Five things to watch in the NBA draft
Thursday's NBA draft should provide answers for a lot of teams, but this year's field of young, and in some cases inexperienced, players leaves many general managers with questions instead.
Here are the five things you need to know about the 2011 NBA draft.
1. There's an absence of big names.
According to the experts, this is not a great draft. It's perhaps the weakest pool of talent to enter the league in a decade, which has to be a little galling for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the No.1 pick a year after LeBron James left town.
"This draft is particularly thin when it comes to big men, but strong in the point guard department, with a field that includes Duke's Kyrie Irving, Kentucky's Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker, who led Connecticut to a national title," said ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas.
What it lacks in star power, it makes up for in quantity.
"There is a depth of good players," Bilas said. "Guys who can come into the league and play and be pieces to good teams and maybe rotational players, but I don't see a ton of guys that really excite you that this guy could be really, really good in the NBA."
2. The No. 1 pick is ...
It looks like it's going to be Irving, who is 19 years old and played only 11 games in one college season. But in a draft where the list of impact players is likely to be short, Irving looks like a guy who could help, given the value of a great point guard in the league.
Irving has basketball pedigree. His father, Drederick, played at Boston College and professionally in Australia. His godfather is former NBA star Rod Strickland.
Irving brings "upside," as the draft experts like to say, but may need more time to develop as an NBA point considering his lack of college playing time.
3. The other potential top picks.
For all the abuse the Pac-10 received about the quality of its league, two of the most talked about players in the draft are from the Pac-10. Arizona's Derrick Williams, who led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 and was the Pac-10 player of the year, has an outside shot of displacing Irving as the No. 1 pick because of his size and his ability to play big on the perimeter. The other is Klay Thompson, the son of former Laker champion Mychal Thompson. Klay starred at Washington State and might be the most skilled offensive player in the draft. Minnesota, the team with the No. 2 pick, wouldn't mind if Williams didn't get chosen No. 1.
4. Where's Jimmer going?
BYU product Jimmer Fredette, The Wooden and Naismith winner was biggest name in college basketball last season and he is one of the biggest names on the draft board. But that doesn't mean he might not be sitting around a while on draft day, particularly if teams feel like he's merely a shooter and lacks the all-around game to be an impact player. Fredette has been projected as a mid- to late-first round pick. Wouldn't it be a perfect match if the Utah Jazz took him at No. 12?
5. Where's the size?
Outside of the United States, apparently. Turkey's Enes Kanter is projected to be the first center to be selected. He was unable to play college basketball after committing to Kentucky because of payments he received when playing in Turkey. Kanter could go as high as No. 2 or 3. The next two are a pair of Lithuanian centers, Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas. The third projected center to be picked could be Bismack Biyombo from the Congo. There was not a dominant center in the college game this year, leaving NBA scouts looking elsewhere for new talent in the paint. There is a report that Valanciunas will be unable to play in the NBA next season because of a contractual issue and that could hurt his draft stock. But with so little size in the draft, maybe he's worth the wait?