The picks went fast and furious, but mostly without a hitch. At the end of the first round, NBA Commissioner David Stern was booed by the fans who attended Thursday’s draft in New Jersey but that was to be expected as basketball fans are worried about an impending lockout that may interrupt the 2011-12 season.
Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, not surprisingly, went No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Cavs thought they had Turkish center Enes Kanter at No. 4, but he was snagged by the Utah Jazz at No. 3, forcing the Cavs to scramble a little bit and made a panic pick with Texas’ Tristan Thompson. Jay Bilas described Thompson as someone “who needs to learn how to play and how to score.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
OneManFastBreak.net examines the five biggest losers and winners from the 2011 NBA draft.
LOSERS: Cavaliers, Spurs, Raptors, Bobcats, Pistons
— CAVALIERS – Before Cleveland fans can start coming out of their post-LeBron doldrums, remember these names: Bobby Hurley, Jeff Capel, William Avery, Jay Williams, Chris Duhon and Jon Scheyer. All were spectacular players at Duke, but none of them became stars in the NBA. Irving is a good point guard, but was he really the best player in the draft and deserves to be the No. 1 overall pick? That was the million-dollar question the Cavs faced weeks prior to the draft. He played in only 11 games in college because of a toe injury so that’s one red flag, and the other warning sign is he’s not super quick. In the Eastern Conference, you have dynamic and explosive point guards such as Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo. Irving will have to adjust to the speed of the game and must get stronger. The Cavs were hoping Kanter would fall to them at No. 4, but the Jazz ruined that master plan. Instead of taking the next best player available, the Cavs pulled off a head-scratcher with the selection of Texas forward Tristan Thompson, who is a decent player but is not worthy of a top-five pick. And where is Thompson going to play? Is he better than J.J. Hickson or Anderson Varejao? Probably not.
— SPURS – Heading into Thursday, the Spurs were reportedly shopping point guard Tony Parker for one of the top-eight picks. As it turned out, they were shopping Parker’s backup, George Hill. Now, this one is a bit puzzling. Hill is a terrific defender and can play either guard position, which makes him very valuable for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich given the history of injuries for Parker and Manu Ginobili. In a very un-Spurs-like move, Hill was traded to Indiana in exchange for the No. 15 pick, which turned out to be San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is a good athlete who can defend and rebound, but he shot just 29% from the college 3-point line and it’s not going to get easier since the NBA line is 3 feet farther. Normally, Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford excel on draft day but shipping Hill out of San Antonio is a little questionable.
— RAPTORS – First of all, the Raptors hired Dwane Casey as their head coach. Casey has a career coaching record of 43-59. No matter how you spin it, Casey is not a good NBA coach. That’s not a good way to retool your franchise. As if that wasn’t enough of a flub, the Raptors drafted 6-10 Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, who is a terrific prospect but may not be able to get out of his Euroleague contract until 2014. There is no doubt about Valanciunas’ talent. But why would the Raptors gamble on a guy who can’t help them right away? Puzzling. Better hope Valanciunas is worth the wait.
— BOBCATS – So far, Michael Jordan has shown very little skills as the head of basketball operations in Charlotte. Should we be surprised about that since Jordan was the mastermind in ruining the Wizards almost 10 years ago? Jordan’s latest move was trading his best player, Stephen Jackson, to Milwaukee for Corey Maggette. What saves Jordan from having a complete disaster on draft night were his picks: center Bismack Biyombo (Congo) and guard Kemba Walker (Connecticut). Both should be decent contributors for the Bobcats, but can they change the fortunes of the franchise? Not with Michael calling the shots.
— PISTONS – The Pistons’ offseason started with the firing of head coach John Kuester. Not a good way to being your offseason. Then, general manager Joe Dumars, who has had a run of bad picks lately, chose Kentucky guard Brandon Knight with the eighth overall pick. Knight didn’t look pleased at all when he step up to the stage and shook hands with the commissioner. He’s probably thinking, “Why did a guard-heavy team that already has Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, Richard Hamilton and Tracy McGrady would ever need me?” If that’s what Knight was thinking, he certainly has a point.
WINNERS: Timberwolves, Jazz, Kings, Wizards, Nuggets
— TIMBERWOLVES – The night started great for general manager David Kahn with the selection of Arizona forward Derrick Williams with the No. 2 overall. Williams is the most NBA-ready player out of all the prospects, and that includes Irving, and he’ll pair up well with fellow Pac-10 stud Kevin Love. Then, the night got even better when Kahn was able to dump disappointing point guard Jonny Flynn to Houston, opening up the point position for Spanish star Ricky Rubio. The Wolves also picked up center Brad Miller via a trade, and Florida forward Chandler Parsons is not a bad second-round selection.
— JAZZ – The Jazz put a wrench into the Cavaliers master plan with they picked Kanter at No. 3. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla rated Kanter as the best international player in the draft and he could turn out to be the best player, along with Williams, from this class. Kanter is a physical big man who can face up and hit a mid-range jumper. He describes himself as a Pau Gasol low-post player with a Dirk Nowitzki-type of perimeter game. Big talk from a very confident player. He should pair up well with Jazz forward Al Jefferson. The Jazz also added Colorado shooting guard Alec Burks in the first round to round out their excellent draft day.
— KINGS – Year after year, the Kings have done a great job in picking players in the draft and this year was no exception. BYU star Jimmer Fredette is headed for Sacramento to play with Tyreke Evans (class of 2009) and DeMarcus Cousins (class of 2010). Fredette should well in Sacramento because he’s a spot up shooter who has unlimited range, which is good news for Evans because this allows him to play more point guard. The Kings were so high on Fredette that they shipped last year’s starting point guard Beno Udrih to Milwaukee.
— WIZARDS – In less than two years, general manager Ernie Grunfeld has managed to change the culture in Washington. Point guard John Wall is now the face of the franchise and center JaVale McGee is one of the best young big men in the league. OnThursday night, the Wizards added more young pieces to their roster in forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton and guard Shelvin Mack. Vesely, from the Czech Republic, brings a lot of energy and athleticism to a Wizards squad that should be running more often next season. We’ve seen Vesely finish plays above the rim and has shown a non-stop motor. What we didn’t know about him is he likes public displays of affection. Check out the video:
Singleton is a rock-solid defender who brings a lot of toughness, and Mack was the catalyst of the Butler squad that made it to the NCAA Tournament final in back-to-back years.
— NUGGETS – If Raymond Felton is a better fit in Portland then Andre Miller is a much better fit in Denver. The Nuggets, at times, plays too fast and having the heady, crafty Miller running point should help maximize their offensive possessions. The trade also allows coach George Karl to play Ty Lawson and Miller together, with Miller defending the 2 guard spot. Denver landed a diamond in the rough with the 22nd pick in Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried. The 6-7 Faried is a high-energy player who defends and rebounds. Think Paul Millsap and Udonis Haslem. Faried doesn’t need any set plays to be effective, which is perfect in Denver because Karl has enough scorers on the team and Faried’s effort and hustle will be a tremendous addition.