NEW YORK – They’ve all heard the chatter.
They know that their group Q-rating as a draft class is in the tank. They’ve listened to all of the “so-called” experts detail how inferior they are to previous draft crops, and to a man the Class of 2011 insists they will have the last laugh.
“People are going to always have their opinions,” Brandon Knight said. “People thought our class at Kentucky was weak and we made it to a Final Four. Kyrie Irving is a great player. Derrick Williams is a great player. Tristan Thompson is a great player. There are a lot of players in this draft that could explode and become superstars. You can’t rally sit here and say this is a ‘weak’ draft when you don’t know what guys will become.”
Sorry Brandon, but that’s exactly what the pundits do this time of year. Assumptions are made, based sometimes on flimsy evidence. It doesn’t matter that the know-it-alls have already dismissed this draft class as awful, without them so much as creasing the court for a summer league game.
“As a group, none of us believe this is a weak draft class,” Thompson said. “I feel people might say it’s a weak draft class because we don’t have your LeBron James or your Yao Ming or your stamped franchise guys. We have a lot of guys that are talented that, maybe two or three years from now, might be perennial All-Stars. People have their opinion, but we’re going to keep working hard and try to prove everyone wrong.”
They’ve been doing to for years, according to Williams, who says he was barely a top 100 recruit out of high school.
“I don’t think this is the worst draft ever,” Williams said. “So many times in the past it was about drafting franchise players. A lot of this draft is adding pieces to already good teams. I don’t think it’s terrible. Last year’s draft had 14 of the 30 first round picks spend time in the D-League. That’s the most D-Leaguers from any draft. So it’s not really fair to say this is the weakest or the worst draft class and we haven’t even played yet. After a couple of years if we are not producing then it’s fair to say that.”
Even a couple of years might be enough time to make a fair assessment of this class. Every crop is filled with supposed can’t-miss prospects that turn out to be duds, sleepers that turn out to be stars and value picks that wind up being stalwarts for contenders. It’s the nature of the draft beast and the product of what everyone agrees is an inexact science.
“For the most part, every year I’ve watched the draft, there was always some criticism, regardless of who was in the draft,” Kemba Walker said. “So it really doesn’t matter. We have no control of what people say. They’re entitled to their own opinions. All of us are just going to try and prove everyone wrong.”
That’s the goal for guys like Walker, who could go anywhere from the late lottery to late first round, and also for the marquee player(s) in this star-lite draft.
“I really don’t pay attention to what people say about this draft,” Irving said. “I really am confident in this draft class, just based on we’re all achieving our dreams. This is an opportunity that many people don’t get a chance to experience. So this draft is really special, regardless of what people say.”