NBA Draft Recap: Surprises and Sleepers of the 2011 NBA Draft

Melcolm RuffinContributor IIJune 25, 2011

Cory Joseph might have been the least expected first round pick of the draft
Cory Joseph might have been the least expected first round pick of the draftKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This year wasn’t quite as unpredictable and crazy as some people anticipated, but there were still a fare share of surprises.

I’m not talking about the kind of surprises like the Timberwolves finding out the player they thought was 21 actually turning out to be 26 (I hate when that happens...), but a few first round selections were pretty unexpected.

Each year it’s also good to analyze which prospects fell too far or are underrated. It’s best to read up on the sleeper picks now and be ready when they start to turn heads in the NBA.

Click here to view the article on the NBA Rookie Project.

Click here to see the Winners and Losers of the NBA Draft.



Cory Joseph lands in the first round

 The last pick of the first round was probably the biggest surprise of the night.

Most mock drafts had Joseph going in the mid-late second round. I’m not ashamed to say that I have been a big Joseph fan dating back to his days at Findlay Prep, however, I was really disappointed when he decided to stay in the draft because I thought he needed another couple years at Texas. 

With that said, I am a lot more optimistic about him as a pro prospect than most analysts. I think he’ll have a great chance to develop within the Spurs organization and will probably spend significant time with the Austin Toros, the Spurs’ D-League affiliate.

I think Joseph will be a really good combo guard off the bench down the road, and apparently the Spurs agree after trading away George Hill.

Reggie Jackson goes to the Thunder

 We didn’t hear about Jackson at all throughout the draft process, and then all of a sudden he’s the 24th pick of the first round to the Thunder.

Back in May, I predicted that Reggie Jackson would have a huge rise up draft boards from an early second rounder to a mid first round pick. I thought that Jackson would stand out at the combine with his measurements and athleticism, and then really impress in workouts.

Unfortunately, I was wrong…largely due to the fact that Jackson never did anything!

After declaring for the draft he didn’t participate in a single aspect of draft preparation because of an “injury.” The rumor is that the Thunder and GM Sam Presti promised they’d draft Jackson from the very beginning and wanted to prevent him from possibly being drafted any higher, so they asked for him to stay out of everything.


Nolan Smith drafted No. 21

 I didn’t see a single person that thought the former Duke guard would go this high (besides maybe Jay Bilas). The Trailblazers took Smith with the 21st pick because they thought he was that good, and I can’t argue against it.

Smith is from a winning program, plays good defense, is a proven scorer, and is a good playmaker for others. When Kyrie Irving went out last year, Smith did a great job of stepping in and playing point guard. Sure the Trailblazers could have possibly traded down a few spots, but ultimately they didn’t want to take the risk of someone else taking him.


LeBron James 

I’m surprised that LeBron continuously gets brought up…but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since it was an ESPN broadcast. It happened before the draft, and then again when Irving was taken No. 1 by the Cavs.

I agree with Drederick Irving: “It’s not about LeBron.” Take notes ESPN.


Chris Singleton 

He was very disappointed/upset to be the last player in the Green Room, and he has the mindset of a player out for revenge. After being drafted Singleton said, “17 picks, 15 teams passed up on me and I’m marking that.” 

It sounds like he’s ready to make some NBA executives regret not drafting him. He’s well known for being an exceptional defender and should be able to step in for the Wizards right away.


Nikola Mirotic 

This is the definition of a “sleeper pick.”

Most people will forget all about Mirotic before he even considers coming over to the NBA, but the Bulls definitely knew what they were getting. He just turned 20, but he’s already a valuable role player for Real Madrid, one of the best teams in the Spanish ACB league.

He’s a face-up forward that has a very good mid-range game. He’s definitely a rising star overseas; literally, he won the “Rising Star Trophy” in the Euroleague this year.

It’s not certain that he’d rather make a career in the NBA or in Europe, but, regardless, the Bulls got a great trade chip or a solid player for themselves.


Marshon Brooks 

 I didn’t like Brooks as a lottery or mid-first-round pick, but he has good value at the end of the first. Most late first-rounders land with good teams and won’t see a lot of playing time, but Brooks has a major opportunity with the Nets.

They have Anthony Morrow, but if Brooks is willing to put in the work to improve his game, then he could definitely become a mainstay in the Nets’ rotation.

Spurs go International 

No one is surprised that the Spurs went international with their late picks again. Getting Bertans at No. 42 and Hanga at No. 59 probably makes this their best second round in recent memory.

Davis Bertans is a lanky, 6’10” small forward with loads of potential. Right now he is primarily a three-point shooter, but with a shot like his, you can’t blame him.

Because he’s so tall he gets his shot off with incredible ease. I see a lot of Peja Stojakovic in his game, and he’s still only 18 years old! In a few years this pick will definitely pay off.

Adam Hanga is less well known but played his way into the draft at the Adidas Eurocamp earlier this month. Hanga starred on his Hungarian team, Albacomp.

He’s a versatile wing player that even has some point guard skills. Last season he averaged 17.6 points per hame, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.8 steals. He is still pretty weak (just 200 pounds) and is still perfecting his jumper (fades too much to the side and can work on his release).

Nevertheless, he shows a lot of promise and was just signed by Manresa of the Spanish ACB. It looks like he might be the focal point of the team next season. If he’s able to produce next year against top-level competition, the Spurs will look even more like geniuses.


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