NBA

This is Shaping Up as a Terrible NBA Draft, so Smart Teams Are Trading Away Draft Picks

The 2011 NBA draft is a weak one. There doesn’t appear to be a transcendent, franchise player in the mold of LeBron James (2003), Dwight Howard (2004), Kevin Durant (2007), Derrick Rose (2008) or Blake Griffin (2009). There is very little depth – if any – outside of the Top 10. It probably will be worse than the 2006 draft, a clunker that only produced Rajon Rondo, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay. For this reason, a lot of NBA teams are unloading their 2011 draft picks.

The suddenly-rebuilding Jazz acquired the a Top 10 pick yesterday in the deal for Deron Williams. The Clippers gave away a Top 10 pick to the Cavs last night so they could clear cap room. The problem for these rebuilding teams? There really isn’t that much talent to draft.

Harrison Barnes opened the college basketball season as an All-American, and the likely No. 1 pick in the draft. Whether he’s struggling to adapt to the UNC system, or he’s just not as good as advertised, nobody thinks of him as the No. 1 pick anymore. Top 10? Maybe. But would it surprise you if Barnes – 13.5 ppg, 40 percent shooting – stayed in school and actually improved his game?

Right now, the players who would probably go in the Top 5 in the draft are:

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke – Looks like a future star, but he’s only played eight college games. The transition from college to the pros is often difficult for point guards, which is why most stick around for a second year (Mike Conley didn’t, and he’s taken awhile to adjust to the pros). John Wall’s had a nice rookie campaign and Eric Bledsoe looks like a keeper. I’d guess Irving will go No. 1. If the Cavs somehow win the lottery, he’ll be their point guard of the future.

Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona - Incredibly athletic, 6-8, 240-pound sophomore who projects as a SF/PF tweener (these guys compared him to David West). With No. 1 picks you’re thinking franchise building block … it doesn’t appear (yet, anyway), that’s the case with Williams.

Perry Jones, SF/PF, Baylor – Wildly athletic, and talented as hell, but terribly raw offensively. Or maybe he’s just differing to the Baylor seniors? Love the potential, but if he jumps after a freshman campaign in which he’s frequently been in foul trouble and only blocked 22 shots in 27 games (he’s got an incredible wingspan, so that number is weak), I can see him struggling to find a position (he likes to float to the perimeter, but he’s only 1-for-8 shooting 3′s), and turning into a softer version of Tyrus Thomas.

Enes Kanter, C, Kentucky – More of a mystery than Irving because he’s never played a college game. But based on this performance, he looks like he has the potential to be a future stud. I’d love to see him face Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger in a workout. Remember when Joe Dumars drafted Darko 2nd overall? Well …

Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State – Having a great freshman campaign. The footwork, hands, and skill set all seem to be there already. If he stays four years, Ohio State should make at least a couple Final Fours. But is he undersized to play PF in the NBA? Do you think he can get his shot off against PFs like Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Amare? I’d say Sullinger could be a Zach Randolph-type player at his best (20-10).

Here’s where it gets scary – what if Irving decides to return to school, Jones thinks he wants a shot at thriving without the senior ball hogs, and Kanter stays at Kentucky (his Dad has said that, but everyone changes their mind).

Then you’re looking at a truly horrible draft, one where a team like the Jazz, with two picks in the Top 20, will be shit out of luck. Hell, the Cavaliers, who will have two top 10 picks, could wind up without much talent.

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