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Tag:Brandon Knight
Posted on: December 17, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Pistons re-sign Rodney Stuckey

By Matt Moore

The Pistons don't seem to quite know where to go with themselves. They continue to draft young quality players like Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye, and Brandon Knight, who showed a much-improved skill-set on Friday night in a preseason tilt against the Cavaliers. And at the same time they keep giving long-term contracts to veteran players. They re-signed Tayshaun Prince to 4-years, $27 million. And on Saturday, they re-signed Rodney Stuckey to a three-year, $25 million deal via Yahoo Sports

Stuckey posted an 18 PER last season, posting career numbers in multiple categories. He's only 25 and is entering his prime. Then again, he was also part of the tumultous locker room for Detroit last year, siding with Rip Hamilton and the veterans he's played alongside for the duration of his career against John Kuester, according to reports. Kuester was clearly a problem, but Stuckey was part of the drama last year. 

Outside of last season, however, there haven't been reports of trouble with Stuckey being coachable. The bigger concern is the logjam it creates in the backcourt for the Pistons. Brandon Knight looked very much like an actual point guard against the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving. Will Bynum has been a consistent change-of-pace guard. And Ben Gordon has too much money invested to bury. So where does Stuckey fit in? He can play starting two-guard, but is a ball-handler. 

It's just odd that with a solid core of young players, the Pistons seem intent on simultaneously going forward with veteran talent and building through the draft. The lack of direction in Detroit continues to perplex, but with Lawrence Frank, maybe the results will change.  
Posted on: July 9, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 1:39 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Central Division

A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Central Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.

derrick-rose-dunk

Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division and the Atlantic Division. Let's continue this series with the Central Division.  

CHICAGO Bulls


The Bulls won the Central by a preposterous margin in 2010-2011, stacking up a league-high 62 wins and burying their division mates by a ridiculous 25 games, by far the biggest margin of any division winner. Nothing has happened yet this offseason which suggests next year's results will be any different. Even if the Milwaukee Bucks return to full health or the Indiana Pacers make a key free agent addition or the Detroit Pistons finally emerge from their slog or the Cleveland Cavaliers successfully start the Kyrie Irving era, the only thing stopping the Bulls from running away from the competition again is an injury to Derrick Rose. The Bulls are, by far, the most talented and deepest team in the division. They have the reigning MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year. They're poised to be championship title contenders for the next five years.

With so much going for them, the Bulls clearly have the most to lose in a lockout. If a season is lost, that's a title chase that evaporates. Perhaps most important, the Bulls would lose that visceral desire for redemption that comes with the ugly end to their season. It was a disappointing, frustrating loss to their new archrivals, the Miami Heat, in the Eastern Conference Finals. The pain of that loss subsides with time. It's ability to serve as unifying inspiration will fade too. The Bulls want revenge and they want rings. The pieces are in place. Besides aging teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, who face the possibility of their championship window closing, the Bulls don't want to sit around and wait. They created some amazing chemistry last season, built strong trust bonds. Losing a season risks all of that.

INDIANA PACERS

The upstart Pacers are up to something: they finally committed to Frank Vogel as their coach, they brought on former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard to serve as Director of Player Personnel, they made a solid draft day trade to acquire point guard George Hill and they sit on a mound of cap space ready to make a splash in free agency. The Pacers risk two things if a season is lost. First, a critical development year to see how their young pieces are able to gel together. Second, A feeling of certainty in terms of team expectations.

Indiana has assembled some nice, young talent: Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough and Hill are all 25 or younger. Depending on how they use their cap space and whether they decide to move Danny Granger, that has all the makings of a promising core that could reliably make playoff runs for the foreseeable future. But the group needs time to spend together, reps to get things right and an evaluation period to see whether all four belong long-term. They look great on paper but more data -- playing together -- is needed. A lost season risks that and potentially stalls the development of those younger guys.

The real risk is free agency. Indiana has just $36 million committed in salary next season, meaning they have one of the smallest payrolls in the league. They also have an expiring contract in James Posey to move and potentially could move Granter if they were looking to make a major splash. Their combination of flexibility and talent on-hand is near the tops in the league when it comes to rebuilding teams. A delayed season pushes that promise back and while teams with space are definitely sitting in a better position than teams without space, it's unclear what additional rules might be in place that inhibit free agent movement. If you're the Pacers you'd prefer to be able to chase a guy like David West now without any messy collective bargaining negotiations getting in the way. Put simply, the Pacers are a team on the rise, but a lot has to go right for young teams to reach their potential. Even minor things can throw a team off course. The less variables, the better. Unfortunately, the CBA is a major, major variable.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

lockoutThis team is just confusing. The Stephen Jackson trade made a bit of sense, given that the Bucks needed a serviceable alternative to Brandon Jennings at point guard and got one in Beno Udrih, but this group isn't going anywhere meaningful, not even if Jennings and center Andrew Bogut are fully healthy. 

About the only thing lost in a lockout for the Bucks is another year for Jennings to bloom. His sophomore years was sidetracked by injuries and poor outside shooting, and he questioned his teammates' desire to win at the end of the regular season. Other than Jennings, Larry Sanders and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute could use more developmental minutes but the rest of the roster is essentially veterans who have reached their potential. 

From a cynical standpoint, Bucks ownership could be cheering a lost season because it would mean cash savings on ugly deals for Jackson and big man Drew Gooden. Is it worth saving the combined $15 million that will go to Jackson and Gooden in 2011-2012 to lose a year of floor leadership training for Jennings? 

DETROIT PISTONS

The Pistons are another confounding mess, but at least it feels like they've turned a corner thanks to the sale of the team, the departure of reviled coach John Kuester and the drafting of point guard Brandon Knight and wing Kyle Singler. Last year was one, long, ugly grind. 2011-2012 figures to be a step in the right direction.

Knight slipped out of the top five of the 2011 NBA Draft because of questions about his position. Is he a pure point guard? Can he run an NBA offense? Will he be able to execute something besides the pick-and-roll game? His future is incredibly bright but as a one-and-done player he absolutely needs as much playing time as possible to get a feel for the NBA style and to get comfortable with the ball in his hands and a team of professionals that look to him first. There's no other way to learn the point guard position than by on-the-job training, and recent success stories like Rose and Russell Westbrook only reinforce that idea. A year away from the game at this stage would be a critical loss for Knight and the Pistons, and that's a major risk.

The same is true, to a lesser degree, for big man Greg Monroe, who came on strong in the second half of his rookie season and appears to be a potential core piece going forward. 2011-2012 is all about letting Knight and Monroe build up a chemistry together 

A lost season would certainly be welcomed by ownership here too because Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva all failed to live up to their big-dollar contract figures last season. Hamilton and Villanueva, in particular, seem like lost causes. Weighing the savings from these deals versus the lost development of Knight, the Pistons should probably be pretty close to indifferent when it comes to losing a season. They need work, they know they need work and the rebuild can only come as these big contracts get closer to their conclusion and become more tradeable. Still, it would seem to be better to continue that journey with Knight getting more familiar and comfortable day-by-day, month-by-month than it would having him workout solo in a gym somewhere. If you've committed to a rebuild, start it immediately.
 
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Last but not least, we have the Cavaliers, the NBA's second-worst team from last season, who endured an embarrasing 26 game losing streak to set an NBA record for consecutive futility. There's significant light at the end of the tunnel for the Cavaliers, as they have an owner committed to spending money to win, the 2011 NBA Draft's No. 1 overall pick, Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson, who was taken No. 4 overall. 

Cleveland is in much the same position as the Pistons: the biggest risk from losing a season is the lost reps that Irving won't get running the show. There are always some bumps and bruises for a young point guard transitioning from college to the NBA, and the potential for struggles is even more pronounced in Irving's case because he missed much of last season, his freshman year at Duke University, with a foot injury. Time away from the game is not good. The shorter, the better. Irving was clearly the most NBA-ready point guard in this year's draft crop and the Cavaliers would be smart to turn the keys over to him from Day 1, even with veterans Baron Davis, Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions on the roster as well. 

That raises a secondary risk of the lockout season for the Cavaliers: losing positional clarity. Cleveland clearly needs to move one, if not two, of their point guards to clear the deck for Irving and surround him with some solid complementary pieces. A lost season just delays that process. Saving the money from Davis' contract is tempting, but it's a non-factor for owner Dan Gilbert who would just as soon pay that tax to watch his young team start the rebuild. Along those same lines, an entire season lost could mean the Cavaliers aren't able to move Antawn Jamison's $15 million expiring contract, a nice trade asset that could potentially bring a rotation player in return.

Posted on: June 27, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:16 pm
 

Derrick Williams is Rookie of the Year favorite

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams is the odds-on favorite to win 2011-2012 Rookie of the Year. Posted by Ben Golliver.

derrick-williams-large

Derrick Williams might have been the No. 2 selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he's sitting in the pole positon to win the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year award. 

Bodog.com
has released its early odds for which member of the Draft Class of 2011 will take home the Rookie of the Year award. Williams, a dynamic combo forward out of Arizona, leapfrogged one-and-done Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers, to claim the No. 1 spot. The No. 10 selection, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, selected by the Sacramento Kings, also finished ahead of Irving.

Here's a look at the top 10. Strictly for entertainment purposes only.

Why does Irving slide? Two reasons. To win Rookie of the Year, you must be as NBA-ready as possible and have the opportunity to play boatloads of minutes so that you can accumulate stats.

In Irving's case, he missed a good chunk of his rookie season at Duke, raising questions about how ready he is to be an impact player in the NBA from Day One. Second, the Cavaliers have a muddled point guard position with Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions and Boobie Gibson hanging around. That will likely get sorted out before next season rolls around, but it will be difficult to trade Davis, who is sure to get some serious burn.

Williams, on the other hand, is arguably the best physical specimen in this year's class. The Timberwolves have nothing to lose and, while Michael Beasley is on the roster and has a similar game, Minnesota has every incentive to turn Williams loose. With Rubio in the fold, look for the Timberwolves to continue to play an up-tempo game, with Williams given the green light to shoot and attack as often as he likes. One possible area of concern: Williams and Rubio, by virtue of playing on the same team, could cancel each other out.

Fredette represents the dumb money on this list. With no limit on his shot attempts in college, he compiled absurd scoring numbers. While he enters Sacramento figuring to get plenty of minutes, Tyreke Evans will command a very large chunk of the team's possessions, as will emerging big man DeMarcus Cousins. If Fredette doesn't defer, he will be marginalized. Ownership might be infatuated with him, but winning over his teammates is far more important.

Kanter appears to be more NBA-ready than most, but he enters a very crowded frontcourt in Utah. Surely he will carve out a solid role. But will it be enough to put up real numbers?

One solid dark-horse candidate: Kemba Walker. While he might not start from Day One because of D.J. Augustin, Walker will find plenty of available minutes in Charlotte's torn-down backcourt. The Bobcats are entering Year One of a major rebuild and thus will have Walker's development as a top -- perhaps the top -- priority. He enters the NBA after three years in college, and he proved that he was a star on that level. 

Ultimately, I would expect this to boil down to a three-man race between Williams, Irving and Walker. Williams is a worthy early favorite.
Posted on: June 25, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2011 6:41 pm
 

2011 NBA Draft: Top 3 point guards face logjams

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.

walker-irving-knight

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.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 12:37 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 11:20 am
 

2011 NBA Draft Winners and Losers



Posted by Matt Moore

It's all over. After an underwhelming crop of draft choices led to a flurry of trades, the dust has settled and the picks are wearing the right hats, finally. Here are your winners and losers of the 2011 NBA Draft:

Winners

Cleveland Cavaliers: Irving is mostly a case of winning by default, but they wouldn't have been the first team to be unable to get out of their own way with an obvious pick. Irving gives them a franchise point guard to build around and was the best player overall in this draft. Going for Derrick Williams would have been sheer hubris in order to burn LeBron by choosing a replacement forward. Then, with the fourth, they could have opted for Valanciunas, which would have been a good pick. But there's a reason so many teams were chasing Tristan Thompson. His workouts showed how he would translate on the next level, and with that kind of athleticism, he provides a good running partner for Irving. They managed to not overcomplicate the combination of two top-five picks. They got good talent both small and big. That's a win right there.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards very quietly had a terrific draft. First Jan Vesely was available, who fits a need for them at slashing forward. With his athleticism and aggression, he makes a perfect partner to run the break with John Wall. Then, miraculously, Chris Singleton tumbled all the way down to No.18 where the Wizards jumped all over him. Singleton is a lottery talent that fell out of the top 14. He gives the Wizards the ability to move Andray Blatche if they can find a taker for his contract. He can rebound and defend exceptionally well. Singleton's length and athleticism, combined with a chip on his shoulder from dropping, makes him a great pick for the Wizards. Shelvin Mack in the second round was a great value pick for backup point guard.

Charlotte Bobcats: In a day, the Bobcats transformed Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, the No.9 and No.19 into Corey Maggette, Bismack Biyombo, and Kemba Walker. That's a great haul. I've never been big on either of the Bobcats' draft picks, but when you consider the balance between an athletic super-freak who is unrefined and an established winner with limited upside, the Bobcats managed to grab two of the most hyped players in the draft. Biyombo provides length and athleticism to pair with Tyrus Thomas. Walker creates a complication at point guard with D.J. Augustin already being an undersized point guard. But Augustin has never won over the Bobcats organization and Walker will be given every chance to compete for the starting role. If his size issues aren't as much a concern as they've been made out to be, and if his shot creation translates to the next level, the Bobcats have just instantly created their foundation for the future while ditching one of their biggest contracts. A great start for the Cho era in Charlotte. 

Denver Nuggets: Raymond Felton got flipped for Andre Miller's non-guaranteed expiring contract and Jordan Hamilton, one of the steals of the draft who inexplicably fell. This for a guard the Nuggets didn't want in the first place. Oh, yeah, and they nabbed Kenneth Faried, who perfectly fits their needs and is a great value pick where they took him. Masai Ujiri is better than you.


Losers


Minnesota Timberwolves: Yes, again. Williams is a great pick, if they were moving Michael Beasley. Or if they were trading Williams. But David Kahn reportedly says they're not moving Williams. They wasted an opportunity to create more assets by moving either one, and instead, will now bullheadedly try to cram two similar players (three if you count Anthony Randolph) into a spot. It's a messy situation and Kahn should have taken one of the other offers made to him for the pick. Then there's the other trade, which was just a mess all over. They pulled in another Euro center to add to their collection, Brad Miller and his too-long, too-expensive contract, and ditched Jonny Flynn. The only redeeming quality is the future first which may or may not be protected into oblivion. Another sterling night for the Wolves. If Williams turns out to be worthy of the No.2 pick, and count me among the people that think he is, and the Wolves recognize that versus burying him as they did Kevin Love, this can be salvaged. From this vantage point, it doesn't look great. 

Update: Wolves wound up swapping Mirotic for the 28th and 43rd picks from the Bulls, then moved the 28th pick to Miami for the 31st pick, which they then sold as well as the 38th pick which was theirs. They used the 43rd on Malcolm Lee, and then traded for the 57th. While not getting Mirotic is a lot better than drafting him, they did all that and wound up with a first later, Malcolm Lee, and Targuy Ngombo. Not a great haul, there. Saved the boss some cash, though.

Golden State Warriors: How many guards can they need? New head coach Mark Jackson and GM Larry Riley constantly talked about defense. Then the Warriors took a shooter. They haven't moved Monta Ellis, so now on the roster they have Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Charlie Bell, Jeremy Lin, Acie Law and Reggie Williams. And they just added Klay Thompson. It was an unnecessary move with bigger players with more defensive presence available. The Warriors have enough talent to not need the best player available. But, again, they opt for the usual. Disappointing.

Portland Trail Blazers: Where did that come from? The Blazers first take a huge reach on Nolan Smith at No.21. Smith had his proponents as the draft got closer, and certainly isn't a terrible pick. But in taking him, they elected to create redundancy after trading too much (Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez) for Raymond Felton. The result is a reformed back court as the Blazers had promised, but not nearly as good as one you would have thought they could carry with the pieces available. Smith may work out well, but he'll never be starter caliber. And, with as many talented guards as there were late in the draft, taking him was a bit of a shock. Jon Diebler is 6-6 and can shoot. That's about it.  


Individual Winners:


Jan Vesely: Underrated as everyone talked about Kanter and Valanciunas, Vesely not only winds up with a good team fit for himself, but stole the highlight of the night with a kiss on the mouth of his lady friend. Then he said "I like the John Wall game" in his TV interview. Vesely came off incredibly cool for a 21-year-old Euro who can't shoot.

Tristan Thompson: Congratulations, Tristan, you cleared about ten spots in three days! It's a marathon, not a race.

Joe Dumars: Lucks into Brandon Knight. Rodney Stuckey problem: solved.


Individual Losers:


Brandon Knight: Plummeted due to his attitude and wound up in dysfunctional Detroit.

Josh Selby: If there was no age limit to the draft, Selby would have been a top ten pick last year. Now he falls all the way to the second round.

Jordan Hamilton: Something really bad must have been found on Hamilton, medically or otherwise. There was a nineteen-pick differential between Hamilton and a player who has rumors of being older than listed with a back issue and a contract problem. That's not a good look for the Texas ex.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:29 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:52 pm
 

2011 NBA Draft: Top 10 Analysis

Here's a rundown of all of our analysis on the top ten picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.

No.1: Cavaliers select Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke University

Irving has been the top pick since last summer and despite a brief dip after his injury in the winter, he returned to the top spot in a flurry of offensive firepower in the NCAA tournament. Irving gives Cleveland not just an athletic playmaking point guard with a jumper, but a franchise quality player with a humble attitude and great basketball IQ.

The question will be who the Cavs will build around Irving. Anderson Varejao is rumored to be being moved and with the No. 4 pick is expected to be used on a big man such as Jonas Valanciunas or Enes Kanter if available. Irving will function as both scorer and distributor for the team. He volunteered for a thorough physical to remove doubts about his toe and has been completely cleared.

Irving's closest comparison is Chris Paul, though he's not the player Paul was when he was drafted. Still, Irving is described by nearly every analyst as "special" and the kind of player the Cavs needed to get in order to kick off their rebuilding project. Landing the top pick with the lottery selection they got in a trade of Mo Williams to the Clippers, Irving represents what the Cavaliers hopes will be a change of luck for a notoriously fate-challenged franchise.

Irving's athleticism isn't of Calipari-point-guard caliber, but he also has a polished jumper and excellent vision. He's not elite at the level of John Wall, but he does have a great overall mix of abilities. Derrick Williams would have been a solid choice here, but Irving was simply the best player available. The question will be if he will reflect the overall quality of this draft, or if he truly is their franchise player to help rebuild the broken kingdom LeBron James left behind.

No. 2: Minnesota Timberwolves select Derrick Williams, F, Arizona

After weeks of posturing and talking, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up doing pretty much what we all expected them to do: They drafted Derrick Williams from Arizona.

(Now, before I really get into this, keep in mind the Wolves could very well trade Williams later. Maybe by the end of the night, maybe tomorrow. Just want to get that out there.)

I think everyone agrees that the second best player in this draft was Williams, with some even seeing him as maybe the best. So to take him second overall makes sense. What didn't make sense for the Wolves, and the reason they shopped the pick so hard, is how Williams fits within the already jumbled roster David Kahn has assembled. It makes sense to move Michael Beasley now and clear room for Williams to play. But if that doesn't happen, the Wolves rotation is a total mess of raw talent without any rhyme or reason.

Which is what makes the most sense. A core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Williams isn't a bad trio. Love and Williams are a bit similar and with Williams kind of being a tweener forward, there could be some awkwardness in the two fitting together, but you have to go with him here.

It still makes a lot of sense for the Wolves to move Williams if a deal comes along, but for now, the idea is for Kahn to clear out the clutter a bit and really let his core of young, talented players take over. That's how the Thunder built around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and at the same, Jeff Green. Those guys had room to fail, then grow and most importantly, develop. Give Williams and company room to breathe and the Wolves might eventually start to make some progress.

In all honesty, Williams may have the most star power of any player in this draft. Love is a very good player -- an All-Star. But I'm not sure he's a true building block star that can carry you. Williams very well might be. He shot 57 percent from 3-point range last season, can play above the rim and score the ball. It's a question of his defense at the next level and a question of where he plays.

There was talk of Enes Kanter at No. 2 as well, but that would've been a copout "fit" pick. Not necessarily a bad selection, but when you're the Wolves, you can't afford to potentially miss out on a star player. Williams was the obvious choice, and the right one.

Now we've just got to see if they hang on to him.

No. 3: Utah Jazz select Enes Kanter, F/C, Kentucky

In a lot of ways, the Jazz sort of held the keys to this draft. What direction were they going to go and where would the chips all fall behind them? Well, they went the direction of Enes Kanter and not Brandon Knight.

Not necessarily a surprise, but a month ago, that definitely wasn't a sure direction for Utah. Kanter is a true center, a 6-11 post player with soft hands and a good touch. Which is what they already have in Al Jefferson.

How does Kanter fit alongside Paul Millsap and Jefferson? We'll see. But it's hard to turn down a player of his caliber in that spot, especially when the Jazz had another pick to use in the lottery. Taking Knight made a lot of sense in a lot of ways, but now the Jazz can fill that spot later on down.

The Jazz are looking at a bit of a rebuild with this roster and in order to do that, you have to take talent. Kanter's got that. He's a bit of a mystery as he didn't play at all at Kentucky, but he was a top college recruit, was excellent in Turkey and by all accounts, will translate well to the NBA.

No. 4: Cleveland Cavaliers select Tristan Thompson, F, University of Texas

Tristan Thompson had made a meteoric rise throughtout the late draft season.  He went from being a mid-teens pick all the way to the fourth pick. His length and size started to catch eyes in the combine and in workouts. His frame and body give him the ability to out-muscle other players, which is rare in a draft low on size. 

Cleveland now has a power forward to pair with Kyrie Irving. The other option, Jonas Valanciunas, won't be available until 2012. Thompson can make an immediate impact. Defensively Thompson's got good ability as well. There are questions about his touch and face-up game, but he showed enough in workouts to convince GMs... like Chris Grant, obviously.

This may have been a reach, but in a weak draft this fills a need. With a surefire lock in Irving, the Cavaliers were able to gamble on who they thought was the best big in this draft. The question will be how he translates to the NBA and if he can put some polish on the raw athletic game he brings off the bat.

The question now turns to whether the Cavs will trade J.J. Hickson, who disappointed last season and who rumors said clashed with Byron Scott. Hickson will likely gather interest on the open market.

No. 5: Toronto Raptors select Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lietuvos Rytas

There were a lot of directions for the Raptors to go with the fifth pick. Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were all talked about in this spot.

But with the cards falling where they did, the Raptors simply couldn't pass up an upside player in Jonas Valanciunas. Bryan Colangelo loves himself some international players and Valanciunas was the highest ranked international on the board. Really, it's a match made in heaven.

He probably won't be able to help Toronto next season -- if there is a next season -- as Valanciunas has a complicated buyout to settle that will likely keep him in Europe another season. Which honestly, is probably a good thing. Valanciunas needs more seasoning, needs a little more weight to his frame and a little bit of time to mature and progress.

It's good that the Raptors realize that rebuilding takes time. Instead of trying to land someone that helps now, the Raptors elected to stay patient and hope that Valanciunas can develop into a post presence alongside Andrea Bargnani. Some see Valanciunas as a young Pau Gasol, which might not be a good thing though. The Raps are extremely soft inside and if Valanciunas is going to play with Bargnani, he's going to have to toughen up a bit. He's extremely young and as they say, has that whole upside thing working for him.

Which is what Toronto is banking on.

No. 6: Washington Wizards select Jan Vesely, F, Parizan Belgrade

So the rumors were true. Aggressive. Athletic. Raw. Not the terms usually used with a Euro, but Vesely is not the usual type of Euro. Vesely shows a rare  combination of fierceness in attacking the rim. 

Vesely joins John Wall as a running mate on the break. With the ability to rebound and defend, Vesely has an underrated post game. He knows how to finish in traffic and yes, he's going to make a ton of highlight reels. It matches perfectly with the direction of the Wizards. 

The question will be if Vesely's lack of a jumpshot, comined with Andray Blatche's Blatche-like-ness and JaVale McGee's lack of touch makes for too raw of a front court. Also, should Vesely wind up as a PF at 6-11, things would get crowded down low for the Wiz. As long as the team is going  young and athletic, though, this is a great choice, and Flip Saunders should be able to get a ton out of this kind of weapon.

For all the talk of Kanter, Valanciunas, and Biyombo,Vesely has a decent chance of being the Euro steal of this draft.

Also, upon getting drafted, Vesely's very attractive lady friend planted a huge kiss on him, and later Vesely told ESPN: "I like the John Wall game." Pure Euro gangster.

No. 7: Charlotte Bobcats (from Sacramento Kings) select Bismack Biyombo, F/C, Congo 

The Kings picking seventh, completed a three-way trade with the Bobcats and it was for Charlotte to move up for Biyombo.

What are they getting with the great unknown from Congo? A defensive presence, an athlete and someone that has a lot of room to improve. They aren't getting someone that can score. They aren't getting someone that's going to be part of any offensive set they have. A lot of people have compared Biyombo to Ben Wallace and that's probably pretty accurate.

There are questions about Biyombo's real age, a potential buyout complication and if he really is as good as he showed in a couple showcases. A few months ago, he was a total unknown. But he wowed scouted and GMs in Portland, didn't look great in workouts but because of an ability to change games defensively, Biyombo went high in the lottery.

How does he fit in? I don't think he's a starter from day one, but with Tyrus Thomas alongside in that frontline, the Bobcats definitely have some jumpers. They've got athletes. Biyombo said he thinks he can lead the league in rebounding and blocks, which is what the Cats are looking for. They could've looked for an offensive impact player, but Michael Jordan and new GM Rich Cho are defensive minded people, and Biyombo fits right in with that.

No. 8: Detroit Pistons select Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

Most projections didn't have Brandon Knight slipping, but he fell right into Detroit's lap eighth. I suppose Joe Dumars said, "We've got to go best available here."

Because just a week ago, the Pistons extended a qualifying offer to Rodney Stuckey who is a yonug, talented point guard that by all appearances, is part of the process with the Pistons. Now, they've got two talented young point guards.

The feeling was that Detroit would go big and liked Bismack Biyombo. But with him coming off the board a pick earlier to the Bobcats, the Pistons had to weight their options. And it was a best available situation and Knight was best available.

Potentially, there's a chance that the Pistons could move the pick elsewhere to someone for Knight. They were involved in a lot of talks leading up to the draft and I'm sure there's a team that was eyeing Knight that could be willing to make a play for him. Knowing the Pistons' situation, offers will probably come in. And maybe Detroit is open to moving their pick.

If not, Detroit's got a young, solid point guard to work with. That's a roster that needs some talent and some youth. There were other options there that might've been a better fit (Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton, Klay Thompson) but Detroit couldn't say no to Knight.

We'll see what happens next.

No. 9: Charlotte Bobcats select Kemba Walker, PG, UConn

So... I guess D.J. Augustin didn't show enough last year? Augustin had a career season and looked to be developing nicely, but instead the Bobcats took an undersized scoring point guard who is more of a scorer rather than a distributor. That makes sense.

It's not a terrible pick, especially when paired with their seventh pick in Bismack Biyombo. The Cats have two fairly big reach rookies, and the odds are that one of the two will work out. Either Biyombo's insane athleticism or Kemba's will to win will make them special players, if both of them don't succeed. Meanwhile, Augustin has to go on the trade block, and with Corey Maggette now on roster, the Bobcats will have a lot of shots coming from the back court starting next season... whenever that is.

Walker's defensive questions are considerable considering his size, but there's no denying his pedigree. If Biyombo was the pure athleticsm, pure tangibles selection, then Walker is the opposite, the pure-polish, pure-intangibles lock. He brings a fierceness that owner Michael Jordan is obvioiusly drawn to, and with his pedigree, he'll help the ticket sales department. Walker's translation to the NBA isn't a sure thing, but his popularity and resume is. 

The freak of nature and the unconquerable hero. Not a bad haul for Rich Cho's first draft.

No. 10 Sacramento Kings (from Milwaukee Bucks) select Jimmer Fredette

It's officially Jimmer Time, Sacramento.

The feeling earlier today when the Kings moved back to 10th in a three-way trade that also brought them John Salmons was that they had Jimmer Fredette in mind.

They got him.

The questions with Jimmer obviously start with his defense and where he'll play. But with the Kings moving Beno Udrih and basically committing to Tyreke Evans off the ball at shooting guard, Jimmer will likely start from day one at point guard in Sacramento. In reality, that's a pretty fun, dynamic backcourt in Evans and Fredette.

What kind of pro will Jimmer be though? Is he good with becoming a Steve Nash pass-first type of player or does he want to keep scoring and firing long distance shots? Jimmer is the type of player though that's willing to fit in. He's coachable, smart and has the ability to learn. Can he guard Derrick Rose? Can he guard Russell Westbrook? Heck, can he guard guys like Jose Calderon and Derek Fisher? We'll have to see.

But the Kings have added some punch and some excitement to the roster. With Jimmer, Evans, Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins, they've got a pretty exciting young core of talent.

Now, can they win? Jimmer will bring a bit of excitement and energy to a fanbase that needs it as the Kings hang on for dear life in Sacramento. But that near car smell will wear off quickly if the team doesn't start winning. Jimmer will bring a little jolt of excitement, but ultimately, winning is what really gets people buying tickets.

And that's what the Kings drafted Jimmer to do.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:50 pm
 

NBA Draft: Pistons select Brandon Knight eighth

Posted by Royce Young

Most projections didn't have Brandon Knight slipping, but he fell right into Detroit's lap eighth. I suppose Joe Dumars said, "We've got to go best available here."

Because just a week ago, the Pistons extended a qualifying offer to Rodney Stuckey who is a young, talented point guard that by all appearances, is part of the process with the Pistons. Now, they've got two talented young point guards.

The feeling was that Detroit would go big and liked Bismack Biyombo. But with him coming off the board a pick earlier to the Bobcats, the Pistons had to weigh their options. And it was a best available situation and Knight was best available.

Potentially, there's a chance that the Pistons could move the pick elsewhere to someone for Knight. They were involved in a lot of talks leading up to the draft and I'm sure there's a team that was eyeing Knight that could be willing to make a play for him. Knowing the Pistons' situation, offers will probably come in. And maybe Detroit is open to moving their pick.

If not, Detroit's got a young, solid point guard to work with. That's a roster that needs some talent and some youth. There were other options there that might've been a better fit (Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton, Klay Thompson) but Detroit couldn't say no to Knight.

We'll see what happens next.

Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:46 am
 

2011 NBA Draft LiveChat and Experience

Join us starting at 1PM EST for a marathon NBA Draft LiveChat and Experience, coming to you from Newark, NJ at the site of the NBA Draft. We'll have our NBA bloggers sharing the latest news and taking your questions. We'll also have guest appearances from our college basketball experts at 2PM EST, and we'll talk NFL and labor news at 3PM EST. We'll be talking draft all the live-long day. As the day goes on you'll get the live experience from Ben Golliver who's on the scene of the draft sharing audio, video, and images from the draft. Join us, starting at 1PM EST!

 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com