Where will Klay land?

Backcourt ace will likely land lottery slot in today’s NBA Draft

If Cleveland Cavaliers guard Baron Davis had it his way, that prized gunner from Washington State would be his running mate.

“Klay (Thompson) is the best 2-guard in the draft,” Davis told ESPN.com. “We need wing players. I love his height, athleticism and ability to score. He’ll help spread the floor for us because defenses are going to have to know where he is at all times.”

The same thought has probably occured to a variety of point guards and their respective teams who have lottery slots in the 2011 NBA draft.

The Cavs, who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in today’s draft that begins at 4 p.m., covet Thompson’s range, but the former Cougar probably won’t get his name called by NBA Commissioner David Stern until a little later in the first round.

But not too much later. Any way you slice it, Thompson – the Pullman school’s leader in points and 3-pointers in a season – could end up going higher in the draft than any other Cougar. (That distinction currently belongs to Don Collins, who was picked 18th by Atlanta in 1980.)

This year’s draft has been dubbed as one of the weakest in recent memory and is essentially a crapshoot after the first three picks, which will likely see Duke superlative freshman Kyrie Irving be the top pick.

Bullish forward Derrick Williams of Arizona is a favorite for the No. 2 slot to Minnesota while Turkish center Enes Kanter is a possibility to head to Utah at No.3 – or vice versa.

The aforementioned trio is the most coveted. After that, though, it’s anyone’s guess as to where a bulk of this year’s crop will land.

And Thompson, whose dad was the No. 1 pick in the 1978 draft, can go anywhere from four to 14. The fact that the 6-foot-6 Thompson is in the lottery pick (1-14) discussion is noteworthy considering a good portion of college hoop aficionados felt the sweet-shooting junior would have been better off returning for a senior year.

After missing the NCAA tournament for the third straight season, getting popped for marijuana possession at the end of the regular season and putting up a paltry six points in a 75-44 loss to Wichita State in the NIT semifinals, question marks surrounded the All-Pac-10 first-teamer’s status at the next level.

When he declared for the draft in April, most draft boards and analysts began to list Thompson as a mid-to-late first-round pick, and GMs and reporters alike grilled him on the marijuana issue.

It didn’t take long for Thompson to exhibit his value in workouts, though. That’s where his stock rose considerably. He has been labeled the best shooter in the draft class, drawing comparisons to Reggie Miller.

“Once he gets into the workout, much like the European players, he’s so fundamentally sound that going to the workouts are really a benefit to him and the teams looking at him,” Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney told the Associated Press.

Thompson has worked out for Golden State, Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Sacramento and Utah. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Draftexpress.com and NBAdraft.net forecast Thompson going as the No. 10 pick to Milwaukee. Others have him going anywhere from Golden State at No. 11 to Houston at No. 14.

Couple the above prognostications with the rumor that San Antonio is willing to deal Tony Parker or Richard Hamilton in an effort to land Thompson, it just goes to show how unpredictable this draft could be.

“I think this pick likely comes down to Thompson and (Colorado’s) Alec Burks,” ESPN.com‘s Chad Ford wrote about the Bucks’ 10th pick. “They play the same position but have different strengths. Thompson is a shooter; Burks is a slasher. With the Bucks telling me pretty strongly that they’re holding on to Brandon Jennings as their point guard, and with the team making a strong drive to get back in the playoffs, I think Thompson is a better fit.”

Thompson accepted an invitation to the draft’s green room in Newark, N.J., and will be there tonight – where he’d get to shake hands with the commissioner when his name is called. Such invitations are doled out to sure-fire upper-tier draft picks.

The last WSU alumnus to get his named called was Kyle Weaver in the 2008 draft, going in the second round to the Charlotte Bobcats.

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