2011 NBA Draft Grades: Grading the Teams and Picks of the NBA Draft
The 2011 NBA Draft took place last night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Even though this is widely considered to be a weak draft class, it was still a hectic night with a number of big trades taking place last night.
Read on for team grades, analysis and reaction to all of the picks from last night.
Cleveland Cavaliers: C
Minnesota Timberwolves: B
Utah Jazz: A-
Toronto Raptors: B
Washington Wizards: A
Charlotte Bobcats: A-
Detroit Pistons: B+
Sacramento Kings: B
Golden State Warriors: B
Phoenix Suns: B-
Houston Rockets: A-
San Antonio Spurs: B+
Philadelphia 76ers: B+
New York Knicks: C-
Milwaukee Bucks: B-
Portland Trail Blazers:C-
Denver Nuggets: A-
Chicago Bulls: B
Oklahoma City Thunder: B+
New Jersey Nets: B+
Boston Celtics: C
Miami Heat: B
Orlando Magic: B
Los Angeles Clippers: B+
Atlanta Hawks: B-
Memphis Grizzlies: B+
Indiana Pacers: N/A
Dallas Mavericks: N/A
New Orleans Hornets: N/A
2011 NBA Draft Saw Missed Opportunities For Golden State Warriors And Others
Sometimes, a team is forced into a questionable draft pick by having their top choice taken out from under them (see Thompson, Tristan). Other times, though, a perfectly good option gets overlooked, like these:
Kawhi Leonard To Golden State Warriors
Golden State needs defense, which is Leonard’s specialty. He’s not a great scorer, but in the Warriors’ up-tempo attack, his ability to finish would get him his share of points.
JaJuan Johnson To New York Knicks
Johnson was the best potential center available to New York, and he’s a defense-first player who would shore up a Knicks team that has problems on that side of the ball.
Jordan Williams To Oklahoma City Thunder
Reggie Jackson is a fine player, but the Thunder already have a pair of outstanding backup guards. Williams would have given the team another big man off the bench, and one with more scoring punch than Nick Collison.
Shelvin Mack To Chicago Bulls
Unlike Norris Cole (whom the Bulls drafted and traded) or Nikola Mirotic (whom they acquired), Mack can play shooting guard, the Bulls’ weakest position. He’s a terrific three-point shooter who would have thrived alongside Derrick Rose.
2011 NBA Draft Brought Perfect Fits For Washington Wizards At SF
The NBA draft isn’t always about getting the best individual players. Sometimes, it’s more important to find the players who fit a team’s roster, like these clubs did:
Washington Wizards: With John Wall, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche in place, the Wizards needed long-term solutions on the wings. Jan Vesely brings explosive athleticism and transition offense, while Chris Singleton is the best pure defender in the draft.
Utah Jazz: Though Enes Kanter wasn’t exactly a need pick at No. 3, the Jazz filled a big hole at 2-guard with Alec Burks. Burks’ penetration ability and shooting will be an upgrade over Raja Bell.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns’ lone draft pick turns to gold as they add toughness, rebounding and post scoring with Kansas’ Markieff Morris.
Philadelphia 76ers: Philly’s search for a starting center may be over. The Sixers landed USC standout Nikola Vucevic, a potential star who will still be a short-term upgrade over Spencer Hawes.
Denver Nuggets: With Nene’s contract status uncertain and Kenyon Martin likely gone, the Nuggets land star rebounder Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. He’ll be especially effective paired with the high-scoring Nene if the latter stays in Denver.
2011 NBA Draft Success Isn’t Limited To The Teams Picking At The Top
A thin draft class like this year’s makes for tough going for a team that doesn’t have a first-round pick. Nevertheless, some teams picking in Round 2 came out surprisingly well:
Miami Heat: By shrewd trading, the Heat converted their No. 31 pick into sharpshooting Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole, who will likely take over for free agent Mike Bibby.
L.A. Lakers: In addition to two future prospects overseas (Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Ater Majok), the Lakers got an enviable pair of backup guards in Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.
L.A. Clippers: The shaky L.A. bench gets an infusion of talent with two Georgia teammates, high-scoring Trey Thompkins and high-flying Travis Leslie.
Orlando Magic: Orlando brought in size in the backcourt with Kentucky’s 6’6” DeAndre Liggins, then added a skilled shooting forward by trading for Justin Harper.
Memphis Grizzlies: With just one pick to their names, the Grizzlies can’t have been sorry to see athletic point guard Josh Selby fall to them.
Atlanta Hawks: Atlanta’s only selection went to a high-potential project, small-college center Keith Benson.
New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets dealt their lone second-round pick to the Knicks for cash.
Every year, a player usually falls further than he should in the draft. I was expecting it to be Chris Singleton this year, and while he did fall farther than he should have, that was not the shocker. The shocker was Brandon Knight still being available after the first seven draft picks.
When it was Detroit’s turn to draft, even though rebounding help would have been better, they jumped at the opportunity to acquire Brandon Knight, point guard from Kentucky. It was a great pickup, as Knight can slide into the point guard spot immediately while Rodney Stuckey can move to the two spot.
As great as that pick was, I’m not crazy about the other two. They chose Vernon Macklin with the 52nd pick, even though he was not going to be drafted and could have been acquired as a free agent. He’s athletic but is not NBA-ready just yet.
The selection of Kyle Singler with the 33rd pick is one most seem to love, but I’m not a fan of it. I don’t think Singler will amount to much, as he doesn’t really seem to have a set place you can put him in the lineup. He has good ball handling and rebounding skills, but there isn’t anything that he is great at.
Then again, a well-rounded player may be what the Pistons need. Besides, the story of the draft is Knight, who should immediately light a spark under a Pistons team that badly needs one.
The Los Angeles Lakers came into the draft needing to find a playmaking point guard, and all they had were two second-round picks. Given that, they simply made the most of what they had and used both picks on point guards.
The first guard they took was Michigan’s Darius Morris with the 41st pick. The Lakers got great value, and he is a guy that could be very good, but he needs a year or two of training first, as I believe he declared for the draft a year too early.
The Lakers used the 46th pick on Andrew Goudelock of Charleston. He is an amazing shooter and someone who I like more than most other experts, so I like this pick. However, much like Kemba and Kimmer, he’s not a pure point guard, and will have to learn to pass and be the main ball handler.
The Lakers also snagged Ater Majok, who I know nothing about. Having Morris and Goudelock compete for the starting job while Derek Fisher holds the fort is a smart move. The two will bring out the best in each other, and the Lakers will not have to worry about that position if that strategy pans out, though both could end up being non-factors.
The 2011 NBA Draft has been heralded as one of the weakest draft classes in some time. It remains to be seen whether or not that is the case, but three teams appear to agree with that.
The Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Hornets had no draft picks in this year’s draft after trades, and had no desire to pick one up. Both are playoff teams, and the Mavericks just won the title, so they didn’t really need to pick anyone up this year.
The one that may be more confusing is the Indiana Pacers. They traded the 15th pick to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill, who should contribute immediately for them. However, they missed out on Kawhi Leonard by trading it, which sounds bad, but they already have Danny Granger at that position.
These are tough to grade. The Mavericks and Hornets should just look at free agency if they are to improve their team, so I get the moves, but the Pacers need to do more than just pick up George Hill if they want to be a playoff team.
Grades: A for Mavs, B+ for Hornets, B- for Pacers
Get excited Nets fans because the New Jersey backcourt has a lot of potential.
That is, if point guard Deron Williams re-signs this offseason.
In any event, the mere thought of him being paired with Providence shooting guard Marshon Brooks should give some goose-bumps.
After the 2010-11 season concluded for the Providence Friars, Brooks averaged 24.6 points, seven boards, and 2.5 assists per game.
And, after playing in the rigors of the Big East conference, which saw 11 teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament (including the eventual national champion), Brooks performed miraculously.
Now, he has an opportunity to play with one of the best point guards in the association, and really make a name for himself.
Barring a lockout, the sooner these two begin working together the better because they will be fun to watch.
Include center Brook Lopez in the frontcourt and there’s someone they can really count on in the paint.
Next up, making a move via trade/free agency to bolster either forward position.
Ladies and gentlemen, these Nets will be contending for the Eastern Conference within five years. Mark it down.
Not surprising that the Denver Nuggets go to the dark-side with their first round pick.
Last season the Nuggets allowed an average of 102.7 points per game, ranking them 21st in the association.
In addition to that, they did manage to average 42 boards per game, ranking them 11th in the NBA.
Well, you can expect both of those ranks to move up by the end of the 2011-12 season with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried in Denver’s frontcourt.
The guy gives everything he has (and a little bit more) to defense.
Last season he averaged 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
Thing is, he’s only 6’8” 225 pounds.
For head coach George Karl, expect him to start out as a small forward, but he should receive time at power forward as well.
If and when he’s contributing as a power forward, it’ll most likely be on the offensive end as he’s quick and physical enough to pound the paint.
Not to mention he knows how to score after averaging 17.6 points per game last season.
At small forward though, he’ll crush virtually anyone he’s defending, so the use of his versatility will be greatly appreciated.
The details are long, so they will be spared, but to make a long story short, Miami acquired Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole via trade with Minnesota.
To learn from a solid veteran in Mike Bibby, Norris Cole can definitely contribute to the Heat’s backcourt depth.
Now, although Miami is still in the need of a center, they may even put Bibby on the market, thus leaving Cole with Mario Chalmers.
However, both are much younger and quicker than Bibby, because keeping up with LeBron’s and Wade’s defense is key.
Make no mistake about it, Miami greatly improved with the addition of Norris Cole, who isn’t afraid to drive the lane and make things happen.
He’s had to work for everything he’s earned, so it should be no different in the NBA.
That said, the threat of him driving (and he will become one sooner than anticipated), will free up Wade and LeBron to have an even more efficient offense.
Switching to defense, and Cole has the ability to transition with Wade and LeBron, as well as be a force in not allowing the opposing backcourt to penetrate.
In turn, all that leaves is a center, and Miami is complete.
After taking center/power forward Enes Kanter third overall, Utah went into the backcourt and selected the combo guard Alec Burks from Colorado.
At first, it may appear as a not so great pick, but when you look at the Jazz now, they’re definitely building in the right direction.
Devin Harris, whom they acquired from a 2011 trade with New Jersey is a decent guy to run the point.
Then at shooting guard there’s Gordon Hayward.
Alec Burks fits in behind both because he has that uncanny ability to play either position.
Now, although he is for certain, more like a shooting guard, but he’ll be a solid backup to Harris at the point as well.
That said, he adds youth, talent, and depth to a team desperately needing just that.
If you look into their frontcourt, there’s Andrei Kirilenko at small forward (backup C.J. Miles), Paul Millsap at power forward (backup Derrick Favors), and Al Jefferson at center (soon to be Enes Kanter).
There’s depth and talent all across the board in Utah, so don’t be surprised if the Great Salt Lake makes their way back to the NBA playoffs.
We’ll start with Markieff Morris who was selected by the Phoenix Suns at No. 13.
It was a solid pick as a team in the desperate need of rebounding and defense.
Markieff brings both and just that little bit of swagger that lacks in the Phoenix frontcourt.
You would think that Vince Carter would still possess it (even for offense), but times are changing in Arizona.
Even the Arizona Cardinals football team is becoming defensive oriented after drafting cornerback Patrick Peterson from LSU in late-April.
But I digress.
Markieff also adds relevant depth along with Hakim Warrick at power forward, so you can expect Channing Frye to receive more time at center.
Switching gears to brother Marcus, who was selected at No. 14 overall by the Houston Rockets.
It was an interesting selection as they already have Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger, but nonetheless, Marcus will be sufficient.
That said, he’ll most likely add some needed depth behind Luis Scola at power forward.
Chances are he bounces back and forth because neither Williams or Budinger are complete small forwards, while Marcus has that potential.
Previously the Washington Wizards drafted combo forward Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic at No. 6 overall.
What’s interesting here is that he’s somewhat like their next pick, hybrid shooting guard/small forward Chris Singleton from Florida State.
Now, the biggest difference between him and Vesely is that Singleton needs to work on offense, while Vesely on defense.
Therefore, that may be why both were drafted to the Wizards, because they could benefit from each other’s strengths.
As for Singleton, well, he has the ability to guard anyone that’s not a center, and will be able to push the tempo along with point guard John Wall.
Washington may have had the best draft, because they counteracted the weaknesses of one pick, with the strength of another.
All while addressing the issues from the team perspective as a whole (21st in scoring offense, 24th in points allowed).
If there was a bet on which team will make the most strides between the 2010-11 season, and the 2011-12 season, it’s a smart choice to pick the Washington Wizards.
Now, obviously it will take time, but in a few years they will be a solid competitor among the Eastern Conference .
Not necessarily a surprise pick, but one that definitely makes you wonder- “What is Golden State doing?”
Now yes, Klay Thompson will be a good fit for their up-tempo offense whether in transition or half-court.
He’ll most likely be playing small forward with his 6’7” 206 pound frame, but should have the Warriors focused more on defense.
You see what happens when to offensive juggernauts get put together (Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire), and even they only were a seven seed in the post-season.
Obviously they’ll eventually pick things up once they get a full season to build the chemistry, but as good as Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis are, they’re offense won’t be as prolific as ‘Melo and ‘Mare.
That being said, Golden State did need someone who could be the No. 3 in the offense scheme.
It appears that since they couldn’t stop anyone last season, and drafting one guy won’t turn the defense around immediately, then offense is the way to go.
Therefore, with Curry and Ellis outside, Thompson should become a solid contributor in the frontcourt.
They’re definitely going to have to rely on the offense though, because the defense hasn’t improved one bit.
After being selected by the Indiana Pacers, Kawhi Leonard went to the Spurs in a trade that really helps out the San Antonio.
Small forward Richard Jefferson is much like Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Antonio McDyess, old.
And, even though point guard Tony Parker in only in his late-20s, he looks much older than that.
Therefore, enter San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard who can enlighten a team and give them a second or even third wind.
For one, he can guard positions one through four, and has the transition ability to pick up the pace in San Antonio.
Now, whenever Tim Duncan is taking a break, you’ll see the future of the Spurs frontcourt in Leonard (at small forward) and DeJuan Blair (at power forward).
Or, Da’Sean Butler at small forward, Leonard at power forward, and Blair at center.
All that’s left is for the current seasoned vets to pass the torch and let ‘em fly.
However, until Duncan, Ginobili and Jefferson decide to hang it up, it’s highly recommended that these young bucks learn as much as possible from them.
Because after that dynasty, basketball is more than just a sport in San Antonio.
Much like Kyrie Irving to Cleveland, Arizona forward Derrick Williams to the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 2 overall was just as expected.
Williams brings excellent frontcourt talent to the Timberwolves, which has the potential to be one of the best in the association.
Chances are Kevin Love takes over the reigns as the primary center, and Michael Beasley will most likely make the switch from small to power forward.
Which, now leaves room for Derrick Williams to play at small forward.
Now, although it puts Minnesota’s lineup as small, it will improve an already decent offense.
Additionally, Kevin Love can earn some new stripes in the rebounding game by seeing what he can do at center.
There, it will be more difficult for him to dominate the boards, but at the same time, it will improve his game on both ends while giving him a new set of challenges.
All the Timberwolves have to do now is pick up a solid point guard via free agency, and 2011-12 has some decently high expectations.