From what we’re hearing there are currently three players maneuvering to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Those three guys are all now currently out of the NCAA Tournament, so all they have to do is decide whether or not to return to school, then work on improving their stock.
The three guys who have positioned themselves at the top of the 2011 class are Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Arizona’s Derrick Williams and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes.
Since early in the season, Irving has been the favorite to go No. 1 if he returned to form after his early season toe injury and decided to leave school. The 6’2 point guard only played in 11 games this year for the Blue Devils, but averaged 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Irving is just 19 and his ceiling is ridiculously high.
Irving is a pure point guard, an excellent athlete, has a great basketball IQ, decent range on his jumper, can penetrate almost at will and, oh yeah, he can also defend. So what else, exactly do you need? If the team picking first needs a floor general, Irving should be the pick. No question.
The other two guys on the list both possess stock that is currently rocketing northwards.
Williams in particular had a jaw-dropping two weeks. The 6’8 forward is versatile, very efficient and can play inside and out. He also has a high basketball IQ, finishes strong at the rim and has off-the-charts athleticism. This year Williams averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, while shooting 59.5 percent from the field and an incredible 56.8 percent from 3-point range.
Williams may not develop into a superstar, but he certainly will be a productive, terrific pro and has a long career ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Barnes started off the year as everyone’s favorite to go No. 1, but he struggled mightily for the Tar Heels early. The Iowa native has certainly turned things around. In 37 games, Barnes averaged 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists. In the tournament Barnes had 24 points and 16 rebounds against Long Island, 22 points against Washington, 20 points and nine boards against Marquette, and 18 and six in a losing effort against Kentucky.
The 6’8 forward is long, athletic, can score from anywhere on the floor and is also a solid fundamental player. He also has a great basketball IQ, can be a shutdown defender and has the reputation as an incredibly smart and well-mannered kid. In fact, we’re hearing there is an outside shot Barnes sticks around in Chapel Hill for another year.
So who will end up going No. 1? We’d currently give the edge to Irving, especially if the Cleveland Cavs end up with the top selection, but any of these three guys would be a great pick.