So the season’s over, people are still yappin’ about Miami losing and basketball fans are reeling over a potential lockout. At least we have the NBA Draft to look forward to, right?
The 2011 NBA Draft features a questionable assortment prospects. The media and the NBA are still pushing a few lottery picks our way to feign excitement towards this year’s latest selection of players. The most popular candidates, Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Jimmer Fredette, Derrick Williams, and Kemba Walker have upside but yield considerable faults towards their ability to play at the pro level. Bottom feeding squads are looking quite thirsty at these characters but they may leave much to be desired in the long run.
Kyrie Irving is the pure point guard owners and GM’s swoon for. He’s quite skilled, quick and can get buckets when needed. He also only played 11 games for Duke in his freshman year due to a foot injury. This TrueHoop article goes into further detail into his stats and the relatively weak competition he went up against in his short college career. Irving’s got the potential to be a good traditional 1 but, from a fan perspective, he simply hasn’t shown enough of himself in different situations to put all the chips on him as a #1 pick. Plus there’s the usual trend of Duke players being serviceable to forgettable save for a few exceptions. I don’t wish an early downfall on Kyrie but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t pan out.
Enes Kanter, Turkey’s golden child, touts a 6’11” frame with range to boot. NCAA inelligibility, however, is his unavoidable disadvantage. He hasn’t played a game all year because he received money from a Turkish ball club as a Kentucky student. The jury’s still out on how he can guard the pick and roll, shoot effectively from the perimeter or have the physicality to bang inside. He’s far from a twig at 260 pounds but spending a year from any sort of competition sends humongous Kool Aid-red flags to suitors.
Brandon Knight, Kanter’s should’ve been teammate, had a great run in leading Kentucky to the Final Four. Many expected his squad to underachieve considering the year they had in addition to competition they encountered in the NCAA Tournament. Knight still willed the Wildcats to impressive wins over heavy favorites like Ohio State and UNC despite ultimately losing to UConn. Knight’s mid range jumper and speed make him a formidable scoring point guard when he’s confident. Knight can also hoist a few from downtown once he gets going. His shoot first mentality comes at the expense of court vision as he racks up a grip of turnovers. The former ‘cat is also a string bean. He’ll get tossed as a slasher in the League as-is so strength training is a must.
Jimmer Fredette’s the wholesome BYU boy-wonder who can shoot lights out. Dude’s diminutive frame and alright speed will stifle his adjustment to the pro game on both ends. You just have to hope he’ll keep his shooting touch in the NBA since points from the perimeter don’t come by often these days. Besides, if J.J. Barea taught us anything, quickness and flair can stump bigs and wing defenders all the same. Maybe he can emulate Barea’s style to even more success as a better shooter. But, as previously stated, that’s not really his game so it’s up to him if he wants to adapt.
Derrick Williams is, in my eyes, the most NBA ready athlete of the bunch. The boy can shoot, defend and jump out the gym. However, for all his talent, his abilities don’t unanimously inspire people to build a team around him like former top picks such as Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose. He’s my personal favorite of the group but, right now, he’s not among that echelon of young talent. He can become an All-Star 3 in time but he probably won’t blaze defenders out the gate.
Finally, Kemba Walker gives me similar trepidations when it comes to assessing his talents. Walker’s dribbling and shooting skills dazzled audiences throughout the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. His handles are good enough to the point where I can imagine him freezing a few NBA guards and mismatches. The NY native’s quickness and strength make him a pro-ready guard but, much like Brandon Knight, passing and incorporating teammates isn’t a priority of his. Maturing his court vision will go a long way towards making him a better player but that usually comes with at least a season of learning the ropes.
So there you have it. Six of the top prospects leave more questions than answers. This draft class has been widely regarded as the weakest in recent memory and I’m inclined to agree. That’s not to say these cats can’t become good players someday or even quickly. But they just don’t jump out at you as undeniable stars. They may come around quicker than expected since the NBA talent pool largely isn’t much to shout about. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if we list this rookie class as broadly uninspiring when the years pile on.