A tried-and-true practice, The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery (retro) Diary, with thoughts on the first 14 selections:
1. Cleveland (from L.A. Clippers), Kyrie Irving, g, Duke.
*This is the pick the Cavaliers got in the Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade, and it’s just the Clippers’ luck that it becomes the No. 1 pick in the lottery.
After a few days of speculation, no surprise here that the Cavaliers take Irving, who was great in his freshman season at Duke, albeit if he only played 11 games because of injury. He’s not as dynamic as recent No. 1 point guards like John Wall and Derrick Rose, but his playmaking abilities have led some to compare him to Chris Paul.
I’m not sure if Irving will ever be that good, but I don’t think there’s any way he doesn’t become one of the top-10 point guards in the league. This is a step in the right direction for Cleveland, a franchise that desperately needs some hope after last season’s LeBron James hangover.
Just a side note, this puts the Cavs in position to trade one of the other PGs on the roster — whether it be Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions or former Longhorn Boobie Gibson.
2. Minnesota, Derrick Williams, f, Arizona.
It’s really hard not to fall in love with Williams when you watch him play, because he’s so dynamic. If there’s one player in this draft who could become a true superstar, it might be him. Only thing to complain about here is that he’s sort of in a basketball dark hole in Minnesota now — by all accounts, the worst franchise in basketball. And he lands on a roster that already has a glut of talented forwards: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. There’s also Wesley Johnson, the fourth pick last year. One of those guys will need to be traded to make room for Williams, who projects as a four but could also play the three.
3. Utah (from New Jersey), Enes Kanter, c, Kentucky/Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey).
Great pickup for the Jazz. Kanter was set to star at Kentucky before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for all of last season, but he showed some glimpses of his talent at the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit, when he scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Kanter’s skill set — polished low-post game, soft hands, mobile, good jumper — should complement Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson down low. This gives Utah one of the more formidable frontcourts in the league.
4. Cleveland, Tristan Thompson, f, Texas.
Wow. There were some rumblings of this happening in recent mock drafts, but it’s still pretty unbelievable to think about how much Thompson has improved his stock since he officially declared for the draft, when he was a fringe lotto prospect. He might never be a star, but his hustle on both ends of the floor will make him a reliable big man. At Texas, he became known for his defense and his rebounding, but never really got much of a chance to show what he could do offensively, other than put-back dunks and oops. In a NBA offense, and with a really good point guard in Irving, Thompson will have a chance to improve that end of his game in Cleveland.
5. Toronto, Jonas Valanciunas, c, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania).
Valanciunas could have gone to Cleveland at No. 4, but there were some worries that his expensive buyout could keep him overseas a bit longer. In any case, he’ll be a really good compliment to Andrea Bargnani whenever he comes to Toronto. Haven’t seen much of the guy (completely forgot to check him out on my most recent trip to Lithuania) but if he’s as solid in the post as the experts say he is, Toronto should have a versatile frontcourt attack.
6. Washington, Jan Vesely, f, Partizan Belgrade (Serbia).
This is going to be fun to watch. Vesely plays differently than any European player you have ever seen, with incredible athleticism and the ability to dunk just about anything. YouTube this guy. Then imagine John Wall lobbing oops to him. Vesely won’t be the second or third best guy on a playoff-contending team, but he could make up an exciting piece of the puzzle in D.C.
7. Sacramento (traded to Charlotte), Bismack Biyombo, f, Fuenlabrada (Spain).
Two really fun picks back-to-back. Biyombo really won’t be good for anything more than shot-blocking and interior defense, but he’s good enough at both of them to make up for offensive incompetence. He and DeMarcus Cousins would have been scary in Sacramento, but Biyombo was traded shortly afterwards to Charlotte.
8. Detroit, Brandon Knight, g, Kentucky.
Knight is an intriguing combo guard who fits well with Detroit, assuming Rodney Stuckey is on his way out. Ideally, he’s a point guard. This is a steal, Knight could have gone in the top five.
9. Charlotte, Kemba Walker, g, Connecticut.
I’m a fan of Kemba, but just not on this team. Charlotte got big contributions last year from former Longhorn D.J. Augustin, who scored 14 points and dished out six assists a game. Walker, like Augustin, is a smaller point guard, and a scorer who needs the ball in his hands to be most successful. Not sure what this means for Augustin’s tenure in Charlotte, because the fans (all 200 of them) might favor Walker, the national champion who has developed a cult-like following. Interesting to note that both he and Augustin were picked No. 9 in the draft.
10. Milwaukee (traded to Sacramento), Jimmer Fredette, g, BYU.
In the name of Joseph Smith, we couldn’t have gotten Jimmer in a bigger media market? I need to see this guy either in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Denver or Chicago. The only consolation in this is that the Kings should become one of the more polarizing teams to watch, what with Cousins’ temper tantrums and Tyreke Evans’ style of play — equal parts exciting and selfish. Jimmer will most likely play off the ball in Sacramento, so, assuming Evans ever passes to anybody, he’ll do his damage around the three-point line.
11. Golden State, Klay Thompson, g, Washington State.
Thompson led the Pac-10 in scoring this past season, with 21.6 points a game, so it only makes no sense that he’s going to the Warriors, who already have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
12. Utah, Alec Burks, g, Colorado.
Another good get for the Jazz. Burks was one of the premier scorers in the Big 12 this season, and he’ll bring some punch to a backcourt that features — yikes — Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles and Raja Bell. Burks should start from day one.
13. Phoenix, Markieff Morris, f, Kansas.
Big, mean, reasonably talented, tough, experienced, with a good motor.
14. Houston, Marcus Morris, f, Kansas.
Twins?! All the above, plus a jump shot.
Some Local Notes:
What a wild night for Jordan Hamilton, who was drafted by Dallas then traded to Portland then traded to Denver. The Nuggets got a steal here. He’s no Carmelo (though, with his shot selection, he might think he is) but he’ll pour in anywhere from 10 to 25 points any given night. If you’re wondering why Hamilton, who was projected to be a lottery pick, slipped all the way to No. 26, it’s because Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes apparently told inquiring NBA front offices that Hamilton was “uncoachable.”
Cory Joseph was not only drafted by the nearby Spurs, but he also served this whole city a whopping plate of crow. Blasted by many when he came out, including myself, Joseph must have put together some really strong workouts for a diligent-scouting team like the Spurs to want him. With George Hill being traded to Indiana tonight, Joseph should be Tony Parker’s backup this season. Good for Cory.
The Spurs also get SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard, who was picked No. 15 and then traded from Indiana in the Hill trade. Nicknamed "The Human Avatar” by his college teammates because of his huge hands, Leonard will give San Antonio the perimeter defense presence it hasn’t had since Bruce Bowen.
Who is your steal of the draft? Who might be the biggest bust?