, I expect Reggie Jackson, Josh Selby, and Willie Reed to surprise in the NBA given the opportunity.
It’s the best time of the year to be an NBA fan. We have some of the highest rated NBA playoff games of all time and the fans of eliminated teams watching helplessly from the sidelines can always look forward to new hope in the Draft….and we can all try to ignore the likelihood of an NBA lockout which would eliminate the summer league, training camps, and potentially the preseason so we won’t be able to see the 2011 Draft Class progress. (Sorry to ruin the mood). And if that’s not good enough for you then you can begin to drool over the 2012 NBA Draft Class which is sure to be incredible – Barnes, Sullinger, Jones, Anthony Davis, Quincy Miller, Austin Rivers, James McAdoo, Michael Gilchrist, Terrence Jones…you get the point.