During the NBA draft lottery in 2003 I sat with a small group of friends in the pool hall waiting to see if our Cleveland Cavaliers would get the chance to draft the only can’t miss Hall of Famer of our generation. We all know what has happened since then, but that moment was something that I can honestly say I’ll never forget. We jumped up and cheered. We high fived. We spent weeks chasing excitement that we had no guarantee of catching, and then we caught it.
It’s only been eight years since that last lottery experience, but it feels like so much longer. I’ve been a Cavalier fan since I could dribble a ball, and aside from distant memories of Mark Price giving a short white kid hope, it seems like my only Cavalier memories involve Lebron is some way or another. Under the imperfect, but ambitious and aggressive leadership of owner Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers are moving on. And they’re taking me with them.
(Take a moment to appreciate the symbolic moment that we’re having right now. We’re turning our back on the past, on that last lottery experience and all that came with it. Maybe someday things will be different, but for now, let’s face forward. It’s bright in that direction.)
Instead of a group of friends, I watched the NBA Draft Lottery with my girlfriend, and instead of a smoky pool hall, I stood in front of the TV wearing sweatpants and thinking about my day job. Almost everything was different about this draft lottery, but one thing was the same; I was excited. I raised my fist when I saw that the pick the Cavaliers got from the LA Clippers as incentive to take on Baron Davis‘ contract in the Mo Williams for Davis trade was guaranteed to be a top three pick, and absolutely quivered in anticipation as envelope after envelope were opened without seeing the Cavaliers logo be revealed.
NUMBER FOUR! Oh boy was I excited. I did the really loud clap that guys do (you know, the one where the pets run out of the room and you get “that look” from your significant other) and pumped my fist…
UTAH JAZZ! There’s not much time in between lottery picks, but my immediate thought was picking ahead of Utah means that the Jazz won’t steal Derrick Williams away…
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES! The T-Wolves are picking second. Wow. That means that…
So, that Cavaliers have the 1st and 4th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and it’s almost a lock that Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert are going to pick Kyrie Irving, the one and done point guard phenom from Duke. Irving is a pure point guard, with great vision and court awareness. He’s going to be a star, he can help this Cavalier team from day one, especially since he’s able to have Baron Davis as an NBA mentor. I have nothing but good things to say about Kyrie Irving, in fact, my only reservation about picking him #1 overall has more to do with the logjam of talent at PG in the NBA right now than it does with Irving’s skill set.
Here are the point guards in the NBA that I don’t think Kyrie Irving is going to be better than: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Russel Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Stephon Curry, Steve Nash. This list isn’t in order of who I think are the “best” point guards, or who my favorite point guards are, but merely guys that I think are playing above what I think Kyrie Irving’s ceiling happens to be. I’ve said a few times today that Irving won’t make an NBA All Star team because of the point guard talent in the NBA, but I may have jumped the gun. Not that I think he’ll be a top five point guard, but it’s conceivable that Rondo will slump at some point, and in that case, all Irving would have to do is be better than Lou Williams (Philly 76ers) or Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons) to make an East All Star team. I’ve been dumping myself into draft research, and the more I look, the more I like Kyrie Irving. It’s usually the other way around, so I’m paying attention to this trend. You’re not going to sell me on Irving being a top 5 at his position guy because of Rose, Westbrook, Paul, Williams, Parker, Rondo, Curry, and whatever guy jumps up in the conversation in the coming years, but Irving will be a cornerstone.
I really like Derrick Williams, and so does everyone else. The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to pick Williams with the #2 pick, bringing us around to the first real drama of the draft.
With the third pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select… Brandon Knight? The Jazz have needs at forward and center, but unless Derrick Williams falls past the Timberwolves (Don’t assume that it can’t happen, there’s a reason why people yell “KAAAAAAAHHHHHHHNNNNNN” on a regular basis), I can’t imagine Utah taking a flier on Jan Vesely or Enes Kanter. I know Vesely isn’t valued quite this high, but he’s my second favorite power forward in the draft behind Kanter. Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor isn’t the kind of guy to make a high draft pick based on a Nike Hoops Summit game, and I think I’m the only person in the country who like Vesely even close to this much, so he’ll pick Knight. Knight is a smart, hard nosed point guard who isn’t afraid to play defense or take big shots. He’s what happens when you open up the cookbook and put together the recipe labeled “Utah Jazz Point Guard”. Unless David Kahn pulls a David Kahn, that is. You never know.
That leaves the Cavaliers back at #4. Regardless of the possible Kahning of the second pick, Derrick Williams is going to be gone, so the no brainer pick is off the board. Chris Grant isn’t going to pick a guard here since Anthony Parker is irreplaceable, so that leaves a big man. (Calm down, I was being sarcastic)
My prediction here is Enes Kanter. You’re not going to catch me jumping up and down over drafting a 19 year old who hasn’t played competitive basketball in two years, but I think Kanter has a shot at being good. (In related news, “has a shot at being good” is in the top five on the “Things You Don’t Want To Hear About A Top Five Draft Pick” list.) I hate the fact that we’d be drafting Kanter based on one Nike Hoops Summit game and a handful of practices in a Chicago gym.
Kanter started his career playing pro ball in Turkey, and was off to a great start. Until someone advised him to move to the United States and enroll in college to get in on the NBA minor league. Great idea. Except he was a professional basketball player and received compensation for his services. Apparently the internet doesn’t exist in Turkey, if it did, I’d have to imagine that Kanter’s advisors would have taken 10 minutes and looked up the NCAA’s eligibility rules. That’s the sort of thing that makes me worry about the kind of guys that my team’s players have hanging around. Stupid doesn’t equal nefarious, but it’s still stupid.
I’ve heard some rumors that the Cavaliers were going to go after Greg Oden in free agency, and if Oden signed here, they’d package the #4 pick with JJ Hickson and go after a big time player on the trade market. Yes, Please.
After the Toronto Raptors pick a big Lithuanian who’s name I can’t pronounce with the fifth pick, there will be more picks than I’m going to predict. Like I said in the title, this is a (Not) Mock Draft, which means that I can sit around and hope that Jimmer Fredette will be available in the second round.