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Friday, October 24, 2014

A Beginner’s Guide to the 2011 NBA Draft: Profiles on All the Top Prospects

Reading NBA draft previews sometimes feels like wading through Princess Bride-style quicksand. With so many names to remember and stats to sift through, it can be hard to figure out what draft info is important and what’s just unnecessary nonsense.

Do you care as a casual fan, for instance, that Enes Kanter has 5.9% body fat? Or that Marcus Morris can run three quarters of the court in 3.2 seconds whereas his twin brother, Markieff, runs it in 3.4 seconds? Not really, right?

You just want the basics. Which is why I wrote this beginner’s guide.

Draft lunatics will already know most of what is written below. It’s not quantum physics, just a good starting place for people staring at the screen on draft night wondering “who is that guy?”

If you’re here for insight into Nikola Vucevic’s standing reach, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if cheat sheet info delivered in 100 words or less is your thing, I’m your guy. You won’t find any quicksand here.

Here’s my Cliff Notes-style guide to the 2011 NBA draft:

Kyrie Irving (6’3″, 190 lbs, PG, Duke, 19 yrs old)

The consensus No. 1 pick. Terrific ballhandler. Smart passer. High basketball IQ and good size (6’3″, 190 lbs). Shoots well from distance (46.2% 3-point). Shows poise under pressure. Lost his mother at an early age and is very close to his father as a result. Missed three months with an injured toe last season but returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well. Will be a good to very good two-way point guard at the next level but probably not a superstar. A report Monday said Cavs will for sure take him No. 1 but that report has been disputed by Cavs officials.

Derrick Williams (6’9″, 250 lbs, PF, Arizona, 20 yrs old)

Most talented player in the draft. Can play in the post and hit shots from anywhere on the court (including 3-point range). An efficient scorer. Gets to the free throw line often. Terrific athlete who can finish with authority. Good rebounder. Okay defender. Knows how good he is and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. Had a terrific showing in the NCAA Tournament. Led Arizona past Duke (and, yes, Kyrie Irving). Draft stock has dropped because of questions about position (too small to play PF, too slow to play SF is the knock). Has the potential to be a star — this draft’s version of Emma Stone.

Brandon Knight (6’3″, 180 lbs, PG, Kentucky, 19 yrs old)

Something of an enigma. Was a big disappointment for Kentucky early in the season but came into his own in the NCAA Tournament. A talented scorer with good size for a point guard (6’3″). Good athleticism. Extremely intelligent. Tends to shoot poorly percentage-wise and turn the ball over. Knows his weaknesses and works on them. Basketball IQ improved as the season progressed, and he proved he can hit the big shot when it counts. Has the makings of a great clutch performer. Level-headed demeanor. Appears to be a good fit for Utah at No. 3 or Toronto at No. 5.

Enes Kanter (6’11”, 260 lbs, C, Kentucky, 19 yrs old)

Blood Diamond-worthy unpolished gem. A giant who has the ability to dominate in the post and hit mid-range shots. Strong. Runs the floor relatively well. Has great hands. A disaster defensively though, a Super 8-level train wreck. Gets lost and puts in a poor effort. Not much of a rebounder either. Will be in foul trouble as soon as he sets foot on the court. Talented but lacks experience. Sat the entire season because of eligibility issues at Kentucky. Has had two workouts with Cleveland. Could be a very good player. High likelihood of busting too though.

Kemba Walker (6’1″, 185 lbs, PG, UConn, 21 yrs old)

No mystery here. Great leader with a championship pedigree (UConn, 2011). Talented scorer. Good creator. Has a flair for the dramatic and isn’t afraid to take the final shot. Small but not Earl Boykins small. Questionable defensively. A good passer (contrary to popular belief) who makes his teammates better. Will have spectacular moments throughout his career but more likely to be a good role player than a star. Has been slipping down draft boards like DMX as of late. May not even go top 10 now.

Jan Vesely (6’11”, 240 lbs, SF/PF, Partizan Belgrade, 21 yrs old)

Another big gamble European player. Has tremendous athleticism and defensive ability (think Andrei Kirilenko), but is pretty limited offensively. Has a tough time creating his own shot. Majority of points come in transition and cuts to the basket. Gets to the line a lot but shoots very poorly there (54.2%). Impressive highlight reel. Known (at least in this video) as the Dunking Ninja. Will be a fun player to watch (a fan favorite). Is said to have a guarantee from Washington at the No. 6 spot.

Jonas Valanciunas (6’11”, 240 lbs, C, Lietuvos Rytas, 19 yrs old)

Young Lithuanian center with a lot of promise. Plays well in the pick-and-roll. Keeps ball high after the catch. Finishes well. Excellent free throw shooter. Raw defensively but has good instincts. Shy demeanor off the court. Could be a product of  youth and discomfort with the English language. Could be a lack of competitive fire. Likes cable knit sweaters and Hugo Boss. Has a nasty buyout situation (a la Ricky Rubio). Name pronounced with a “ch” sound, as in “Val-an-chu-nas.”

Jimmer Fredette (6’2″, 195 lbs, PG, BYU, 22 yrs old)

You know this guy, right? The Pride of Utah, even though he’s from New York. Dead-eye shooter with unlimited range. Strong build. Can create his own shot. Not inclined to create shots for others. A liability defensively based on speed and agility. A likable guy. Has a huge following (Jimmermania), especially on YouTube. Has won over a lot of GMs with his personality. Brother T.J. is a rapper who wears argyle sweaters. On the older side of the draft at age 22. Will be a borderline starter, depending where he goes, but never a bona fide star (except in Utah, of course).

Bismack Biyombo (6’9″, 240 lbs, PF, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada, 18 yrs old)

Big man from Congo who burst onto the draft scene in late spring. Very good athlete who thrives at defense and rebounding. Aspiration is to lead the league in blocks and rebounds. Extremely intelligent. Speaks six languages. Intangibles off the charts. Terrible offensively. Completely uncomfortable in the post. Birth certificate issue has led to speculation he may be older than listed. Essentially a Ben Wallace clone. Pistons are said to covet him at No. 8.

Kawhi Leonard (6’7″, 225 lbs, SF, San Diego State, 19 yrs old)

Said to be the best small forward in the draft. Athleticism and wingspan (7’3″) make him an ideal perimeter defender. A hustler who can guard multiple positions. Humongous hands. Good on the boards. Projects as Gerald Wallace, Shawn Marion type. Played high school game the day after his father was shot to death at a car wash. One of the main reasons San Diego State was relevant this season. Will be ready to contribute right away defensively.

Klay Thompson (6’7″, 205 lbs, SG, Washington State, 21 yrs old)

Prototypical outside shooter. Has a quick release. Moves well off the ball. Good size for a shooting guard. Can read defenses and find the open man. Suspect defensively. Lacks athleticism and strength. Has trouble creating his own shot and finishing at the rim. Cited and suspended for marijuana possession at Washington State. Says he no longer smokes weed. Son of Lakers great, and L.A. radio personality, Mychal Thompson. Jerry West is the Warriors’ new consultant. West and Mychal are both Lakers guys. The Warriors pick at 11. Something to think about…

Chris Singleton (6’9″, 230 lbs, SF, Florida State, 21 yrs old)

One of those players who does a lot of things well but nothing exceptionally well. Good defender. Good rebounder. Good at pottery (just making sure you’re awake).  Explosive around the rim. Poor ballhandler. Turns the ball over often and has trouble creating looks. Jump shot could use some work. Team guy. Returned early from broken foot to play for Florida State in the NCAA Tournament. Willing to do whatever it takes to contribute. Considers himself the next Scottie Pippen. Odds are he’s wrong.

Tristan Thompson (6’9″, 230 lbs, PF, Texas, 20 yrs old)

Canadian sensation whose draft stock has taken a big leap recently. Could go as high as No. 4 to Cleveland. A promising post scorer. Can put the ball on the deck and create. Solid post defender. Handled Derrick Williams well in the NCAA Tournament. Size may not translate to NBA post, though. Offensive game is limited to the post. Not a mid-range shooter like, say, LaMarcus Aldridge. Said he was returning to Texas next season, then reneged. Outgoing personality. Likable. Skilled but wouldn’t say he’s a top 5 prospect.

Donatas Motiejunas (7’0″, 215 lbs, C, Benneton Treviso, 20 yrs old)

Euro center with an edge. “Cocky” and “arrogant” are adjectives used to describe him. Excellent footwork. Creates well for himself. Good shot. Left-handed. Range extends out to 3-point territory. Not much of a rebounder or defender. Effort is inconsistent, which scares scouts. Had some good workouts as well as some bad ones. Upside is Pau Gasol. Downside is [name a player who didn't work hard enough and was flushed out of the league]. He’s a big gamble.

Marcus Morris (6’9″, 230 lbs, PF, Kansas, 21 yrs old)

The more coveted Morris twin because he’s better on the offensive end. Versatile player. Capable of playing both forward positions. Good in the post. An efficient scorer. Does many things well but nothing fantastic. Not particularly athletic or impressive physically. Was the most talented player on a Kansas team that underachieved for the second season in a row. A likely lottery pick regardless. Dreams of playing on the same team as his brother.

Marshon Brooks (6’5″, 195 lbs, SG, Providence, 22 yrs old)

One of those “hype” players who everybody likes. Will probably get drafted higher than his talent dictates. A high usage player. Something of a ball hog. Good size for a shooting guard (6’5″). On the older end of the draft at 22. Was the nation’s second leading scorer. Models his game after Jamal Crawford. Doesn’t put in much effort on defense. Mom is a WNBA ref. Had a good workout recently with New York. Agent is Seth Cohen. Probably a big fan of The O.C.

Nikola Vucevic (7’0″, 260 lbs, C, USC, 20 yrs old)

Classic upside player. Performance was inconsistent at USC, where he didn’t always raise his game to the level of competition. Still, size and skill set make him an attractive option. Has a good jumper. Is a threat from midrange and the 3-point line. Polished in the post. Has a number of successful moves down low. Comfortable with the ball in his hands. Suspect defensively. Caught in controversy midseason over potentially misogynistic comments. Talented but there are questions about his work ethic.

Markieff Morris (6’10”, 240 lbs, PF, Kansas, 21 yrs old)

The more defensive-minded Morris brother. A self-proclaimed banger. Has a more defined position (PF) than his brother but readily admits Marcus has a better skill set. Seems reconciled to the fact that he’ll always be less talented. The last player added to the green room list. Will likely be the last guy taken from that group on draft day.

Alec Burks (6’6″, 195 lbs, SG, Colorado, 19 yrs old)

Textbook chip on his shoulder prospect. Wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. Went to Colorado. Put himself on the map with athleticism and scoring prowess. Skinny frame but can put it down with authority. Above average ballhandler. Can create for himself. Finishes well in transition. Admits he didn’t put in a full effort on defense in college but has defensive potential based on size and quickness. Outside shot needs improvement (not a good sign for a shooting guard). An irrational confidence guy. Compares himself favorably to Kevin Durant and Tracy McGrady.

Jordan Hamilton (6’8″, 230 lbs, SF, Texas, 20 yrs old)

Highly athletic wing player. Has big-time talent but big-time question marks as well. Shot selection was so bad his freshman year Rick Barnes created a lowlights reel and made him watch it. Learned from his mistakes (shot selection was better sophomore year). Led Texas to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Good 3-point shooter. Good rebounder. Good finisher at the rim. Competent defender. Needs to get to the line more often. Perceived attitude problems appear to be the only thing holding him back. Could be one of the draft’s better sleeper picks.



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