I'm sitting in an airport waiting for my flight back to D.C., where I'll spend about 15 hours before heading up to Newark and the 2011 NBA Draft. So while I'm here, a few scattered thoughts on where I'd rank the prospects in this draft, as they relate to the Wizards. This list goes 20 deep.
1. Derrick Williams: I'm on record saying I would trade JaVale McGee for him, and most of that is because of Williams' strengths rather than McGee's shortcomings. I think Williams is the best player in this draft, and I'm not nearly as concerned about where he'll play. The only thing preventing him from being a multiple-time all-star in this league is his defensive effort. Offensively, he has all the tools as an isolation player and as a pick and roll finisher, though his athleticism isn't amazing (he's a two-foot jumper, and those can struggle to finish inside). I sense he'll be highly productive offensively for anyone, and I think he'll be pretty consistently productive too. I don't suspect there will be much of a learning curve on that end. The question is defense, which I think will take a bit longer, but will also come around.
2. Kyrie Irving: Because he has to be here. But for the record: I'm not that blown away by him. I think there's a chance, albeit less than 50 percent, that Brandon Knight ends up better in five years.3. Enes Kanter: Lots of people doubting him, but he's still a big man that wants to be a big man, which means a lot. He's got great hands and phenomenal footwork inside, and I think that'll translate really well to the pros. In that way, he reminds me a bit of Marcin Gortat, in that he'll catch and finish pretty much everything. He'll be able to rebound for sure, and that immediately makes him valuable. I suspect he'll hold up defensively, though that's going to take a bit longer. Overall, he reminds me a bit of Marc Gasol, though without the passing skill. My guess: he'll be a decent center, though probably not a star.
4. Bismack Biyombo: I took him in the SBNation.com mock draft, and I should explain why I have him so high. Of all the project internationals in this draft, I see the most upside with him. His defense is already elite (2.3 blocks in 17 minutes in the ACB is insane), and he's a smart guy that should pick up the nuances of NBA defenses quickly. His offense is awful, but as we discussed during the Finals, the role of the center in today's NBA is changing. I realize the Wizards already have McGee, but bigs are meant to be collected, and Biyombo's defensive potential is too tantalizing to pass up for me.
5. Jan Vesely: I decided to elevate him over Chris Singleton and others because I liked reading about his abilities off the ball in this Draft Express article comparing the forward crop in different situational statistics. He's not a great shooter or dribbler, but he somehow finds a way to score by moving and being in the right spot at the right time.
Not surprisingly, Vesely ranks amongst the most effective finishers off cuts (3rd), offensive rebounds (2nd), post-ups (3rd) and in transition (6th).
He was also able to draw free throws at the third highest rate (on 19.4% of his possessions) in this study, trailing just Derrick Williams and Jimmy Butler.
If Vesely can shore up his ball-handling and perimeter shooting ability, he has all the makings of an incredibly versatile player
Those may seem like huge areas to improve, but they're much less difficult than overall court sense. I also think it's worth noting that Vesely has been a role player for one of the better teams in Europe for a few years now, and that's much more impressive to me than college basketball. I don't care that James Gist is better than him. If the Wizards draft Vesely, they're doing it so he can fill a similar role to the one he already fills on Partizan. It's not about a pecking order.
6. Tristan Thompson: He's got almost no offense, but he's a phenomenal man-to-man defender and I think he can develop a 17-footer eventually. Again, if we're thinking defense, I think we have to take a long look at Thompson.
7. Markieff Morris: Kind of like Thompson, though I don't see as much defense. His offensive skill seems to be much higher, and this team could always use more bigs.
8. Chris Singleton: I still love his defensive potential, but his only skill now offensively is shooting threes, which is fine, but he lacks Vesely's court sense.
9. Jonas Valanciunas: Just seemed like a big stiff when I watched him on tape. He was beat to rebounds by quicker players, and he had trouble finishing inside. He's big and still improving, which is rare, but he's also probably not coming over next season, and I don't really feel like sitting around and waiting on him when current buyout rules still only allow a team to pay $500,000 of the buyout.
13. Kawhi Leonard: I've seen nothing from him that indicates he's actually all that athletic. He's long and he plays hard, but I don't buy his reputation there. And if he's not athletic, I'm not sure what's so great about him.
14. Jimmy Butler: Profiled brilliantly here by Chad Ford. He's an incredible story, and he can play too, as evidenced by his standing in Draft Express' situational stats. One of my sleepers in this draft. He earns the requisite "can do a little of everything" label, and in his case, I think it's good. There are two types of "do-everything" players. Some have no standout skills, and instead kind of float through games, doing a tiny bit, but making little impact with the plays they make. These are the Marvin Williams-types. The second type are guys who are capable of being dominant in many different categories, but retain value by knowing when to exert those skills at what time. These are the Grant Hill circa 2011 types. I think Butler is much more like a 2011 Hill than many in this draft after reading more about him, and I'd love him at 18.
15. Klay Thompson: Solid player, versatile scorer that can shoot well off the pass. A good pick if he lasts to 18.
16. Alec Burks: Wrong team, but I think he can play.
17. Marcus Morris: I'm a little dubious about his size, since I'm not sure he can really play consistently as a 3.
18. Kenneth Faried: People who rebound like him and play their ass off like him almost never fail in this league, but it's really hard to find a place for guys like him on the court unless he can learn how to shoot. The little I saw of him against top-flight competition didn't exactly inspire much confidence on that front.
19. Nikola Vucevic: Big and productive in college. Hard to find guys like that.
20. Tobias Harris: He's got a crafty little offensive game, is young and rebounds, but he also can't shoot, and while I like his defense, he's not nearly as athletic or versatile as Chris Singleton.
STAY AWAYS (to me): Jordan Hamilton, Justin Harper (he got swallowed up in the paint whenever I watched him, and I don't think he's quick enough to be a 3), Iman Shumpert (ultimate measurables guy whose on-court skills are poor), Darius Morris (too slow), Jeremy Tyler (only at 34, no higher)