No one will argue with the assertion that the 2011 draft pool is on the weaker side. Still, while the NBA rookie scale is the envy of the other major leagues, the idea of taking a lottery pick is generally to try to get a starter, or even a potential star. Some teams make picks based on fit more than rating, but some players at the same position (or close to the same position) seem to me to project as far better NBA players than others. With a tip of the cap to the "Eat This, Not That" folks, let me introduce "Pick This, Not That" for the 2011 NBA draft:
Pick Enes Kanter, not Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams: Williams is the classic tweener who keeps telling people he is a 3, when all he has ever played is the 4. If we are going to judge Williams as a 3, then his ballhandling is suspect, most of his jumpers came on spot-ups while being guarded by college big men, and he has never guarded on the perimeter.
One high-level NBA team executive told me after reading my Big Board that Williams "might not even really be a starter in the league, because he has no position and no real low-post game." All reports are that he is a fantastic person with a solid work ethic, but unless his team is committed to playing fast and playing with a pass-first point guard (as Cleveland and Minnesota likely would), Williams might get lost in half-court sets where his lack of defined skill becomes apparent.
Enes Kanter: Frankly, it is not even close. Kanter has not played competitively in a year, but when he has played, he looks like arguably the best prospect in this draft. Kanter is 6-foot-10 in bare feet, can play either inside position and is an animal on the boards. Whether it is Minnesota or Cleveland or even Utah, it seems foolish to pass on his combination of size, skill and youth.
Pick Chris Singleton, not Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard: Aztecs fans know I have been touting Leonard since his high school days in Riverside, but his deity-like status has become a bit much recently in terms of his on-floor game and how it will translate to the NBA. While his hands are huge -- which skews his arm length and gives him that "Long" distinction -- he is not overly athletic, and while he may be shooting better in drills and workouts, he is not yet comfortable enough on the floor to be considered a wing. Leonard shot 29 percent from the college 3-point line, and while he is an outstanding rebounder and competitor, will that make up for his inability to make NBA shots?
Chris Singleton: In contrast to Leonard, Singleton has a defined role in the NBA. While Singleton is not the ball handler or rebounder that Leonard is, he is a far better open shooter (he will likely spot up in the NBA more than come off screens), and a versatile and effective defender. He also came back early from injury to play in the NCAA tournament when his draft stock was already very high. Leonard will look better in one-on-one and rebounding drills, but Singleton's game translates into a 5-on-5 NBA game more easily, and he is the safer pick.
Pick Charles Jenkins, not Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker: Kemba has taken on a Tim Tebow sort of status in the draft, as naysayers are bombarded with descriptions of Walker's big shot-making ability and NCAA wins. Do not get me wrong; leadership and intangibles are important, especially at the point guard position, but so, too, are point guard skills. If Kemba is to be a starter, he has to essentially change positions, as he played a lot of off-guard this year in Storrs.
Additionally, while Kemba probably has the best first step in this draft, he is not a consistent jump-shooter, nor is he a particularly efficient passer. Keep in mind that other big-time college scorers (Adam Morrison) have flamed out in the league, and other leaders (Mateen Cleaves and Taurean Green) have led their teams to NCAA titles but have not made any impact at the next level. Yet, like Tebow, Kemba's skill set -- one that probably fits an off-the-bench energy-infusing guard (Jason Terry and Bobby Jackson are two examples) -- is not worthy of a top-10 pick, and is frankly not as likely to translate as that of other point guards in this draft.
Charles Jenkins: Remarkably, Jenkins is Walker's workout partner. Jenkins is two inches taller, scored nearly as many points, is a better shooter/scorer, and while his leadership and impact are not as evident as Kemba's, his game is tailor-made to play the combo scoring/lead guard role from Day 1. Having seen Jenkins dismantle Kemba and Jerome Dyson over a year ago in Storrs, and after poring over a ton of film on the two, it is my belief that Jenkins is a smarter, better play than Walker in the first 20 picks.
Pick Klay Thompson, not Alec Burks
Alec Burks: A very athletic guard who grew late in high school and became a star at Colorado, Burks has a good amount of growth still to come in his game, which is better off the dribble than it is off the catch. Burks is very good in transition and got to the free throw line a good amount, especially at home.
The problem with Burks is the same one many players in the draft have: It's hard to know where you would play him. He is not a point, does not shoot it well enough to be a 2 and is clearly not a 3. Additionally, he does not have great feel coming off screens looking for a jump shot, and while his transition play negates some of that, it does not completely remove it from the discussion.
Klay Thompson: A bigger, similarly athletic late bloomer who went underrecruited and blew up in college, Thompson's only knock has been that he is soft. That was dispelled mostly by his play and post-up game this year in the Palouse. Thompson is a similar ball handler, a far more consistent shooter with NBA-ready range and size to boot. Additionally, he is skilled at using screens and has tremendous balance and rhythm in catching and shooting off of them. In a league in which more possessions mean more sets, and 2-guards need to come off screens or space the floor within those sets, Thompson seems like the much smarter pick to me.
Pick Jon Leuer, not the Morris twins
Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris: Like his twin brother, Marcus, Markieff has improved greatly during his time in Lawrence, Kan., but his meteoric draft stock rise is shocking. Both Morris twins are south of 6-8. Neither is the 3 he claims to be. Both are sound, smart, good bench players in the league, but neither has a position. I do not believe that either will suffer greatly through some of the separation anxiety that teams have discussed, but it is worth mentioning that not only have they never been apart, their family also moved to Kansas with them. How they adjust to the NBA, as well as life apart from each other, will be interesting to say the least. At the end of the day, both are face-up 4s who are undersized and have the reputation of being a little dirty.
Jon Leuer: Leuer is a very big (7 feet in shoes), athletic face-up power forward with good shooting range. While he needs to add weight to his frame, he seems like a guy who could potentially develop into a starting power forward for five to 10 years in the NBA. He is not Nick Collison in the post at either end, but his Matt Bonner-like shooting, transition scoring and turnaround jumper will keep him wearing the logo for a long time. Leuer is not the shooter that Markieff Morris is, or the all-around player that Marcus is, but he is a better fit for the NBA pick-and-pop game. He is also much bigger and more athletic than perceived. Leuer is a steal.