2011 NBA Draft Top 11 Prospects: Part 1

We’re a week away from the 2011 NBA draft, and I know I’m so thrilled I’m sweating. Drafts mean I generally sit around at my computer watching highlights of players and reading profiles about them and then watching the highlights again and you get the idea. Like the NFL draft, I’m no official expert, but I know what I’m talking about and I get really excited about all of this draft hysteria.

To kick off this year’s NBA draft coverage, I’ll give you the 11 players that I think will be the best out of this year’s class. There will be two parts to this list (11-6 and 5-1) as well as a third part that I’ll set up in a little.

Here are some things about my mock draft that you’re going to notice right away that will need some explanation:

1) There are no foreign players in it — There is a simple reason for this, and it’s not that I hate foreign players. I love American players. That’s not it either.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think there is a general lack of a consistent, reliable way to measure how their games will translate to the Association. Foreign players are a crapshoot in general and lately, they’ve been coming up snake-eyes. That doesn’t mean that they’ll suck this year, it means that we don’t know what will happen.

If you need another reason, there’s also: I don’t know nearly as much about these players as I do about the American collegiate players. I’ve been watching the American players pretty in-depth for a while and I generally know how they all play. I can watch a player throughout an entire game any night of the week during the collegiate season, which is in no way comparable to the short highlight clips I’ve seen of foreign players. Sure, they all shoot 100% in the highlights, but what happens during the other 98% of the game? I don’t know. Odds are only NBA scouts know, and that’s their job.

I’ll take a running stab at predicting how these players will turn out in a third part of this list, but it’s really only in the interest of equal coverage, it doesn’t mean I know them as well.

2) In the case of many players, an expert or even a dedicated fan like me could ramble on and on and on about strengths, weaknesses, abilities, advantages, disadvantages and so forth ad nauseam. The tricky thing is that this doesn’t mean anything to the regular fan. It’s interesting, but you can tell us all we need to know about a player in a much more efficient way — comparing them to a current NBA player. It should be assumed that no players are 1:1 matches with one another, but I’ll match these 11 players with an NBA player that you’ll probably know to give you a good understanding of what they can offer to a team. Feel free to debate that or suggest other players if you’d like.

3) This is a sports blog, but it’s more like a sports blog that still lives in the ‘90s. It should be assumed that there is no better way to analyze an NBA prospect than to compare him to an NBA JAM: Tournament Edition player. Sure, these guys will have to play real-life basketball in 3D on a court for money, but can you honestly say that you know the strengths and weaknesses of today’s players as well as you know the ups and downs of the Mourning-Johnson-Bogues two-legged stool? Do you really think that you know the stats of today’s players as well as you know the ratings of the Grant-Hardaway-Anderson superpower? Come on.

2011 NBA Draft Top 11 Non-Foreign Draft Prospects Part 1

Kawhi Leonard

11. KAWHI LEONARD, SF San Diego State — Leonard is a player that a lot of people are particularly high on, but I’m not entirely sold. He didn’t look outstanding in the combine, but is truly versatile on offense and can guard a lot of different players on defense too. A lot of really flexible wing players have gone in the lottery like Leonard will, but I don’t feel like a lot of them translate too well into the NBA. He might just be the next chapter of a sad story of players expected to fill a lot of holes on a team with too many.

NBA Comparison: Most people would say Gerald Wallace because both of them have dreadlocks. Wallace is actually a pretty accurate picture, but I think Shawn Marion is a little bit better.

NBA JAM Comparison: Jamaal Mashburn. He’s an awesome do-it-all player and it’s a shame the Mavericks were so bad in this game, because Mashburn is one of the best players around.

Chris Singleton

10. CHRIS SINGLETON, SF Florida State — This is a player that I am in love with. I watched him in total awe for a few games and nearly drooled myself dry. He controls the game at all times. No matter where he is on the floor or who has the ball, Chris Singleton is one step ahead of everyone. Defensively, he’s hands-down the best player in this draft, maybe in several years of drafting. Offensively, he’s still better than average, but because of some naturally-assumed offense/defense exclusive dichotomy, no one believes he can really be a scorer in the league. I bet there are exactly 30 NBA coaches who have seen him move around a court and would jump at the opportunity to teach him to play offense.

NBA Comparison: Defensively, I think he’ll be nearly as good and as versatile as Ron Artest, so I think this is probably the best comparison on that side of the ball. Best match on offense is probably Trevor Ariza, only shoots less.

NBA JAM Comparison: Scottie Pippen. He’s fast and strong on defense with great hands for steals, but still versatile enough to shoot a decent percentage from deep.

Kenneth Faried

9. KENNETH FARIED, PF Morehead State — Kenneth Faried does one thing well: rebounding. It’s not a secret. It’s not a weakness either. It’s the best thing about him. Faried rebounds like Singleton defends. He’s all-effort-all-the-time when he’s positioning himself, a lot like Kevin Love was, and look how that turned out for him. The truth is that he can lead a team in rebounding from Day 1 but has a serious ceiling limiting how much he can score. The good news for him is that the NBA is a game where every rotation needs specialists like him. Ideally, every lineup has a scorer or two, a defender, a shot-blocker, a passer, and a rebounder. Sure, one guy could fulfill multiple roles, but it doesn’t happen often. Faried is a case of knowing exactly what you’re getting, and some team will be crazy enough about his effort and motor to get him early.

NBA Comparison: Reggie Evans is a perfect match. He plays every game knowing his role on the team and plays harder than everyone every night.

NBA JAM Comparison: Do I even need to say it? Dennis Rodman.

Marshon Brooks

8. MARSHON BROOKS, SG Providence — He put up all sorts of points in the Big East last year for a Providence team that was less than excellent and much closer to the worst team in the league. The good news is that he’ll be able to create a shot as soon as he steps on an NBA court. The bad news is that he won’t be the only option anymore and that might take some getting used to. The Friars featured an offense last season that was pretty much an Extra Large Marshon Brooks Special with Marshon Brooks on the side and Marshon Brooks Sauce covering the whole thing. And they washed it down with Marshon-Brooks Up. He won’t be the first option on any NBA teams next year. He might not even be the second choice. Still, he’s got great size for a two-guard and a 7’1” wingspan, so if he can get over the mental hurdles, this kid might be the best scorer out of this class.

NBA Comparison: I’ve seen a lot of people say Kobe here, but I like to try to match the players to a similar ability level. Brooks is probably the most like Stephen Jackson on a regular night or Jamaal Crawford on a really good night.

NBA JAM Comparison: Mark Price. A little bit weak, but maybe the most effective individual offensive player in the game.

Kyrie Irving

7. KYRIE IRVING, PG Duke — Kyrie Irving is probably going to be the first player drafted in this whole thing. And maybe he should be. But I certainly don’t think so. This draft is particularly point-guard heavy, and what do we really know about Irving? He missed an awful lot of last season. Sure, we saw him at the beginning of the year when the Dukies played some junior colleges and he made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s not like he stole the show. He could easily prove me wrong and win the ROY next year, but I tend to fall on the side of the fence that thinks players who get injured once early will get injured again pretty often. He hasn’t proven much to me when he did play, and the time he didn’t play speaks even louder. I’m down on him, but he’s undeniably so talented that I can’t rank him any lower than 7.

NBA Comparison: His biggest fans would have you believe Chris Paul, but I like his as a less-talented Deron Williams, who is actually just a less-talented Chris Paul.

NBA JAM Comparison: Gary Payton. This is tricky because real life Gary Payton and NBA Jam Gary Payton are two separate cats. The virtual Glove is an excellent passer who gets to the rim well and shoots great, but dunks poorly.

Jimmer Fredette

6. JIMMER FREDETTE, PG Brigham Young — First off, if you forgot my older post on Jimmer, you should catch up. Secondly, have you seen the kid? Sure he can shoot better than anyone in the draft and he can drive and get to the free throw line too, but I’m not talking about his game, I just mean have you seen him? His upper body looks like he should be wearing a unitard that says “MorMAN” and chasing American Gladiators contestants down the pyramid, literally bending them over backwards for daring to step foot off the ground. He’s built like a tank. And was in the elite ranks of every combine athletic test. He has the best body of the point guards and he does everything on offense. What’s not to like? I think NBA defensive coaches are going to be primed to get a guy this quick and strong into a system that will create mismatches. He has a bad rap for his defense, but so would you if your team needed 150% of your energy to stay afloat on offense.

NBA Comparison: People will say JJ Redick because they’re both white players who can shoot, but I’d view him way more like Derrick Rose, stronger than God and capable of creating any shot on his own. He’s a step slower than Rose, but so is the rest of the league. His defense isn’t as good either, but he’s a way better shooter. Jimmer’s easily the hardest player in this class to compare to a current player.

NBA JAM Comparison: Mitch Richmond. A super-rare blend of elite speed, power and shooting, Richmond was an undeniable force in that game.

To see the second part of this list, featuring players 5-1, click here.