We thought about having our own mock draft, but then remembered that there are already too many mock drafts by uninformed half-wits, and we have less insider knowledge than that obnoxious PA announcer that yells “Let’s go Mavs! LET’S GO MAVS!” We couldn’t let draft day go by, however, without venturing some opinions on the worst draft since 2006. Without further ado. . .
Which predicted lottery pick will be out of the NBA before his rookie contract is up?
Jordan Durlester: Brandon Knight. A poor man's Tyreke Evans. I'll give him a pass if he brings back the cornrows.
Franklin Mieuli: Kemba Walker. There are a lot of candidates in this draft, but Kemba takes the cake. Since when did a ten game stretch take precedence over a 100 game body of work? Yes, he played great in the Big East and NCAA tournament, but he's still an undersized, shoot-first point guard. We've heard this story before. Best case scenario is Allen Iverson (and Kemba is NOT Allen Iverson), but a better comparison is a player like Aaron Brooks, JJ Barea, Jonny Flynn etc., and the are the GOOD compareables.
Alex Maki: Who cares? I just heard the news that Kurt Rambis is getting let go as the coach of the Timberwolves!! Sorry, had to get that out there. Anyway, I got to go with Jan Vesely out of the Czech Republic. Given the fact that this draft is weaker than usual (don't drink the kool-aid they have been trying to sell recently), there are really a few prime candidates here. But Vesely is especially suspect. First of all, I think any person transitioning to the NBA from Europe has the potential to have problems making their game work over here. So strike one. Strike two is that he can't really shoot. Yes, he shoot wells close to the rim and can finish, but if he hopes to really play small forward, he cannot just camp out in the lane and dunk home offensive rebounds and alley-oops. Strike three? The only thing the scouts laud is his "athleticism." Where has focusing only on "athleticism" gotten the Timberwolves the last 2 years?
Jacob Greenberg: Though he constantly goes in and out of the lottery in mock drafts, Bismack Biyombo is my (admittedly safe) vote. It's hard to give B-Smack any benefit of the doubt, as he only worked out for a handful of teams in the USA, so he doesn't have a large body of work to reference. However, Newsday's Alan Hahn reports via Twitter that a scout summarized a Biyombo workout by saying that "he went 1-on-none and lost." That doesn't seem to bode well for the future, and, given recent flameouts from other African lottery picks, most of whom were big men (examples include Hasheem Thabeet, DeSagana Diop, Mouhamed Sene, and Michael Olowakandi), I think Biyombo may get a shorter leash than most when it comes to development.
Joe Bernardo: Kawhi Leonard. I hate to root against Socal guys, but his lack of size and creativity are his biggest flaws. He may have gotten away with it in college, but it will be exposed to the fullest in the pros.
Long Bui: Definitely a European.
Which non-lottery pick will have the best career (bonus points if you pick a second rounder)?
Jordan Durlester: Nikola Vucevic. Got to stick with the big Serb out of USC for all the reasons listed in the post and then some. Dude can play.
Franklin Mieuli: I was at Allen Fieldhouse on December 2nd when UCLA lost by 1 to Kansas (on a blown call by the referee, but that's besides the point). Kansas had two sure-fire first rounders in the Morris twins, and a second rounder in Josh Selby, yet Tyler Honeycutt was clearly the best player on the court. He killed them all on the way to 33 points on 11-15 shooting (and 5-6 from behind the arc). He is going to be good player in this league for years to come. That also tells you what I think about the Morris twins.
Alex Maki: Kenneth Faried. By all accounts this is a guy that works his ass off and is dedicated to excelling at the small things. That is the type of player that an NBA team can always find an excuse to give playing time to for a long while. Even if his offensive game never really explodes, he can rest on his defense, rebounding, and improving post presence.
Jacob Greenberg: This draft has been characterized as solid, if not particularly star studded. There are a number of players who could have productive careers as skilled role players over the long term. Kyle Singler, I think, may be a step above the rest. He has an all around solid offensive game, surprising quickness and shrewdness on the defensive end, great basketball IQ, a winning mentality, and like all Duke players not named Corey Maggette, a very coachable demeanor. If he goes in the 25-30 range, as is widely predicted, he could join either the Celtics (25th), the Mavericks (26th), the Bulls (28th and 30th) or the Spurs (29th). All of those programs would provide the same type of structure and stability Singler is used to at Duke, and barring some unforeseen developments, the opportunity to play meaningful games on perrenial winning teams. I could see Singler becoming a more skilled Shane Battier, and one of the league's more lauded "glue guys" down the road.
Joe Bernardo: Tough question. Picking the right player in the draft is such a crap shoot and I don't envy any GM (well, maybe Neil Olshey since Elgin Baylor and Mike Dunleavy didn't necessarily set the bar very high). So, I'm going with a SG who has a good shot, savvy moves, and a tough heart, MarShon Brooks.
Long Bui: Nikola Mirotic. He plays against the highest level competition in Europe and possesses good size and a decent jump shot. He’ll also have a couple more years to develop before crossing the pond furthering increasing his chances for stateside success.
Which, year in year out, is the best drafting team in the NBA?
Jordan Durlester: The Spurs without question. Phenomenal at assessing talent and making the right picks to fit into their system.
Franklin Mieuli: The Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City: Sure Kevin Durant fell into their lap, but they also drafted Glen Davis and Carl Landry the same night (trading them away however...) 2008 brought Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, 2009 brought James Harden and Rodrigue Beaubois, and 2010 brought Eric Bledsoe. That is a hell of a four year run.
Alex Maki: I am going to have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. Really for one mega-reason. The fact is that they are always a successful team and rarely have a high draft pick, but whenever I tune in to watch one of their games they have some guys I have never even heard of that are contributing. And over and above that, they drafted their own mega studs! Yes, the Duncan choice was not very hard. But they took a flyer on Ginobbli and hit that one over the Green Monster, never to be seen again. And they were dead on with their late first round selection of Tony Parker. They know what they are doing, even if they only ever pick at the end of the rounds.
Jacob Greenberg: Given their typical draft position and meteoric expectations, it's hard to argue for any team besides the San Antonio Spurs. Their highest pick since 1998 (the year after drafting Tim Duncan #1 overall) was the 20th pick of the 2010 1st round (which they used to select Oklahoma State's James Anderson, who showed flashes of potential and progress at the end of the season). Despite their typically adverse draft position, Team Buford - Popovich have perfected the art of maximizing underhyped talent. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter were all late first round or early-to-mid second round picks. They have served as perfect complimentary pieces during the final years of Duncan's career, and are all legitimate building blocks for the future. It's also worth mentioning that the Spurs have identified and developed players who have had quality careers with other teams, such as Luis Scola, Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Goran Dragic and Ian Mahinmi.
Joe Bernardo: San Antonio Spurs. Yes, David Robinson and Tim Duncan were no-brainers, but check out some of their late 1st rounders and 2nd rounders they drafted: Tony Parker, GINOBLI!!!!!!, Leandro Barbosa, Luis Scola, "No ACLs" Dejuan Blair, George Hill, Beno Udrih, Goran Dragic, and...2011 Champion Ian Mahinmi!
Long Bui: As a life long fan I’m bias towards the Spurs front office twin tower pairing of RC and Pop and I won’t further expound as you guys have basically hit on every meaningful point. I do think though there is a little bias involved in that it’s so much easier to pick well from the back of the draft because there really aren’t expectations place on late picks. In five years if… your late round pick in the first round is still a contributing member of any team? Win. Second round pick still in the NBA and not a complete joke? Win. I know the stipulation is year in and year out, but entertain the GSW for a hot sec, usually picking at the front where the stakes are highest: Ellis, Steph Curry, Pietrus, Dunleavy (a stretch), JRich, Jeff Foster, Murphy, Biedrens, Gilbert, Marc Jackson, and we can’t forget, the 2000 immortalized version of VC. Granted they gave up too early on most of them, but that’s damn good talent to have identified in just the last decade.
Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams?
Jordan Durlester: D-Will hands down. I admit I have a strong bias, being an Arizona alum and huge fan, but dude has an upside like no other in this draft. Get out of here with all this tweener talk and go back and watch the Duke game in the tournament...filthy.
Franklin Mieuli: Do I have to choose? Kyrie Irving played half of his freshman season for a school whose players are consistently overrated in the draft, and Derrick Williams falls into that awkward spot between SF and PF that is best suited for a 20 minute a night scorers off of the bench. I'm not enthralled by either.
Alex Maki: Irving. While I hope that the Timberwolves keep the #2 pick and take Derek Williams, I think he would be closer to the 4-6 pick in a stronger draft. I am a little skeptical his outside game will translate. I think he has the ability to be very good, but there is a certain chance he will become only a third-best player on a good team. Meanwhile, Irving has demonstrated, albeit in a smaller sample size, that he has all of the skills it takes to be successful. They both will be good, but I will take Irving in this one.
Jacob Greenberg: Irving. He's a surefire top shelf point guard who will have a great career, and will embrace the challenge of restoring the Cavaliers to pseudo-relevance. I expect him to win Rookie of the Year in 2012 -- provided there is a season.
Joe Bernardo: Cleveland goes the safe route with Irving.
Long Bui: Irving. I admit that I haven’t watched much of Derek Williams, but Kyrie seems the “safest” bet in this draft. At worst he’ll be a serviceable starting PG, think Luke Ridnour with speed, handles, court vision, and the ability to finish. Ok, so not Luke Ridnour. He can actually shoot (something that often equates success in the NBA), can penetrate with either hand and finish around the rim or dish out, and by all accounts, is a hard worker and good leader. While not as explosive as more recent PGs like Rose, Wall, Westbrook, or as skilled as DWill or CP3, he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that would scream total bust. Yes, it’d be nice hit green every time, especially with the no. 1 pick, but you also don’t want to find yourself playing Kevin Costner on the 18th.