2011 NBA Draft Preview

I love the NBA Draft but the field sucks this year. Not since 2000 have we seen such a weak draft class. With the impending lockout, several big name stars staying in school and more prospects than ever leaving school early, Thursday will be an unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable night. I expect numerous trades to shake things up, with several teams reshaping their rosters within the span of a few hours. Some will stockpile talent, others picks and even more, cap space. Because of the drop off after the first two to three picks, it feels like anyone can go anywhere; it just depends on how teams feel individual players fit their system and vision.

More than in any other sport, the NBA draft is about potential rather than immediate impact. This is how teams can fuck up their future for years to come: value one’s potential more than one’s existing body of work. By all accounts Kyrie Irving is the best point guard in the draft and will be taken number one by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Was he the best point guard in college last year? No. If I was forming a team to go win one game tomorrow, would I pick Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker? Probably Walker because he’s the man, but NBA executives don’t think like that. If you’re rebuilding a franchise, do you put all your chips on an flashy unproven eighteen year old, or hedge your bets with a solid, unsexy yet productive college grad?

NBA teams love potential because it is the ultimate excuse. “He’s a project” or “Wait until next year, he’s really developing over seas.” Potential buys you time and get you off the hook for another year. Because if it we’re all about winning and making your team better, most executives would trade their picks or only pick players based on their team’s specific need. “Best Available” isn’t a draft strategy, it’s a fall back. No one wants to be the guy who drafts Kwame Brown or Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Draft night is about keeping your job long enough to bury your mistakes in the D-League.

So here’s the official Chef Diesel Mock Draft. It has been filled out with the assumption that all teams will stay in there designated slots, and for the most part completed based on team need rather than “expert” prognostication. I will update the Mock Thursday night with real time picks and reaction. Bon a petite.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, PG Duke
I really find it hard to believe that this kid is the best prospect in the draft after only playing eleven games at Duke then being injured the rest of the year. He’s not Chris Paul (who played three years at Wake Forrest and as a jump shot) and he won’t be an overnight savior for the Cavs, but all reports say he’s their guy. But I guess any blue chip point guard is a better option than Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis.

ACTUAL PICK: Irving. No big surprise. Still don’t trust his experience and fragile body. I’m more interested in what Cleveland does at #4. Somewhat related: the fitted look pretty fresh this year.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, PF Arizona
It’s Williams if they don’t trade out. Minnesota is terrible. They need veterans, not more projects. A new rumor says they’re looking at Kanter, but that feels like trickery in order for another team to offer them more for the pick.  Sure, Rubio is coming over but he’s been a bigger bust in the Euro League. A nucleus of Kevin Love, Rubio and Williams sounds great on paper, but I doubt it will translate to wins with Kurt Rambis and David Kahn and the helm.

ACTUAL PICK: Derrick Willaims. Sort of had to go here. Too bad there’s going to be a lockout because Williams really needs that to sign that contract so he can make the down payment on braces.

3. Utah Jazz: Brandon Knight, PG Kentucky
I am not a Brandon Knight fan. I saw too many Kentucky games this year where he looked scared, immature and weak. Dude was scared to even work out against Kemba Walker after two tournament beat downs. Jazz like big point guards (a la Deron Williams, who they just traded) and they’re going more for potential here than anything. They should draft Jimmer, but it’s just too high for him at number three.

ACTUAL PICK: Enes Kanter. And now the dominos will fall. The Jazz must think they will be able to grab a guard at #12. Again, I don’t think he’ll be an immediate force but could be a nice building block. Stu Scott just said Kanter wants to be a WWE wrestler when he’s done with basketball. I hope the lockout lasts forever so that Kanter can make good on that dream as soon as possible. What’s his wrestling name? The Turkish Bizarre?

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Enes Kanter, C Turkey
I know nothing about this guy other than that he was going to play at Kentucky until some stupid rules violation prevented John Callipari from paying him even more to come to Lexington. The Cavs can’t bust on either of these picks. Again, look for them to trade down.

ACTUAL PICK: Tristan Thompson and our first WTF moment. My guess is that Jonas’ contract scared them away and they fell in love with Thompson’s dork metrics of projectivity. But hey, like in Fantasy Football, go after the guy you want and take him when you can. The Cavs have to live with it, so they must be happy with the next best option with Kanter off the board. Shockingly, Thompson’s mom is very happy for her son.

5. Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard, F San Diego St.
We go downhill pretty fast here. Toronto could go a couple ways here, but since they’re new coach is all about defense, Leonard is a safe pick. He won’t be an all-star, but he won’t get you fired either.

ACTUAL PICK: Jonas Valanciunas. Another wild card. Thought they’d go for Knight with him still on the board. Colangelo loves international players, so it’s not a huge surprise, but the pick does not fill an immediate need for the club, especially with Jonas’ contract issues.

6. Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely, F Czech Republic
From everything I’ve seen on YouTube, this dude is a beast who will dunk in your grill if given the opportunity. Hopefully Vesely’s aggression transfer to the NBA where he’ll have John Wall leading the fast break.

ACTUAL PICK: Jan and his hot Czech model date! I look forward to him in the dunk contest next year as Fran Fraschilla predicts.

7. Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette, G BYU
Owners need to make money, coaches want to win. Fredette is a shooter, not a point guard. He’s also white and Mormon. Jimmer feels like a terrible fit chemistry-wise with Cousins and Evans, but the Maloofs don’t care about that. They have one year to make it work in Sacramento and Jimmer is their great white hope. Utah fans shed a tear.

ACTUAL PICK (for Charlotte Bobcats via TRADE): Bismack Biyombo. Rumor is the Kings traded down to grab Jimmer and Charlotte must really like this guy to move up. Raw talent and potential but absolutely no offensive game.

8. Detriot Pistons: Kemba Walker, PG Connecticut
I’d feel bad for Kemba if he went to the Pistons simply because they’re losers with a terrible coach in a dying city. At least he’ll have fellow UCONN drop-outs Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton on the bench with him. Side note: I’d much rather Walker fall in the draft and land with a better team in a more desirable situation. Several “experts” have questioned his size and “true point guard” ability. Who fucking cares? Did you watch the Big East Tournament and March Madness? (Did you watch J.J. Barea in the NBA Finals?) Walker is an experienced leader and WINNER. If Walker slips, it will exemplify everything wrong with the NBA talent evaluation process. We could have another Caron Butler moment where a draft night slighting turns into even more motivation for a successful career.

ACTUAL PICK: Brandon Knight. Makes sense and I’m sure Detroit never would have thought that he’d fall to 8. Again, don’t think he’s a great point guard but whatever, he’s a millionaire now and I’m not.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Tristan Thompson, PF Texas
Kwame Brown part two? Michael Jordan was the greatest player, and is possibly the worst executive. The Bobcats need size. Pick a name out of the hat. Won’t matter for next year anyways since Gerald Wallace is gone.

ACTUAL PICK: Kemba Walker. Good for him. Charlotte is a horrible team but maybe he can learn from MJ and develop into one of the best young guards in the league.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Klay Thompson, G Washington St.
White shooting guard with a history of marijuana use? Sure, why not. The Bucks need offense and Thompson sure can light it up.

ACTUAL PICK (for Sacramento Kings via TRADE): Jimmer Fredette. Just think about him in the locker room with Cousins and Evans. Can the Kings be on Hard Knocks next year?

11. Golden St. Warriors: Bismack Biyambo, PF Congo
Great name. Most comparable to Serge Ibaka. A ton of upside. The Warriors need a defensive presence inside and might roll the dice here. Good luck Mark Jackson.

ACTUAL PICK: Klay Thompson, because you know Golden State needs more outside scorers. Hey, at least their committed to the philosophy of “fuck defense, let’s just score 120 points a game and see what happens.”

12. Utah Jazz: Jonas Valanciunas, C Lithuania
Troubles with his European contract buyout may scare some teams away, but if you can wait a year for the big man, it could pay off.

ACTUAL PICK: Alec Burks. Feels like the Jazz got screwed the way the chips fell with both Walker and Fredette going before expected. Kanter and Burks don’t feel like a great combo, but it’s what they got. Feels like the still need a PG but with Derrick Favors already in Utah, they have a nice young nucleus.

13. Phoenix Suns: Alec Burks, G Colorado
Yea, I said the same thing, “Who the hell is Alec Burks?” The answer: possibly Steve Nash’s eventual replacement?

ACTUAL PICK: Markieff Morris. Seriosuly, how do you really differentiate between identical twins who played at the same college? What if they really wanted Marcus, but we’re scouting the wrong brother at the workout?

14. Houston Rockets: Dontas Montiejunas, C/PF Lithuania
The Rockets are a pretty smart club and GM Daryl Morey tends to get these things right, except for that Hasheem Thabeet trade. Their roster is a mess now and with Yao’s future still up in the air, they could go several different directions. Let’s give them Dontas because it seems like going for an International player is the easiest way to say, “We hate everyone else available, we’ll gamble on some guy no one’s seen play and maybe in a couple of years he’ll pan out and we’ll look smarter than we really are.”

ACTUAL PICK: Marcus Morris. Almost too perfect. I smell an Adam Sandler-produced switched identity buddy comedy!

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