The NBA Finals are over, but don’t forget the NBA Draft is just a week away. This draft looks to have three studs in Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter and there is still enough talent to fill the needs of the teams.
The NBA Finals are over and congratulations to Dirk and the Mavericks, but it is never too early to take a look at the 2011 NBA Draft, which is expected to be held on June 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ at 7:00 ET.
When the Arizona Wildcats upset the Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament earlier this year, little did people know they were probably watching the top two picks in this year’s NBA Draft. That appears to be the case though with Kyrie Irving leaving Duke after just one season and Derrick Williams leaving Arizona after his sophomore year.
Here are our projected top 10 picks in the draft in order, along with each team’s 2010-11 regular season record. All referenced records against the spread are based on the closing betting odds from Pinnacle Sports.
1 - Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke (Cleveland Cavaliers, 19-63): Although you would not know it if you listened to the media, the Cavaliers actually finished with the second worst record in the NBA last season thanks to some late season wins, and they currently have Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions at the point. That said, it is hard to pass up a potential franchise point guard like Irving, who has virtually a limitless ceiling after just one injury-shortened year at Duke where he played only 11 games. He was one of the best players in the country when he was on the court however, and he is a great distributor that also showed that he could score when necessary.
2 - Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona (Minnesota Timberwolves, 17-65): It was the Timberwolves that ended up with the worst record in the NBA, and they will take whoever drops down to them between Irving and Williams. Now we realize that Minnesota already has two small forward types in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, but if they want to take the best player available, they simply cannot pass up on Williams here, who became a superstar at Arizona despite not having Irving’s hype coming out of high school. That sets up the possibility of a big trade, with the Wolves either trading down before the draft to fill a bigger need or drafting Williams and then trading one of their forwards, possibly Williams himself, after the draft.
3 - Enes Kanter, C, Kentucky (Utah Jazz, 39-43): The Jazz received this pick from the New Jersey Nets in the Deron Williams trade, so this team can be in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt next season. Kanter is probably the third best player in this draft, although he may not get immediate playing time in a front court that includes Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors. Still, like the top two picks in the draft, picking the best player available wins out over need with a player as talented as Kanter Besides, simply drafting the best player available opens up trading possibilities later on, that is if the Jazz don’t trade this pick before the draft.
4 - Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic (Cleveland Cavaliers, 19-63): There is a noticeable drop-off in talent after the top three picks of this draft, so this is the point where teams can start drafting more for their particular needs. Assuming that the Cavs took Irving at number one, we look for them to address their glaring need at forward with their second pick in the first round, and for them to look overseas to do so. Vesely is a hybrid forward that is very athletic for his 6-foot-11 size, and after gaining another year of experience in Europe when he could have been a top 10 NBA pick last season, he is practically a quasi-professional player already. He would probably crack the Cleveland starting lineup immediately.
5 - Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky (Toronto Raptors, 22-60): The Raptors did not sufficiently replace the departed Chris Bosh this season, so they would love to land either Kanter or Vesely here, but with those two off the board based on our predictions, we look for Toronto to fill its need at point guard here with Knight, who at 6-foot-3 can present matchup problems for opponents at the position. Although he left Kentucky after just one season, he already proved that he has the court vision and awareness to run the point, although he is also capable of sliding over to shooting guard if need be with his nice shooting stroke.
6 - Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State (Washington Wizards, 23-59): We actually think that Kemba Walker is the best player remaining in this draft, but the Wizards are all set at point guard probably for years to come with John Wall. With that in mind, look for Washington to upgrade its small forward position, and Leonard seems like the most viable option at this point, assuming Vesely doesn’t slide down this far. Leonard averaged a double-double over his two years with the Aztecs and he is also a very good defender for a forward, and defense was often an afterthought for the Wizards last year.
7 - Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut (Sacramento Kings, 24-58): Thus, Walker could land in the Kings’ collective lap, possibly making him the best value pick in the entire draft at number seven. If he can co-exist with Tyreke Evans, Sacramento could have one of the best young backcourts in the league for many years to come. Walker was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament as he carried Connecticut to a surprising national title, and his quickness was simply too much for college defenders. He is not as physical a guard as Evans, but that could make them a strong combination.
8 - Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo (Detroit Pistons, 30-52): The Pistons were actually surprisingly competitive last season, going 44-38 on the basketball odds despite winning only 30 games, so they may not be that far away from being playoff contenders again. Biyombo may be very raw, but he displayed great on-court leadership in front of NBA scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit. He is a physical defender and a good rebounder, a cross somewhere between Ben Wallace and Kevin Garnett. He may not be much of a scorer yet, but he could be the perfect compliment to last year’s draft day steal by the Pistons, Greg Monroe.
9 - Jonas Valanciunas, PF/C, Lithuania (Charlotte Bobcats, 34-48): The Bobcats were a playoff team two years ago and they finished over .500 in NBA betting this past season at 40-39-3, so this is another team that can make a playoff push with some good drafting. The Bobcats can use a small forward to replace the departed Gerald Wallace or a true big man, and with all the top small forwards probably gone, we look for Charlotte to opt nig with Valanciunas, who began playing at the international level at age 16. Now 19, he has filled out nicely since his scrawny beginnings, as he is now 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, and he has elevated his play in each of his seasons in Europe.
10 - Alec Burks, SG, Colorado (Milwaukee Bucks, 35-47): The Bucks took a step back this past season after making the playoffs last year, as they got virtually no scoring off the bench. Burks may find himself in the starting immediately if Milwaukee takes him, given that Michael Redd and Chris Douglas-Roberts are both free agents, and Burks is a pure scorer from the shooting guard spot, averaging 20.5 points for Colorado last season and hitting on an amazing 49.9 percent of his field goal attempts in his brief two years in college, including 31.8 percent on three-point attempts.