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NBA mock draft: Celtics eye next Jordan?

05.24.11 at 10:11 pm ET
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Kyrie Irving is turning pro after one injury-shortened season at Duke. (AP)

With only four teams still competing in the postseason, the majority of fans are counting down the days until June 23 and the NBA draft. This year’s class is not expected to be strong, but there is a slew of European talent, a handful of hit or miss “project” players and more Morrises than you can shake a stick at.

Duke freshman Kyrie Irving appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick despite playing just 11 games for the Blue Devils. Arizona’s Derrick Williams likely will be taken second, but by whom? Timberwolves general manager David Kahn is expected to shop that selection.

Kentucky’s Enes Kanter measures at a monstrous 6-foot-11, 261 pounds. However, he has yet to play in the United States as the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible, citing benefits from his Turkish Basketball League team.

Who will take the risk and select BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette? Who will be Sacramento’s potential last first-round pick? Who will the Celtics select? All that and more in our first NBA mock draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving, Duke, Fr., PG, 6-2, 180

The Cavs finally won something. It’s a shame there are no players of LeBron James’ caliber in this draft class. Irving has arguably the highest ceiling talent-wise, and he fits Cleveland’s needs for speed and ball-handling much better than the only other reasonable candidate, Derrick Williams.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Derrick Williams, Arizona, So., SF/PF, 6-9, 241

An athletic high-flier, Williams is more than just a powerful dunker. He has great basket awareness and finishes at the rim as well as anyone in this class. The T-Wolves frontcourt is already packed with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. However, Williams is simply too good to pass up at the No. 2 spot whether it’s by the Wolves or a trade partner.

3. Utah Jazz

Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 185

With Deron Williams shipped off to New Jersey and Irving off the board, Knight is the obvious selection. A well-rounded offensive player, Knight is able to get to the rim at will, knock down mid-range jumpers, and extend his range beyond the arc. He’s a capable rebounder and creative passer, whose st0ck rose with his performance in the NCAA tournament. The Jazz have a veteran point guard with a similar skill set in Devin Harris for Knight to learn under.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Enes Kanter, Kentucky, Fr., PF/C, 6-11, 261

Kanter is an unknown commodity, but his size and potential are hardly a secret. Based on his play at Stoneridge Prep and with Fenerbahçe Ülker, a team in the Turkish Basketball League, Kanter has an array of post moves and exerts tremendous effort clearing the glass. Add to that a high basketball IQ and a brute strength the vast majority of first-year centers don’t have. The only significant concern is his history of knee problems.

5. Toronto Raptors

Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania, C, 6-11, 240

It’s no secret that the Raptors prefer the European route for their youngsters, having previously drafted Andrea Bargnani with the first overall selection in 2006. Valanciunas is young and still growing. Though he is excellent in transition, his lack of strength may hurt him in the post until he adds more muscle. A few years down the road, he could be one of the best offensive centers in the class. In another year with a stronger class, he could easily be a late lottery pick, but his high ceiling makes this project an attractive one.

6. Washington Wizards

Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State, So., SF, 6-7, 225

With John Wall running point and Andray Blatche in the paint, Leonard will fit in perfectly as an athletic wingman. He may not be the best player left on the board, but he brings an arsenal of shots, including one of his favorites: the pull-up jumper. Leonard is lethal in transition and threw down a few monster dunks during his time with the Aztecs. He is ready to make an immediate impact at the NBA level.

7. Sacramento Kings

Kemba Walker, Connecticut, Jr., PG, 6-0, 172

Most 6-foot point guards would flounder against the taller, stronger guards in the NBA. However, Walker is not most point guards. Leading UConn to an NCAA championship and a 14-0 record in single-elimination tournament games his senior year, Walker was undoubtedly the best “closer” in college basketball last season. His addition would allow the Kings to move Tyreke Evans to shooting guard and the pair could form one of the best young backcourts in basketball.

8. Detroit Pistons

Jan Vesely, Czech Republic, SF/PF, 6-11, 230

With Tayshaun Prince set to hit free agency, Vesely could develop into his replacement. A potent outside threat, Vesely is at his best in catch-and-shoot situations. His long arms and quick foot speed allows him to stay in front of quicker forwards, while his strong build allows him to guard the larger ones. Vesely is also an energy player, but his rebounding numbers — 4.4 per game in the NLB League and 2.9 per game in EuroLeague play leave a lot to be desired.

9. Charlotte Bobcats

Tristan Thompson, Texas, Fr., PF, 6-9, 225

Thompson would provide a much-needed post presence for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats. Assuming MJ doesn’t decide to bring back Kwame Brown again, Thompson should get an opportunity to see playing time early and often. Though he is undersized and his jumper needs some work, Thompson is a willing rebounder, above-average shot-blocker, and capable finisher in transition.

10. Milwaukee Bucks

Alec Burks, Colorado, So., PG/SG, 6-6, 193

Though the Bucks have solid contributors at every position, they lack a scoring punch off the bench. Last year, Milwaukee ranked last in points per game at 91.9. Burks, an explosive combination guard, has a quick first step and excellent instincts. The one weakness in his game is the lack of a consistent outside shot.

11. Golden State Warriors

Marcus Morris, Kansas, Jr., SF/PF, 6-9, 218

Morris is an exceptional back-to-the-basket player who is slightly undersized playing at the power forward position. He does have range that extends beyond the 3-point line, but his lack of size and lateral speed make him a defensive liability at times.

12. Utah Jazz

Klay Thompson, Washington State, Jr., SG, 6-6, 202

One of the best scorers in this year’s class, Thompson plays within his abilities better than most lottery-level players. A top-10 scorer his junior year, Thompson averaged a Pac-10 best 22.1 points per game and made eight 3-pointers and scored 43 points against Washington in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. An adequate defender, his biggest weakness is his lack of explosiveness. Even at 6-6, he is a below-the-basket player in the halfcourt.

13. Phoenix Suns

Chris Singleton, Florida State, Jr., SF/PF, 6-9, 225

Singleton is a long, explosive leaper who dominates in the open court. Potentially a lock-down defender, Singleton has great lateral speed and can guard multiple positions. Phoenix may be able to trade down a few picks and still get Singleton, who fractured his foot in February.

14. Houston Rockets

Bismack Biyombo, Congo, C, 6-9, 243

Dikembe Mutombo 2.0? Let’s not start wagging fingers yet. However, Biyombo is the best shot-blocker in the draft. His 7-7 wingspan and impressive leaping ability make him an intimidating presence in the paint. He also possesses a Jermaine O’Neal-like ability to reject shots with either hand. He is incredibly raw on the offensive end, however. There’s some question about his true age, but Biyombo is listed at 18 years old.

15. Indiana Pacers

Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young, Sr., PG, 6-2, 196

Likely the first senior taken in the draft, Fredette is one of the best pure shooters in NCAA history. Despite all the hype he deservedly generated this past tournament season, he is also one of the biggest risks in the draft as a one-dimensional, slightly undersized guard. However, Fredette would be a good fit in Indiana, where last year’s starting point guard, T.J. Ford, will become a free agent this offseason.

16. Philadelphia 76ers

Markieff Morris, Kansas, Jr., PF, 6-9, 241

Morris is a worker down low. KU’s leading rebounder and shot-blocker his junior year, he brings an offensive repertoire that includes strong finishes at the rim, a short baby hook, and yes, a sweet stroke from deep. Morris shot 42.4 percent from behind the 3-point line his junior year. He has yet to develop a midrange game and failed to average more than 24.4 minutes per game in any of his three collegiate seasons.

17. New York Knicks

Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania, PF, 7-0, 224

Motiejunas is an NBA-ready, left-handed big man, whose game is said to be similar to Bargnani’s. Motiejunas has a consistent jumper and is developing hooks and turnarounds in the post. He is a solid rebounder and a willing passer but needs to add muscle to match up with some of the thicker power forwards in the league.

18. Washington Wizards

Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, Sr., PF, 6-7, 225

Faried recorded 1,673 rebounds in his college career, good for 12th all-time and the most since Celtics legend Robert Parish tallied 1,820 almost three decades ago at Centenary. However, Faried does not possess Parish’s offensive abilities. He actually models his game after Ben Wallace. Faried is an excellent shot-blocker and a tough defender, and, like Wallace, he was a poor free-throw shooter (57.7 percent at Morehead). He does prefer dreadlocks over the vintage Wallace Afro.

19. Charlotte Bobcats

Jordan Hamilton, Texas, Jr., SG/SF, 6-8, 228

A versatile athlete, Hamilton brings a broad skill set to the table. He possesses a quick first step and a knack for penetrating defenses. However, he really flourishes in transition. A strong rebounder (7.7 per game his junior year), he often cleared the glass and started the break himself during his time at Texas. Hamilton, releases his shot to the side and still needs to become a more consistent shooter and better ball-handler.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

Marshon Brooks, Providence, Sr., SG, 6-5, 195

The last thing the Timberwolves need is another big man under a longterm contract. They also have Jonny Flynn under contract for at least two years and remain hopeful that Ricky Rubio may finally be coming over from Spain. Brooks is the best fit in Minnesota position-wise, but he is not a No. 20 talent. Though he was second in the nation in scoring at 24.6 points per game his senior year, he also averaged roughly 18 attempts per game as a senior and there are questions about how well he would fit in a team concept. Look for Kahn to shop this pick around as well.

21. Portland Trail Blazers

Lucas Nogueira, Brazil, PF/C, 7-0, 200

Considering the uncertain status of Greg Oden (who likely will receive and accept a qualifying offer, according to coach Nate McMillan) Portland’s most prominent need will always be reserve big men. Nogueira is an explosive athlete, excellent shot-blocker, and dominant rebounder. He runs the floor well and finishes in transition. His offensive game is very raw and he needs to bulk up, but the biggest knock on Lucas “Bebe” (Baby) Nogueira is his lack of maturity and tendency to take plays off.

22. Denver Nuggets

Tobias Harris, Tennessee, Fr., SF/PF, 6-8, 223

Harris has an uncanny ability to get by his defender without superior strength or speed. He uses an impressive repertoire of foot and ball fakes to get into the lane where he finishes well at the rim. Though he possesses a soft touch on his shots in the lane, he needs to develop a more consistent outside shot. Harris needs to continue his hard work in the gym to improve his strength and athleticism.

23. Houston Rockets

Josh Selby, Kansas, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 195

Selby has the body of a point guard but the skill set of a shooting guard. His quick feet and lateral speed allow him to guard either position, but he’s not the best game manager and prefers to look for his own shot rather than set up others. Ranked as the No. 1 point guard by Rivals.com entering his freshman year at Kansas, Selby was suspended by the NCAA to start the season and missed time with a foot injury. On the court, Selby averaged only 7.9 points and 2.2 assists per game and struggled to find his niche offensively.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder

Nikola Mirotic, Montenegro, SF/PF, 6-10, 225

Mirotic has range that extends beyond the 3-point line and is not afraid to prove it. Already tall at 6-10, he releases over his head and is capable of catching and shooting in one motion. Mirotic is also able to get his own shot, often times by creating space on the perimeter, stepping back, and firing from deep.

25. Boston Celtics

Jordan Williams, Maryland, So., PF, 6-9, 247

Williams is a hustle player with a wide frame. The Torrington, Conn., native is an exceptional rebounder, finishes well in transition, and always is the first on the floor for a loose ball. His jumper needs work, but he has a good hands and a soft touch down low. If he can improve his conditioning, as well as his stroke, Williams could become an immediate contributor next season, especially if Glen Davis takes his talents elsewhere.

26. Dallas Mavericks

Davis Bertans, Latvia, SF, 6-10, 211

See pick No. 24. Bertans and Mirotic have similar skill sets, though Bertans is more of a liability on the defensive end. He has virtually no driving ability but is adequate in transition. Though he is an excellent outside shooter, his shot selection is questionable at times. He would be a good fit in Dallas, a team full of sharpshooters including Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

27. New Jersey Nets

Justin Harper, Richmond, Sr., PF, 6-9, 228

Harper shot a blistering 44.8 percent from the 3-point line his senior year, but he’s more than just a shooter. He handles the ball well for a big man, is capable of creating his own shot and finishes well at the rim. Not quite strong enough to play on the block and lacking the foot speed to stay in front of quicker forwards, Harper will face mismatches on a regular basis.

28. Chicago Bulls

Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA, So., SG/SF, 6-8, 187

A nifty scorer, especially for his size, Honeycutt is able to adjust in mid-air to avoid being blocked. He has an impressive wingspan which helps make up for his thin build both defensively and on the boards. Honeycutt has a respectable jumper but often looked hesitant to shoot while at UCLA, especially from beyond the arc. He was able to succeed with his weak frame in the NCAA, but he will have a much harder time in the NBA unless he can add more muscle.

29. San Antonio Spurs

Darius Morris, Michigan, So., PG, 6-4, 190

Morris was one of the most improved players in the country his sophomore year at Michigan. A true point guard, he can knock down open shots but always is looking to get his teammates involved. He does have a tendency to force passes, as shown by his four turnovers per game. His size and strength make him an NBA-ready defender. In addition to his decision making, Morris needs to improve his outside shot.

30. Chicago Bulls

Nolan Smith, Duke, Sr., PG/SG, 6-3, 189

The Blue Devil reputation gets Smith gets the nod over Butler’s Shelvin Mack for the last first-rounder. One of the smartest players in his class, Smith has proven to be a great leader and court general. He has an above-average shot from deep and has no significant weaknesses, but to be an impact player in the pros he’ll need to improve all aspects of his game.

First 5 Players Out

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, Sr., PF, 6-10, 221

Travis Leslie, Georgia, Jr., 6-4, 202

Shelvin Mack, Butler, Jr., PG/SG, 6-2, 215

Kyle Singler, Duke, Sr., 6-8, 237

Trey Thompkins, Georgia, Jr., PF, 6-10, 247

Read More: 2011 NBA Draft, Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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