Either Duke Blue Devil Kyrie Irving or Arizona Wildcat Derrick Williams will be taken first by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft. By now, it looks just about settled at that, and we'll make the obvious assumption that the ailing Cavs won't trade that pick away.
Irving seems to be the the frontrunner in the eyes of most scouting and draft websites, but for argument's sake, let's break down how each of them look from a few odd angles to see if Williams has a shot. Namely, how high are their respective ceilings, and who has the traits of a potential All Star? How well do their physical traits adapt in the league? And what did their prior high school and college careers tell us -- or not tell us -- about their NBA future?
To get it out of the way here, both are quality human beings, and they're in this discussion because we know they've got damn good work ethics. But hard work only goes so far; intangibles matter.
Who has less question marks going into the draft?
Being NBA ready matters. Having a cool, collectedness is key, but being diverse enough to handle the speed and athleticism of the NBA is also a necessity. Between Williams and Irving, though they play different positions, I'll have to go with Irving on this one. Unlike Williams, he has a defined role -- we know he'll play point guard.
That's because he has the skills of one. Whether or not he's ready mentally (I'll get to that below) is less of a concern considering he can a) pass and b) dribble. On the other hand, Williams is somewhat of a mystery. He's called a tweener, and though he has the build of a power forward, he claims that former Arizona head coach Lute Olson is accurate in calling him an Andre Iguodala with a jump shot.
Let me point out that Williams has 30 pounds on Iggy, a more suspect handle and less of a passing game. I've mentioned this before, but I also can't imagine him defending even slower NBA small forwards.
We know what to expect from Irving, and that makes him the safer choice at Numero Uno.
Who's got the 'it' factor?
Michael Jordan had it. Right now, it's questionable if LeBron James does at all. Great players not only have high skills sets, but simply get it done when they need to.
Williams gets the nod here. Much of this has to do with Irving's injury -- that itself could be a slight concern for the Cavs -- which held him out of much of his only season with the Blue Devils. He didn't get much experience at the point guard position to show off his savvy, nor enough time in big games. He did play well in the NCAA Tournament and was in fact Duke's best player in the Arizona Sweet 16 game, but uh, remember what Derrick did?
Marc Jackson would be calling him a "baaad man" during his 25-point outburst in the first half of that contest. Heck, he kept the Wildcats in it. Oh, and then the list goes on with The Block against Washington in McKale and The Other Block against Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then the 3-point play two days later to steal one from the Texas Longhorns. Just too much for Irving to win that category.
Who has the potential to become a perennial All Star?
Numbers don't tell the whole story. Winning tells much more. Irving missed so many games and of course, didn't even start over Nolan Smith. So what we know of how effective he can be running the show, being the floor general and leading the team is little.
Again, Williams takes this category as well. Though not a point guard, he was a winner. When his numbers stunk, he blamed himself in a loss. When his numbers stunk, he didn't care with a win. He was a teammate to the fullest, and that goes a long way considering all things.
In the curious case of Mr. Irving, we don't know his affect on his teammates. I also don't believe it's so obvious that he'll become the passing point guard in the mold of Chris Paul. Can he score? Pretty damn well. But will he turn out to be a Tyreke Evans or Monta Ellis, a guy filling up the box scores but not leading his team to victory. Paul can make a so-so squad compete. The stat-stuffers are questionable. Which one is Irving?
Who do you think will go first in the 2011 NBA Draft? Will Derrick Williams or Kyrie Irving have the better NBA career?