June 25, 2011

NBA draft leaves some unanswered questions

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport. Because of the NBA draft, we have an extra-long version of the Roundtable this week, with four questions.

QUESTION 1: Which team in the lottery made the most surprising pick?

David Fox's answer:
After watching Kansas the past three seasons, I was surprised to see Markieff Morris drafted ahead of his twin, Marcus, at the end of the lottery. Marcus always was the better college player, and now here's Markieff taken one spot before Marcus. That was the most surprising aspect of the pick, but San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard and USC's Nikola Vucevic were on the board at the time, too.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
This was called one of the weakest drafts in a while, and I think the number of international players going in the top 10 was an indication that a lot of NBA teams didn't like the available college talent. I was surprised that Markieff was the first Morris twin pick, I was surprised that Klay Thompson and Jimmer Fredette went so early (I think both will be productive offensively; I just thought physical limitations would hurt both in terms of their "draftability") and I was surprised that Alec Burks - who is a bad outside shooter - went 12th overall. But those surprises were mild compared to Tristan Thompson going fourth. He's a hard-working guy who does a lot of the necessary dirty work, but fourth overall? Interesting.

Jason King's answer:
I'm shocked Texas' Tristan Thompson went fourth overall to Cleveland. Defensively, he'll have a chance to make an immediate impact because of his ability to block and alter shots. He's also a really good person who will be a hard worker, a good teammate and a good ambassador for the organization. But he has such a long way to go offensively that I'm not sure he was worthy of the No. 4 pick. Again, I'm big on Thompson and felt he would've been a great selection late in the lottery. No. 4 just seemed too high.

Steve Megargee's answer:
The lottery featured plenty of international players whose names were unfamiliar to fans who don't follow the game closely, so I'll limit this to the lottery picks who played college basketball. While I expected Texas forward Tristan Thompson to be one of the first 10 picks, I didn't anticipate he would be taken as early as fourth overall. The move does make some sense when you think about it. I figured Kentucky's Brandon Knight and Connecticut's Kemba Walker would get selected before Thompson, but Cleveland already had taken Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first overall pick. That meant they probably were going to take a big man rather than a second guard with the fourth pick. So it came down to picking Thompson or one of the international players. Although Thompson really came on strong down the stretch in his freshman season, I didn't know if he had the polish or potential to warrant the No. 4 overall pick. That he got taken fourth is a testament to the fact that this draft lacked any can't-miss stars at the top.


QUESTION 2: Which rookie makes the biggest impact next season (assuming there is a season, of course)?

David Fox's answer:
This will be a cop-out, but it's going to be Kyrie Irving. He was pretty much the only sure thing in the draft. Really, there's no reason to go out on a limb for top rookie. Most of the recent rookies of the year seem obvious in retrospect: Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant. We know Irving is going to play. We know Cleveland needs him, if for no other reason than to breathe some life back into the franchise. Analysts keep comparing Irving to Chris Paul, who was the 2005-06 rookie of the year. Those comparisons could continue.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Detroit shouldn't have been as bad as it was last season, and the Pistons' pick of Brandon Knight should help them immensely next season. Knight is a smart guy - both in terms of GPA and in basketball IQ - and he's also a gutty player. He will be an excellent fit, and because he is going to a better team than Kyrie Irving, I think Knight makes the bigger impact simply because he won't have to do as much.

Jason King's answer:
The easy answer here is Kyrie Irving, who should start from the get-go and contend for Rookie of the Year honors. Even though I like John Wall and Derrick Rose better - mainly because of their superior athleticism - I think Irving can impact his team in a similar way because of his selflessness, his high basketball IQ and his versatility. There just isn't much this guy can't do. I'm also looking forward to watching Jimmer Fredette and Klay Thompson. I wouldn't be shocked if each of them averaged 13-16 points per game.

Steve Megargee's answer:
There's a reason point guards keep getting taken with the first overall pick. They tend to have immediate success. Duke's Kyrie Irving isn't quite as polished as John Wall or Derrick Rose were when they entered the NBA, as a toe injury limited Irving to 11 games in his lone season in college. Irving also might not have as much upside as either of the two former John Calipari pupils, but he's a solid point guard who immediately becomes the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise. While he might never be an elite player, Irving should move right into the lineup and remain a starting point guard for several years to come. And I frankly don't see too many other immediate starters when I look at the lottery picks, though Derrick Williams in Minnesota and Kemba Walker in Charlotte may be exceptions.


QUESTION 3: Is there a second-rounder you think can thrive in the NBA?

David Fox's answer:
A number of the second-round guards will be intriguing to watch over the next year or so. Isaiah Thomas was one of my favorite college players at Washington. He's 5 feet 8, so that's going to limit his impact. But he can shoot, he proved he can play point guard when Abdul Gaddy got hurt and he's confident. Darius Morris was projected as a possible first-rounder. He probably could have used another year in college with a Michigan team that could have been one of the best in the Big Ten. He was a second-rounder, but at least he goes to a team that needs a point guard in the Lakers. And then there's Josh Selby, the No. 1 player in the 2010 class. He has the ability to excel, but he had the most frustrating season of a top recruit in several years.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think Butler guard Shelvin Mack can help the Wizards. For one, he brings a winner's mentality. He also plays good defense, is physical and possesses a seemingly innate ability to do what is needed when it is needed. He's not going to start, but I think he can be a solid backup at point and even as an undersized shooting guard. I also think Kyle Singler with Detroit and Justin Harper with Orlando can be productive. Harper has a nice 3-point stroke, and if you've seen the Magic play, that's a must to see any kind of minutes for Stan Van Gundy.

Jason King's answer:
I really like what Orlando Magic second-rounder DeAndre Liggins brings to the table. He has long arms, great athleticism and takes genuine pride in playing good defense. He's a big-time pest. Liggins never will be a star, but he could hang around the NBA for a long time and make a lot of money as a role player if he maintains a good attitude and work ethic. I liked this pick a lot.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Michigan's Darius Morris improved as much as any college point guard in the country and would have appeared on several preseason All-America teams had he stayed in school. He fell into the second round primarily because of his lack of an outside shot, but guards can improve their shooting ability over time whereas they can't do much about their height. Morris, listed as 6-4 by Michigan last season, already has adequate height for a point guard. He's an outstanding distributor who enters an ideal situation with the Los Angeles Lakers, who started the aging Derek Fisher at point guard and need an infusion of youth in their backcourt. Morris, a Los Angeles native, should have a happy homecoming. I also think UCLA's Malcolm Lee (taken 43rd by Minnesota) could find a home in the league because of his outstanding perimeter defense and that Richmond forward Justin Harper has the kind of shooting ability that could make him an ideal fit for an Orlando team that relies heavily on the 3-pointer.


QUESTION 4: So, who goes No. 1 next year?

David Fox's answer:
It's just too tough to pick someone. The analysts seem to have settled on incoming Kentucky forward Anthony Davis. The recent track record is for the top point guard to go No. 1, but the 2012 draft is top heavy with forwards and (apparently) weak on point guards. After Davis, we have three sophomore frontcourt players - Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Baylor's Perry Jones - who could have been high picks this year but elected to return to school. The track record for two-and-dones, though, is mixed. I could see all of them flourishing next season, but I also could see all three taking enough of a dip during their sophomore seasons or during draft workouts to fall in the lottery. At this point, there are too many intriguing college freshmen and sophomores to watch next season for me to say with any confidence who will be the top pick. I'd rather watch the season first.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Harrison Barnes needs to stay worrying about teams he won't want to play for because he's going to go No. 1. He certainly didn't live up to the unprecedented hype - a preseason All-America selection? - early in the season. But the light clicked on midway through the season, and then he started flashing the skills and talent that made everybody drool while he was in high school. He's a solid all-around talent, and his offensive ability for a guy who is 6-8 is going to make him extremely attractive to whichever NBA team drafts No. 1 next season. (No NBA team has drafted No. 1 in back-to-back years since the ping-pong ball was extremely kind to Orlando in 1992 and '93, so chances are good that Barnes won't be joining Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.)

Jason King's answer:
I expect North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to improve as much as any player in the country next season. Mix in all the intangibles he brings off the court and in the huddle, and I think he'll be the No. 1 pick.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Recent history suggests I pick someone who hasn't begun his college career yet, since a one-and-done player has been taken first in four of the past five years (Ohio State's Greg Oden in 2007, Memphis' Derrick Rose in 2008, Kentucky's John Wall in 2010 and Irving this year). But I'm going to guess that the trend ends next year when North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes goes first. Keep in mind that this time last year, most mock drafts projected that Barnes would leave after his freshman year and get taken first overall. Barnes had a so-so start to his freshman season, but he played extremely well down the stretch to lead North Carolina's second-half surge that ended one win shy of a Final Four appearance. Barnes will need to build on that momentum next season to have any chance of getting taken first. NBA teams typically pick a point guard or a big man first overall, which doesn't bode well for Barnes' chances. But as a 6-8 forward with perimeter skills, Barnes has the type of game that should thrive in the NBA. I don't think the team picking first overall will overlook his star potential.




 

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