2011 NBA Draft: Grading Kyrie Irving and the First Round
Minnesota will sport two rookies next year, No. 2 Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio, the Wolves' first-round pick in 2009.
Kyrie Irving, as expected, went first overall to Cleveland, and Enes Kanter was the first international player off the board.
So who made the grade in 2011? Who missed the grade? Who reached the most?
1. Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving
Irving is a true point guard, an underrated gift in today's game. He's a pass-first facilitator who can score when called upon. Unfortunately, there aren't many solid scorers to dish off to in Cleveland right now, but this is certainly a start.
He's no D-Rose or Tyreke Evans, he's not going to take over a game on offense, but the Cavs can build around him.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves, Derrick Williams
Many thought the T-Wolves would either take the thunderous D-Will or the Turkish center, Enes Kanter.
Minny reinforced its frontcourt by taking Williams out of Arizona, and by making him the highest drafted player out of Arizona since Mike Bibby (also No. 2 overall).
Williams run-and-gun style will work great with co-rookie Ricky Rubio, who makes his debut after being drafted in 2009, fellow big Kevin Love, and Wes Johnson, an All-Rookie first-teamer from 2010-11.
3. Utah Jazz, Enes Kanter
Well, it wasn't Jimmer Fredette going to Utah...yet.
Kanter can be a solid pick, with good defense and fair offense. After not being allowed to play with Kentucky this season, nobody has seen him in over a year.
High risk, high reward here with the first international player off the board.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson
I love this pick, and think that Thompson, paired with Irving, could be an incredible pick. An explosive, athletic forward can run the pick and roll with the former Duke floor general.
Thompson was a great talent in college, and looks to have the skills to translate his game to the pro level.
Cleveland could have taken one of the many highly-touted international players but decided to go with the home-grown man. Surprising, but certainly not disappointing.
5. Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto is not a good team, and Valanciunas is not going to be immediate help. He has an incredible ceiling of potential, as a seven-footer from Lithuania with NBA Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis as a role model.
The Raptors may have selected the next great center, or they may have busted on another top draft pick (yeah, I'm looking at you, Bargnani!)
6. Washington Wizards, Jan Vesely
I thought Cleveland bucking the expectations and taking Thompson No. 4 was going to be the standout pick of the lottery, but Vesely is going to D.C. to team up with John Wall.
The alley to JW's oop? Potentially... this "Athletic Freek" according to ESPN's Fran Frischilla could be a special talent, and should contend for Rookie of the Year.
7. Sacramento Kings (likely Going to Charlotte), Bismack Biyombo
I'm not sold on Biyombo here at No. 7 for Charlotte or Sacramento and think this could be a case of the hype overshadowing who was left on the board, like Kemba Walker.
Biyombo has flown very much under the radar, and we all know Michael Jordan's eye for drafting talent isn't great (cough cough, Kwame Brown).
His defense might be good at most in the future, but can he really make an impact on a struggling Bobcats team?
8. Detroit Pistons, Brandon Knight
Someone in Detroit should call Michael Jordan and thank him for passing up on Brandon Knight.
The Kentucky point guard is very smart and mature and should handle the pressure of getting the Pistons back to the playoffs.
Knight is a solid pick, but not sure he'll make an immediate impact.
9. Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba Walker
Not much to say here... Walker is a winner with big-game experience. Can score, play defense, and make plays.
Obviously, his size is a factor at only 6'1", but he needed to be the pick here.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (to Kings), Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette will make headlines all season long...once the NBA season does begin pending a potential lockout.
Fredette can obviously shoot the lights out, and he may actually get to start in the California capital.
Should be a solid role player alongside Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
Oh, and this should be a fun pick to generate excitement for fans and a franchise that isn't moving anywhere.
11. Golden State, Klay Thompson
Klay, no relation to No. 4 pick Tristan, all but seals the fate of Warriors guard Monta Ellis.
Ellis has been one of the biggest names on the trading block, and the NBA-ready Thompson could start if/after Ellis is moved elsewhere.
Many thought Golden State needed to get big with this pick, but Thompson is a great talent with high potential who could help Mark Jackson and the Warriors make some noise in the West.
12. Utah Jazz, Alec Burks
With the second of their two lottery picks, the Jazz selected Alec Burks out of Colorado... the first player to be drafted from the school since 2004.
For Utah's sake, after missing on the BYU product and fan favorite Jimmer Fredette, Burks needs to live up to the hype.
The Jazz is a franchise is desperate need of an identity, and if Burks pans out, he could be the best player to come out of this draft.
Or he can flop...
13. Phoenix Suns, Markieff Morris
Interesting pick here by the Suns. The older twin joins another twin on the Suns roster, Robin Lopez (brother Brook is in New Jersey).
Morris is a strong rebounder and has solid fundamentals. Could be a solid piece of a competitive team down the road, and certainly a strong talent given who was left, but that doesn't mean he's going to pan out as a solid lottery pick.
Not much explosiveness from this former Jayhawk.
14. Houston Rockets, Marcus Morris
Possibly the better twin, Marcus is a strong post player and can bring frontcourt depth to the Rockets.
Morris can play either the three or the four, and coming off a season where he was the Big IIX player of the year, he should step in right away and make an impact, especially if Yao Ming is still hurt.
Also when being compared to his brother, Marcus appears to have better footwork... and a better sense of humor.
After his brother was drafted 13, an emotional Marcus said although they won't be together, he'll send him flowers or a fruit basket.
Even if he doesn't make an impact on the court right away, he'll win over his teammates quickly.
15. Indiana Pacers, Kawhi Leonard
They call him a gym rat, but unless that time amounts to something, then the Pacers still won't move up much in the East.
He's a decent passer, and is certainly more known for his defense. I'm thinking he's comparable to Bruce Bowen, but not nearly as polished yet.
Props to the second-best dressed player at the draft, too (Sorry bro, Kemba wore pink shoes).
16. Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Vucevic
'I'm sorry... who?'
I'm just guessing that's what Philly fans are thinking after this pick. The seven-foot center has a 7'5" wing span, and can knock it down from deep.
Decent potential here for this international pick who played at USC and against Pac-10 opponents.
That being said, Philly probably should have gone with a strong rebounder instead of a three-point shooting center.
17. New York Knicks, Iman Shumpert
New York needed a big man to complement Stat and Ronny Turiaf, and Iman Shumpert isn't going to fill that void. Definitely a reach at No. 17, Shumpert will come off the bench with Toney Douglas at the No. 2 position.
This guy can play defense, and that's what New York needed above all other needs. Will Shumpert see enough minutes to make an impact? We'll see...
18. Washington Wizards, Chris Singleton
Washington got John Wall a running mate in Jan Vesely earlier, and nabbed Singleton, an 'elite defender' according to ESPN's Jay Bilas, with the No. 18 pick, although he should have gone No. 17 to the Knicks.
But as a New Yorker, I digress.
Washington got a solid defender here, and Singleton can step in right away. Washington got a great player and great value with this pick.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (to Milwaukee), Tobias Harris
Charlotte got it right with this pick, taking a high-potential player in Harris... too bad he's going to the Bucks.
Harris has a great basketball IQ and barely makes dumb mistakes. As a strong power forward who can score, the youngest player in the NBA Draft this season has a high ceiling.
Great pick for this late in the draft, and solid playmaker to go alongside Brandon Jennings.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves, Donatas Motiejunas
In 2009, Minnesota used two first-round picks to take Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio, two point guards. After taking Derrick Williams, the Wolves add to the frontcourt depth with Montiejunas.
Likely a trade prospect, Montiejunas is a seven-footer from Lithuania who has a lot of upside, and is great value at No. 20, especially if the piece Minny gets in return from him is a veteran who can make them relevant in the West.
Strictly for trade prospects and pick value...
21. Portland Trail Blazers, Nolan Smith
This pick doesn't make much sense, especially with Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton still on the board.
Smith, the second Blue Devil selected (Irving No. 1), will be average at best, and he could see decent minutes off the bench.
But for a team that is supposed to challenge the West's elite next year, this pick doesn't seem to be all that successful.
Sorry, Duke fans..
22. Denver Nuggets, Kenneth Faried
A lot of Knicks fans thought Faried would wear blue and orange next season because of his rebounding prowess... like most players who played for New York last year, he ended up in Denver.
This pick instantly improves Denver, and helps them compete in the West next year.
Faried, drafted in front of his hometown fans in New Jersey, has a lot of potential and should see good minutes for the Nuggets next season.
22. Houston Rockets (to Minnesota), Nikola Mirotic
Houston traded Brad Miller and the rights to the No. 23 pick for Jonny Flynn and Donatas Montiejunas moments before Mirotic came off the board.
The big Serbian will likely pull a Rubio for the Wolves and stay abroad for a bit due to his $2.5 million buyout.
That being said, Mirotic is a Top 10 talent who was skipped over because of his contract with Real Madrid. This is likely the steal of the draft for Minnesota.
Grade: B+ (only because of the wait)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder, Reggie Jackson
Jackson is a physical freak, standing at 6'3" but sporting a wingspan of seven feet; this athletic guard should make an impact off the bench for the Thunder.
The Boston College product could have a strong impact on his team's success, although he probably won't turn a lot of heads.
25. Boston Celtics (to New Jersey), Marshon Brooks
Brooks has been compared to Kobe. 'Nuff said.
But here's some more anyway... Brooks was an incredible scorer despite playing against tough Big East teams, including a 52-point explosion against Notre Dame.
After the C's traded away Kendrick Perkins mid-season, it's clear they're trying to get younger. This pick is a great step in the right direction... for New Jersey, who gets the pick in exchange for the No. 27 pick and a future pick.
Brooks could step in and make a difference right away... what's that saying about not trading within the division? Hmmm...
26. Dallas Mavericks, Jordan Hamilton
27 New Jersey Nets (to Boston), JaJuan Johnson
JaJuan Johnson is a long, lanky player who can make an impact on a team, but he won't be much of a star.
Johnson could have trouble adjusting to the more physical nature of the NBA, and may not see much time in his first year playing behind the Celtics' established role players.
Boston would have been better off keeping Brooks.
28. Chicago Bulls (to Minnesota), Norris Cole
Cole was the only player in Division I basketball to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.
Jonny Flynn gets beaten by Cleveland State again, being traded from the T-Wolves to make room for this pick. (Flynn lost to Cleveland State when at Syracuse).
Cole has serious game and could have an impact on the Wolves in a good way.
For No. 28, this a great pick.
29. San Antonio Spurs, Cory Joseph
Freshman guard out of Texas stays in-state to play for the Spurs, who haven't missed the playoffs in the last 14 years.
A surprising pick to jump into the first round, but after the Spurs traded George Hill to Indiana, they needed another point guard.
He's the third Longhorn to be drafted in the first round behind Tristan Thompson (No. 4) and and Jordan Hamilton (No. 26).
Not sure if this is the guy to be the heir to Tony Parker... in fact, he's definitely not that guy. Not a fan of this pick; think SA could have gone in a better direction... Charles Jenkins from Hofstra, perhaps.
30. Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler
The Big East caps off the first round with Marquette's Jimmy Butler being selected by Chicago.
Butler was a decent forward, and brings versatility to the Bulls.
Butler, very much resembling a Michael Oher story to glory (Baltimore Ravens OT, featured in 'The Blind Side' with Sandra Bullock).
Butler was a Ju-Co transfer who succeeded in the Big East.
Bulls get decent value with No. 30.