2011 NBA Draft: Winners, Losers and a Few Teams That Need to Make a Few Moves
The picks are in at the 2011 NBA Draft, and it proved to be an interesting night, though not nearly as exciting in terms of trades and movement.
As expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers took Kyrie Irving No. 1 overall (more on that later). The Minnesota Timberwolves did not trade the second pick and took Derrick Williams (definitely more on that later), and the Utah Jazz took Enes Kanter third.
While none of the big names moved (Pau Gasol, Andre Iguodala and Monta Ellis to name a few), there were quite a few moves on the back end of the draft that could pay dividends in the coming years. Not to be forgotten, the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings engineered a three-way trade that could end up helping each team in the immediate future.
Here are my winners and losers, plus a few incompletes from the draft.
Winner: The Charlotte Bobcats
I think Charlotte easily had the best draft of any team in the NBA.
They unloaded Stephen Jackson in that huge eight player deal with Milwaukee and Sacramento and got back a guy that doesn't really need plays run for him in Corey Maggette. They didn't have to trade their ninth overall pick, which they used to draft UConn guard Kemba Walker, and they acquired the rights to Bismack Biyombo in the deal.
Nothing about this night was poor for them.
Jackson was clearly not going to be around after his contract was up, and the Bobcats are in full blown rebuilding mode (though rebuilding from what would be my question). The deal saves them almost three million dollars in cap space over the next two years, and they don't need to worry about Maggette playing within the offense.
Biyombo was clearly one of the more intriguing players in this draft, with the main questions about him being his true age. He is a skilled defender and rebounder, and if he truly is 19, the Bobcats may have gotten one of the best centers in the NBA over the next decade.
Walker is a proven winner, something the Bobcats sorely need and is willing to leave it all on the court every night, and who would know better than Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan. Walker was the driving force behind that magnificent run UConn went on to end the season with a National Championship, and may be the best overall value in this draft when the dust settles.
Overall, it would seem that the Bobcats are headed in the right direction.
Loser: The Cleveland Cavaliers
I really wish it weren't so, but the Cavs blew it with this one.
They drafted Kyrie Irving first overall despite a roster full of point guards with Daniel Gibson, Baron Davis, and Ramon Sessions, all of whom are under contract for the next two seasons. They didn't draft Derrick Williams despite a roster with a gaping hole at small forward.
What's more, or possibly worse, is they took a point guard that hasn't really proven anything in terms of leadership or even really ability of any kind, despite the fact that two point guards that had done both of those things in Kentucky's Brandon Knight and UConn's Kemba Walker were available when they picked again at number 4.
Then with the fourth pick, they draft Tristan Thompson, a solid but undersized power forward that reminds me a lot of J.J. Hickson who plays for, that's right, the Cavs. I can understand that the Jazz pick of Enes Kanter probably threw off their plans, but Biyombo was still on the board as well as Jan Vesely and Klay Thompson, both of whom can play small forward.
All signs point to disaster in year two of "Dan Gilbert's Promise" in Cleveland.
Winner: The San Antonio Spurs
I am just at a loss for words. I don't understand how they do it, but the San Antonio Spurs always seem to win in the draft.
How do you trade your backup point guard (yes I know, he started 43 games but he's the back-up), and get a team to give you their entire draft? In Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs get young at a position they are weak at, small forward, and they also get back to the toughness defensively that they have lacked the last couple of years.
He isn't really very developed offensively yet but he can make shots when he gets into a rhythm, and he is only 19, giving him plenty of time to develop.
They also acquired Davis Bertans in the trade. Bertans is a 19-year-old small forward that can shoot the lights out, is incredibly athletic and probably won't be here in the NBA for a few years but was very high on a number of draft boards because of his age and abilities. He needs to fill out, but the Spurs got another steal they can stash in Europe for a few years.
They also didn't have to trade their pick, which they used to draft Corey Joseph out of Texas, a 6'3" point guard that can shoot for days and seems like he may just be George Hill part two.
I'm just stunned. I may not be a Spurs fan, but I admire how they do it, and I wish my team was just like them.
More on the Pacers later.
Loser: The Indiana Pacers
So with the 15th and 42nd picks in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select George Hill of the San Antonio Spurs?
I mean, I know Larry Bird isn't the best GM in the NBA, but he isn't even trying anymore. Yes, the Pacers need to get more of a veteran presence on the team, but not in the back court. It wasn't a lack of depth at the guard position that caused the Pacers to lose in the playoffs. It was lack of presence in the post, specifically a big man besides Roy Hibbert that could play defense cleanly, which means not constantly cheap-shotting opposing players (Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, and Josh McRoberts) and a reliable big man scorer. The Pacers have too much shooting and not enough at the rim. Larry Bird's answer is trade for a three point shooter?
But hey, luckily, the Pacer fans are happy cause Bird went out and got a local guy for the Pacers; never mind he gave up his entire draft as well as a previous pick still playing in Europe. What they probably don't realize is that the guy they just lost to in the playoffs, Derrick Rose, who they'll probably see again, averaged nearly 26 points per game against the Pacers in round one and averaged 38.5 point per game against George Hill's former team this season, including a career high 42 just before the All-Star break. Ironically he tied that career high later in the season...against the Pacers.
Maybe Kawhi Leonard could have helped a little.
Winner: The Sacramento Kings (of Anaheim?)
I don't want to hear any of this talk about the Kings being losers in their three-way trade with the Bucks and Bobcats. They drafted Jimmer Fredette, they acquired John Salmons and they got rid of Beno Udrih and all of his whining.
In Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans and now Fredette, the Kings now have three big time shooters that are all capable of going for 30 every night. Who cares that none of them play defense; this team is going to average 150 points a night next season.
OK, maybe not that many, but they're gonna score, and they're gonna score a lot. I just became a Sacramento Kings fan. In fact, I'm gonna dust off my 1981-82 Denver Nuggets jersey (that team that averaged 126 points per game) and pretend I'm watching Alex English, Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe all average 21 plus points per game for every Kings game this season.
Too bad every opposing team will set all-time scoring records in those games.
Incomplete: The Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried of Moorehead State is a phenomenal pick for the Nuggets. He is a relentless rebounder and defender who will go nonstop from the minute he gets on the court to the minute he sits down. He doesn't have much to offer in terms of offense at this point, but that isn't really a need of the Nuggets right now.
Jordan Hamilton, acquired from Dallas in the Raymond Felton trade, is also a very good pickup, as he is big and can contribute right away as a wing scorer. He has deep range on his jumper and can put the ball on the floor and score in close at the rim if need be.
But I feel that the Nuggets missed big with the Felton trade. They basically gave up a starting quality point guard and got a backup point guard, in Andre Miller, in return. Miller won't start over Ty Lawson, and while he will allow them to run some of those smaller sets they like to run, the Nuggets needed more size up front.
Faried was a great pick, but they needed to turn Felton into a top of the line post player, and I can't help but feel like they may have panic moved him because they were afraid of keeping another player that was upset being in Denver.
They've really set themselves up to have to make more moves.
Incomplete: The Minnesota Timberwolves
The only reason Minnesota doesn't get a fail for the draft is they may have gotten the best player in the draft.
Williams is an amazing talent who can score from anywhere on the court. He is incredibly athletic, plays great defense and can shoot at a high percentage from anywhere on the court. He even seems to be a hard worker who will lead by example. A great pick for Cleveland, except they passed so Minnesota wins there.
But is Williams a small forward, Michael Beasley's position, or a power forward, Kevin Love's position?
You don't draft the number two pick to sit on the bench when you are coming off of 13 wins; you draft him to be an instant contributor.
So who are the T-Wolves going to move?
You figure if the rumored Pau Gasol for Kevin Love and the number two pick were going to happen, it would have during the draft. It's quite likely that the Lakers would have used the pick on Williams so it is still likely, but you figure the Lakers would have indicated as much to Minnesota and they still would be talking.
If that trade doesn't go through, do you trade Beasley? What kind of value does he have around the NBA? He's an amazing scorer, which helps, but he doesn't seem to care about anything, ever.
It's good that Minnesota was able to get rid of Johnny Flynn, but all the talk before the draft was that Minny wanted veterans to put with their young core, and what they ended up with is three more rookies to further clog their logjams at the 3 and 4 positions.
Incomplete: The Chicago Bulls
The Bulls made a couple of good picks late in round one.
They drafted Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a big small forward that seems like their type of player. Great guy, hard worker, solid citizen, excellent defender and can't shoot a lick. He'll fit in with the rest of the guys who play lights out in your face defense but can't hit the water in the ocean when shooting.
Nikola Mirotic is an excellent pick. He can shoot very well and plays up tempo on offense and even seems to be a capable defender at times. He'll make a fine addition to the Bulls, in four years when he comes to the NBA. The Bulls made it clear they wanted to draft a guy and stash him in Europe, and they were able to do just that.
The problem, as I see it, is they passed on Marshon Brooks to do it. Maybe the answer for the Bulls in 2012 at shooting guard wasn't in this draft, but Brooks could easily be that answer in 2013 or beyond. Brooks was there at 23 when Houston, the team that took Mirotic, drafted, and the Bulls could just as easily used their 30th pick on Bertans if Mirotic was gone when they picked.
Instead they let the guy many people thought might be the best shooting guard prospect in this draft end up in New Jersey. I'm one of the few that believes that the Bulls don't need to panic and make crazy moves, but Brooks was there for the taking and they passed him up. I hope that doesn't hurt them in the long run.
Winner: The Dallas Mavericks
Portland got a great player in the Raymond Felton deal (Raymond Felton), but so did Dallas. What did Dallas give up? The draft rights to Jordan Hamilton and the draft rights to Tanguy Ngombo, the 57th overall pick.
Yeah I know.
This is the team that just won the NBA Championship by beating a host of teams that many thought were better than they were, and they did it mainly with depth. Then they got deeper by acquiring one of the better shooters off of Portland's bench.
You can say what you want about Pat Riley, but no one seems to fleece teams by giving up nothing like Mark Cuban.
You gotta love it.
Now We Learn to Love Hockey During the Lockout
Well, if this was the last hurrah before the lockout, I gotta say it wasn't very exciting. Now the countdown to the lockout begins, as the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at midnight July 1, just when most teams would be negotiating with free agents, and most experts think this one may be longer than the last.
The owners want to restrict player movement (because of what the Heat did last season), institute a hard cap (which is strange since they are the ones who go over the cap) and put an end to guaranteed contracts.
The players want to go on with things being the way it is.
Somehow I think the owners are going to win, but only time will really tell.
All I know is it's time for most of you guys to find out what the hell icing is, and not the stuff you put on your cake.
By the way, that is a picture of Tim Thomas, the goalie for the Boston Bruins, who was simply amazing during the playoffs this year. If you didn't watch hockey at all, shame on you, cause you missed a wonderful postseason.