2011 NBA Draft Grades: Report Cards for the GMs
The 2011 NBA Draft seems less predictable than most years with the deluge of foreign players and raw talent swirling in the minds of general managers across the league. Outside of Kyrie Irving, projecting these guys will be a particularly huge challenge.
But we can still gauge team fits, reference fan reaction and point to experts — and fire off quick thoughts on which GMs executed with aplomb on draft night.
At least that's what I'll do, sort of. Ahh who the heck knows what will happen, just read as I recap how each team "performed" on a night that spiraled into the bizarre once we got past the lottery picks.
Chris Grant, Cleveland Cavaliers
Chris Grant's inaugural selection as Cleveland Cavaliers general manager landed the guy everyone expected him to take in Kyrie Irving. The Duke point guard flees to The Cleve as the safe No. 1 pick.
In a draft with so much uncertainty, Irving seems to be the only consensus sure-thing among experts. And by "thing" I mean "good player but not necessarily a perennial All-Star."
Still, what he showed while not injured at Duke would make me pleased to have him at point guard for my team. Irving possesses the best score-and-distribute package in the draft and provides a nice building block for the hapless Cavs.
Then Texas forward Tristan Thompson injects more frontcourt defense and rebounding at No. 4. Though I wouldn't consider it direly needed, especially considering the other holes.
Fran Fraschilla on taking Serbian baller Milan Macvan at 54. "I'm not sure you'll ever see him come over here (to the United States.)" I hate the end of the NBA draft (but love Fraschilla).
David Kahn, Minnesota Timberwolves
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David Kahn's run as a GM hasn't come close to measuring with his fantastic sports writing career. It's been so bad, in fact, that there was some worry the Minnesota Timberwolves would take ANOTHER point guard.
Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio can exhale, as small/power forward Derrick Williams joins them. The versatile big man from Arizona provides another silky shooting tree for the Timberwolves to accompany Kevin Love. Though, Williams provides much more of threat to take you off the dribble than the latter.
I'm fan of that forward combo. Hard not to love the pick.
Flynn couldn't exhale long before packing his bags, as he's no longer in that cluster of a backcourt. The T-Wolves immersed themselves in a Web of trades that sent off Flynn and acquired both Malcolm Lee and Targuy Ngombo. Make way for Rubio.
Kevin O'Connor, Utah Jazz
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Enes Kanter's 34-point performance at the Nike Hoops Summit played a huge role in his selection at No. 3. GMs haven't seen a ton else out of him in America.
Kevin O'Connor knew the Jazz needed the 6-11 Turkish stud to bolster the frontcourt. Perhaps now Jimmer Fredette joins them in the back? Nope, Alec Burks, as another guy that can score like crazy but doesn't bring a ton on the defensive end.
From Jazz beat writer Jim Burton:
Bottom line in my mind: Jazz liked #Jimmer enough to take him at No. 12, but not enough to move into the top 10. Offers were there.
Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors
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After speculation that Jonas Valanciunas would go to Cleveland at No. 4, he falls to Toronto at No. 5. According to Ryen Russillo the Cavs had a lot of angst about the buyout situation involving his team in Lithuania.
Bryan Colangelo is considered one of the foremost experts on foreign players among NBA general managers, which doesn't make this pick too shocking. Valanciunas will likely spend another year being groomed overseas before crossing the pond to booster Toronto's frontcourt.
Which is fine, because Colangelo's job remains fairly safe.
Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards
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John Wall will have a big dude to run with (and hopefully defend him in situations like this) after Ernie Grunfeld took Jan Vesely at No. 6. My friends just said "looks like the Dirk of the future right there." But isn't shooting from distance like Dirk any time soon.
That's certainly a dream the Wizards would love to come true. The 6-11 Czech Republic prodigy can score in transition and drain it from three now and then.
The Wizards have horrible shot selection and he can run with Wall, so this works. Defensive specialist Chris Singleton at pick 18 provides the forward ying to Vesely's yang.
Geoff Petrie, Sacramento Kings
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Jimmer Mania reaches Sacramento.
Heard a funny comment on Twitter about him feasibly rooming with DeMarcus Cousins. Unable to find if it at the moment, but if I do will add link later.
Fredette will be a great locker room addition and is I assume a decent guy after giving me a long interview awhile back.
They also added versatility with guard/forward Tyler Honeycutt in the second round.
Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons
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Brandon Knight gives Detroit a smooth shooting guard who can dish the rock at No. 8. A lot of the direct comparisons with Knight this draft put him against top pick Kyrie Irving, but Knight has a ways to go with court vision and passing ability before gaining that praise.
Don't be surprised if Richard Hamilton gets shipped out of town soon, or else this pick doesn't make sense. Detroit already has plenty of firing capability at guard, and lot of other problems on defense and in the frontcourt.
Rod Higgins, Charlotte Bobcats
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Kemba Walker stands as perhaps the most known commodity in the draft. He led the Connecticut Huskies to the 2011 NCAA and Big East championships, making him practically a household name for anyone who watched American sports in March.
Rod Higgins hasn't had a fantastic few years as Charlotte Bobcats GM, and this provides the safe pick that he might need for this year.
Bismack Biyombo hails from the Republic of Combo and caught the Bobcats at No. 7 after recording the first triple-double in Nike Hoop Summit history.
The 18-year-old is considered a project — and has ways to go before anyone's afraid of him scoring in the NBA — but provides a surefire defensive presence at the forward position.
His on-court workout terrified scouts and experts, but he can defend and block shots. Extremely athletic. That's what you're getting. And that's what they need: interior defense. A lot of unknown, though.
Larry Riley, Golden State Warriors
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Klay Thompson lets us know for sure that Monta Ellis will be shipped off before the Golden State Warriors touch the court again. They will get this figured out for new head coach Mark Jackson.
Larry Riley's thinking a step ahead and Thompson has the NBA pedigree (father Mychal) while filling a soon-to-be vacancy.
Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns
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Markieff Morris at No. 13 shocked the experts, most of which had twin brother Marcus going ahead of him. But the Suns did enter the draft committed to improving defense and rebounding and Markieff does just that.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
Marcus Morris falls just behind his brother at No. 14 but gives the Rockets just the inside presence they were looking for. And he can drain a mid-range jumper to boot.
The Rockets also, predictably, got involved in some trade action and eventually ended up with Donatas Montiejunas, who is receiving some cruelly pressure-heavy comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. I guess we'll see, in a few years.
Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers
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Kawhi Leonard at No. 16 seemed like the type they needed: a guy who could create and make his own shot at the end of games. Something they needed in those playoffs collapses against the Bulls.
But then they swapped him for the Spurs George Hill, who also provides a nice scoring boost at guard.
Glen Grunwald, New York Knicks
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Glen Grunwald played a part in securing the offense of New York's future with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire via trade last season, and now hopes to secure that defense with Iman Shumpert at 17.
Spike Lee, however, did not seem happy with the pick. He didn't say much on the telecast, but it certainly wasn't praise. What was running through his head? Probably something similar to this tweet:
I'm convinced Donnie Walsh wanted to give one last F-U to the #Knicks management. He succeeded
Harsh Knicks fans, harsh.
Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks
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The Mavericks said to heck with this draft and traded Texas star and 26th pick Jordan Hamilton, and ended up acquiring Rudy Fernandez from the Trail Blazers. They also snagged Targuy Ngombo. I'm not the only person who's never heard of him.
But of course we've all heard of Rudy Fernandez, and assume he'll replace a now-certainly departing DeShawn Stephenson. He's only averaged about around 9 points per game, but perhaps the switch to Dallas — especially after seeing what he could for the Spanish national team in the Olympics — could turn him into a terror at shooting guard.
Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk muses on whether this change of scenery could be just what he needs.
He had been unhappy with his role in Portland, and even was fined $50,000 by the league before the beginning of last season for his agent’s public request that he be released from his contract. One would think that getting the opportunity to contribute for the defending champs would provide an immediate attitude adjustment.
Chad Buchanan, Portland Trail Blazers
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Nolan Smith adds a good frontcourt combo guard to replace Andre Miller. I still think sending off Rudy Fernandez leaves a void.
This probably sums up the greatest fear of Trail Blazers fans:
They also gain a deep spot shooter with Ohio State's Jon Diebler at 51.
Rod Thorn, Philadelphia 76ers
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Nikola Vucevic at 17. Just seems like the happiest power forward in the draft, and he can play some defensive in lane too.
A quote from Vucevic via the Daily Trojan's Seth Rubinroit:
"This was by far the greatest moment of my life...I had to cry a little bit and hug my parents and my agent ... I knew I was going to be in the first round, and I just wanted to be able to shake David Stern's hand."
This fits a need because they direly needed some size inside. But they didn't address perimeter shooting, and they need an additional sniper.
Then at 11:28 p.m. (or about 3 hours into the night), uh-oh, the Sixers take Lavoy Allen at 50! What a steal.
Dell Demps, New Orleans Hornets
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Chris Paul could sure use some help. He gets forward/center Josh Harrelson, who formerly the "happy to be here" face to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Now for some optimism from the masses.
Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets
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Kenneth Faried at 22 provides frontcourt defense to free up Nene a little bit. We all remember Moorehead State's fantastic first-round upset in March and hear that he can hit the boards at the pro level.
They also reeled in rookie Jordan Hamilton and the Trail Blazers Andre Miller via trade while sending off Ray Felton. Not bad to have a big-time veteran point guard to combine with your youngster. Just ask the Mavericks.
A lot of shake ups for Denver over the past year. Perhaps Ujiri's finally found the right combo for a deep Nuggets run when their finally is a season.
Chris Wallace, Memphis Grizzlies
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The Memphis Grizzlies did not have any picks in this draft until 49, where they took freshman guard Josh Selby out of Kansas. He really didn't do much with his one year of college experience.
However, he is incredibly fast and can sink it from distance. Considered a "potential" guy in a draft full of'em.
Neil Olshey, Los Angeles Clippers
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Trey Thompkins was summed up by the ESPN television draft team as having good body fat percentage for if "he were a sea lion" and "someone to get dunked on in practice" by Blake Griffin. Poor guy.
At No. 37, that was the Clippers only pick of the draft. So they came out of it with a bench guy.
Pat Riley, Miami Heat
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Bojan Bogdanovic got booed like crazy by the draft audience in New York City. I'm guessing because they'd never heard of him.
Well, those who've watched the Croatian basketball tape probably wouldn't boo. Ehh, who am I kidding, it's the second round of the NBA draft. And that's where the Heat's only selection came.
Perhaps I should grade them higher for not trading into the first round of a notoriously poorly projected draft class, but I won't. Yeahh, hating the Heat everybody!
Otis Smith, Orlando Magic
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Orlando possessed no first round picks in this draft, and nabbed DeAndre Liggins at 53.
The junior guard will provide backcourt defense off the bench. Fits a need really well and takes another Kentucky guy off the board.
Rick Sund, Atlanta Hawks
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Atlanta's first pick came at No. 48 with center Keith Benson from Oakland University. Stuart Scott said there's "not a lot of meat on his bones." Jay Bilas wondered, "is he gonna play hard all the time?"
Wow, in the second round they're really just killing people.
Mitch Kupchak, Los Angeles Lakers
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Darius Morris at 41. I'm not alone in saying he's the second-best distributor of the draft, which someone will certainly appreciate.
I hope Kobe likes this pick
Let's hope this doesn't turn out like Jordan Farmar, if you don't hate the Lakers that is.
Fran Fraschilla thinks we're reaching here at 58 with Ater Majok. (and the accompanying Laker fan that doesn't care video, comedy gold. YouTube, I'm counting on you to come through here eventually.)
RC Buford, San Antonio Spurs
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The Spurs sent off guard George Hill for rookie forward Kawhi Leonard and also nabbed a couple backcourt pieces in Texas' Cory Joseph at No. 29 and Hungary's (the country) Adam Hanga — he'll stay over there for a while. But San Antonio knows how to keep an eye on its overseas products.
I'm just going to go ahead and trust San Antonio. Which is what I would've said before the draft. This tweet put it well.
#Spurs stacking up on crazy rights/picks signals one key to genius. Give up little, obtain mass amounts of picks, see what sticks to core.
Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Reggie Jackson at 24 gives the Thunder a point guard that might be able to get Kevin Durant the ball in crunch time. Oklahoma City faced distribution issues in the playoffs with Russell Westbrook and it seems this pick could signal a move to shooting guard for him.
Our own Max Minsker summed it up well in his live blog.
OKC took a risk here taking Reggie Jackson. He didn't release any information, but that's likely because he got a promise from someone. Jackson is an interesting selection here because there was a lot of talk after the season that Russell Westbrook couldn't be the teams true point guard, and this pick reaffirms that assumption.
Jackson knocked down many a late-game shot during his time at Boston College, which might provide a welcome addition, or more crunch-time confusion. I guess we''ll find out.
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
Danny Ainge is really banking on the 2010 Purdue Boilermakers; trading for 27th pick JaJuan Johnson the Celtics took E'Twaun Moore at 55. Both provide very good defensive presence, in the lane and on the perimeter respectively.
B/R's Eric Ball argues that the trade of green scoring phenom MarShon Brooks for the more polished but lower ceiling Johnson is in fact mortgaging the future.
It appears that Ainge may have not learned from his predecessors during the Celtics hey day in the 80’s, and is going to ride his vets into the ground.
Yikes, and it took the Celtics quite a while to get back to their hey day. The Len Bias death wasn't exactly the front office's fault, but Ball's point is still valid here. And if you ask me, this particular dynasty (well, one title does not a dynasty make) was dunzo after the Kendrick Perkins trade.
Looks like they're rebuilding with help from Moore and Johnson, who provide a ton of D and some O.
John Hammond, Milwaukee Bucks
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The Bucks traded Jimmer Fredette and eventually end up staying in-state with Wisconsin's Jon Leuer at 40. The Badgers forward can dial in from long distance and handle the ball some, but not quite like Fredette.
As for their first-round selection, Tobias Harris lands with them at 19. The Tennessee forward provides an offensive upgrade to complement Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt.
Milwaukee also acquired Stephen Jackson via trade, which will be an interesting chemistry addition, to say the least. The guy can launch it from distance at least.
Gar Forman, Chicago Bulls
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Jimmy Butler at 30 provides a breather for Luol Den, another good one-on-one defender and an extra direly needed outside shooter.
And this comment to CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam has to excite Bulls fans — and really NBA fans everywhere outside Miami.
“I’m going to guard. I think that’s where I’ve got to make my mark in this league. I’m going to put in that work to be able to guard LeBron and Dwyane Wade."
The Nikola Mirotic via trade also adds potential for the Bulls, but none of these guys will probably make huge contributions right away. A lot of relatively unpolished talent.
Billy King, New Jersey
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MarShon Brooks came to New Jersey via the JaJuan Johnson trade with Celtics. Initially taken at pick 25, he represents perhaps the highest ceiling of the late first-round picks.
He's also receiving some incredibly high praise and company, as explained by Bleacher Report's Brandon Putre:
Brook's ability to create his own shot and get to the hole drew comparisons to Kobe Bryant. While the Nets are not exactly expecting him to rise to that level anytime soon, they should be pleased with the prospect of him playing alongside star point guard Deron Williams.
They also selected an undersized but fundamentally sound power forward in Maryland's Jordan Williams at 36. During his final year with the Terrapins, the man was a walking double-double.