Point/counterpoint: Who should be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kyrie Irving, Duke

Rewind to four years ago, when the Chicago Bulls owned the first pick in the NBA draft, they faced a serious problem.

The Bulls had to choose between Derrick Rose, an athletic point guard who lacked a jump shot and who had just choked away a national championship for Memphis, and Michael Beasley — the dominant Kansas State forward who scored more than 26 points per game and led the nation in rebounding as a freshman.

Fast-forward to 2011, and it’s clear Chicago chose well. Rose became the youngest MVP in NBA history and led the Bulls to the league’s best record.

The Cleveland Cavaliers face a similar problem in this year’s draft. Do they take forward Derrick Williams, the leader of Arizona’s run to the Elite Eight? Or do they take Kyrie Irving, the Duke point guard who played only 11 games because of a ligament injury in his toe?

Do yourself a favor, Cleveland, and take the point guard.

Now, more than ever, the NBA is point-guard dominated. With Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and John Wall (the 2010 No. 1 pick), the premium on athletic, dynamic point guards is at an all-time high.

Irving has all the tools to join that list of elite NBA guards. Even with Duke, then the defending national champion, it was clear he was the best player on the court from day one. He might not have Rose’s explosiveness, but Irving is a good passer with excellent vision, a good jumper, and a quickness with the ball that made him impossible to guard on the college level.

Passing up on Irving for Derrick Williams would be a huge mistake by the Cavaliers. Williams has the ability to be an All Star, but there are issues with his game. He doesn’t have the size or strength of a power forward, and he lacks the lateral quickness to guard most small forwards. His rebounding numbers weren’t that impressive at Arizona, and they likely won’t improve in the NBA.

Williams is an Antawn Jamison-type forward. He’ll score about 20 points and grab seven rebounds a night, but he isn’t someone you build a franchise around.

The Cavs will make the right decision on Thursday and draft Irving No. 1.

— by Kyle Hughes

Derrick Williams, Arizona

Arizona’s Derrick Williams has the essentials to be a solid NBA player. At 6-9, Williams has the ideal size for a small forward. He has both an outstanding perimeter game and a strong inside game.

Although Duke’s freshman stud Kyrie Irving will most likely be taken with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, I would much rather my favorite team take Williams.

William’s tenure at Arizona was impressive. He blew past opponents in his two seasons with the Wildcats, scoring 1,227 points. In his sophomore campaign, Williams averaged a stellar 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Williams also led the NCAA in True Field Goal percentage (.690) and Effective Field Goal percentage (.650), all en route to becoming the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

One of William’s primary weapons at Arizona was his 3-ball. He connected on a staggering 56.8 percent of his shots from downtown in 2010-11, a full 10 percent higher than Ray Allen shot in his last season at Connecticut — and Allen has made more 3-pointers than any other player in NBA history.

In a recent episode of ESPN Sport Science, Williams hit 9-of-10 shots from behind the NBA 3-point line (23 feet, 9 inches) with a catch-and-shoot time of 0.8 second — on par with some of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters. Williams also averaged an ideal 2.2 backspins per shot. With 3-pointers being jacked up like never before, a talent from beyond the arc such as Williams is too good to pass up.

In addition to his mouth-watering outside shot, Williams has proven himself to be a force inside as well. His dunks during the NCAA Tournament opened many eyes around the nation — and in this reporter’s dorm room. Williams scored 32 points and made Kyle Singler look silly as he almost single-handedly led Arizona past Duke in the on March 24.

Both Williams and Irving were solid this past season, but that doesn’t mean their talent is certain to transition well to the NBA. The only thing for certain is that Williams has a more complete game and would be the safer pick.

— by Cody Gredell

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