A weak draft grew weaker when several top prospects stayed in school rather than risk coming out before a lockout. But there's still enough talent in the class of 2011 to make a few talent evaluators look like geniuses—at least by 2015, when many of these raw prospects will have adapted to the pro game
June 19, 2011
DUKE // PG
The 6'2" Irving is an explosive scorer with an edginess that reminds scouts of Chris Paul. He'll never replace LeBron, but Irving can be Cleveland's floor leader for the next decade.
ARIZONA // PF
Williams is the consensus second-best prospect, but Minnesota already has All-Star forward Kevin Love—which means the T-Wolves may trade Williams on draft night or pick Enes Kanter.
TURKEY // PF-C
Kanter, 19, might have gone No. 1 had the NCAA not ruled him ineligible at Kentucky because of the money he earned as a pro back home. He has skills, a high motor and an NBA-ready body (6'11", 272 pounds).
LITHUANIA // PF-C
The best Lithuanian big man since former Cleveland star Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the 19-year-old Valanciunas (6'11", with a 7'6" wingspan) provides an inside presence to go with Irving.
KENTUCKY // PG-SG
Mature for his age (19), Knight has the speed, vision and body control to excel in Toronto's up-tempo scheme. He will take—and can make—the big shots, averaging 17.3 points as a freshman.
CZECH REPUBLIC // PF
A versatile big man (6'11", 230) who plays hard, Vesely, 21, hit only 44.4% from the line for Partizan Belgrade. As his strength develops, he could become a rangy defender who covers both sides of the lane.
CONNECTICUT // PG
Is he big enough? Many teams view the 6'1" Walker as a third guard off the bench, though in Sacramento he would be an excellent complement starting alongside 6'6" Tyreke Evans.
CONGO // PF-C
Whether he's older than he claims (he says he's 18) should make no difference to Detroit, which will begin to rebuild its defense around this 6'9", 243-pound shot blocker who's reminiscent of Ben Wallace.
SAN DIEGO ST. // SF
Gerald Wallace was traded to the Trail Blazers in February, creating an opening for the 6'7" Leonard, a quality rebounder who can defend several positions and score facing up and posting up.
WASHINGTON ST. // SG
An excellent shooter with the ability to drain jumpers off the dribble, the 6'7" Thompson could provide instant offense to a heavily injured team that finished last in scoring in 2010--11.
KANSAS // PF
Golden State needs scoring in the post, and the 6'9", 230-pound Morris (17.2 ppg, 57.0% FG as a junior last year) can supply that right away, as well as the skill to step out and make a jumper.
BYU // PG
Since when is being a local hero a negative? Despite being a tweener at 6'2", Fredette is an NBA-caliber shooter and scorer, and Utah can use someone who's a draw—especially after a lockout.
FLORIDA ST. // SF-PF
Porous Phoenix will be grateful for the 6'9" Singleton's defense, and with Steve Nash passing him the ball (at least for one year), he will be an immediate threat as a scorer.
COLORADO // SG
A slashing scorer who can also work the boards (20.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg as a sophomore last season), the 6'6" Burks will provide backcourt size when he plays alongside 6-foot point guard Kyle Lowry.
MOREHEAD ST. // PF
A 6'7" banger who thrives on dirty work, Faried may not start, but he'll earn big minutes. Rebounding translates from college to the NBA, and Faried averaged 14.5 boards as a senior.
TEXAS // SG-SF
Philadelphia needs shooting help, and the 6'7" Hamilton (18.6 ppg, 38.5% 3FG as a sophomore last year) is among the best spot-up talents in the draft. He also averaged 7.7 rebounds.
TEXAS // PF
New York has stars; it needs the 6'8" Thompson's blue-collar board work and production down low (7.8 rpg and 54.6% FG last year as a freshman). He has to sharpen his foul-shooting, though (48.7%).
KANSAS // PF
Marcus's slightly bigger twin—the only other brothers to have ever been taken in the first round of the same draft were Brook and Robin Lopez in 2008—could be a strong defender off the bench.
USC // C
Charlotte needs a true center, and the 6'11", 260-pound Vucevic (the son of a former Yugoslavia national-teamer) has the size as well as burgeoning skills around the basket.
LITHUANIA // PF
Though he's a 7-footer, the lanky Motiejunas (who weighs 220 pounds) won't be a force inside. But Minnesota can take advantage of his playmaking skills and savvy on the perimeter.
UCLA // SF
Honeycutt fancies himself the second coming of Tayshaun Prince, but the 6'8" 187-pounder first needs to improve his strength and his shooting (12.8 ppg, 40.6% FG as a sophomore last season).
PROVIDENCE // SG
Denver is excellent in player development, and Brooks is a 6'5" scorer (24.6 ppg as a senior) who, despite a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, should fit nicely in George Karl's rotation.
TENNESSEE // SF-PF
The 6'8" Harris (15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg in his only season with the Volunteers) could become a solid Jared Dudley--type for Houston, contributing off the bench at both forward spots.
SAN DIEGO HIGH // PF-C
Tyler set himself back by skipping his senior year then playing two seasons overseas. (He lasted 10 games in Israel and played 33 in Japan.) But at 6'11", 262 pounds, with a 7'5" wingspan, he has size and upside.
GEORGIA TECH // PG-SG
Boston will begin transitioning to the next era, so why not invest in an athletic 6'5", 220-pound combo guard who has the potential to be a lockdown perimeter defender?
BOSTON COLL. // PG-SG
A recent knee injury kept Jackson out of the predraft combine and hurt his stock. But Dallas can afford to be patient with the 6'3" scorer (18.2 ppg, 50.3% FG as a junior last season).
KANSAS // PG
Can coach Avery Johnson hammer Selby (7.9 ppg, 2.2 apg in his only season with the Jayhawks) into a consistent playmaker with a reliable jumper? A good gamble at this pick.
DUKE // SF
He's not flashy, but the four-year Blue Devils starter is a proven winner who can come off the bench and contribute in Tom Thibodeau's system, which places a premium on work ethic.
MONTENEGRO // PF
As it has with other European draftees, San Antonio can afford to let the 6'10" Morotic, 20, stay overseas for a couple of years to develop. He scored 6.6 ppg and shot 50.0% for Real Madrid last year.
LATVIA // SF
A young (18), thin (6'10", 210 pounds) shooter, Bertans impressed scouts with his jumper at the Nike Hoop Summit in April—and Chicago needs to surround Derrick Rose with three-point threats.
SCAN FOR BONUS VIDEO
For a breakdown and video highlights of the five most intriguing players in the draft, download the free Microsoft Tag Reader app to your smartphone at http://gettag.mobi and then scan the tag above.