For Part 1 of my NBA Draft Top 11 Non-Foreign Draft Prospects, click here.
2011 NBA Draft Top 11 Non-Foreign Draft Prospects Part 2
5. Tristan Thompson, PF Texas — The kid is a monster. He might be ranked worse on most other boards, but he’s tall and long and certainly moves around the court unlike other players his size. Thompson started this whole process projected as a lower 20s pick and has consistently moved up into almost a guaranteed lottery pick. Who didn’t see this coming? Every year, coaches and owners pick out athletic big guys like this and trick themselves into thinking that they’ll turn into something great. Every year, those guys disappoint. I think Thompson will be different because he really is a different kind of athlete and has a significantly more potent post offense than most players like this.
NBA Comparison: I think he’s a great match with Tyrus Thomas, except Thompson will probably be a little bit better. They’re built the same and have similar styles, but I like Tristan better on offense. Plus, their names are really close to the same thing.
NBA JAM Comparison: This was difficult. There are an awful lot of bigs in this game that resemble TT. My first thought was Olajuwon, but I’m trying to keep these comparisons in a similar ability level, and no one will ever be as good as Olajuwon. I passed up David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Dikembe before ultimately deciding on Derrick Coleman, which is still a significant compliment.
4. Alec Burks, SG Colorado — Burks is a player I’ve been saying was a top-5 talent all season. I know what you’re thinking, I went to Missouri, so I’m a Big 12 guy, that’s why there are two Big 12 players in my top 5. That might be true. But here’s something that is definitely true: Alec Burks is going to score points right away for an NBA team. He was borderline unguardable all season and as much as it pained me to watch him tear up the Tiger defense, I couldn’t help but predict him as a pro success. What makes Burks unique in this draft class is that there are a bunch of point guards at the top of the group, but no true two-guards on his level. If I had an SpreeGoogs NBA Draft Stamp of Approval For Future I-Told-You-So Bragging, it would go on Alec Burks.
NBA Comparison: I think he has he scoring ability of Brandon Roy, although he’ll need to put in a little bit of work in to build up to Roy’s body. But honestly, what NBA prospect already has an NBA body (besides Derrick Williams)?
NBA JAM Comparison: Anfernee Hardaway. Penny was one of the best shooters in the game and was most of the offense when paired with Horace Grant. Burks was most of the offense at Colorado, but the Buffs’ supporting cast was hardly as effective as the Spectacled Spectacular.
3. KEMBA WALKER, PG Connecticut — I don’t want to suggest that Kemba Walker won the NCAA tournament all my himself this year, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he owns 80% of that trophy. He creates shots. Walker one-on-one against any collegiate defender was a guaranteed beat-down. Is this sustainable in the NBA? Absolutely not. But I think Kemba played that way in college because that was the best way to win, not because it was all he could do. He could shoot it from outside if that were the best option. He could probably drive and kick if that was what the defense gave him. He’s got a lot of skills, so I see him adapting his game pretty easily and playing however he needs to in order to win games in the NBA. He’s also a very solid defender with super fast hands and the explosiveness to turn small mistakes into a coast-to-coast monster jam.
NBA Comparison: He has the size and skill set of one of my favorite players, Monta Ellis. Monta is a little bit quicker, but this comparison should show you how much I think of Kemba Walker.
NBA JAM Comparison: Glen Rice. He can shoot or dribble you to death, but no matter which poison he picks, you’re going to lose to him.
2. BRANDON KNIGHT, PG Kentucky — I liked Knight all year, but during the NCAA Tournament, he forced me to start loving him. He’s similar to Kemba Walker in one-on-one skills, but I like him more because he finishes at the rim better. If I were coaching a team made of all these rookies and I had to pick one player to take the final shot in a tie game, I’d run an iso for Brandon Knight. I’m sure a lot of Walker/Knight comparisons will be made in draft content everywhere, and it should be because they’re extremely similar and two of the best players available in the draft this year, but to me, Knight has Kemba by a nose.
NBA Comparison: Tony Parker. He’s going to get other people shots, but at any time, he could go right around everyone and get a layup.
NBA JAM Comparison: Clyde Drexler. A speedy shooter on the outside, but secretly he’s also got elite power and dunking ratings, making him a dominant finisher against any defender.
1. DERRICK WILLIAMS, SF/PF Arizona — Williams is going to be the player that makes this draft interesting. I’d imagine most experts will probably agree that he’s the best player around and has been playing NBA-style ball for two years at Arizona recently. But with Cleveland seemingly dedicated to Irving for the first pick, Williams is going to have most teams in the Association trying to scrape together a trade proposal for the Wolves to get him at 2. This means that my mock draft and most mocks will be permanently destroyed after his selection, but he is going to cause a big stir at 2 that ends up severely altering the way the rest of the draft shakes out. In terms of what he actually does, it’s probably simpler to describe what he doesn’t do, and I don’t really even know how to do that. Maybe he isn’t an elite passer. But he sure does rebound, shoot, defend and handle well. He’s just a pro. I usually hate the phrase “NBA-ready” but it actually seems appropriate here.
NBA Comparison: Antawn Jamison. I know Jamison isn’t exactly the best player around, but his style is about a perfect match for Williams and he can fit into any offense and contribute as a first or second option.
NBA JAM Comparison: Larry Johnson. Johnson is one of the best interior payers in the game, and surprisingly also a fantastic shooter from outside. Considering all of the ratings available, LJ is probably the best individual player in NBA JAM Tournament Edition, a fitting comparison for Williams, the best individual player in this draft class.