2011 NBA Draft Recap
After yesterday's extravaganza, the league has been filled with fresh faces from all over the world. Last night, the NBA's affect was felt worldwide, as four of the top seven picks were from overseas.
Like no other draft in league history, the landscape marked by parody-- from pick one to pick sixty-- was both exciting and enthralling, leaving NBA fans enticed and begging for more. It is fair to say this draft was one of surprise, where unknown faces rose from the ashes to assume their place in the heralds of NBA elite.
The question is, who made out well and who did not? Which teams went in the right direction with an "out of bounds" selection, or a diamond in the rough candidate?
Kyrie Irving says enough in regards to this year's draft. Though an uber-talented young man with a gift for getting to the rack or knocking down the open three, Irving played just 11 games in college, leaving little to the eye of the beholder. The third point guard in four years to be drafted No. 1 overall, Irving's paradoxical selection set in motion a draft like none seen in recent years.
Irving: Bust or Blooming Franchise Face?
Kyrie Irving became the third point guard in the last four years to be drafted No. 1 overall. But unlike his predecessors—Derrick Rose and John Wall—no No. 1 pick since Mike Olowokandi or Kwame Brown has invited such harsh speculation.
A product of Coach K's hard-nosed discipline style of basketball, one is left to wonder whether 11 total games in the 18-year-old's career is enough to judge whether or not he can reign as the new king in the perils of Cleveland. Irving can shoot the three, get to the rack, is an average athlete and average passer, who turns the ball over little with a poise beyond his young years. Yet will the baby face kid, now with an entire franchise on his shoulders, bust or bloom in such expectations?
Only time will tell, but it is a fair assessment to say Irving will bust in the wakes of trepidation, reminding fans of players like Sebastian Telfair who entered the draft too young.
Cavs Double Dip
With both Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter off the board, the Cavs double dipped by splashing the first major draft surprise in their selection of former Longhorn frosh Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick.
Projected anywhere between No. 7-15 on most mock draft boards, Thompson's raw and somewhat immobile game causes many critics to question the decision to select Thompson without trading down to nab the power forward, while accruing a veteran or another draft pick in the process.
The reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, who averaged 13.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in Rick Barnes' run, bash, run stylistic offense, is a glass horse who knows how to finish next to the rim. But with little to any face up game, offensive footwork and ability to knock down free throws, one is left to wonder whether Thompson has a rather low offensive ceiling. Drawing comparisons to Emeka Okafor, the Cavs will look to Thompson to anchor them defensively.
Pistons Fly by the Knight
Joe Dumars was smiling after Brandon Knight fell in their laps at No. 8. The 6'4" alt-guard from Kentucky led the young Wildcats to the final four in his very first college season. His long reach and above average athleticism, gives Knight a one-up when guarding talented offensive minded point or off-guards in the NBA.
A three point specialist who averaged 17.3 points, with the cool to knock down big shots when it matters in March, solidified his star potential in the NBA. At 177 pounds, the 19-year-old will have to fill out to become a real scorer in the NBA. But with veterans like Rip Hamilton and a talented young point in Rodney Stuckey, Knight should have the mentoring necessary to assume his rightful place in a couple of years.
Kemba's Awaited Promise
For Kemba Walker, getting drafted was like graduating from school or publishing your first book. The 6'1" junior rock of a point guard from UConn, watched the best year of his life culminate last night. Drafted ninth overall to Michael Jordan's Bobcats—the speedster with a killer step back jump shot—had reasons to smile after winning a national championship with Jim Calhoun and now a spot on a pro roster.
Though a log jam at point guard with the likes of an emergent talent in D.J. Augustin, the feisty penetrator with the will and heart to win with the ball in his hands, will most certainly establish his role early on in Charlotte.
In with the Old, Out with the New
For Jimmer Fredette, nothing has changed. He is still the same ol' 6'2", 192-pound three-point aficionado, with a range all over the gym and an entire franchise still abreast on his shoulders. The questions regarding where the Mark Price-Steve Nash-Steph Curry-like tweener guard would land were answered last night, at least partly that is.
Drafted 10th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks, the dynamic scorer, who averaged 28.9 points per game his senior season at BYU, looked pretty in a starting lineup next to Brandon Jennings. But a trade involving the Bobcats Stephen Jackson, the 19th pick of Tobias Harris, Shaun Livingston from Charlotte to Milwaukee, veteran point guard Beno Udrih from Sacramento to Milwaukee, and their seventh selection Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte, Corey Maggette from Milwaukee to Charlotte, then John Salmons and Jimmer from the Bucks to Sacramento, clarified where "The Jimmer" would land.
Things could not have worked out more perfectly for the sub par defender, now alongside a flashy guard like Tyreke Evans in Paul Westphal's run-n-gun offense. Expect a blowup season from Jimmer and a vast improvement from the young Kings.
No Longer Seven Minutes Apart
For both the Morris brothers, last night marked a new season in the trenches of their deep relationship. Twins just seven minutes apart—Markieff being the elder in the relationship—rightfully went first at 13th overall to the Phoenix Suns. The 6'9", 240-pound power forward has always played second fiddle to his younger brother. But the Suns saw some potential in the lazy one of the two.
Considering his slow improvement over a three year span for Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks, Markieff's numbers of 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and a surprising 42.4 percent from the three point line, appealed to an offense run by the weave master: Steve Nash.
Overrun with tears, Marcus celebrated his brother's pick to Phoenix and then ironically went next at 14th overall to the Houston Rockets. A more gifted wing scorer than his brother, Marcus is expected to make an immediate splash on the offensive side of the ball. Gifted with great footwork on the low block, Marcus has the ability to both hit the step back fade-away, knock down stand still medium range jump shots, rebound and then finish inside.
Who Is Iman Shumpert?
It is hard enough to play anywhere, but the pressure of playing in the New York limelight can be downright overwhelming. Not to mention, early reaction of distaste by the fans before you've played a single game as a pro.
For Iman Shumpert, he set the bar for the surprise draft choice at 17th overall to the hometown Knicks. The 6'6" junior guard from Georgia Tech, gifted with a pro physique, outrageous leaping ability and a team-oriented personality, was wrongfully the right choice last night to Spike Lee's Knicks. A team already stocked with insane scoring ability, the defensive minded guard could help act as a defensive specialist ala Bruce Bowen in the Knick Orange and Blue.
Just Two Years Later
Quietly, a trade last night taught many of the youngsters a rather tough lesson, being the brevity of their NBA careers. For many Jonny Flynn admirers, the questions have never swirled in regards to his potentiality as a dynamic point guard in the NBA.
A two year starter for Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange, Flynn has the uncanny ability to get to the basket with tremendous speed and knock down the stop-and-pop 15-foot jump shot. A more than solid rookie season in which Flynn averaged 13.5 points and 4.3 assists for the young Timberwolves, took a sour turn as Flynn missed 29 games last season, losing his starting roll, while watching his numbers dip to just one-third of what they were his rookie year.
Now, as the franchise savior comes through the loins of an unproven 6'4" guard in Ricky Rubio, Flynn was packaged last night to Houston with the Wolves' 29th Donatas Motiejunas and their 38th pick Chandler Parsons, in exchange for veteran center Brad Miller, 23rd pick Nikola Mirotic, a future first-round draft choice and 28th pick Norris Cole.
Trades, Trades, Trades
As if another trade couldn't confuse the NBA landscape anymore than it already was, it did. A deal involving former stand-out Tar Heel guard Raymond Felton, old faithful in Andre Miller, and the man dubbed "White Chocolate," in bench spark Rudy Fernandez, re-arranged three NBA teams rotations.
A breakout season last year for Felton saw him quickly shipped to Denver in the blockbuster trade involving Carmelo Anthony, where he languished in a guard-heavy Nuggets log jam. A scorer first, passer second, Felton thrived in Mike D'Antoni's fast paced offense. But once shipped to Denver, where he shared time with other former Tar Heel Ty Lawson, and a team with a lot of me-first players in Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Aaron Afflalo, Nene, and J.R Smith, a change was in order.
Andre Miller is the pass-first veteran the Nuggets need who cares little for scoring and more for winning, not to mention, the Nuggets received a talented swingman in 26th pick Jordan Hamilton from Dallas in the deal. Dallas gets an extra scoring chip, three-point shooting swingman in Fernandez, ridding themselves of a looming headache in the shoot-first mentality of Hamilton.
Steal of the Night?
The steal of the night would have belonged to Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics before they traded 25th pick Marshon Brooks to the Nets in exchange for 27th pick JaJuan Johnson.
A team of defensive minded players in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett—and a three point fire baller in Ray Allen—is aging and aging fast. Adding Jeff Green in a trade last season for Kendrick Perkins proved to the rest of the NBA world how far GM Danny Ainge is willing to go to conserve his three future hall of famers' waning careers. Adding possibly the most explosive scorer in the draft in Marshon Brooks from Providence at 25th overall, warranted the question whether Ainge is beginning to phase out his great players slowly, while still doing so in a manner that will allow them to compete for the next two to three years.
A four-year starter at Providence, Brooks dropped 52 on Notre Dame in a Big East Conference game, while averaging 24.6 points and seven rebounds per game. At 6'5" and 190 pounds, the scorer has raised comparisons to the great Kobe Bryant. Though obviously far-fetched and a bit outlandish, the comparisons say enough for his upside. If he is willing to learn on the defensive side of the ball, the kid from Providence could emerge as a serious talent in a couple years in Jersey.
As for Celtic fans, I have a feeling they will be kicking themselves and their ownership for letting this kid go in exchange for a lanky and average big like Johnson.
The NBA's Very Own "Blind Side" Story
Miracles really do happen and they happen quite often on draft night. In comparison to lineman Michael Ohr of the Jacksonville Jaguars story, senior swingman Jimmy Butler of Marquette experienced the same elation Ohr must of felt in 2009.
Drafted 30th overall to the Chicago Bulls, the slashing 6'8", 220-pound forward quietly experienced a long awaited miracle—a miracle that is now his second in his short 22 years on this earth. After growing up in a rough neighborhood in Tomball, Texas, Butler's mother kicked him out of the house at 13 to figure life out on his own.
Bouncing from friend's house to friend's house, Butler, like Ohr, met a family (the Leslies) and was invited to live with them in Milwaukee. Just the 37th best player in Texas after his senior year in high school, Butler played two years at a local J.C., and then transferred to Marquette, where he grew into one of the most athletically gifted scorers in the Big East.
His averages of 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds last season for the Golden Eagles were both team highs. Now with a stocked, forward-heavy Bulls team, Butler will continue to work night in and night out to make his dream happen. And voting against this kid is not the smartest move to make.
The Best and Not so Best of the Rest
The second round did not seem to have too many of the diamond in the rough candidates. No Gilbert Arenas-like second-round steals this year. But for college basketball fans, there were some popular names called; names filled with tons of memories.
It was nice to see Kyle Singler of Duke go 33rd, Shelvin Mack of Butler 34th, and then Chandler Parsons of Florida 38th. All three were perennial stars in their leagues, and have left many college basketball fans with tremendous memories to draw from.
Singler, predicted as a lock mid-first-round draft choice after the Blue Devils title run in 2010, where he won Tournament MVP, chose to stay for his senior season. Struggling a bit more than usual this year with his jump shot, caused his stock to drop and many to question whether he could truly get open in the pros.
Mack was a driving force for Butler's back-to-back runs to Final Fours in March. Extremely athletic and with the ability to knock down big threes, Mack's biggest flaw remains his tweener size at 6'3".
As for Parsons, it seems his biggest flaw is how impeccable his game really is. A 6'10" senior forward, with a gift for poise, knocking down the big shots and getting others involved, never excelled enough at one category to garner heavy praise. Reigning SEC Player of the Year, Parsons quietly went about his business and helped re-establish Florida basketball after a March slump for a couple of years.
Biggest mistake will be the raw, talented Kansas guard Josh Selby, who left far too early to establish himself as a serious competitor in the pros. Despite showing flashes of brilliance in college, Selby, who battled injuries all year, struggled with turning the ball over and fading in big game moments.
One of the most sought after recruits in recent years, Selby was best suited to stick around this year as the go-to guy on a stocked Kansas team. Drafted 49th to the Grizzlies, Selby is now fighting for his life just to make a pro roster.