The 2011 NBA draft was widely considered to have two sure things at the top—Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams—followed by a relatively unspectacular crop of talent.
But in a testament to both the frenzied pace of today’s rumor generation and the questionable reputations of the two teams at the top—the Cleveland Cavaliers, who for years failed to surround LeBron James with sufficient talent, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are led by infamous point guard collector David Kahn—many expected that the two top players would end up going somewhere besides the two top teams in the draft.
In the end, it happened how it was supposed to happen—but that doesn’t mean the first round of the 2011 NBA draft was without surprises.
Here are the top eight surprises of Thursday’s first round, in order of the level of shock.
Nolan Smith won ACC Player of the Year after an outstanding season at Duke, but questions about his ability to translate his game to the NBA had him pegged by most draft predictors as an early second-round pick.
Instead, he didn’t even come close to slipping out of the first. The Portland Trail Blazers picked him to join a backcourt that now includes Raymond Felton and not Andre Miller, after the Blazers and Nuggets swapped points in a draft-night trade.
Will Smith—a score-first, 6’3” tweener guard without exceptional athleticism—be able to find a niche in the NBA?
The Blazers seem to believe he will.
Jordan Hamilton, a 6’8” wing out of Texas, scored 18.6 points per game for the Longhorns last year. That impressive output in just his sophomore season saw Hamilton pegged by many draft prognosticators on the fringe of the lottery, or just outside of it.
Instead, Hamilton lasted until No. 26, where he was snapped up by the Dallas Mavericks. For a moment, it appeared the champs had nabbed a major steal…but Hamilton wasn’t a Mav for long, as he was quickly moved in a deal that makes the next slide on our list.
Immediately after nabbing the talented Texas sophomore, Dallas included him in the three-team trade with the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets. As previously mentioned, the Blazers receive Raymond Felton from Denver, as well as the No. 57 pick from Dallas, Targuy Ngombo. The Mavs get Rudy Fernandez and Petteri Koponen from Portland. Along with Andre Miller and Jordan Hamilton, the Nuggets receive a future second-round pick (2013 or 2014) from the Blazers.
Though it was a bit of a surprise to see Dallas take what looked like a draft-day score and immediately send him off, the deal actually makes sense.
Dallas is a team built to win now, and in the veteran Fernandez they basically get a more athletic, less defensively challenged version of Peja Stojakovic.
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker was linked to a number of trade rumors in the days leading up to the draft.
Possible moves to Sacramento and Portland ran rampant as word spread that the Spurs were eager to move on from Parker after his alleged dalliances with former Spurs teammate Brent Barry’s ex-wife—which if true, would have certainly been an example of not doing things the “Spurs way.”
Instead, Parker’s backup, George Hill, was the one shipped out. The Spurs sent him to Indiana with Erazem Lorbek for No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard out of San Diego State and No. 42 pick Davis Bertans.
Though San Antonio went on to draft Texas guard Cory Joseph later in the first round, it appears that Parker is still the man in the Spurs backcourt.
The twin brothers and frontcourt mates at Kansas went back-to-back in the first round—but Marcus, who was almost universally considered a better NBA prospect than his brother, had to watch Markieff walk to the podium first.
In a scenario that ran contrary to the vast majority of pre-draft projections, Marcus watched as the Phoenix Suns picked Markieff at No. 13.
Marcus didn’t have to wait for long—the Houston Rockets picked him next at No. 14—but even he must have been surprised when Markieff’s name was called before his.
Almost every year, at least one top draft pick tries to make an audacious, and ultimately ill-advised, fashion statement.
Thursday night, the NBA’s freshest young talents managed to keep their style fresh and mostly tasteful.
Only Kawhi Leonard seemed to take a fashion risk—and probably ended up with the distinction of the draft’s worst-dressed player.
Heading into the draft, Minnesota seemed to be the least happy holder of a No. 2 pick in NBA history.
Seemingly convinced that Derrick Williams would only add to a frontcourt logjam that already includes Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson and others, the T-Wolves produced enough rumors about trading down to choke an NBA lover's Twitter feed.
They were rumored to be looking to trade the pick for Pau Gasol.
They were rumored to be looking to trade the pick for Andrew Bynum.
They were rumored to be looking to trade the pick for Lamar Odom.
They were rumored to be looking to trade the pick for Roy Hibbert.
They were rumored to be looking to trade the pick for Monta Ellis.
In the end, they used the second pick in the draft to select a player widely considered the second-best player in the draft.
When you’re dealing with Minnesota, and a certain David Kahn, that qualifies as a major surprise.
Most people expected the Cavaliers to pick Kyrie Irving No. 1, then look to add to their frontcourt with the No. 4 pick.
Rumor had it they would look first at Turkish pivot Enes Kanter. Then, as it became clear that Kanter was a solid possibility for Utah at No. 3, word spread throughout the NBA rumorsphere that Jonas Valanciunas, a 6’11” center out of Lithuania, was the big man Utah wanted all along.
The Cleveland Cavaliers pick turned out to be Tristan Thompson out of Texas, and they walked away with an Irving-Thompson combo that just about no one saw coming.