Despite the dearth of quality prospects throughout the entire draft, there certainly wasn’t a dearth of transactions. There might not be a starter in the mix, but there are some really talented players that will make some noise. Below, each team is graded, which is appropriate since school is out. Peep the grades and argue with me in the comments.
Atlanta Hawks: 2-18 — Keith Benson, C, Oakland
Benson has potential to be a very good back-up center for years. There’s some talent there, as he’s one of the better domestic center prospects in the recent past. He’ll need to get stronger, but has the frame to add muscle and should pick up good habits and discipline from Al Horford. Not devastatingly explosive, but can finish in the box and has a nice touch on his jumper.
Boston Celtics: 1-27 — JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue (via Nets), 2-25 — E’Twaun Moore, SG, Purdue
Considering these were late picks, the Celtics got really good draft value. Johnson is an athletic big that showed a lot of scoring prowess in college. In the NBA, he’ll need to add bulk if he wants to score on post moves, as well as work on his handle to create his own shot from the perimeter. However, there should be oops galore from Johnson as he can really sky, and he is also an excellent shot blocker. He should become best friends with Kevin Garnett and learn as much as possible before KG heads off into the sunset.
Moore is a solid player with a solid jumper. He doesn’t have the wow factor that Johnson has, but his production and team’s output at Purdue says he has a chance of playing in the league. Solid defender but not athletic to any degree.
Charlotte Bobcats: 1-7 — Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo (via Kings), 1-9 — Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
Biyombo is ridiculously athletic and explosive. He gets the Ben Wallace comparison — all defense and no offense — in every description written about him, but is that such a bad thing? Boards and blocks will be Biyombo’s bread and butter, but there’s potential for more considering his age and the fact that he possesses something that Wallace never had, solid shooting from the charity stripe. He’s a high character guy and quick learner.
Walker is also athletic and can get to the rim or kill a team from the outside. I’m not really sure where he fits with incumbent point guard D.J. Augustin still around, but Walker should get some burn as there’s no denying his heart and winning attitude. On defense, he has the quickness to keep up with anyone, but lacks any length to reach in for steals. However, he should be able to jump into passing lanes.
Chicago Bulls: 1-23 — Nikola Mirotic, PF, Montenegro (via Timberwolves), 1-30 — Jimmy Butler, SF, Marquette
Mirotic won’t be in the NBA for a few years, but he makes an excellent stash move for the Bulls, who don’t immediately need his help. Marinating overseas is best for both player and team. Butler is a very good player and will challenge for a rotation spot with his solid mid-range repertoire, but more importantly for the defensive-minded Bulls, ability to play lockdown defense.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 1-1 — Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke, 1-4 — Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas, 2-24 — Milan Macvan, PF, Serbia
Unless you had to choose Michael Olowokandi, it’s hard to screw up the first overall pick. Irving has great physical skills, court vision, and the ability to put the ball in the hoop. With the Cavs’ logjam at point guard, maybe they should have went Derrick Williams and “settle” for Brandon Knight with the fourth overall pick, but that’s useless speculation at this point. Irving was the pick and he should eventually get the starting nod over veteran Baron Davis, who if motivated, can still be a force in the league.
Where the Cavaliers probably screwed up was with Thompson. Yes, he can block shots, but with his less than ideal height for the four, as well as a lack of strength and offensive polish, going Jonas Valanciunas and waiting the possible year before his Euro contract is worked out should have been the move. Thompson needs work and time to develop, so the Cavs are at least waiting a year anyway. Again, useless speculation, but don’t be surprised if Valanciunas ends up being the better player.
Macvan will probably not join the L, but if he does, he’ll bring some toughness along with him.
Detroit Pistons: 1-8 — Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky, 2-3 — Kyle Singler, PF, Duke, 2-22 — Vernon Macklin, PF, Florida
It’s possible that Knight ends up being the best point guard in this draft, but the Pistons will need to comply and give the boy some burn. Knight’s skill set should enable him to play both guard positions and maximize his time on the hardwood. He can score and play defense, but will need to limit his turnovers to truly succeed at a high level. He’s smart, a gym rat and leader. It’s not hard to love the intangibles he brings.
Singler isn’t athletic, versatile or strong. What he is is a winner and competitor. Macklin is a very solid big man pick with a bit of upside in the NBA, and at his draft position, he brings a lot of value.
Indiana Pacers: No picks
The Pacers traded away their pick, but picked up the very capable George Hill from San Antonio. He’ll split time with Darren Collison at the lead guard position, and will probably also get some PT at the two.
Miami Heat: 1-28 — Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State (via Minnesota Timberwolves through Bulls)
Really like the pick as Cole is a very good overall player that can score, create for others and play solid defense. He doesn’t really have any weakness other than his frame, though he is wiry strong. He’s a better prospect for the Heat’s future at the lead guard position than Mario Chalmers.
Milwaukee Bucks: 1-19 — Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee (via Bobcats through Hornets and Trail Blazers), 2-10 — Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Harris is a solid all-around player with good basketball IQ. He’s a versatile combo forward with a solid NBA body and can contribute right away from the bench. He’s not athletic enough for the small foward position, but is smart enough to use his skills at either position.
Leuer gained some traction in mock drafts because of his height and ability to hit from far away. However, when he couldn’t prove he could hit those shots during workouts, his stock fell. In the end, that may work out for Leuer as he won’t have to stray too far from his comfort zone because he’ll be staying in the great state of Wisconsin if he makes the big boys team.
New Jersey Nets: 1-25 — Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence (via Celtics), 2-1 — Bojan Bogdanovic, SG, Croatia (via Timberwolves through Miami Heat), 2-6 — Jordan Williams, PF, Maryland
Brooks is a dynamite scorer and he knows it. He should provide the scoring punch that the Nets have lacked from a wing player and fans have to be salivating at the prospect of Deron Williams dishing off to Brooks for the score. Granted D-Will wants veterans, but Brooks, who fell relative to most mock drafts, will keep Williams happy and be part of the reason to stay with the Nets into Brooklyn.
Bogdanovic was a pick bought by the Nets, which shows that Mikhail Prokhorov is ready to get down and spend some of his dough. Bogdanovic is well-liked by a lot of pundits and shows real promise. He’ll get some time to get better with this Euro team, but he’s already one of the top scorers in his league, which had to be enticing to the wing-scoring starved Nets.
Williams has been compared to both Carlos Boozer and Sean May. If he’s more of the former (but less frail), Williams will be a great find.
New York Knicks: 1-17 — Iman Shumpert, SG, Georgia Tech, 2-15 — Josh Harrellson, C, Kentucky (via Hornets)
Shumpert had great measurables at the Draft Combine, but despite the workout wonder numbers and indubitable athleticism, his hoops skills are relatively sketchy. He’s solid defensively, but very uneven offensively and one of those players that doesn’t exactly look for his teammates. Great physical ability, not so much baller ability.
Harrellson seems like a trade for a big man for the sake of acquiring a big man, since that’s the position the Knicks really needed to fill. It would be a surprise if Harrellson makes the roster.
Orlando Magic: 2-2 — Justin Harper, PF, RIchmond (via Cavaliers), 2-23 — DeAndre Liggins, SG, Kentucky
These are solid picks for the Magic in the second round, especially Harper since most mocks had him going in the first. He’s a perfect stretch four who can complement Dwight Howard by creating space for the big man in the middle. Liggins is pretty much a one dimensional type of player, but that dimension is a desirable one for the Magic — defense. If he makes the roster, he can be an excellent role player off the bench.
Philadelphia 76ers: 1-16 — Nikola Vucevic, PF, USC, 2-20 — Lavoy Allen, PF, Temple
Vucevic is right up there in regards to skilled big men. He has an excellent overall offensive game despite being a below the rim player and should be able to pick up some tricks from Elton Brand. Allen is a solid rebounder, but might be squeezed out from making the Sixers roster. However, he brings the ability to board and who doesn’t like that?
Toronto Raptors: 1-5 — Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
This is obviously a stash pick for the Raptors, since it seems the earliest Valanciunas can join the NBA is during the 2012-13 season. He could end up being the best center from this draft and is more of a traditional five with his back-to-the-basket skills. The comparisons to Pau Gasol have to have Raptors fans hoping and praying. I thought he’d drop because of his contract issue, but the Raptors made a great move for the future. Besides, there might not even be a next season in 2011-12, so it’ll all work out!
Oh wait … that’s not a good thing at all.
Washington Wizards: 1-6 — Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic, 1-18 — Chris Singleton, PF, Florida State, 2-4 — Shelvin Mack, PG, Butler
Well, we know at least this much about Vesely — he has great taste in women! That stuff aside, Vesely will be a great finisher and running mate for John Wall. Singleton is considered the best defender in the draft and is a great piece for this young team. Mack could be a solid back-up and the team should be considered on the come up.
Hopefully we’ll see these draftees on an NBA court sooner than later. Come on owners and players, let’s get it together! We need to see the new generation!