The obvious assumption is that when you have the first selection in anything, you’re guaranteed to have the best product. That’s the pressure the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing as they hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and, thus far, the best guess is that Duke point guard Kyrie Irving will be the first player announced by David Stern. But what if Irving isn’t even the best point guard in the draft?
In a recent ESPN chat session with NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford, the question was asked to match up Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving. Specifically, the reader was curious whether or not Knight could become the better pro and Ford agreed that it was entirely possible for that to happen, based up on Knight’s higher potential and athleticism. Ford writes:
He’s bigger. A better athlete. He progressed a lot during his freshman year. All of the mistakes he makes are fixable. Irving is further along in his development, but Knight has the physical tools to overtake him if it all comes together for him.
Irving versus Knight is a classic case of proven versus potential. It’s not in any way to say that Knight is all potential with nothing proven thus far. It’s also not a slight that Irving won’t continue to get better. But it is obvious that one is rougher around the edges than the other, yet both are incredibly talented point guards.
It conjures images of the 2005 NBA Draft which featured Chris Paul and Deron Williams at the top — one with higher perceived potential than the other in the eyes of certain teams. The Utah Jazz were quickly criticized for passing on Paul, yet history revealed it wasn’t such a crazy decision after all. To that end, it feels similar to say that Knight and Irving will likely both be very productive point guards in the NBA for years to come.
At this point, the Cavs seem quite content to stay with Irving in their sites, but Knight’s potential as a pro might prove even greater in the long run, which will benefit a team like the Jazz or Raptors choosing a few slots lower.