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- Can The Raptors Contend Without Tanking?
- The Case Against Signing Steve Nash
- An Open Letter to Bryan Colangelo
- 5 Stupid Reasons NOT To Trade Bargnani
- The Gospel According to Allen Iverson
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Posted on June 22, 2011 | 4 Comments
It’s only one more day to go, and I have to say I don’t have any more of a handle of what’s going on than I did three months ago. And while I can say, like I could three months ago, that Kyrie Irving is most likely going to be picked #1, I can’t say it with any certainty. There isn’t one pick that I can, with any certainty, predict. So, if nothing else, it makes this draft a lot more exciting.
That’s not to say there isn’t any consensus among those apparently in the know. The majority of the more respected “mockers” agree that Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are going to go 1-2. After that, things get a bit murky. Most have Utah selecting Brandon Knight at 3 but a few have them selecting Enes Kanter. After that is when things get even more interesting.
Of course, this year’s draft doesn’t exactly have a plethora of great talent, so draft day may be exciting and interesting, but will it yield any stars? And what should teams and their fans really expect once all the dust settles?
Well, this is the draft, as I see it. And, as always, I see it mostly from a Raptor’s perspective.
WHO’S THE BEST?
The draft is always an interesting thing. Every year, players settle into their slots and teams rank players until no one can seem to see beyond that. In the 1998 draft, the top two prospects were widely considered to be Michael Olawokandi and Mike Bibby. The Clippers were basically choosing between those two players because they were the consensus two best prospects. Selecting someone else would have been a surprise and probably frowned upon. Of course, neither of those players ever became All-Stars, unlike Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki who all became perennial All-Stars and, respectively, Rookie of the Year, Finals MVP and MVP and Finals MVP. So in retrospect, the Clippers probably should have forgotten where the players were slotted and grabbed one of those guys. Of course, hind-sight is 20-20.
So who is going to be the best from this draft? Currently, the NBA seems to be on a roll with #1 picks. The last 3, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and John Wall have actually lived up to their billing and become, arguably, the best player from their draft class. That’s good news for Kyrie Irving. But what about the 2nd pick?
Last year it was Evan Turner, who I actually felt was a can’t miss prospect. Now, it’s really too early to judge his career, but as of right now, he wasn’t even one of the five best rookies. It’s really hard to take too much out of a draft after only one year, so let’s look back a year earlier, when Griffin was drafted.
That was kind of an odd year, as I don’t know many who actually thought that Hasheem Thabeet was the second best player in the draft, and as it turns out, he might not even be the 22nd best player form that draft. The 2nd best player from 2009 is really yet to be determined, but it says something when DeMar DeRozan, who was drafted 9th, has a good case to make for it eventually.
And then there’s 2008. The year when Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP was drafted. The consensus 2nd pick was Michael Beasley, who was traded just two years later for a couple of 2nd round picks. If that’s not a quick fall from grace, I don’t know what is. The two guys currently fighting it out for 2nd best player in the 2008 draft, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, were drafted 4th and 5th.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that just because everyone thinks Irving and Williams are the consensus two best prospects doesn’t mean at all they’ll end up as the two best players. In fact it’s likely they won’t.
SO WHO, GODDAMNIT?!
I think Irving has the best chance. He showed in a short time at Duke he’s a special player. He’s got that type of game that just seems transcendent. He’s mature, has a high basketball IQ, is a leader, can shoot, pass defend and knows how to win. The one big knock against him is that he’s not an elite athlete, like a Derrick Rose. The mantra seems to be that Rose and Wall are the new breed of PG and the type you need to get. Of course, the two teams in the Finals certainly didn’t have this new breed. I think what you need more is a smart PG who can hold his own and make his teammates better. Irving fits that bill. He may not be the next Derrick Rose, but he might be the next Deron Williams, and that’s not too bad.
Derrick Williams also has a chance. I think he’s either going to be Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley without the offcourt issues. It all depends on whether he can actually defend the 3 position, which is the only position he’ll be able to play in the NBA. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he eventually becomes a 30 ppg scorer, which is probably why so many teams are trying to nab the 2nd pick from Minnesota.
My darkhorse for future best player is Enes Kanter. As some of you know, I’ve been talking up this guy for months, despite only having seen a couple of games. I’ve also seen quite a number of clips of him in various games, but there are a few things I really like about the guy. First of all, he’s 19 and built like an NBA veteran. And he knows how to use it. A lot of young, big guys don’t seem to understand how to use their size. That’s not the case with Kanter.
Another thing I like about Kanter is that he is far more polished than a guy who has as little experience as he has should be. And he appears to have a high basketball IQ, too. To me, that’s astounding. If he has learned so much with so little game time, imagine how much he’ll learn with more experience?
Lastly, I like that, after not playing competitively for an entire year, he shows up to the Chicago combine and is in one of the best shapes there. That’s dedication and an indication that this guy is going to take his basketball career seriously.
It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a better athlete than originally thought. Anyone who says he’s going to be Rafael Araujo knows absolutely nothing.
THE POINT GUARD QUESTION
Probably one of the biggest questions among Raptor fans, right now, is who is better, Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight. A better question, however, should be whether you should pick either of them.
Let’s be clear, here. I have only 3 players in this draft I feel are safe bets. Irving Williams and Kanter (yes, Kanter) I think are, at the very least, going to be legit starters on any team. There are no doubt going to be others, but I couldn’t begin to tell you who. That’s not to say there aren’t other players I like more than others, but I have serious questions about every other players.
Now, if the Raptors end up with either Walker or Knight, I won’t hate the pick like I did when Andrea Bargnani was drafted. With Bargnani, I pretty much knew what his ceiling would be, and it’s about where he is right now. A very good offensive player who is awful on the boards and on defense. There are aspects of both Knight and Walker I love.
Knight is, by all accounts, an incredibly smart person with a high basketball IQ and with a pro-like dedication to the game. In fact, he’s considered to have a maniacal work ethic, much like DeMar DeRozan. A very good sign. He’s also a great shooter and very good athlete with a probability of becoming a very good defender.
My problem is that he’s not really a PG. In fact, he brings many of the same skills that Jerryd Bayless did when he was drafted just a few years ago. If that doesn’t give you pause, nothing will. And the Chauncey Billups counter (he can learn the PG position) only works if you expect Knight to also to finally get it after 5 year and 5 NBA teams.
Walker is a winner who is a born leader and lead a very mediocre team to an NCAA Championship. You have to like that pedigree. The downside, of course, is that did it by dominating the ball and shooting most of the shots. He’s going to win doing that in the NCAA, but not in the NBA. And before this season, when he wasn’t dominating the ball and taking most of the shots, he wasn’t nearly the prospect he is now. So can he find a roll on an NBA team when he’s not the best player, or is he going to be a Damon Stoudamire, who out up great numbers when he was the best player on a bad team, but couldn’t find his niche on a more talented team?
As I said, there are things I like about Walker and Knight, and questions I have about them. One thing I do wonder, though, is whether one of these two guys is who the Spurs are apparently after. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that it’s Knight, who would probably be the perfect replacement for Tony Parker and a great fit for the Spurs system.
IS THERE ANYONE ELSE YOU LIKE?
If Kanter is gone, then the Raptors will have a few people to choose from, including the two PGs. Three other players who I think they might choose from are Jonas Valanciunas, Kawhi Leonard and Bismack Biyombo. All three players have been in most top fives, at one time, but have dropped for various reasons. Valanciunas is considered by many to be the big man with the most potential, but it’s now known that he won’t be able to come into the NBA until 2012-2013. Normally, I can understand that being a deterrent, but there might not even BE a 2011-2012 season, so is him not showing up for a year really that big a problem?
My issues with Valanciunas stem not from his buyout situation, but with his penchant for fouling, which makes Amir look Wiltesque, in comparison, as well as his hands, which have, at times, appear rather stone-like, when catching passes.
Leonard, on the other hand, has freakishly large hands to go with a freakishly large wingspan, both of which help him on defense, where most believe he’ll make an impact right away. Whether he’s going to make Julian Wright look good on offense, is the question.
New coach, Dwayne Casey, and the Raptors brass, seem to recently be enamoured with Biyombo, who might end up being a powerhouse defensively. While 5 is a reach, at this point, for Biyombo, I wouldn’t be surprised if Colangelo picks up a 2nd lottery pick, as he mentioned he will try and do, to grab him.
In the end, if one the above players is picked by the Raptors, I’m open to them enough I will defer judgement for a while.
Tomorrow I’ll give my final analysis of the draft, much like I did last year.
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