A look at which NBA teams should move up or down the draft board in the 2011 NBA Draft. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Team needs and draft positioning never align perfectly in the NBA Draft. Some teams find themselves just out of reach of their target player while others want to avoid taking their prospect earlier than they need to, hoping to cash in on their draft positioning to add another asset.
Even in a weak draft crop like this year’s, the potential for movement – even if minor – is always there. Here’s a look at three teams that might consider moving up the board and three teams that might look to move down.
Three Teams That Should Move Up
1. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks need to fill their center position and will likely do whatever they possibly can to accomplish that goal in free agency. Samuel Dalembert makes all sorts of sense. But there’s another option. Sitting at No. 17, it’s possible the Knicks would only need to trade up 5-8 positions to have a crack at Bismack Biyombo, the fast-rising big man prospect out of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Biyombo is hyper-athletic, has an endless motor and is a very skilled shot-blocker, both in one-on-one defense and from the help side.
Putting him alongside Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony would arguably give the Knicks the most dynamic 3-4-5 combination in the entire league. Biyombo doesn’t need touches, can finish putbacks in traffic and will work hard at all times. Does he need some polish and refinement? Of course. Are there questions about his age? Absolutely. But if he falls to the 9-12 range it’s worth whatever price it takes – it shouldn’t be exorbitant – for the Knicks to move up and nab him.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers own the top pick and will wisely use that on Duke University point guard Kyrie Irving. The intrigue comes with their No. 4 selection, which doesn’t do them much good. The best available names will either be point guards – and therefore redundant with Irving – or European big men. With Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson in place, the Cavaliers are not the ideal breeding ground for a project big.
The rumored trade with Minnesota to get the No. 2 pick makes all sorts of sense. The Cavaliers need starpower and they need talent on their wing badly. Derrick Williams would be an ideal fit. Cleveland, with a deep-pocketed owner and nowhere to go but up, is in a position where it can overpay for the luxury of drafting Williams. Whether that’s by absorbing salary into its massive trade exception, sending over cash or future pick considerations, or making anyone on their roster outside of Varejao available. The reward of building around an Irving/Williams/Varejao core is worth virtually any risk for a Cleveland team coming off a very, very bad season.
3. Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats have a gigantic hole in the middle. Addressing the center position through the draft can be a difficult process even if you’re at the very top of the board, but picking at No. 9 in a weak crop with no American-born, star big men makes it an even trickier proposition.
Here, the need is so great that they have to bring a big man home, pretty much no matter what. There’s a distinct possibility that Valanciunas, Kanter and Biyombo are all gone by pick No. 9, although there's variability in the stock of all three players. The good news: The Bobcats also possess the No. 19 pick, good bait to move up the board a few spots, so they can manage this risk nicely. Package the picks, move up a bit and snag whichever of those three big men are the most appealing to Michael Jordan and his staff.
Three Teams That Should Move Down
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
The rumors surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves' draft position started within minutes after David Kahn lost the Lottery ping pong ball drawing to Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. The reasoning is simple: The second most coveted player on the board, Derrick Williams, is not of particular use to the Timberwolves, as his combo forward skillset is similar to that of incumbent Michael Beasley and the Timberwolves have greater needs at both the guard and center positions. With the recent reports that Ricky Rubio will agree to come stateside, those needs have narrowed to a two guard and a center.
An ideal situation for Minnesota would be to auction the No. 2 selection – perhaps along with its No. 20 selection -- into a pick in the 5-10 range and two ready-now rotation players. That would allow the team to draft a big of their choice – Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas or Biyombo – or one of the class’s elite wings – Kawhi Leonard, Alec Burks or Klay Thompson – while simultaneously speeding up the rebuilding curve. Coming off of 32 combined wins in the last two seasons, this team badly needs to win some games.
2. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are in a similar position as the Minnesota Timberwolves, although it’s a bit trickier. The obvious fit for Utah is Brandon Knight, the best point guard on the board not named Irving. He’s an intelligent leader, excellent citizen and has loads of upside. For a team looking to move past Deron Williams, he’s as good as the Jazz can hope for.
Knight might not necessarily be the third most valued prospect on the board, though, especially because teams at the top of the draft order often favor big men. Players like Kanter, Valanciunas and even Biyombo might wind up with more buzz when all is said and done.
The Jazz also hold the No. 12 selection, which could turn out to be a bit of no man’s land in this draft. If there's a run on wings – say, if Leonard, Burks and Thompson all go off the board – the pickings get pretty slim for a team that already has a fairly stocked frontcourt. Jimmer Fredette looms as an excellent back-up option, but he’s more novelty than impact player.
A best case scenario: the Jazz land a veteran guard by swapping picks to move down a few slots and are able to still snag Knight wherever they land.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have, arguably, the greatest stockpile of unused pieces of any team in the league. Last year's Draft produced three players that played very few minutes -- Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, and Armon Johnson -- and the team has three (yes, three!) players stashed overseas already. Blazers management has already acknowledged publicly that they don't anticipate selecting an impact player at No. 21, and the team is hamstrung salary-wise because of a looming decision with Greg Oden. The oft-injured center will command big dollars, and the team has already committed to large multi-year deals for Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews.
If you don't see a player that will meaningfully impact your rotation at No. 21, then why pay him guaranteed first-round money? Ship the pick for a future consideration. Knowing Owner Paul Allen, though, this is an unlikely strategy. He loves the draft too much to simply fold his hand. The problem? He's already fired his keenest advisors: Former GMs Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho. In other words, expect more haphazard decision-making.