For Duke Blue Devils’ fans, the 2011 NBA Draft started off pretty predictable when Kyrie Irving went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Later in the draft though, we were left confused, surprised and maybe even a little dumbfounded.
No. 1 KYRIE IRVING, CLEVELAND
While Irving doesn’t get the same amount of props as other first-picked point guards like Derrick Rose and John Wall, it was clear that the Cavaliers had to take him. No offense to Derrick Williams who wanted desperately to be the top pick, but the NBA is a point guard league right now.
Kyrie is a great shooter, great ball handler and a finisher. He can drive to the rim with both his left and right hands. He will make his teammates better. As long as he stays healthy, in shape and off motorcycles, he’s going to be an elite PG in this league for a long time.
Looking to next season, Irving should start right away, although I’m not sure how Cleveland will work it out with Baron Davis. Maybe they move Davis to the 2-spot? I don’t know. I just know Baron is not the future and I suspect he’ll be gone before the 2012-2013 season starts.
Also, Irving will need to be patient. This is not going to be like joining Duke. The Cavaliers are a few years away from competing. Let’s face it, this team was NOT GOOD in the post-LeBron era. I would argue that they still have three starters (Anthony Parker, Ryan Hollins and Alonzo Gee) who shouldn’t be starters at this level.
They did also add Tristan Thompson, but I don’t think he’s ready to compete every night at this level. Thompson (who is also a freshman) will defend, block shots and rebound, but he’s simply not an NBA level scoring power forward…yet.
2011-2012 OUTLOOK: Look for Irving to average about 17 points, seven assists per game. Good numbers, but don’t be surprised if his shooting percentages are less-than-impressive. He should be a finalist for “Rookie of the Year” by the time the season ends.
No. 21 NOLAN SMITH, PORTLAND
The first shock of the night had to come when Nolan Smith was taken this early, ahead of Kyle Singler. While I knew Smith had worked out for Portland, I really never considered it a possible destination.
Personally I think Nolan is an underrated player. Sure he’s not lightening quick, but he’s shown the ability to get by just about anyone by using smart steps. That’s just using your whole body, the whole court and taking advantage of your opponents weaknesses to beat him. That’s smart basketball.
Smith has a solid NBA ready mid-range game, as well as a three-point shot. He’s also a very underrated defender, something I think Trailblazer fans will be excited about.
For now Smith is a combo guard off the bench. Currently Portland’s starting backfield is Andre Miller and Brandon Roy. However, Miller is a free agent in 2012, so rumor is he might be dealt for Raymond Felton, who is also a free agent in 2012.
The current backup at PG is Patrick Mills, but Portland may be looking to part ways with him. This means Smith could get legit backup minutes running the point.
At the shooting guard spot, Brandon Roy is a star, but he’s also injury-prone. The number one option off the bench is Wesley Matthews who started 69 games this past season thanks to Roy’s injury.
No matter what happens with Portland’s lineup, this is a nice, soft landing spot for Nolan. The Trailblazers are a playoff team already and that’s without Roy and Greg Oden. Nolan should have a couple of years to develop his NBA skills, while playing for a winner.
2011-2012 OUTLOOK: Look for Nolan to get about 10 minutes per game as a rookie. He might have a couple of double-digit nights, but not much more since Portland is pretty deep at the guard spots.
No. 33 KYLE SINGLER – DETROIT
Here’s the deal for all you disappointed Duke fans. The NBA basically sees Kyle as a un-athletic tweener. Both those words are bad worse at the next level. No matter how big your heart is, it will never match a long wingspan. That’s the fact jack.
Another fact is, if Singler was going to distinguish himself during his senior year, he would need to show scouts that he was a lethal shooter. He never did. In fact, his numbers dipped in his final year.
His 32-percent shooting from three was his lowest in his carer. In fact his best shooting year was his freshman season when he shot 46-percent from the floor.
In reality, he might be a good fit for Detroit. If any team showed that they played with no heart last season, it was the Pistons.
While it is hard to imagine Singler earning starter minutes right now, the Pistons have some figuring out to do. Both their starting small forward (Tayshaun Prince) and power forward (Chris Wilcox) are unrestricted free agents.
Currently the Pistons’ salary is around $65-million, not tragic (19th overall), but if the NBA comes up with a hard cap or even semi-flexible cap, how will they afford to keep Prince or Wilcox, along with three others restricted free agents?
Also, even if Detroit wanted to re-sign Prince, does he want to come back? He’s 31 years old, does he really want to take part in a rebuilding effort? The fact is, the Pistons may not have any choice but to give Singler solid rookie minutes.
2011-2012 OUTLOOK: Detroit will find another starting SF, but Singler will see 15-20 minutes per game off the bench. Look for Kyle to average about eight points, five rebounds per game.