The team that will make the biggest mistake in Thursday's NBA Draft will be the Jazz.
No disrespect intended toward the Utah organization. It's just that the Jazz will have the toughest decision to make Thursday, with the test of time far more likely to determine its pick to have been wrong than right.
Think about it ...
The first two choices Thursday are no-brainers. The Cavaliers can't go wrong taking either of the crop's two sure-things: Duke guard Kyrie Irving or Arizona forward Derrick Williams. And the Timberwolves have no choice but to take the one Cleveland doesn't.
But then up steps Utah, and that's when a fog will engulf the draft.
Most observers believe the Jazz will take either Kentucky guard Brandon Knight or Kentucky center Enes Kanter, but let's be honest:
-- It'll be no surprise if Connecticut star Kemba Walker outplays Knight in the pros, as he did last season in college.
-- Or if Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic, Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania or Bismack Biyombo of the Congo turns out to be the best big man in the draft.
-- Less likely, but certainly possible, San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard, Colorado's Alec Burks, Washington State's Klay Thompson or Kansas' Marcus Morris could develop into NBA stars. Or maybe Jimmer Fredette proves himself to be more than just a collegiate sensation.
The point is: If just ONE of those things comes true, then the Jazz will have made the wrong choice.
Yes, it's quite possible other teams will make the same mistake. But at least they'll have an excuse: They picked lower than Utah, so the Jazz's error in judgment was even bigger.
So the pressure will be on the Jazz big-time Thursday night, especially when many in its fan base want the club to draft Fredette anyway.
He'll make a ton of money, but on second thought: Maybe Knight should have stayed in college.
At Mock 4 speed, here are the first-round projections I'm going to have to live with:
|NBA Mock Draft - 6/21/2011|
|1. Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke: The Cavaliers are going to need (at least) two gems in this draft to even start to fill in the Grand Canyon created by LeBron James' departure. This easy selection only gets them halfway there.|
|2. Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona: There are many trying to talk the Timberwolves out of this pick, and that's exactly why they are unlikely ever to deal it. This is the last of the no-risk slots offered by this year's draft.|
|3. Utah Jazz|
|Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky: Knight didn't make anyone forget John Wall at Kentucky, and the task here of replacing Deron Williams could prove to be even tougher. He's got to be praying Utah trades the pick.|
|4. Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Enes Kanter, PF, Kentucky: I still say the Cavs would be wiser to take Williams first, then snatch Knight or Kemba Walker here as their point guard of the future. This just seems awfully early to be reaching out for a "project" big man.|
|5. Toronto Raptors|
|Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut: New coach. New approach? The Raptors are desperate for a new face to a franchise most basketball fans south of the border believe folded up the minute Chris Bosh fled Canada. Walker provides that kind of attention-grabbing entertainment.|
|6. Washington Wizards|
|Jan Vesely, PF, KK Partizan Belgrade: The Wizards have let it slip they're considering Kawhi Leonard here, but that's only because at least two of the next four teams are hoping he slips to them. That type of stunt used to work about 20 years ago - before us astute internet reporters exposed these bluffs to the masses.|
|7. Sacramento Kings|
|Jimmer Fredette, SG, Brigham Young: You're probably familiar with the term "value pick." The BYU sensation certainly qualifies, but for a different reason. He'll immediately sell tickets, which in turn will increase the value of the Sacramento franchise, a critical consideration when ownership is looking to relocate.|
|8. Detroit Pistons|
|Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State: The Pistons have been linked to Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas, but neither has stuck for obvious reasons. This franchise is in big-time need of a major shake-up, and you just can't revolve your future plans around one of this year's foreign big men.|
|9. Charlotte Bobcats|
|Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas: Michael Jordan might see a little Scottie Pippen in Florida State defensive specialist Chris Singleton, but he better than anyone should know: A Scottie Pippen needs a Michael Jordan. The Bobcats have the latter, but he's upstairs, not on the court.|
|10. Milwaukee Bucks|
|Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State: Things would have to go awfully wrong ahead of them for the Bucks to be disappointed here. They're looking for scoring punch at a midsized position and would be happy with either Thompson or Alec Burks. To have their pick among the two is icing on the cake.|
|11. Golden State Warriors|
|Alec Burks, SG, Colorado: The Warriors probably would opt for Thompson ahead of Burks as well if given a choice. But they need a guard with size who can shoot, and both guys fit that mold, so something tells me any disappointment over the Bucks' pick will be short-lived.|
|12. Utah Jazz|
|Bismack Biyombo, PF, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada: If there was ever a time to roll the dice on an unproven foreign big man, it's 12 picks into a draft in which you've already solidified your backcourt and the two forwards you coveted (Leonard and Morris) are gone.|
|13. Phoenix Suns|
|Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State: A common theme among most of the teams drafting ahead of the Suns is a need for more firepower. That's why, while many have been impressed with Singleton's workouts, he's likely to slide to the lottery team with the least interest in adding another scorer.|
|14. Houston Rockets|
|Jonas Valanciunas, PF, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius: Yao Ming's comments this week can't be considered encouraging for the Rockets, who now more than ever have to plan on a future without the big guy. Biyombo might be their first choice, but it says here this guy will prove to be a better selection.|
|15. Indiana Pacers|
|Tristan Thompson, SF, Texas: Texas. Word is leaking out of Indianapolis that the Pacers prefer Markieff Morris here, but that just makes me believe even stronger they've got their eyes on the Texas freshman.|
|16. Philadelphia 76ers|
|Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas: So many internet sources are linking the 76ers with Hamilton, slotting him here almost qualifies as a sure thing. I must say: It does appear he'll be available.|
|17. New York Knicks|
|Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas: Few teams are said to be going in more different directions than the Knicks, which can only mean one thing: This franchise still needs a lot of help. And after this lackluster selection, that'll still be the case.|
|18. Washington Wizards|
|Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee: Projecting ahead to the number of athletic swingmen available here should help convince the Wizards to go big with their pick at No. 6. Taking Harris over Brooks would be a tough call.|
|19. Charlotte Bobcats|
|Iman Shumpert, PG, Georgia Tech: Having gone big earlier in the daft, the Bobcats set themselves up to take the best little man available. The way Shumpert has shot up draft boards, they'd be a bit lucky if he were still available here.|
|20. Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence: Looking for a team on the rise in the West? With Ricky Rubio coming in and two of the most polished players in college basketball being added to the mix, the Timberwolves suddenly are more than just Kevin Love.|
|21. Portland Trail Blazers|
|Tyler Honeycutt, SF, UCLA: The worst case scenario for the Trail Blazers would be seeing Hamilton, Harris and Brooks, all available just five picks earlier, disappear from the board in rapid succession. Calling old pal Michael Jordan - the guy they hand-delivered to the Bulls, remember? - could prevent that unfortunate run from occurring.|
|22. Denver Nuggets|
|Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State: With solid teams like Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis having dealt their picks to needy types such as the Wizards, Bobcats and Timberwolves, the likelihood of a hard-working, limited-potential guy like Faried sliding this far increases.|
|23. Houston Rockets|
|Josh Selby, PG, Kansas: Latvia's David Bertans makes a lot of sense here, but the thought of adding two more foreign players has to be a bit scary to the Rockets. I'd deal the pick (hey, the Nets could use Bertans) before I'd double up on internationals.|
|24. Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Darius Morris, PG, Michigan: Few teams have a greater talent gap between their starters and their reserves than the Thunder, which means they could pretty much go in any of five directions here and still upgrade. Morris is the best athlete available.|
|25. Boston Celtics|
|Donatas Montiejunas, PF, Benetton Treviso: Over the course of about the last four months, the Celtics went from a team with a glut of big men to one that could use another. Seeing this once highly regarded guy slide to them makes it a stab worth taking.|
|26. Dallas Mavericks|
|Kyle Singler, SF, Duke: Here's the scary part about the Mavericks: They won a title despite not having Caron Butler available to them. Will he be ready to go next season? Throw the hard-working Singler up against him in training camp and you'll quickly find out.|
|27. New Jersey Nets|
|Davis Bertans, SF, Union Olimpija Ljubjana: The good thing about drafting this low is it maximizes the amount of cash available to the Nets in free agency. That, not the draft, is where the future of the the franchise is going to be built.|
|28. Chicago Bulls|
|Andrew Goudelock, PG, College of Charleston: Holding two of the last four selections to get guaranteed contracts (unless the rules change), the Bulls are equally likely to deal one pick as they are to draft a foreigner who'll never seen the light of an NBA day. If they use this pick, I recommend the best shooter available.|
|29. San Antonio Spurs|
|Malcolm Lee, SG, UCLA: The number of quality guards still available far exceeds the number of forwards, which is good news for teams drafting early in the second round. As the Bulls have done ahead of them, it would behoove the Spurs to notice this and act accordingly.|
|30. Chicago Bulls|
|Nikola Vucevic, PF, USC: As noted earlier, the Bulls have to be looking at this point for a candidate to play a couple of years elsewhere. The far-from-NBA-ready native of Montenegro would seem to have those kinds of options.|