I had the fun and luxurious time of being able to catch the entirety of the NBA Draft (it’s so nice to have Fridays off in my current grad school course!). I know many people are saying this Draft isn’t that much better, if at all, than last year’s ho-hum group, but I think there are quite a few interesting “niche” players who will hopefully get to show their talents this upcoming season (“hopefully” since there is still a high possibility of an obnoxious lockout; ugh). So, though we may have only a couple or so of possible superstar level players, I’m intrigued by what may come from this group.
First off: Kyrie Irving. What a humble and likable guy. Is he a future superstar, though? Regardless of whether he is or not, there is always room for point guards in this league who can execute the pick-and-roll, drive either side, and nail stop-and-pop jumpers. I could see him being a poor man’s Chris Paul. The biggest question to me is how well he will fit with coach Byron Scott and the woeful Cavaliers. We all saw how hard it was for John Wall to get the lousy Wizards involved, and Irving doesn’t have the same kind of explosive athleticism that Wall has. Coach Scott also has an unpredictable relationship with his point guards: while Chris Paul has nothing but nice things to say about him, we can’t forget the rocky dealings Scott had with Jason Kidd, who by all other accounts isn’t that difficult for other coaches to handle. Irving seems so nice, so I don’t think he’d butt heads with Scott, but I’m just hoping Scott doesn’t kill the kid’s confidence, especially since it won’t be easy for Irving running the offense of what is still truly a horrific squad in Cleveland.
As for Derrick Williams, I’m not quite as impressed as some others are with him. The Darvin Ham look-a-like appears to have more in common with Michael Beasley talent-wise, thankfully, but I don’t see a lot of intensity from him, just as with Beasley. I also can’t stand it when guys with post explosiveness on offense don’t become standout rebounders, and there are question marks surrounding his toughness on the boards.
There were a ton of young, lanky international players picked in this Draft, some who looked kind of impressive in short bursts, but whose intangibles are obviously more difficult to assess for those of us who have limited understanding stateside. Of all these guys, I was most impressed with Bismack Biyombo, Jan Vesely, and Nikola Mirotic. (editor’s note: do you think “Mirotic City” is a nickname that could catch on? Prince fans? Anyone?) Some were comparing Biyombo to Ben Wallace, but just from the clips I saw, he is HELLA more athletic than Wallace, possessing deer-like quickness for his size. He’s obviously raw at 18, but Serge Ibaka was also raw when he was picked, and he has turned out pretty good, no? Biyombo comes across as very intelligent and driven, too; futher, you can’t teach a 7’7″ wingspan, so this guy could end up leading the league in blocks in a few years.
As for Vesely, many are comparing him to Andrei Kirilenko, and I can see why, although I think Vesely has more scoring potential. The worst case scenario for him and some of these other international players is turning out to be another Darko Milicic – marvelous athleticism, yet can’t adjust to the NBA game.
Mirotic is the one some were especially high on, saying he could be like Luis Scola in four years. Of course, many teams aren’t willing to wait four years – maybe two or three max – which is probably why Mirotic fell to #23 when a lot of other foreign players were drafted higher.
Going back to some of the lottery picks, I put “like” check marks next to Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, and Alec Burks. One-by-one:
* Thompson looks like another Tyson Chandler type of player, and goodness knows there are ALWAYS NBA teams who need big guys in the post who actually play like big guys, high scorers or not.
* Knight appears intense and smart as heck (a 4.3 GPA, holy moly!). Barring injuries, solid players like him with a good head on their shoulders always last for years in the league.
* Walker looks and plays not that much unlike Dwyane Wade, just not as dominating and out-of-this-world talented, obviously. Also, you can’t teach clutch (right, LeBron?), and everyone should want a big shot maker like Walker on their team, whose drive and ability to score cannot be denied.
* I am nauseated by some of the Adam Morrison comparisons I’m seeing with Jimmer Fredette; Fredette moves NOTHING like Morrison, and he’s not a similar size at all. The Steve Nash comparisons, though probably generous, make much more sense – Fredette is just bulkier and stronger. Bottom line, he has a pro game, he has the moves, and he has the physicality to be a double digit scorer in the NBA easily. I don’t think he’ll be able to run an offense like Nash, and he’ll probably be a defensive liability (which Nash has always been), but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him get 15 or more points per game in the NBA consistently.
* Burks is described as “NBA ready” and “able to create his own shot.” He also has a “chip on his shoulder” and is mentored by none other than Chauncey Billups. There are always spots in the NBA for people like him.
As for some of the other first round picks I haven’t gotten to yet, I see Kawhi Leonard as being an indispensable hustle guy that will always make teams, I see Kenneth Faried as being an even more relentless version of Udonis Haslem, and Marshon Brooks as the potential steal of the draft with the highest possibility for a 20 points per game scoring average.
Finally, the second round obviously doesn’t deserve as much comment, but I liked what I heard about and saw from Kyle Singler, Shelvin Mack, Tyler “Tayshaun Prince” Honeycutt, and Davis Bertans (who Gregg Popovich likes already, and we all know the kind of talents Popovich has discovered late in the draft!).
So, that’s my take, and I have credentials because I said Michael Redd would be a 20 points per game guy back when no one thought he’d do anything in the pros, and I knew that Stromile Swift would suck! (Um, I also thought Acie Law would turn out really good, and that LaMarcus Aldridge would be too much of a wuss, so I’m not always accurate, heh heh.)