The 2011 NBA Draft has been labeled by many as one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory. There are no sure fire superstars like there have been in years past (most recently Blake Griffin and John Wall). But, what the 2011 draft lacks in superstar power, it makes up for in the depth of solid players. With American players like Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, and Brandon Knight combined with international stars like Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, and Jan Vesely, this class provides many solid basketball players down the board to be picked on June 23rd, all of which have the potential to make a significant impact in the NBA.
In typical lottery fashion, the team with the best odds, the Minnesota Timberwolves, did not end up with the 1st pick. Instead, Cleveland, a franchise in need of some good news, received the 1st and 4th overall picks. Even with two picks in the top five, the Cavaliers are not satisfied. They are attempting to make a trade with Minnesota to move up from number 4 to number 2 and have the top 2 picks in this year’s draft. Whether that comes to fruition or not still remains to be seen, but either way, the 2011 draft is a huge opportunity for the Cleveland Cavaliers to climb back out of the basement and into relevance, just as they did in 2003 when they chose LeBron James with the 1st overall pick.
Like the Cavs, this draft is a huge opportunity for a few other franchises to put themselves in a position to compete. One of these teams is the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have some great young talent on their team, like Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, and Anthony Randolph. Add in the fact that Ricky Rubio is finally coming to the United States to play for them, and I believe Minnesota is around two or three years away from making a big push into the Western Conference playoff picture. Acquiring another great young player in this year’s draft would help the Timberwolves even more in becoming a relevant franchise for the first time since Kevin Garnett left in 2007.
Now that we’ve looked at the teams that have the most potential to improve, it’s time to reveal the big board for the top 5 picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.
1.) Cleveland: Kyrie Irving- PG, Duke
It’s no secret Cleveland needs a point guard. Kyrie Irving is going to start right away for the Cavs and that immediate experience he’s going to receive as the starter night in and night out is going to really help Cleveland down the road a few years. Irving has the most talent out of any player in this draft; his quickness along with his basketball IQ and ability to score make him the odds on #1 pick
2.) Minnesota: Derrick Williams- PF, Arizona
The most impressive thing about Derrick Williams is how athletic he is for a big man; he can play the 3, 4, or 5 spots at any time. This pick would also mean that Anthony Randolph would no longer be the lone effective big man coming off the bench for Minnesota, which would make them a more efficient team late in games and cause them to be better at utilizing their younger legs against some of the older teams in the NBA.
3.) Utah: Brandon Knight- PG, Kentucky
I can see where Utah would want to draft Enes Kanter with the 3rd overall pick to get some size down low, but with Paul Milsapp and Al Jefferson still under contract and receiving Derrick Favors in the Derron Williams trade, they don’t really have room for another big man. Add the fact that they have a hole in their point guard spot since trading Williams; it makes a lot more sense for them to go with Knight with the number 3 pick. Knight is an efficient scorer with a lot of talent, but he does make some immature mistakes at times. It wouldn’t be a complete shock for the Jazz to take Kanter at 3, but I believe it will be Brandon Knight.
4.) Cleveland: Enes Kanter- C, Turkey
In the past few years, Cleveland’s only effective presence in the post has been Zeidroudas Ilgauskas. Losing him to the Miami Heat really left a hole in the paint that the Cavs were unable to fill in the 2010-11 season. Getting a 7’ big man in there to provide the same type of presence that Ilgauskas provided would be huge for the struggling Cavs. Getting a big man in the post will also really help make up for their lack of guard play at the moment. Getting a talented big man along with a talented guard in the first 4 picks of the draft would really help in the improvement and rebuilding of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise.
5.) Toronto: Jan Vesely- SF, Czech Republic
The Toronto Raptors very international team isn’t going to change any time soon. Quite possibly the fastest rising player on everyone’s big board, Jan Vesely will be the best player available when the 5th overall pick rolls around and I don’t believe the Raptors will pass on him. At 6’11, 240 lbs, Vesely looks to have a size and strength to be a player that NBA defenders can’t ignore and could really open up the floor for players like Leandro Barbosa and DeMar DeRozan. Also, he could also take some of the interior pressure off of Andrea Bargnani.
This year’s draft is going to be a very interesting one, sure, there isn’t the quality of players we are used to seeing, but that just adds to the intrigue. This is a huge opportunity for the cellar teams to begin to work their way up into contention. The fact that there aren’t very quality players late in the first round also helps those early first round teams because they will be the only ones getting a player that can make a difference. Even though there isn’t the usual excitement this year, the 2011 NBA Draft could be the turning point for a few franchises that need it.