When Washington State guard Klay Thompson declared for the 2011 NBA Draft, he made it clear the only thing that would keep him from returning to school was a near-guarantee he'd be picked in the first round. Thompson elected to keep his name in the draft as the deadline to retain his collegiate eligibility passed, a sign he'd heard the right evaluations and was likely to go in the first 30 picks. And it appears to have been a good choice as 2011 NBA mock drafts begin to make early projections after Tuesday's draft lottery.
Thompson is not just in the first round of Draft Express' updated 2011 NBA mock draft, he's nearly a lottery pick. With the draft order set, Draft Express was able to nail down its picks and make solid projections, and the news was certainly good for Thompson. In the latest mock draft, the Washington State star is projected to don an Indiana Pacers uniform as the No. 15 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Indiana has solid young players at every position, meaning this pick could very well be available if the right piece became available. In lieu of a trade, acquiring some additional depth on the wing makes some sense, especially considering that Mike Dunleavy is a free agent and Brandon Rush(notes) has not yet proven himself to be a consistent contributor.
The first 14 picks are the coveted lottery spots and are of the highest value on the draft order totem pole. While the difference between No. 14 and No. 15 isn't much, a player being able to distinguish himself as a lottery pick does have a fair amount of significance. And if Thompson continues to improve in workouts ahead of the draft, he may just find himself within those top-14 spots when the picks are announced.
We'll be tracking Thompson and Washington's Isaiah Thomas ahead of the draft to see where they fit and where the various NBA mock drafts see them coming off the board. Stay with this StoryStream for the latest on the draft as more becomes available. For more on Thompson and the Cougars, head over to SB Nation's CougCenter. To check in with Thomas and the Huskies, visit UW Dawg Pound.