Contributed by Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Welcome to the first 2011 mock draft here at fantasybasketball.com. This mock draft is a lot different from what you might be accustom to as I’ll be focusing more on the how these players could have an impact for fantasy teams all over the globe. Each pick has a rating at the end to show where I value with respects to their ceiling today in redraft leagues and keepers. Of course I don’t expect to nail all of these picks and the value of each player will fluctuate, thus things are subject to change.
There is enough explanation to help suggest the value that I’ve assigned to each player. Before we get down to business, let me get this out of the way….
WARNING: I’m completely obsessed with picking up rookies.
OK, cool. Let’s do this.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving PG Duke
19 years old; 6′2″; 185 lbs
Kyrie is going one, so let’s really look at the fantasy aspects. This is not going to be a fun situation at all, folks. One year after Blake Griffin and John Wall were two of the biggest impact rookies of all-time in fantasy hoops, Irving is going to have a tough time carving out a role with the likes of Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis on the roster. Yes, Sessions is as good as gone on draft day.
Sure, Irving is an elite talent, but like we always say come NBA/fantasy draft season, sometimes opportunity outweighs talent. Irving does have range as a jump shooter and is quick enough to add some steals, which gives him a big upside.
Early reports are that the Cavs love him, but with all the money Davis is scheduled to make, this is going to be a time-share split for Cleveland.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams F University of Arizona
19 years old; 6′8″; 235 lbs
Derrick Williams was one of the most impressive players during the NCAA tournament and the noise he made took away all of the suspense that he wouldn’t be playing in Tucson for another year.
Williams can shoot the rock from distance with his ridiculous 57 percent from beyond the arc. That 57 percent was on a fairly nice sample size of 42-of-74 on the season, so it does hold some weight.
When it comes to rookie forwards, an area of concern is always shooting percentages. D-Will passes the eye test with a free throw percentage of 75 percent and a field goal of 60 percent. Very nice. Of course he did come out of the Pac-10 and it’s not like they preach defense there, so take that field goal percentage with a grain of salt.
As for the Wolves and Derrick, there are already reports of David Kahn looking to deal that pick at the right price. There are a ton of teams that could be a tailor-made fit for Williams and might be willing to give up a small piece to go with a top-10 pick (Washington comes to mind). Kahn could also move the pick for a veteran presence. Who knows with that guy?
Derrick Williams figures to be the first player taken off the board in redrafts and his huge upside makes him a player that keeper league owners will want to have in a couple years, too.
3. Utah Jazz- Kemba Walker PG University of Connecticut
21 years old; 6′0″; 180 lbs
It’s too bad the Jazz couldn’t land the second spot in the draft as Derrick Williams would be an absolute no-brainer for them at that spot. But alas, they’ll have to ante up with the
Mash Out Posse Most Outstanding Player from the NCAA Championship. The Jazz could go for a guy like Brandon Knight, but with they way they took Gordon Hayward, 2010’s best player in the tournament (but didn’t win the MOP), it makes Kemba look a bit more likely.
Kemba’s junior season was a bit like fellow Big-East prospect Wesley Johnson by absolutely blowing his sophomore and freshman years out of the water. His PPG jumped from 8.9 in his freshman year, to 14.6 in 35.3 MPG the next, and finishing his college career with and astounding 23.5 in 37.6 MPG. 38 minutes in the college game is an impressive way to how much faith coach Jim Calhoun had in him as well the athleticism.
On the down side, Kemba’s three-point shot is not quite there yet with just 33 percent converted during his epic junior campaign. However, it is worth mentioning that John Wall had a similar reputation coming out of the draft and he was able to hit a respectable 0.5 3PM with the Wizards.
The pluses obviously trump the negatives with the new Skywalker (Bill doesn’t quite deserve the name these days). Kemba’s aggressive style will help him get to the charity stripe a ton, and by shooting 82 percent at the line, it makes him a weapon to improve that category. He also averaged 2.0 steals per contest in his junior and sophomore seasons.
Kemba, like Kyrie, would likely end up on a team that already has a capable starter in Devin Harris. The Jazz are a bit weaker on the wing as they turned to guys like Hayward, C.J. Miles, Raja Bell, and Earl Watson during the season, which could mean Devin could slide to the shooting guard while Walker runs the point for 20-to-25 MPG. At this point it looks like Kemba is too much of a risk to take in standard leagues and he doesn’t have as much allure as he should for keeper leagues.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter C Turkey
18 years old; 6′10″; 250 lbs
The Cavs will be sitting in the seat left for the proverbial catbird come June as they get a golden opportunity to completely rebuild their depleted roster. They have a ton of options and they could look to trade the pick, but they should could look to take a player on the wing. They rolled with D-League caliber players such a Corperryale Manny L’adorable Harris, Alonzo Gee, Christian Eyenga, Boobie Gibson, and Anthony Parker (unrestricted free agent).
The problem is that there really isn’t an elite prospect at shooting guard in particular, so they might as well take the best player with only J.J. Hickson and Irving as their only true long-term options.
Enter Kanter. Kanter has huge upside and gives them an instant presence in the paint with his 6-foot-10 frame playing a lot bigger than the size would suggest. He is way more polished around the basket than any other big and could really have a Monroe-type upside from the get-go. He probably won’t be a sexy pick in most fantasy drafts, but he could easily become the most valuable in this year’s rookie class.
5. Toronto Raptors- Brandon Knight PG University of Kentucky
18 years old; 6′3″; 170 lbs
Things changed mighty quick with regards to strengths and weaknesses in the last month as Jerryd Bayless exploded with April averages of 22.5 points, 5.6 assists, 1.8 triples, and 1.1 steals in 37.9 minutes per outing. The Raps will have to differentiate if the U of A product is a legitimate starting guard or just a mirage in a small sample size.
Despite the eye-catching stats, the Raptors went just 2-6 and had their season end on a sour note by getting crushed by Miami’s second string with all of the Big Three resting. Yuck.
While having a combo guard running the show isn’t exactly a cardinal sin for NBA teams, it’s not exactly the prototypical way to get the ball rolling. Brandon Knight is a six-foot-three true point guard that has all the tools in the shed to become an impact player. Knight becomes the next one-and-done high-upside guard to come out of the John Calapari system behind the likes of John Wall, Tyreke Evans, and Derrick Rose.
Knight has the ability to hit triples at a high level. Knight made a name for himself in the first weekend of the tournament with a game-winning bucket against the boys from the 08540 (Princeton) and a huge 30-point line against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
His 38 percent beyond the arc with a clip of six shots per night headlines his attributes as a fantasy talent. Knight was also a great shooter from the line with an 80 percent conversion rate. He wasn’t quite as aggressive as Kemba, but 4.5 attempts from the line is enough to suggest he has some impact on the category.
Knight wasn’t too aggressive on the defensive end with just 0.7 SPG, which is enough to knock him down a bit on the fantasy draft board. When taking into account how Kemba will split duties with Devin, and Kyrie will need an injury to Baron to become a must-start option, Knight could win the job out right with less talent around him. It’s almost a certainty that someone in your league will grab Irving before Knight, but Knight seems like a bit of a safer pick in redrafts.
6. Washington Wizards- Kawhi Leonard SF San Diego State University
19 years old; 6′7″; 225 lbs
The Wizards made out like bandits by reeling in Jordan Crawford by dumping just Kirk Hinrich to the Hawks. That acquisition made Nick Young (restricted free agent) very expendable this off-season, which leaves four very capable youthful starters in John Wall, Crawford, Andray Blatche, and JaVale McGee. Of course at the three they have the dubious distinction of having the worst player ever to get a max deal in Rashard Lewis. Lewis is 31 and will make $22 million in 2011-2012, but the good news is that his contract is done after next year. His bum knee figures to keep him off the court for a least a handful of games, which makes it abundantly clear they will be taking a small forward. But who?
The Wizards were burned on the perimeter and were 24th in the league in field goal percentage against. That said, it seems like Kawhi Leonard is an easy pick to make right here. He has the size and strength to give them more of a defensive presence at six-foot-seven and 225 pounds.
He isn’t quite the most NBA-ready prospect just yet and he is not going to be logging major minutes in his rookie season unless the Wizards are completely hammered by injuries, which certainly could happen. His offensive game is not quite there yet with a questionable jumper for a small forward even though his back-to-the-basket game is slightly ahead of the pack. Don’t expect much of an impact and think of Leonard as a complementary defensive player for this season.
7. Sacramento Kings- Bismack Biyombo C Congo
18 years old; 6′9″; 240 lbs
The Kings have one of the best one-two punches in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins to give them some identity on the offensive end. Defense? Notsomuch. The Kings ranked 29 in field goal percentage against and ranked 25th in points allowed. While Jason Thompson has been a nice story coming out of the small school of Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, he’s not really a big man that should be playing nearly 30 minutes in an NBA rotation. Add that to how it seems like Samuel Dalembert could be headed to New York and taking a defensive center seems like the prudent move for the
Anaheim Sacramento Kings. Thirdly, it might be too soon to downgrade Hassan Whiteside, but it’s time to downgrade Whiteside.
They do have other options with this pick since Tyreke has proved to be more of a shooting guard than a point guard with his greater scoring ability and slightly sub-par skills as a facilitator. However, Knight and Walker both figure to off the board.
Biyombo draws the easy comparison to fellow countryman Serge Ibaka. Like Serge, he plays a heck of a lot bigger around the paint and has an uncanny knack for eradicating shot attempts. Biyombo stole the show at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit with a triple-double that included 10 blocks to go with his 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Biyombo is a freak athletically and has the upside to eventually become a top-50 asset, although that tag can be applied to any player with his shot-blocking prowess. Dalembert not being retained will go a long way for his value, so the following ranks will assume he’s not there.
8. Detroit Pistons- Jonas Valanciunas PF Lituania
19 years old; 6′11″; 240 lbs
The Pistons struck gold with Greg Monroe as he become everything they wanted and more with a high motor, fantastic post moves, and enough of a 10-to-15 foot jumper to keep defenders guessing. Besides Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, the options are wide open for Detroit.
Entering the draft, they will arguably have second-worst team on paper (Cleveland) which suggests that they might as well swing for the fences in with the pick and grabbing Valanciunas makes plenty of sense.
Many scouts say he is the best big man in the draft and has can be an outstanding player in the paint. He figures to shoot a high percentage from the field and could clear one block per game with just 25 MPG.
Personally, I was ridiculously high on Monroe last year for his opportunity, but it seems like the murky outlook makes him a player to ignore in most leagues. Of course this could change quickly once we see how he competes with the higher talent pool.
9. Charlotte Bobcats- Tristan Thompson PF Texas
20 years old; 6′8″; 235 lbs
Two words: Kwame Brown. The Bobcats have a nice group in the backcourt with D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Stephen Jackson at the three. Things are a bit interesting at the four with two of the most inconsistent players in the league with Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw.
The Cats were 29th in PPG and really lack a reliable scorer to pair with Cap’n Jack. While the talent in the draft should dictate they go over international waters, their tendencies in the past handful of years suggest they’re drafting a player that played in the good ol’ U.S. of A. They didn’t have a pick last year, in 2009 they took Henderson (Duke) in the first, and Robert Vaden (Indiana) in the second. They then took Augustin (Texas) with their first pick in ‘08 before taking Alexi Ajinca with their second pick at 21.
Tristan Thompson seems like the guy to take here. He sort of resembles a guy like Derrick Favors since he has the right body and quickness to be an offensive big in the league, but he is a bit raw and needs more than Joe Pesci’s shine box with regards to polish. The upside could be there, but Thompson (or any player the Bobcats take, unless it’s Biyombo) is a wait-and-see guy in both redrafts and keepers.
10. Milwaukee Bucks- Marcus Morris PF Kansas
21 years old; 6′9″; 225 lbs
The Bucks came in behind the Bobcats as the worst team in the league with a paltry 91.9 PPG on a league-worst 43 percent from the field. 43 percent with Andrew Bogut shooting 50 percent from the field on 11 attempts per game just shows their ineptitude in scoring the rock. They have solutions at the one with Jennings and Bogut at the five, but they can’t feel comfortable with John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. As far as question marks go, they have seen some bright spots out of The Larry Sanders Show with an eight-block game and Ersan Ilyasova, The Turkish Roller Coaster, dropping the occasional scoring in the teens while he was healthy.
The lowest shooting from the field might be the most embarrassing stat of any team and is a strong indicator proving they need to take higher percentage shots. Marcus Morris fits the bill with his 57 percent from the field as a junior. He is one of the most NBA-ready players in this year’s draft and if Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can average 10 and six in March, there’s no reason to think that Morris couldn’t flirt with 11 and seven.
11. Golden State Warriors- Jan Vesely PF Belgrande
21 years old; 6′11″; 240 lbs.
As much as the new head coach in Golden State might want to slow down the tempo in Oakland, having Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry practically forces the run-and-gun offense. Dorrell Wright was a revelation and gets the nod for the best bang-for-the-buck acquisition last year by logging an absurd 38.4 MPG. Not to mention David Lee as a great power forward for their system.
OK, so one, two, three and four are good to go, but there is absolutely no team that lacks a center like Golden State. Ekpe Udoh gave them a nice taste in April, but doesn’t really project as anything better than a spark off the bench and is definitely not the answer at center. Andris Biedrins and his back issues are essentially the perfect “before” guy for a mattress commercial. His agent needs to get on that.
Jan Vesely is athletic as some shooting guards and comes in a seven-foot package. This could really be a home run for them and he could be used to just wear out teams and stick to the we’ll-score-more-than-you ideology. Vesely will draw some comparisons to Dirk for his well above-average perimeter/three-point game and attacking the basket could also leave NBA suitors salivating like a Pavlovian dog. He is not going to have a huge upside off the bat with Golden State since he has a ceiling of only being the fifth option at best. He could usurp some of the scoring responsibilities from Wright, which makes him worth watching during preseason for sure.
12. Utah Jazz- Alec Burks SG Colorado
19 years old; 6′6″; 200 lbs
It was eluded to earlier, but the Jazz have a gaping hole at shooting guard. They have one of the best four-five combos in the league with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, so there’s not pressing need there whatsoever. They could opt to go for a bigger wing to help perimeter defense since C.J. Miles’ (free agent) defense was about as useful as wearing a paper mache vest during a firefight. That’s about as safe as Camp David, right?
Burks seems like an easy pick for them to help provide more room to operate for the Kemba (or Knight)-Harris combo. He has good size and was a very efficient guard by making 50 percent of his attempts in his two years in Boulder. He’ll draw some comparisons to Dwyane Wade since he doesn’t quite have the three-point shot just yet. Although that could be coming quickly with the way Utah tends to live in the paint.
A scorer that doesn’t hit the three isn’t exactly the way to win over the hearts of fantasy owners and he will need a lot to go his way to have an impact.
13. Phoenix Suns- Kenneth Faried PF Morehead State University
21 years old; 6′8″; 225 lbs
Is it true? Did the Suns finally find a center? It would appear so since Marcin Gortat emerged as a legit big man and was as hot as a fantasy asset as they come on Planet Orange. It’s a dry heat though.
The Suns are in a bit of a transition period as Steve Nash is just about done, Vince Carter has one foot out the door, Grant Hill is 38, and they really don’t have a promising offensive contributor on their roster. The bottom line is they could go in several directions.
If there’s one thing that might be en vogue in these playoffs, it’s second-chance points and battling in the trenches. Phoenix was killed on the glass all year by coming in at 25th in offensive rebounding and 27th in offensive rebounds allowed despite having the eighth pace rating last year.
Kenneth Faried is the best rebounding prospect since Millsap and seems like a great fit for them. He is capable of getting out and running, plus he should be able to defend most NBA fours. His offensive game might never exist, but for every five impact players on the offensive end, there are only about one of two guys that can become a true defensive stalwarts. He is a phenomenal leaper and his 2.3 BPG last year could have fantasy owners reaching out of desperation in the early-late rounds. The Suns’ lack of depth at the three, four and five make them a team that could be the site of the next gem to be unearthed.
14. Houston Rockets- Chris Singleton SF Florida State University
21 years old; 6’9”; 225
Kyle Lowry’s breakout campaign really alleviated any need for the Rockets to go for a backcourt option along with Kevin Martin. Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola’s workman-like approach also gives them an identity in the paint as well. Not to mention Patrick Patterson stepped in quite nicely for Scola down the stretch. At the three? Eh. Chase Budinger played well, but doesn’t bring enough to the table outside of shooting to be considered as a player capable of playing more than 25 MPG on the season.
The Rockets could really use some help in the department of slowing down their opponents’ best scorer on the wing, which makes Chris Singleton a good fit for them. He doesn’t have as much of an offensive game as other small forwards, but with the departure of Shane Battier it seems like getting an elite defender is just what the Rockets need to be back in the playoffs. Singleton had 1.5 BPG and 2.1 SPG in his last two seasons to headline his fantasy skill set. Singleton was a decent shooter from far away by making 37 percent on 3.4 attempts per game. He obviously needs some huge breaks to become a factor, but the upside is there.
Thanks for reading and as always you can hit me up with any comments by emailing Mike@fantasybasketball.com or on Twitter @MikeSGallagher.