With the 2011-12 NBA season in serious jeopardy of cancellation, Sunil Ram looks ahead to next June’s draft and where star forward Jared Sullinger will end up.
The ongoing NBA lockout has left many fans wondering whether any games will be played during the scheduled 2011-12 season.
What is known, though, is that there are a bevy of prospects that would like to hear their name get called in next June’s draft. Among them is Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. The star forward is coming off an excellent freshman campaign, and he looks poised to be one of the first players chosen.
Of course, one of the questions that arises about the next draft is what the selection order will be if no games are played next season. Zagsblog.com came up with this method, determining the order based off of each team’s record over the past three seasons.
This article will mainly follow that model, with one small tweak in that tiebreakers will be determined by which team had a worse record in the 2010-11 season. Each team will be listed in order, along with their record of the past three seasons in parenthesis.
One other commonplace question about next June’s draft is whether the age limit for entering players will be raised. Because that is still unknown, this list assumes that no change has been made.
No. 1: Minnesota Timberwolves (56-190), Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Some may feel Andre Drummond deserves this spot, and it wouldn’t be difficult to make an argument for the UConn center. However, in my opinion, Anthony Davis is the best choice as the No. 1 overall pick because of his tremendous potential.
The Wildcat freshman might look too skinny to hang with some of the NBA’s big men. Let’s not forget, though, Dwight Howard once looked like this, so Davis could certainly bulk up and increase his strength as time passes.
Minnesota does already have a crowded frontcourt, but they would be wise to use this selection on Davis. Playing him alongside Michael Beasley, Kevin Love or Derrick Williams could cause some serious matchup problems for opponents.
Davis possesses the height (6’10”), wingspan (7’4”) and talent to have a lasting impact in the league. The 18-year-old power forward has terrific athleticism and plays very well around the basket on both sides of the court. He certainly has some areas in need of work—most notably, his strength and shooting range—but of course, no prospect comes free of flaws.
No. 2: Sacramento Kings (66-180), Andre Drummond, UConn
Simply put, Andre Drummond is a beast. The top ranked incoming center is regarded by DraftExpress as the prospect with the highest ceiling, and he just turned 18 this past August.
Drummond has got the size (6’11”, 251 pounds) and explosiveness to ensure he won’t get bullied on the interior. One major positive trait, which more and more NBA centers should have in order to become great, is his passing ability that compliments his solid court vision.
An issue some scouts have with the 18-year-old center is his tendency to overly defer to teammates instead of looking for his own offense. Another criticism is that he sometimes looks to make plays from the perimeter, instead of taking it inside.
When Drummond does get aggressive on offense, he becomes a major headache for defenses. His athleticism causes a bevy of problems for whoever is responsible with preventing him from scoring.
On the defensive side of the floor, the UConn big man has got solid awareness and a great ability to defend against the pick and roll. If the Kings do end up with the second pick in next year’s draft and select Drummond, he and Demarcus Cousins could be great building blocks for the future.
No. 3: Washington Wizards (68-178), Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
The leader of the nation’s No. 1 ranked collegiate basketball team has got the talent and potential to have a very successful NBA career. Last season, Barnes averaged nearly 16 points a game and hit a number of clutch shots for his North Carolina team.
At 6’8”, 210 pounds, Barnes has got the size to play his natural position of small forward in the pros, and he could even be used as a shooting guard or power forward in certain situations. He’s got a very polished offensive game to go along with his elite on-ball defense.
One of the knocks on the UNC swingman’s game is that he’s prone to falling in love with his pull up jumper instead of driving the lane and attacking the basket. His efficiency scoring inside the three-point line must improve if he wants to become a force in the professional ranks.
If Barnes ends up getting selected by the Wizards next June, the first thing he should work to improve is his catch and shoot jumper. While his off the dribble shot percentage was a respectable 39 percent last season, his catch and shoot percentage was just 30 percent. John Wall will certainly create numerous catch and shoot opportunities, so obviously, it’d be in Barnes’ best interest to be capable of hitting a good percentage of those shots.
No. 4: New Jersey Nets (70-176), Perry Jones, Baylor
Heading into last season, Perry Jones was the name most mentioned at the top of mock draft boards. Scouts and GM’s loved his long 6’11” frame, as well as his athleticism, soft touch around the basket, decent ball handling and exceptional hands.
Jones didn’t have a great freshman year at Baylor, but he was still able to show why he’s one of the best NBA prospects.
Early on, the power forward out of Duncanville, Tex. went through an adjustment period in which he wasn’t as assertive as he probably should have been. As the season progressed, though, his aggressiveness grew—especially in conference play—resulting in increased production.
A major concern of Jones’ game is on the defensive end of the court. His lack of off-ball positioning, rebounding and hustle leave much to be desired. He must also improve his toughness, as there were times last season he’d shy away from contact. Of course, these are all areas in which he could certainly improve as time passes.
If Jones finds himself getting selected by the Nets next June, he’d give them a solid option to place alongside Brook Lopez (or maybe even Dwight Howard). If Deron Williams is still a part of the team, he and Jones could become a formidable pick and roll tandem.
No. 5: Los Angeles Clippers (80-166), Quincy Miller, Baylor
Hey look, two Baylor players going back to back!
While the Clippers might take a serious look at Jared Sullinger, their need to shore up the small forward position will result in the selection of Quincy Miller. The 6’9”, 200-pound swingman has received many comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his size and skill set.
Miller is coming off an ACL tear he suffered last December. While the injury ended his high school career, he has rehabbed well—adding 20 pounds of muscle in the process—and is back at full strength.
Miller is very good creating his own shot, using his excellent ball-handling to get to his spots on the perimeter where he likes pulling up with his fluid jumper. His isolation game is also very good, as bigger defenders have a hard time keeping him in front of them and smaller defenders get shot over.
Likely the biggest area Miller needs to improve in is shooting in traffic. His shot form is a bit unorthodox and comes at a somewhat low release point, making it difficult to comfortably release the ball when the defense collectively hones in on him.
If the Clippers select Miller in next June’s draft, they’d be adding a solid piece to their youthful core of Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. His perimeter scoring ability could really open things up for Griffin down low.
Last season, Sullinger averaged a shade over 17 points and 10 rebounds per game while earning first-team All-American honors. He was the NCAA’s most productive freshman, statistically.
During this past offseason, he dropped 15 pounds, putting his weight down to 265 from 280. While he’s a bit lighter, he still possess the same tremendous lower body strength that provided opponents with a bevy of problems trying to stop him from getting to his spots in the paint.
At 6’8”, Sullinger is a bit undersized to play as a conventional low post power forward in the NBA; however, players like Kevin Love and Luis Scola have overcame this obstacle. If the Ohio State star improves his ability to score off of a face-up and his ability to beat his man off the dribble, he could have a very successful professional career.
If the Warriors add Sullinger to their roster, he could give them a solid presence down low and provide some serious rebounding help. If his dominant post game translates to the pros, it will open up shots for Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, David Lee and Dorell Wright.
No. 7: Toronto Raptors (95-151), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
This reasoning behind this pick falls under the category of biggest positional necessity. The Raptors need a solid small forward who can become the certified starter. Linas Kleiza, Sonny Weems or Julian Wright just won’t cut it.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a fairly raw prospect at this point, but his freshman season at Kentucky will certainly prepare him well for the NBA. He’s got the physical attributes, defensive ability and scoring instincts. If he can sharpen up his game and take his ball handling to the next level, Toronto could be getting a steal with this pick.
No. 8: Detroit Pistons (96-150), Austin Rivers, Duke
The Rodney Stuckey era in Detroit hasn’t panned out like GM Joe Dumars had hoped. Stuckey’s played pretty well since Chauncey Billups’ departure, but he’s been unable to lead the Pistons to any postseason success. At this point, it’d be wise for the team to try starting anew.
Enter Austin Rivers.
While Doc Rivers’ son’s natural position is at shooting guard, he’s got the handling ability to become a point guard. He’ll have to shift away a bit from his always shoot-first mentality, just like Russell Westbrook had to do, and if he can, then his ceiling will be very high.
Rivers is quite the athlete. Over the past few seasons, the amount of elite point guards with above average to great athletic ability has risen rapidly (i.e. Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, etc.). The Duke guard’s 6’4” size, athleticism and scoring prowess could make him a dominant combo guard.
If Detroit adds Rivers to their roster next June and gives him an opportunity (along with time and patience) to take over the reins of the offense, he could be one of the draft’s biggest steals.
No. 9: Houston Rockets Via New York Knicks (103-143), Jeremy Lamb, UConn
The Rockets current starting shooting guard, Kevin Martin, has been the subject of a lot of trade speculation. In the event Houston does ship out Martin, Courtney Lee would be the only other 2-guard on the roster. Thus, Jeremy Lamb would be a reasonable selection for last season’s third-best team from the state of Texas.
Lamb gained a lot of notoriety as the second best player on last season’s national championship team. This season, he’ll be able to showcase his ability as the offense’s focal point.
The athletic shooting guard is an efficient scorer with a long wingspan and an array of skills on both sides of the court. If he can continue improving his ball handling and passing, he could become a force in the NBA and a solid replacement for Kevin Martin.
No. 10: Indiana Pacers (105-141), James McAdoo, North Carolina
At this point, James McAdoo is a raw prospect, but he can certainly polish up his game during his freshman season at North Carolina.
The 6’8”, 223-pound power forward figures to become a conventional power forward in the NBA. He’s got a solid post game that is constantly improving. While McAdoo’s not insanely athletic, he does possess elite athleticism for a big man and will often throw down huge dunks.
McAdoo’s decent on the defensive side of the ball, but he must become tougher fighting for rebounds and going up to block shots. Fortunately, he should become better at dealing with and playing through contact as his body fills out.
No. 11: Philadelphia 76ers (109-137), Patric Young, Florida
With Spencer Hawes set to become a restricted free agent once the lockout culminates, the 76ers could use a center. Patric Young certainly needs to improve his offensive game, but he’ll have a great opportunity to do so, as he’s set to log major minutes this season for the Gators.
On the defensive side of the ball, Young challenges shots and isn’t afraid of hustling on the boards. His athleticism is something scouts love, as it’s earned him comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire.
While he’s not the biggest center prospect at 6’9”, 220 pounds, Young’s vertical explosiveness and defensive prowess could instantly make him a solid impact player. If his offense, especially his post game, can make some major strides, then he’ll be an all-star caliber player a few years down the road.
No. 12: Memphis Grizzlies (110-136), Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Terrence Jones has got the athleticism and versatility NBA scouts loathe over. In the professional ranks, the Kentucky forward can play either the three or the four.
Jones will need to improve his shooting and defense before he gets to the next level. He started off last season shooting well, but slumped as time passed.
In Memphis, Jones can be a solid contributor off the bench, especially if they lose Shane Battier to free agency.
No. 13: Charlotte Bobcats (113-133), Bradley Beal, Florida
Bradley Beal is an excellent shooter with a high basketball I.Q.
Scouts love that he can get his shot off whether he’s running off screens—something he does very well—or pulling up off the dribble.
Beal rarely forces up shots and has great court vision. He usually shies away from taking the ball inside, but his mid-range and perimeter game is skilled enough not to require it. He could always improve his driving ability as time passes, but even if he doesn’t, he could still have a solid professional career.
The Bobcats need lots of help, especially in the scoring department. Beal and Kemba Walker could provide Charlotte with a solid and young scoring nucleus.
No. 14: Milwaukee Bucks (115-131), John Henson, North Carolina
When John Henson was an incoming freshman last year, he weighed just 183 pounds—not exactly the ideal weight for a 6’10” power forward. Henson has been able to get up to 220 pounds, but he’s still quite skinny compared to some of the other big men draft prospects.
While Henson’s size, or lack thereof, lends itself to criticism, one thing that can’t be put down is his athleticism. Another positive is his rebounding and shot blocking ability.
Henson will certainly have to work on his offensive effectiveness when he’s beyond eight or 10 feet from the paint, especially if he continues to be lacking in the size department. His low post game is a positive, but still leaves much to be desired, especially his inability to make good passes to teammates when double teamed, and his perimeter game needs some serious work.
Henson has plenty to improve upon, but he’s also got very good potential and should be able to contribute upon arriving to the NBA if he lands on a team in need of improved power forward play like the Bucks.
No. 15: Oklahoma City Thunder (128-118), Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
The wisest move for the Thunder to improve their roster through the draft would be selecting a big man who can come off the bench and play power forward and center. Yes, the Thunder already have Cole Aldrich, Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison, but those three probably don’t make GM Sam Presti feel content with his team’s front court depth.
Zeller doesn’t have the same upside of his more heralded teammates, but he does posses decent athleticism and an ability to score near and around the basket. He’s also a solid rebounder.
No. 16: New Orleans Hornets (132-114), Thomas Robinson, Kansas
In the event that David West’s tenure with the Hornets has already reached its end, New Orleans will be in need of a power forward. While Thomas Robinson has a much different style of play than West’s, he can become an instant impact player—especially if Chris Paul is still around.
Robinson is an athletic and strong power forward that can post-up, get by defenders with his quick first step and wear out those who try guarding him with his aggressiveness. He excels on the defensive side of the court. Even when teams run a pick and roll that switches Robinson onto a guard, he almost never gets into trouble.
No. 17: Houston Rockets (138-108), LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State
In my opinion, this kid should legally change his name by adding a “t” to the end of his first name.
Name changing suggestions aside, the 19-year-old forward out of Dallas is one of the best athletes in this draft class. He’s got a solid offensive game but would be well served to sharpen up his offense and ball handling.
Some scouts have questioned Nash’s maturity, believing he may have an attitude problem. Still, he’s only 19 and can certainly go through a rapid maturation process—especially on a team with veteran leadership like the Rockets have in Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola.
No. 18: Utah Jazz (140-106) (39-43 Last Season), Marquis Teague, Kentucky
After trading Deron Williams to the Nets this past February, the Jazz knew they’d soon need to find a point guard of the future. While it’s much too early to know whether or not Marquis Teague is that player, he’d be worth selecting here.
Teague is exceptional in the open court and has very good explosiveness. While he must improve his decision-making and game management skills, learning under John Calipari will likely allow him to make strides in those areas.
No. 19: Phoenix Suns (140-106) (40-42 Last Season), John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
When watching John Jenkins, my brain can’t help but envision Stephen Curry. While there are clear differences between the two (most notably, Curry being more fluid and possessing a greater ability to create his own shot—although Jenkins is improving at it), their ability to score with the jumper, perceived average athleticism and sub-par on-ball defensive skills makes me see some Curry in Jenkins.
Jenkins is a shooting guard, but he could transition over to point guard if his handling improves. Many were skeptical of Curry’s move to the point his final season at Davidson, but look how that turned out. It’s true that if Jenkins entered next June’s draft, he won’t have a season to play the lead guard, but if he gets drafted by the Suns, then he could either learn from Steve Nash (if he’s still around) or learn on the fly since Phoenix will be in need of a point guard of the future.
If Jenkins becomes accustomed to playing the point in the NBA and improves his defense, he could soon after become one of the league’s better lead guards.
No. 20: Atlanta Hawks (144-102) (44-38 Last Season), Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
Back-to-back Commodores for picks 19 and 20.
The Hawks have been trying to play Al Horford more at power forward—his natural position—and drafting Festus Ezeli could help with that. The 22-year-old native Nigerian has got the size (6’11”, 255 pounds) and physicality to certify him as an NBA-ready center.
Ezeli has got solid rebounding and shot blocking skills to go along with his efficient offensive game. The two biggest areas he needs improvement in are his passing and proneness to picking up a lot of fouls.
No. 21: Chicago Bulls (144-102) (62-20 Last Season), Evan Fournier, Poiters
The Bulls could really use a solid shooting guard that could occasionally bring the ball up and make plays with his dribble so Derrick Rose doesn’t have to do it all on offense.
Once he gets comfortable playing in the NBA, Evan Fournier could certainly help out D-Rose. He’s got a solid handle and ability to make plays, but he must improve his jumper.
No. 22: Cleveland Cavaliers (146-100), Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
Jeff Taylor is a versatile small forward with NBA-ready skills. He’s always been very athletic and has added a nice jumper to his arsenal.
While Taylor’s not the best at creating his own shot, he might not have to do much of that on the Cavaliers thanks to Kyrie Irving’s playmaking abilities.
No. 23: Miami Heat (148-98), Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova
It’s no secret that the Heat could use some help on the interior. At 6’9”, 230 pounds, Yarou can play either the power forward or center position. The Villanova big man doesn’t shy away from contact; he’s solid at rebounding on both ends of the court and has a decent post up game.
Yarou’s not the most athletically gifted prospects in this draft class, to put it nicely, but Miami will need him mainly for his size and rebounding.
No. 24: Portland Trail Blazers (152-94), Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
DJO, as he’s sometimes referred as, has got solid ball handling and quickness.
With Brandon Roy’s health constantly in limbo, it might be a good idea for the Blazers to add some depth at the shooting guard position. If Johnson-Odom improves the consistency of his shot, he can be a solid role player in the pros.
No. 25: Denver Nuggets (157-89), Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Last time the Nuggets drafted a forward out of Syracuse in the first round, they landed one of the NBA’s best scorers in Carmelo Anthony. While Kris Joseph is far from the same prospect level of Melo, he’s got the potential and skill set to become a solid role player in the professional ranks.
Joseph’s versatility allows him to impact the game in numerous ways. If he can make his jumper more consistent and get better at creating his own offense, he’ll end up as a steal from next June’s draft.
This season, Syracuse looks poised to be among the nation’s best teams, which will certainly help out Joseph’s draft stock. If he can help his team meet or exceed their preseason expectations, he could make himself a lock for the first round.
Denver might be in serious need for Jospeh’s services, since there’s a good possibility they lose Wilson Chandler in free agency.
No. 26: Dallas Mavericks (162-84), Leon Radosevic, Milano (International)
The Mavericks are likely going to have very little salary room whenever the next regular season begins. The defending champs could elect to draft a foreign prospect and stash him overseas until they’re ready to bring him over.
Radosevic is 6’10”, 210 pounds and can play power forward and center. He possesses a solid mid-range jumper, but must increase his strength and improve in the rebounding department if he wants to make an impact in the NBA.
No. 27: San Antonio Spurs (165-81), Nemanja Nedovic, KK Crvena Zvezda
Similar to their division rival Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs will likely elect not to add any additional salary from this late in the draft, selecting an international prospect they keep overseas for some additional time.
Nedovic is a combo guard from Serbia with solid scoring ability, good passing ability and very good game management skills. Since he’s only 20 years old, the Spurs can keep him out of the States for some time before bringing him over.
Who knows, maybe he’ll end up as the heir apparent to Tony Parker?
No. 28: Boston Celtics (168-78), William Buford, Ohio State
Ray Allen might not have much time left in a Celtics uniform. If Boston elects to try and find his replacement via the draft, William Buford would be a solid choice.
While the Ohio State shooting guard doesn’t posses the shooting abilities of Jesus Shuttlesworth, he’s got an effective jumper—both off the dribble and off a catch—to go along with his 6’5” frame.
No. 29: Orlando Magic (170-76), Augusto Cesar Lima, Granada (International)
Augusto Cesar Lima is an athletic power forward that has very good range on his shot and solid rebounding ability.
Paired alongside Dwight Howard (assuming he’s still around), Lima can help the Magic spread the floor, especially when opponents send their power forwards down to double team Howard.
While Lima will need to polish his offensive game and adjust to the speed of the NBA, the open shots created by Howard will give the Brazilian forward numerous opportunities to grow his confidence.
No. 30: L.A. Lakers (179-67), Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
The Lakers weakest position is easily point guard. A very legitimate argument could be made that their collective group of lead guards is the NBA’s worst.
Drafting Kendall Marshall would provide the Lakers with a solid point guard that excels in game management. After Marshall was promoted to starter for North Carolina last season, the team improved immensely.
The Lakers don’t need a point guard that averages 15 points and 12 assists per game; they need a point guard that makes the right passes, gets teammates where they need to be and never forces a play that isn’t there.
Kendall Marshall is that type of point guard.
Sunil Ram writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow us on twitter.