The 2011 NBA Draft seems stronger than the basketball establishment believes

Many analysts are complaining that the upcoming NBA Draft will be the weakest draft in living memory. I looked at many of the prospect’s statistical resumes, and I cannot agree.

At the top of the draft, PG Kylie Irving looks like a much better prospect than last summer’s number one selection, PG John Wall. In his admittedly brief college career, Irving shot the ball much better than Wall did in his one season at Kentucky. Moreover, Irving avoided turnovers much better than Wall did, and ultimately posted a far better “Win Score” than the Wizard guard (Wall posted a Win Score of 8.61 per 48 minutes, while Irving posted a WS48 of 14.89).  In fact, Irving’s production in college was so impressive, he invites comparisons with the great Chris Paul. John Wall never did.

The next prospect on everyone’s list, Derrick Williams, looks good as well. He has good size and he produced well at Arizona. His collegiate “True Shooting” Percentage was off the charts (69%).  He has all the markings of a productive pro player. **Let me stop here and inject the standard caveat that “you never know” with NBA prospects. That’s why I hate speculating about the draft, but for some reason everyone loves when I do, so I feel I have to do my best.**

So, by my standards, there are two more encouraging prospects at the top of this summer’s draft than you had at the top of last summer’s draft.

Now, if you keep going you run into the annual “why the fuck is this guy rated so high?” prospects. Number one in this camp is the Kentucky guard Brandon Knight. His collegiate numbers do not project well at all to the pro ranks.

Then you have the annual foreign “pig in a poke”. Every summer some foreign prospect rises up the draft despite having the shittiest production numbers on his resume. This summer that prospect is a fellow named Enos Kanter. Everyone is hot for the guy, so I expected to find that he dominated his European competition.  He did not.  Apparently he played only four games in Europe. In those four, he produced nearly nothing. Yet he is a top prospect in the National Basketball Association draft based on his size and, I guess, workouts. The team that drafts him is essentially saying, “Monte, I want door number two”. Behind that door they may find Arvydas Sabonis. More likely they will find Johan Petro or a goat. (Here’s a funny one. One of the other foreign mystery prospects is named Jonas Valanciunas. I know nothing about him except that NBAdraft.net has compared him to “Spencer Hawes/Primo Brezec”. That’s like describing a Packers defensive back prospect as a combination of “Jarrett Bush and Ahmad Carroll”. Talk about damnation by analogy.) 

Next you have what I label the “flawed diamond” prospects. These are productive college players, normally upperclassmen, who do not quite fit the ideal professional profile. A couple of summers ago the flawed diamond was Stephen Curry. He has overcome his perceived deficiency (unproven ballhandling skills) and has produced well in his short NBA career. This summer the flawed diamond prospects are PG Kemba Walker and PG Jimmer Ferdette. Both produced good numbers in their college careers, but each is too small to play the position that fits his skills, shooting guard.  Both probably need to be paired with a Paul Pressey, Scottie Pippen, or Oscar Robertson type to be productive.  That would relieve them from ballhandling duties on offense so that each could maximize his strength — outside shooting.  At the same time, a bigger ballhandler would relieve each from having to guard a bigger opponent on defense.

Beyond those prospects, you find players with decent college resumes. Last season I did not find such players.  That is why I think this summer’s draft could feature more wins produced than last season’s.

I’ll dig deeper into the talent pool in the next couple of days.

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One Response to “The 2011 NBA Draft seems stronger than the basketball establishment believes”

  1. jbrett Says:

    Ty,

    Can’t speak for everyone else, but what I appreciate most about your draft commentary is that it’s unrestrained, uncensored, and unabashedly not shilling for anyone’s private or corporate agendas. You just let fly with what you believe to be fair and accurate, and you base it on something other than who might be the next (fill in the blank with someone people only think can play).

    I’ve paid little attention to the draft this year, but I enjoy the honest, tempered assessments you provide.

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