Blog Entry

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Posted on: June 25, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2011 6:41 pm
Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker -- the top three point guards in the 2011 NBA Draft -- face logjams of varying degrees on their new teams. Posted by Ben Golliver.


NBA executives talk all the time about drafting the "Best Player Available" rather than targeting a particular position of need. The logic goes that NBA roster turnover happens at such a pace that it's better to collect talented players, letting them beat out incumbents for a spot, rather than compromising on upside simply to complete a jigsaw puzzle that could change quickly due to injury, chemistry or other factors.

One of the most unusual aspects of the 2011 NBA Draft is that the top three point guards that went off the board -- Duke's Kyrie Irving, Kentucky's Brandon Knight, Connecticut's Kemba Walker -- all went to teams with an incumbent option or options at the one.

Starting from Day 1 has proven to be a blessing for recent point guard prodigies like Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Getting NBA reps at the earliest age possible -- with a support staff and management structure that trusted in their abilities -- was vital in the development for both. Last year's No. 1 selection, John Wall, followed that same track for the Wasington Wizards. But Irving, Knight and Walker could face slightly different circumstances. Let's take a look at each.

Kyrie Irving -- Cleveland Cavaliers

The No. 1 overall pick, Irving, out of Duke University, is the most NBA-ready point guard prospect in this year's group. He goes to a team that needs a new face, a new identity and a new direction after an awful season that resulted from the departure of LeBron James. He's got the size, smarts, scoring instincts and play-making ability to start from Day 1. He should start from Day 1.

The only problem? The Cavaliers have former All-Star Baron Davis and capable back-up Ramon Sessions already on the roster. Sessions' agent made it clear earlier this summer that something would have to give if Cleveland drafted Irving, but nothing gave on draft night. Neither Davis nor Sessions was traded. Daniel Gibson looms too, as he played a fair number of backcourt minutes last year as well.

The ideal scenario long-term would be to move Davis and the remaining money on his contract, however possible. That would allow the Cavaliers to turn the keys over to Irving immediately, with Sessions, a very capable and fairly paid back-up, able to step in and play big minutes as needed behind Irving or alongside of him. Gibson, if his $4.4 million salary for 2011-2012 couldn't be moved, would then provide depth.

The only problem? Davis is on the books for $13.9 million next season and has a $14.8 million player option for 2012-2013 so there may not be any takers until he becomes an expiring contract at the end of next season. Theoretically, the Cavaliers could make him an amnesty clause casualty, depending on the terms of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If Irving and Davis are both on the roster, Cleveland will need to get to work on Davis, making sure he understands his role as a veteran on a rebuilding team. At 32, Davis' job now is not to lead Cleveland to the playoffs. His job is to help mentor Irving into a franchise, All-Star caliber player.

Brandon Knight -- Detroit Pistons

The Pistons were a dysfunctional mess last season under coach John Kuester, who tried all sorts of different things at point guard, including a Tracy McGrady experiment. 

Brandon Knight -- a very talented, intelligent prospect who has done his best to shake off the "combo guard" label since finishing his one season at Kentucky -- enters the mix on a roster that currently has Rodney Stuckey, who was recently extended a qualifying offer for next season, and the undersized but capable Will Bynum. Knight is not as ready as Irving this year or as ready as Wall was last year, so turning the keys over to him immediately would mean a long, painful journey.

The biggest question for the Pistons is what to do with Rodney Stuckey. Knight's presence certainly makes the team less dependent on Stuckey, so if someone makes an offer that is too rich for Detroit's blood, they won't be in a position where they will be forced to overpay to retain him. With that said, keeping Stuckey around if possible is worth doing. He is talented and will draw trade interest down the road, especially if he's retained on a reasonable deal, once Knight develops. 

Assuming Stuckey returns, which would be the best case scenario, Knight should plug in as the second string point guard, playing as many minutes as he can handle and given every opportunity to prove himself to be a starter. In that scenario, Bynum becomes expendable. He's on the books for $3.25 million for each of the next two seasons and there should be a decent market for his services at that number.

If Stuckey either isn't retained or is moved in a sign-and-trade, Bynum becomes the Day 1 starter, with Knight as the back-up. In an ideal world, Knight responds to that role well and potentially works his way ahead of Bynum by the middle or latter half of the 2011-2012 season. If the learning curve happens to be steeper, Bynum remains in place. If the Pistons fall totally out of the Eastern Conference playoff chase given that rotation, Knight could take on the starter role, allowing the Pistons to get to work on the future.

Kemba Walker -- Charlotte Bobcats

On Draft night, the Bobcats executed a complicated three-way trade that shipped out forward Stephen Jackson and guard Shaun Livingston to land an extra top 10 pick and Corey Maggette. An under-reported highlight of this trade was getting out of Livingston's contract, as he was owed $3.5 million for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Clearing Livingston not only moved his salary but it also opened up plenty of minutes in Charlotte's backcourt.

Enter Kemba Walker, the star of the 2011 NCAA tournament and a potential franchise guard. He joins a stripped-down team that is clearly looking for a slash-and-burn style rebuilding project after the trade of Jackson and the 2011 deadline move of Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers. Walker will join a backcourt that currently includes last year's starting point guard, D.J. Augustin, and two guards Gerald Henderson and Matt Carroll. That's it. Those are the only guards currently under contract for the 2011-2012 season.

In other words, Walker will be given free rein, likely as a third guard, to both score and distribute. He should have the ball in his hands plenty and should be encouraged to take as many shots as he wants. He'll be playing in a pressure-free environment as he learns the ropes. The Bobcats will surely encourage him to push Augustin for the starter's job, but anything past playing major minutes in a back-up role this year will be gravy. Augustin will become a restricted free agent following the 2011-2012 season so the Bobcats will have plenty of flexibility in terms of how they handle his future with the team. 

Going forward, new GM Rich Cho will have the luxury of shaping Charlotte's roster to fit Walker's skillset. Those moves will begin soon as the Bobcats clearly need to fill out their roster. Regardless, this is an excellent landing spot for Walker. He can move into a starter's role at his own pace while getting plenty of playing time immediately. The best of both worlds.

Since: Jan 29, 2009
Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:00 pm


How can you say top 3 PG's face log jam and then write this ? - Walker will join a backcourt that currently includes last year's starting point guard, , and two guards and . That's it. Those are the only guards currently under contract for the 2011-2012 season.

Since: Jan 20, 2009
Posted on: June 27, 2011 2:52 pm

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Kemba Walker = Ben Gordon
Why do I keep seeing this?  Kemba Walker=Ben Gordon?  I take this as a bad thing.  But if my memory serves me right, Gordon was the first rookie EVER to win the 6th man award.  He led the Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since Jordan left.  And has a career avg. of 17ppg.  Mark my words, Kemba Walker will have a better NBA career than both Irving and Knight!

Since: Jun 27, 2011
Posted on: June 27, 2011 2:38 pm

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Size only matters if you dot possess elite NBA tools. Kemba is bigger than ty lawson just as fast, more heart. Plus he led UCONN all the way with a bunch of young guys. Ty lawson had a veteran team that was supposed to wit in. Kemba brought his team from obsurity. He made all of them better. Next JJ Barea, he dominated the last three games of the finals if you didnt watch and was the smallest player on the floor. Kemba will desztroy JJ and has more to his game than JJ. So as long as Kemba uses his elite speed his game will translate fine and he will be the franchise player and MJ will look like a genious.

Since: Jun 16, 2011
Posted on: June 27, 2011 7:36 am

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Kemba Walker was the best Ready for NBA guard in the draft..........................

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: June 27, 2011 7:08 am

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

And that's why you're not an NBA GM my friend...Kemba Walker = Ben Gordon

Since: Nov 14, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2011 6:07 pm

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

How is Irving the most NBA ready guard? Was it the whole 11 games he played before Arizona humiliated his team and bounced them early in the tourney?

Kemba Walker played incredibly the entire season. He faced must tougher foes during the regular season, and dominated just about every thing thrown his way en route to winning three tournaments. It's almost unheard of. I'd much rather have Kemba starting Game 1 for me than Irving. 

Since: Jun 15, 2011
Posted on: June 26, 2011 3:07 pm

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

idk why but I think Kemba is going to have a lot of success, I believe they arent giving him much credit for his abilities.

Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: June 26, 2011 8:09 am

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Talking about size... it does matter.  Walker has pretty much grown as much as he can.  Being a junior and all... but Knight & Irving will still have some growing to do, they are barely 19.  I think Irving is completely over rated though.  Its worse than the Bradford thing here in St. Louis... we took Sam after his Junior year.. so we knew more about him.. though I still think taking anyone that's been injured 3/4 of a year in a high paid spot is just insane.  More times than not, that crap shoot fails.. its worked for Bradford so far, but Irving won't be as fortunate.

Since: Mar 21, 2007
Posted on: June 26, 2011 3:55 am

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

Keep wishing, first poster.  Any evidence to back that up?  Knight is as much of a combo guard as Stucky is, and as far as I can see only tops him in shooting range, while leaving a lot to be desired in size.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: June 26, 2011 2:27 am

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

What I meant to say about Gibson was he is an undersized SG. The same 6-2  as Jimmer. Don't read too much into that, just the facts, man. I like Jimmer's chances to be a solid player. He can refine his lead guard skills and looks strong enough to not fold on contact playing D.

But Gibson has not developed lead guard skills yet. He is not great playing D. And the Cavs are not waiting for him or Manny Harris to become better point guards.

Lead guards today need the ability to go inside and finish with balance and/or power. These 3 rookies seem to more of the Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Tony Parker style players. Not the Rose, Westbrook and Wall type. And please note I'm not saying these rookies will be as good as any of those vets. Not saying they will not. Just style fit.

I (and I think most of the NBA) have not seem enough of Irving and Knight to say how good they will be.  Walker stepped up his scoring this year but seemed like a solid PG last year. I do like his chances. But I also like Josh Selby's chances if he gets a firm bit of coaching on running the point. I say more Kansas games this year than any of the others teams and Selby went a good spot for him. That should make sure he has no case of "big head" to begin his career.

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