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Jun112011

2011 NBA Draft: Sorting Out The College Players

Despite only playing 11 games as a freshman at Duke, Kyrie Irving will be and should be the #1 pick.With the 2011 NBA Draft just around the corner (Thursday, June 23), here's an examination of all likely first-round selections and a few notable second-rounders. I've broken them down into groups representing their expected contribution in the NBA--eventually, not as a rookie--but it should be mentioned that many of these players will be made or broken based on what type of situation they fall into, especially the Role Players. Either way, I tried to rank all of them roughly in order of possible contribution at the next level, but the system and teammates many of these players get dealt into makes this a fairly fluid list, moreso the further you get down it.

I've focussed my comments on the college players since I know significantly more about them, but I've included the International players (listed in italics) with the groups I believe they'll fall into over time; they're all listed at the end of each group, so it doesn't mean that I think they're worse than the college players in the same group. Here's the write-up for the International players, including Jeremy Tyler

Enjoy!

 

Future Centerpieces

Teams could/should build around them as one of their key players. They should be in the All-Star (or All-NBA, All-Defense) discussion most seasons. (Ex: Chris Paul, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut)

Kyrie Irving (PG, Duke, freshman)
Irving is an efficient, athletic PG who knows when to be a facilitator and when to take over, which is a much rarer attribute than you might think. In his 11 college games, he proved to be a handful to guard and posted great shooting percentages (53% FG, 46% 3FG, 90% FT). Has the intangibles and hoops IQ to be a franchise PG.

Enes Kanter (C/PF, Turkey, 19)

 

Reliable Starters

They could probably start for most clubs. They’re a big part of their team’s success, just not the major reason. The positive aspects of their games undoubtedly outweigh the negative. (Ex: Kevin Martin, Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler)

Derrick Williams (PF/SF, Arizona, sophomore)
Athletic combo forward who’s shown incredible efficiency scoring the ball (60% FG, 57% 3FG, 20 ppg on 10 shots per) due to great form and hustle. Williams has a good motor, fundamentals, and attitude. Concerns: could have problems defending big PF’s or fast SF’s, rebounding efficiency is questionable

Jonas Valanciunas (C, Lithuania, 19)

Bismack Biyombo (PF/C, Congo, 18)

 

Role Players, “A” Level

They will have a fairly defined role on just about any team they play for, maybe even as a starter. They have their limitations, but what they do well is enough to make most fans happy without having too high of expectations. (Ex: Anthony Morrow, Marcin Gortat, Nicolas Batum)

Kenneth Faried (PF, Morehead State, senior)
Incredibly efficient and tenacious rebounder (15 rpg in 35 mpg). Goes all out on defense (2.3 blocks, 1.9 steals), plus he limits himself to smart shots (62% FG, 17 ppg). Great attitude and athleticism. Continued to play well against bigger opponents (20-18-2-2 [pts, rebs, blks, stls] vs. Florida; 15-12-2-5 vs. Ohio State; 12-17-2-1 in First Round upset over Louisville). He could be the next Ben Wallace, signature hair and all. Concerns: small at 6-feet-7.5 and 225 pounds, his fundamentals and skills are lacking

Marcus Morris (PF/SF, Kansas, junior)
Morris (the smaller of the twins) is a versatile scorer: shooting 3’s, playing with his back to the basket, driving to the hoop, mid-range shooting, whatever – and all of it in an efficient, smooth manner. He makes smart plays and hustles his butt off. Concerns: not a good rebounder for his position, has to play all-out due to physical limitations (not very quick, short arms)

Kawhi Leonard (SF, San Diego State, sophomore)
Leonard works relentlessly and only gets better. He uses excellent athleticism, length, and focus to play great defense across multiple positions, which will be his calling card in the league. Leonard is a high-energy rebounder who really gets after it on the offensive end. Concerns: shooting stroke wasn’t consistent in school (supposedly it’s been worked on significantly since SDSU), lacks offensive polish and should definitely see less of the ball in the NBA

Markeiff Morris (PF, Kansas, junior)
An athletic bruiser inside, Morris (the larger of the twins) has developed a 3-point shot (42%) to go with his punishing, albeit fairly limited, inside game (63% inside the arc). He leaves it all on the floor, rebounding at a good rate and playing focused man-to-man D on the low block. Is a hard worker who has clearly improved over the years. Concerns: lacks offensive moves and a mid-range game, short arms limit his defense, not an aggressive offensive player

Small-school PG Charles Jenkins has all the skills to score and distribute at the NBA level.

Charles Jenkins (PG/SG, Hofstra, senior)
Even as the only good player on his team, Jenkins put up phenomenal scoring efficiency numbers (52% FG, 42% 3FG, 23 ppg on 15 shots) and greatly improved his PG skills (4.8 assist to 2.2 turnovers). He’s very quick off the dribble, has a great shot, and continued to put up great numbers against the likes of UNC, UConn, Kansas, and VCU over the past couple years. Hit two buzzer beaters in one gameConcerns: undersized for the SG position (6-feet-3), can he make a Stephen Curry-like transition to a more balanced PG role?

Darius Morris (PG, Michigan, sophomore)
Morris has ideal size (6-feet-5), hoops IQ, aggression, handles, and passing skills to be a good NBA point guard. He's a relentless attacker and creates problems for the opposition once he's in the paint, including posting up smaller guards. Morris is a good defender, as well. Concerns: only wants to drive inside since he has no outside shot (25% from 3), needs to cut down on turnovers and add some muscle (neither his turnovers or build are terrible problems, though)

Nikola Vucevic (C, USC, junior)
Combining great size (7-feet-0, 260 pounds), a jumper that commands defenses to stretch wherever he goes, decent moves and ball skills in the post, and an intelligence and humbleness that keeps his game team-oriented and under control, Vucevic is probably the top true center prospect who played in college last year. He’s a solid rebounder and adequate defender. Has “great second-team center” written all over him. Concerns: lacks athleticism, needs to become tougher in the paint, only an average scorer

Keith Benson (C, Oakland, senior)
Benson was a double-double machine in college, even against many of the big boys he faced, plus he recorded 3.3 and 3.6 blockers per game his last two seasons. In addition to a finesse post game that’s gotten him points for years, Benson has added a mid-range shot to his arsenal, even hitting some 3’s. Benson brings solid athleticism and instincts to the true center position. Concerns: lacks NBA center strength and isn’t a banger, inconsistent against elite competition, needs a more intense motor at both ends

Reggie Jackson (PG, Boston College, junior)
Athletic and quick with a humongous wingspan (7-feet-0 on a 6-feet-3 frame), Jackson’s shooting (50% FG, 42% 3FG, 80% FT) and PG skills have all improved significantly in his time at BC. His physical gifts could make him a premier perimeter defender. He’s a high riser who can throw down and rebound well for the position. Concerns: still a work in progress as a PG, overall PG skills and mindset aren’t particularly good, occasionally takes some really bad shots (especially against big-time competition)

E’Twaun Moore (SG, Purdue, senior)
Moore is extremely intelligent and plays a controlled, crafty game. He’s a willing passer out of the SG spot (3.2 apg), a consistent outside scoring threat (40% 3FG), and has all the skills and the aggressive mentality to operate in the midrange. Can create for himself, has always been productive, and uses effort and guile to play decent defense. Concerns: size (6-feet-4) and athleticism are below-average for  a SG, needs to get stronger

David Lighty (SG, Ohio State, senior)
As an active and focused defender, very good spot-up shooter (43% 3FG), and all-around smooth player who always seems to make the right play, Lighty could turn out to be a very important role player for an NBA club. He’s smart, has good size (6-feet-6, 215 pounds), hustles, displays decent athleticism, and can do just about anything in a pinch. Concerns: not a great scorer or athlete, hasn’t mastered any one skill

Jimmy Butler (SF, Marquette, senior)
Butler puts everything into his defense, hustles for everything, is very unselfish and will make the play that benefits the team, hits open perimeter jumpers, and has the perfect attitude every coach will love. Concerns: limited athletically, is definitely an off-ball guy on offense (the O won’t ever start with him)

Klay Thompson (SG, Washington State, junior)
Thompson is an outstanding mid-range and 3-point shooter (40% 3FG), who can pull up or catch-and-shoot effectively – can become a deadly NBA role player if utilized correctly. His defensive effort and passing have improved while in school, plus his size (6-feet-6) is good for a SG. Concerns: can struggle with turnovers if the ball is in his hands too much, poor athleticism will definitely affect his defense and dribble-drive in the NBA

Chris Singleton (SF/PF, Florida State, junior)
Singleton has the size (6-feet-9, 230), athleticism, and temperament to be a versatile defensive force in the NBA. He will be able to guard multiple positions well and plays D all the way through a secured rebound. He has shown improvement in his offensive game. Concerns: virtually every part of his offense is lacking right now (shooting, dribbling, passing, awareness)

Chandler Parsons (SF, Florida, senior)
Parons is a very good outside shooter and will remain so considering he's 6-feet-10 and is quite skilled finding his spots off the ball. He's a decent dribbler, good rebounder, and very good passer (second-string point-forward potential): more or less a jack-of-all-trades at the SF position. Concerns: extremely weak, not athletic enough to be a traditional SF, needs to cut down on turnovers, surprisingly terrible FT shooter (56%)

Tristan Thompson (PF, Texas, freshman)
Thompson is a high-motor lefty with long arms and lots of blocks to show for it (2.4 bpg). He is an active rebounder and interior scorer, using his athleticism and quickness to help with both. Concerns: very inconsistent, no mid-range shot, horrendous 49% FT, a bit small for a PF (6-feet-9, 225 lbs)

Alec Burks has the potential to be a 6th man scorer in the NBA.

Alec Burks (SG, Colorado, sophomore)
Burks drives the lane with abandon and equally well with both hands, making a lot of great plays at the rim and regularly getting to the free throw line (8 ftpg). His size (6-feet-6) and quickness with the ball allow him to collapse opponents’ defense; he’s then capable of making some nice passes. He is a great rebounder for a SG (6.5 rpg). Concerns: poor jump shooter with an off-balance leg kick motion, lackluster man-to-man D

Nikola Mirotic (PF, Montenegro, 20)

Donatas Motiejunas (PF, Lithuania, 20)

Jan Vesely (SF/PF, Czech Republic, 21)

 

Role Players, “B” Level

They have their moments, but their seasons/careers lack consistency. Often their success will be based heavily on what teams and situations they’re part of. (Glen Davis, Daequan Cook, Randy Foye)

Jon Leuer (PF, Wisconsin, senior)
A 7-footer who can shoot from anywhere, Leuer is a seasoned senior who stretches the floor with his shooting (37% 3FG, 84% FT) and has the basketball IQ to do what needs to be done without trying to be a hero. Is a willing learner and hard worker. Concerns: is not a very physical player, trouble guarding and rebounding against stronger big men

Jordan Hamilton (SF, Texas, sophomore)
Hamilton has the size (6-feet-8, 230 lbs), handles, shot, and mentality to be a very good scorer—and reasonably efficient—in the NBA. Can make some crazy shots and grab a lot of rebounds (7.7 rpg) due to good athleticism and body control. Concerns: takes plenty of bad/contested/forced shots, can play selfishly, doesn’t put much effort into his defense

Isaiah Thomas (PG, Washington, junior)
Naturally a score-first player, Thomas became UW’s full-time PG in the middle of the season and did great (finished with 6.1 apg). He’s very fast with the ball in his hands, changing direction and coming off screens at a zillion miles an hour, plus he’s a decent outside shooter who will stretch defenses. Has hit multiple game-winners. Concerns: his size (5-feet-10) can be a huge problem on both ends of the court, can fall in love with his outside jumper and stall the team offense

Justin Harper (PF/SF, Richmond, senior)
Harper really came on as a senior, shooting lights out from everywhere (59% inside the arc, 45% outside the arc). He’s a 6-feet-9 spot-up shooter who wisely finds his spots and doesn’t force what he can’t do. Concerns: is soft and weak, poor rebounder, doesn’t create his own shot well, lacks the bulk to guard most PF’s and the speed to guard most SF’s, only had one good season

Brandon Knight (PG, Kentucky, freshman)
Knight has great speed, can hit his 3’s (38% for the year), and isn’t afraid of taking the big shot. Has shown some improvements as the season went on. Concerns: His shot is way too streaky (42% FG) and his decision making is far from what you’d want out of an NBA PG (4.2-to-3.2 Ast-TO, 22 to 17 in Tournament).

Norris Cole (PG, Cleveland State, senior)
Although undersized (6-feet-2, 175 pounds), Cole is very fast, deceptively strong, and supremely confident. He has tight handles and was a very good passer on a bad team. He plays at a fast pace, has a great work ethic and attitude, stays focused on the defensive end, and can hit tough shots. Concerns: small size gets him lost going through screens on defense, often starts shooting too much and too erratically (but that should improve with better teammates in the NBA), hasn’t faced much PG talent in the Horizon League

JaJuan Johnson (PF/C, Purdue, senior)
Johnson is a prototypical finesse center: he has some nice moves and spins inside and a developing jumper. He's mature and unselfish, uses his length well to block shots (2.3 bpg), and has shown continued improvement. Concerns: too skinny and weak, gets pushed around in the post, has trouble guarding big men man-to-man, poor rebounder

Malcolm Lee (SG/PG, UCLA, junior)
Lee is a very aggressive, effective defender on the perimeter with the size (6-feet-5.5) and energy to contest shots and create problems. He used decent athleticism and aggression to attack the rim with regularity. Concerns: not a good shooter (44% FG, 30% 3FG), poor passer (2.0 apg, 1.7 turnovers), not a great athlete for an NBA guard

Tobias Harris (SF/PF, Tennessee, freshman)
A jack-of-all-trades offensive player who is able to shoot 3’s, drive into the lane, make some passes, etc. Harris shows a good work ethic and feel for the game, plus he was one of the most consistent freshman in the NCAA. Concerns: lacks toughness and strength, hard to figure out if any of his skills will ever become good or if they’ll all stay in that decent-not-great range, not very athletic for being a versatile hybrid player, lacks a good jumper in the mid-range on out

Nolan Smith (PG/SG, Duke, senior)
Smith is the stereotypical Duke draft prospect: not particularly athletic or even that efficient, but he goes all out, can do a little of everything, has a pretty good hoops IQ, and will play fundamentally sound defense. In addition, Smith is a quick, aggressive dribbler who can make things happen on offense. Concerns: he’s an undersized SG and too turnover prone to be a true PG, no one skill of his stands out as special, again—not great athletically for a small combo guard

Shelvin Mack (PG, Butler, junior)
Mack has had some great moments and games in back-to-back seasons that ended in the National Championship Game. He’s very strong for a PG and regularly guarded larger players, plus he has a good outside shot. Concerns: not really a PG (regularly played off-ball and guarded non-PG’s), not a particularly good passer, lacks size (6-feet-2.5) and athleticism, shot is good not great

Jordan Williams (C, Maryland, sophomore)
Williams is a bruiser who positions himself well in the low post and gets a ton of rebounds (11.8 rpg). Not a bad scorer near the basket. Is quite the hustler and has shown some decent passing out of double teams. Concerns: his height will be a problem (6-feet-9) especially considering he’s not an athlete, can’t score away from the low post, will have trouble defending faster centers who don’t play exclusively near the hoop (of which there are many in the NBA)

Marshon Brooks (SG, Providence, senior)
Brooks has the size and skills to be an elite scorer from the SG position (25 ppg, 48% FG, 34% 3FG). Uses his height (6-feet-5) and long arms (7-feet-1 wingspan) to get after the ball (7 rpg, 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks). Concerns: extremely ball-heavy and forces a lot of the action in order to be a hero, more turnovers than assists as a PG in college, lacks strength and defensive effort, team’s success never matched his own

Will Jimmer get Jimmered on draft night?

Jimmer Fredette (SG/PG, BYU, senior)
Fredette is a great shooter and has the strength to continue through some contact. He is a crafty dribbler. Concerns: could have some real problems scoring considering he’s 6-feet-2.5 and slow for a guard, terrible defender, will have to learn how to be disciplined without an unlimited green light on offense (regularly hoisted unnecessarily long shots, often overdribbled, had some bad turnovers and throw-it-up-and-pray shots at the rim)  

Iman Shupert (PG/SG, Georgia Tech, junior)
Shupert is moving up boards after putting together one of the most impressive combines ever for a guard (42” vertical, 18 bench presses, 3.18 second ¾ court sprint), plus he’s nearly 6-feet-6. Phenomenal physical tools allow him to play through contact and to be a great shut-down defender on any perimeter player – defense will keep him in the NBA. Concerns: makes bad decisions with the ball, bad shooter who forces shots, overall is lost and unaware on offense

Tyler Honeycutt (SF, UCLA, sophomore)
Often shows moments of potential with a good looking outside shot, some nifty passing, or using his length and instincts to block shots (2.1 bpg). Concerns: he’s too skinny and weak, he’s injury prone, his decision making comes and goes, he can’t create his own offense due to poor dribbling, he’s not efficient or particularly aggressive/tough/consistent

Kemba Walker (PG/SG, UConn, junior)
Walker is super fast and his passing improved as a junior. Obviously he can blow up for big scoring numbers. Concerns: shot selection is terrible (43% FG, 33% 3FG, volume scorer), his team did better when he saw less of the ball, he gets overwhelmed on defense, he is not a PG and lacks the size and decision-making to be a ball-heavy SG

Trey Thompkins (PF, Georgia, junior)
Thompkins does some nice things in the post with the ball, diplaying good skills and touch close to the basket. He’s able to knock down shots from farther out, and he uses a good frame to be a decent rebounder and interior defender. Concerns: major concerns exist about his conditioning and drive (very high 15.5% body fat, didn’t improve from sophomore year), can be very careless with the ball (2.5 turnovers), outside shot—which is supposed to be a major part of his arsenal—got worse by his junior year

Kyle Singler (SF, Duke, senior)
Singler is an intelligent, unselfish player who hustles and can do a little bit of everything. Concerns: has no NBA-level skills as evidenced by his mediocre efficiency stats throughout college, lacks the speed and strength to play defense or create his own shot in the NBA

Travis Leslie (SG/SF, Georgia, junior)
Leslie is as first-step, above-the-rim explosive as it gets. He has the build and quickness to fly to the rim through contact and finish, plus he rebounds much better than his 6-feet-4 height indicates (7.2 rpg). His athletic gifts allow him to guard the perimeter pretty well. Concerns: bad shooter, poor dribbler for a guard, lacking passer, relies way too heavily on his athleticism to do everything

Jeremy Tyler (PF/C, USA, 20)

Davis Bertans (SF, Latvia, 18)

Lucas Nogueira (C, Brazil, 18)

 

Major Issues

Their basketball IQ doesn’t match their athleticism and/or potential. Dumb plays, lazy defense, poor shot selection, etc. (or off-court and chemistry issues) define their time in the league. Their individual success—if it comes—won’t bring the team up with them.

Josh Selby (SG/PG, Kansas, freshman)
Nightmare of a head case off-the-court with an extremely inefficient game on it. Kansas all but stopped playing him by the end of the season due to an injury continually making poor decisions.

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Have you ever heard the saying from Thumper the Rabbit? "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." Amen

June 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBurrito Barb

@Burrito Barb
It sounds like you're focusing on the listed "Concerns" for each player instead of the many more words given to players' strengths (the "something nice" you refer to). If you want to simply read their positive attributes and then stick your head in the sand and pretend that's all we know about them, you would be really confused by why so many of them don't make it in the league. Helping to confuse readers about the future is never my intent with this column. If it was, I would rate every team and player on the A, A+, A++, A+++ scale, which I don't.

June 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

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