As the Cavaliers continue to struggle, it becomes more and more apparent that they are not only bound for the NBA Draft Lottery, but quite possibly the number one pick in the draft. Acquiring the number one pick in the draft would give them the pick of the litter so to speak. So who exactly are the Cavs likely to select in the draft? It’s hard to envision them falling lower than 5th in the draft pecking order. That should allow them to select any of the following players. Keep in mind that this list is based upon everything I have read concerning the 2011 NBA draft as of 1/25/11. I’ll try to update this a few more times as we get closer and closer to the draft and the order of the teams and prospects becomes clearer.
1. Perry Jones
The 6’11” freshman power forward from Baylor is considered to be the #1 or #2 prospect in the country depending on which draft prospectus you are reading. The one thing everyone does agree on is that Jones is a freak of nature athletically. He very much fits the mold of Kevin Durant. Although he is nearing 7 feet tall, his game is closer to that of a small forward meaning it’s predicated on quickness and explosiveness rather than banging down low. The one troubling aspect of Jones however, is the lack of dominance he has shown so far in his freshman season. With his size and skill many expect Jones to dominate much the same way Kevin Durant did during his lone year in college. He’s only averaging 13 points per game and when adjusted only comes out to 17 pts per 40 minutes. He has come on as of late scoring 20 or more points in four of his last six games. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses, especially during the NCAA tournament.
2. Kyrie Irving
Irving is the top rated point guard and the top rated freshman in the country according to many draft boards. The problem is that the Duke point guard suffered a serious toe injury and has only played in 8 games this season. Is that 8 game sample size enough to make Irving the top pick in the draft? It’s an interesting debate. I myself am not exactly comfortable taking a player we have seen sop little of. There is also a rumor swirling that because of the injury, Irving is considering returning to Duke for a sophomore season. The one positive for the Cavs and the possibility of drafting Irving is that Byron Scott coached Chris Paul early in his career and found a great deal of success.
Talk about coming out of nowhere. Williams, a 6’8″ power forward from Arizona has shot up NBA draft boards in recent weeks. Playing out west he has quietly become the most efficient scorer in college basketball thanks to his ability to get to the foul line and shoot a high percentage from the floor. As a result he ranks in the top five in the country in scoring average per minute. He also scores from everywhere on the court, 60% from 2 point range and 70% from 3 point range. Given his combination of size and speed it’s made him virtually unstoppable. However, the Cavs should be cautious and really only consider Williams should they fall somewhere between the 5th or 8th pick in the lottery unless he dominates the Pac 10 and NCAA Tournament here on out. Many scouts are also worried about his sudden jump in his productivity and level of play. He was not as highly ranked coming into college and many wonder if this is just a case of a player having a phenomenal year. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can keep playing at this level and how he will fare come March.
I’ve talked about Sullinger many time before so I won’t waste your time going into great detail here. All there is to say right now is that Jared Sullinger is dominating the college game right now for the #1 ranked Buckeyes. Each and every game he gets better and better and has become their go to guy. The only downside I have seen regarding for Sullinger, and believe me it’s a pretty big issue, is his size. Sullinger is listed at 6’9″ but many feel he is closer to 6’7″ and won’t be able to play center at the professional level. He’s projected as a center in the NBA and fits the mold of players such as Paul Milsap or Elton Brand. I wouldn’t consider Sullinger with the #1 pick, but I would give it serious consideration if the Cavs fall to 3, 4, or 5 in the draft.
Harrison Barnes was the most highly touted freshman in college basketball going into the 2010-2011 season. My what a difference a few months can make. Barnes has been more than disappointing for North Carolina this year. Rather than taking the bull by the horns and leading the team he has been just sorta mediocre. Barnes is only averaging 11 points per game and has yet to score 20 points in any game this season. That’s not a good sign. Throw in the fact that his shooting percentages from 2 and 3 point range are 37% and 30% respectively and it’s only further cause for concern. He hasn’t looked like himself and the criticism surrounding his play has only caused him to press. Again… not good. There’s still plenty of time for Barnes to turn his freshman season around, but as it looks right now that seems doubtful.
Jones has been outstanding for Kentucky so far this year averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds per game. He will be a either a solid small forward or slightly undersized power forward depending on how his game progresses. He is a truly physical specimen to look at and many teams feel he may be the gem of the draft and rightfully so. He’s a solid all around player that should fall somewhere between the 3rd and 8th pick in the draft depending on how he finishes up the season and how the other prospects perform from this point forward. His skill set is has been compared to Lamar Odom for his ability to score from the perimeter, but also bang down low if need be. I don’t think he is the franchise altering type of player, but he could be a solid second fiddle in the Cavs rebuilding efforts.
7. Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker is a straight up assassin. He has been absolutely unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor showing the ability to both get to the rim and nail ridiculously tough outside shots. There has been no one better in 2010-2011 at putting the ball in the basket as indicated by his 25 points per game scoring average, which is tops in the country. The downfall for Walker is his size, he’s listed at 6’1″ but apparently is close to 5’11”, and the fact that he’s more a scorer and less a pure point guard. As a result, his draft stock is hovering somewhere in the 7 to 10 range depending on who you ask. He would be a worst case scenario type of pick for the Cavs should they either turn things around and win some games in the second half, or if the ping-pong balls don’t bounce their way at all. He’s a very good player with great value when considered later in the first round. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely the Cavs will select any lower than 4th barring a total disaster and thus making Walker a worst case scenario type of pick.