2011 NBA Draft Top Prospects: Part 3
Hopefully you all remember my stance on this year’s draft class. If you don’t, here it is: It’s not necessarily a “weak” class so much as it’s just a “foreign” class at the top and we have no way of knowing how good those foreign players will be.
I’ve already given you my top 11 American collegiate players entering in the draft [Part 1] [Part 2], but that doesn’t quite cover the important people in the NBA Draft this coming Thursday. These non-Americans are kind of huge question marks, and one of the biggest problems with this year’s draft is that there isn’t a consistent and reliable way to evaluate these guys in terms of future NBA success.
No matter how unreliable these prospects are, there are still going to be a record number of foreign players taken in this year’s lottery and it’s undeniably important to get at least a little bit familiar with them.
Since I don’t know these players nearly as well as the American ones, I won’t be able to tell you as much about them. That means no NBA comparisons, no NBA JAM comparisons and generally less content about them. I’m not even going to try to rank them all individually, but I’ll try to put them into tiers that group them together based on what I think about them. There are five players who have a chance at being selected in the lottery this year and a sixth one who could be a late first-round pick that I want to look at anyways.
2011 NBA Drat Top Six Foreign Prospects
Most Likely To Have NBA Success
JAN VESELY, SF/PF Belgrade — A near 7-footer who plays small forward? Welcome to Europe. But here’s something different about Vesely. He isn’t just a perimeter scorer. He’s more of an at-the-basket scorer. He has some super ridiculous jumping ability, and if he adds a little bit of beef to his frame, he could be difficult for most PFs to hang with. Vesely plays more like a slasher than we’ve seen from Euro players of his size, and it’s pretty refreshing to see that. He’s a difficult player to project I this draft, but it’s hard to imagine that he gets forced into a Dirk/Okur type of role and a lot easier to see him as a different type of PF that’s looking to start outside and take his man off the dribble. Or just jump over him.
ENES KANTER, C Turkey — Wait a minute, another European Center who is almost 7 feet tall and would rather hang out on the perimeter and shoot than bang around down low? Actually…yes. That’s exactly what he is. Or what he was. It’s really hard to tell because anything we know about his game came from a year or two ago before he came to America and studied the American basketball style at Kentucky. Sure his style isn’t anything new of a Euro-center and it’s super hard to judge any of his skills against the competition in his video files, but he has a good-looking shooting motion and has the body to compete in the NBA. Defensively, he’ll most likely be a liability out of the gate, but I have to think that he’ll improve quickly there and 7 feet tall is just not something you can coach.
Not Quite Buying Into The Hype, But Still Decent
JONAS VALANCIUNAS, C Lithuania — Valanciunas looks like a decent talent in a significantly better than average body. He’s got great size and a ridiculous wingspan, and generally looks fantastic in all the measurable areas like that. I’m not particularly sold on either his offensive or defensive skill set, and it seems to me like he’s a step or two behind Vasely and Kanter in developing those skills. I like a guy with his physical quantifiables, but I feel like year after year the big post players that get overdrafted in the lottery on the promise that their game will catch up to their body and it never works out. Jonas might work out, but he’s probably just the next chapter in the saga of imagined potential.
DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS, PF Lithuania — I guess the bar for being a foreign player in the NBA Draft is set strictly as 6’11” and guess what, Donatas makes it. Seriously, what does the Euro game look like? Are they all 7 feet all with Dirk Nowitzki posters on the walls in their bedrooms? My biggest problem with Montiejunas is that he looks too similar to Kanter and Kanter is just better. His inside game needs work, and his defensive abilities need to be learned from scratch. Still, he shoots well and moves incredibly for his size, but at this point, I’m just writing a form letter about all European big men.
The Emperor Is Naked
BISMACK BIYOMBO, PF/C Congo — He has a 7’7” wingspan! And he’s expected to be a defensive game changer from day one! He’s just “raw” and needs to be coached, then he’ll be a superstar! But really, I feel like we’ve heard this story before. Namely when it was Saer Sene. And what is he doing right now? Exactly. Biyombo has been at the top of a lot of analysts rankings for this draft because he’s an unreal combination of size, speed, reach and those things. But he has virtually no skills. He’s allegedly a good shot blocker, and I won’t argue that, but why would you draft a guy in the lottery if he’s only a shot-blocker? You can’t teach what he has, and that’s true. But it takes a long time to teach what he doesn’t have and I just don’t think he’s going to develop in the pro game. I don’t know why people are raving about him, he seems like a guaranteed letdown.
The Player I’m Most Curious About
DAVIS BERTANS, SF Latvia — If I had to guess where Bertans would go in the draft, I’d put the over/under at 24, that’s about where I estimate him going. And I have no idea why he is going to go that high. If I had to put him into one of the above categories, it would be the Emperor is Naked for sure. He can shoot pretty well and supposedly has great range, and he’s super tall and young. Great. But have you seen this guy? Forget how many games he can last in the NBA, I don’t know how many practices he’ll be able to survive. His ceiling is as a perimeter shooter who runs off screens, his floor is the Intensive Care unit of the biggest hospital around 30 seconds into his first appearance. I don’t get why European players like this get elevated to first round status because they can shoot when American collegiate shooters get dinged for only being able to shoot. It’s crazy.
Hope you guys have enjoyed my look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft this year. Stay tuned for my upcoming NBA Draft contest, which is coming in just a few days. I’ll listen to prize ideas if you have them, so feel free to leave comments about that.