The Draft’s Deepest Position?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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2011 Draft Is Point Guard Heavy: The NBA is currently experiencing one of the greatest eras of point guard play that it has ever seen. The overall amount of talent at the position with guys like Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul is simply incredible.
With there being so much depth, quality point guard play has become an absolute necessity for teams interested in contending in the future.
It just so happens that the 2011 NBA Draft, which is just under three weeks away, is also loaded with intriguing point guard prospects. There are also a lot of very promising power forwards, but on the outset it appears that talent edge lies with the points.
Duke’s Kyrie Irving, UConn’s Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight of Kentucky hold the most promise of them all in both the short-term and immediate future. Irving appears to be a virtual lock for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ top overall selection. Knight and Walker will hear their names called shortly after with there being a high probability that they both could be off of the board in the top five. If not, there’s no way that either one of them will fall out of the top ten.
From there the drop off is a bit significant, but there is a large amount of potential contributors who will warrant serious consideration.
BYU’s Jimmer Fredette has reportedly been working out extremely well and there is some speculation building that he could work his way into the lottery. Fredette has been one of college basketball’s biggest stars over the last two years. Sometimes that leads to unrealistic expectations forming, but Fredette’s weaknesses are well documented at this point. Teams know that he’s a shooter first and foremost with defensive limitations. Whatever team selects him will understand that and likely have a vacant role that they feel comfortable with him filling.
Three guys with a lot of upside are Michigan’s Darius Morris, Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech and UCLA’s Malcolm Lee. All three are north of 6’3 and very impressive athletically. Morris was being slept on early on in the process, but has worked his way up the draft charts thanks to his pure point guard abilities, tremendous character and strong work ethic. If he develops a reliable jump shot chances are he’ll end up a starter one day.
Shumpert and Lee on the other hand have been busy proving to teams that they are capable of being full-time point guards. Although they struggled running the offense and making plays for others in college, they’re tough defensively and viable threats to create for themselves. With some more work and good coaching they could eventually shed the combo guard label.
Duke’s Nolan Smith and Butler’s Shelvin Mack also have that combo guard label stuck on them right now, which hurts their stock because neither has the ideal size necessary to play shooting guard in the NBA. What gets overlooked about them is their fiery competitiveness and big-game experience. Both are winners who won’t be fazed by the bright lights of the NBA. They may not be as productive in the NBA as they were the NCAA, but they will find ways to help their respective teams.
When it comes down to it, there are only 30 players who are going to be selected in the first round. Some very good point guards are going to still be around in the second round because there are only going to be so many teams looking to address that position in the first round.
That will lead to some very interesting transactions in the second round. As we all know, second round picks are shipped off in abundance on draft night. Teams will be able to trade in or buy a pick in order to get whoever they feel fits into their system and there will be plenty of options.
Boston College’s Reggie Jackson is currently one of the best players not projected to go in the first round. He was very productive as a member of the Golden Eagles, but has been limited with an injury throughout the draft process. He missed out on the combine in Chicago because of it and it could cost him a guaranteed contract too. However, he’s definitely a first-round talent who has a bright future in the league.
Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, Iowa State’s Diante Garrett, Illinois’ Demetri McCamey, Washington’s Isaiah Thomas, Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins and College of Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock all also have unique skill sets to the table and reasons to believe that they’ll be successful in the league. They’re all experienced and confident that they have a place in the league.
Rounding out this year’s point guard class is Texas’ Cory Joseph, a real wild card. In all honesty he should have stayed at Texas due to how much room his stock could stand to improve. He’s banking on someone believing in his development over the more proven players. His road will likely be very challenging and difficult.
Brown’s Underrated Quality: Former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown was officially named the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers this past week and the overwhelming feedback on his hiring has definitely been negative.
One year removed from the game, everyone seems to have forgotten just how tough of a situation Brown succeeded in at Cleveland.
Due to having perennial All-Star LeBron James nothing less than a championship was viewed as acceptable. Brown was unable to take the Cavaliers to those heights, but still did a fantastic job considering the cards he was dealt.
James’ supporting cast in Cleveland left a lot to be desire and that was really the biggest reason behind his departure. Yet, Brown still managed to keep them amongst the best in the league record-wise during the regular season. They were also one of the best defensive teams in the league throughout his tenure. His firing came as a result of Cavaliers’ ownership desperately trying to do whatever they could to keep James around. He became the scapegoat.
A big reason why Brown went into the interview process and won over the Lakers’ brain trust is because he is such a fine communicator. Connecting and reaching people has always been one of his strengths and in time every Laker, and their fan base, will buy into his philosophies and system.
“We targeted him and wanted him in the program when seeing him up in Denver and Washington doing a myriad of things: scouting and game planning for Bernie (Bickerstaff),” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said to HOOPSWORLD regarding Brown in the past. “We wanted him in the program because of his work ethic and knowledge of the game. When I brought him we put him on the bench and it didn’t take very long, the first preseason actually, to realize he had a knack for getting the respect of players very quickly, great confidence of his knowledge of the game and an ability to teach and communicate it. It was obvious he knew when a kick in the pants was necessary and a pat on the back was necessary and he was good at both. It was apparent very quickly that he had all those qualities.”
The Lakers’ next head coach was going to be received with some hesitation by their fan base purely because it’s impossible to completely replace a legend like Phil Jackson. He’s arguably the best head coach ever in the history of the NBA and left quite large shoes to fill. However, Brown deserves at least as season before receiving the kind of ridicule he’s currently being subjected to. Keep in mind, in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom the Lakers have four secondary players who are significantly better than anyone Brown had alongside James in Cleveland. This is the first time that Brown will actually have the tools to live up to the expectations set for him.
Yannis Koutroupis is a senior NCAA and NBA analyst for HOOPSWORLD. You can follow him on twitter.