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2011 NBA Draft: Observations

The Year of the Boo Birds

When David Stern first appeared on stage to introduce the draft, the boos from the Newark, NJ, audience were loud and constant as he said his spiel until he specifically mentioned the city they were in. Obviously the fans are upset with Stern and the NBA owners for being the main culprits behind the impending lockout that’s coming in a week. The audience continued to boo every time Stern appeared on stage to announce a pick; yes, all 30 times. Before stating the final pick of the first round, the always asshole-ishly smug Stern said “thank you for that” to the booing audience, and a little bit later “thank you fans for your enthusiasm,” which was received with more booing. Shortly after the pick, salary cap guru Tom Penn explained how the new cap situation would work with the Miami Heat’s roster. Predictably, the fans booed.


Best Team Drafts

Through a series of trades and picks, the Denver Nuggets ended up with rebounder-of-the-decade Kenneth Faried (#22), versatile scoring threat and rebounder Jordan Hamilton (#26), and D-League nobody Chu Chu Maduabum (#56), who is supposed to be an athletic shot blocker, but no one really knows. The Chicago Bulls got a legit International scorer in PF Nikola Mirotic (#23) who will be stored overseas for a while, and the hustling, unselfish SF Jimmy Butler (#30) whose D and spot-up shooting makes him a great fit for the Bulls. The San Antonio Spurs traded George Hill, their back-up PG, for a SF with super D and a great motor in Kawhi Leonard (#15), plus they picked up a PG who can knock down 3’s, play D, and won’t turn the ball over in Cory Joseph (#29) (yeah, I wasn’t too jazzed about the pick at first either, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized they just got a younger George Hill), and two Internationals with legitimate potential down the road in Davis Bertans (#42) and Adam Hanga (#59).


Worst Team Drafts

The Detroit Pistons picked up a PG who makes bad shooting and passing decisions in Brandon Knight (#8), a SF with literally zero NBA skills in Kyle Singler (#33), and a senior C who is a pretty bad rebounder in Vernon Macklin (#52). The New York Knicks again under-impressed their fans on hand, including Spike Lee, by taking the terribly inefficient PG Iman Shumpert (#17) and hefty center Josh Harrellson (#45) who wasn’t expected by anyone to be picked. The Portland Trail Blazers got combo-guard Nolan Smith (#21) who has an all-around game that likely doesn’t translate to the NBA at all, SG Jon Diebler (#51) who lacks every attribute and skill you’d want from a pro player other than his spot-up shooting, and the draft’s Keyser Soze, Tanguy Ngombo (#57). The Sacramento Kings got the much debated Jimmer Fredette (#10) who lacks PG stats/skills and SG size/athleticism, the weak and passive and injury-prone Tyler Honeycutt (#35), but they did alright with Isaiah Thomas (#60) at the end of the draft, but he’s 5-feet-10 and will have a hard time making the team since they’re kinda committed to Tyreke Evans and Jimmer.


Most Memorable Suit

San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard was the 15th pick of the draft and wore a dark blue suit with white trim around the lapels. The shape of the white trim resembled a wooden plaque that hangs on a wall, which had the unintended effect of making Leonard’s head look like a shot animal head hanging on a hunter’s wall. Leonard was selected by Indiana but traded to San Antonio.


Worst Pick of the Lottery

I was really curious what the Cavaliers were going to do with the #4 selection after Enes Kanter was snatched up by Utah at #3. They need interior scoring help and apparently didn’t want to wait to see what comes of Jonas Valanciunas’ buy-out situation. Instead they took Texas freshman Tristan Thompson. The young PF has the motor and long arms to do some real damage in the paint, but he is also as inconsistent as they come, a pretty bad trait for someone drafted fourth overall, presumably with the intention of becoming a starter in the NBA. His points-rebounds-blocks numbers in his last three games were 3-6-4, 17-10-7, and 7-2-1. Thompson wasn’t projected to go any higher than 7th, and even that was pretty much all on athletic potential, plus he lacks the midrange jumper you’d expect from a scoring big man. It will take time for Thompson to develop a solid game that can be relied upon – probably less time than it would have taken to get the far more ready Valanciunas out of his EuroLeague contract. Among Jay Bilas’ comments about Thompson was this gem: “He needs to learn how to play.”


Best First Round Picks After The Lottery

San Antonio ended up with Kawhi Leonard (#15), an athletic and versatile defender who forces nothing on offense but who is still a quite capable scorer, Kenneth Faried (#22) gives Denver an ultra-committed rebounder and defender in the frontcourt who everyone is comparing to Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman, Reggie Jackson (#24) can be a solid pro PG on both sides of the ball and gives OKC an absolute glut of 1’s (already have Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor), and Chicago nabbed Jimmy Butler (#30), a SF who is all hustle and hard work and good attitude and able to hit knock-down 3’s—more or less a great back-up for Luol Deng.


The Phoenix "Lesser" Twins

The Phoenix Suns shocked a lot of people by taking Kansas’ Markeiff Morris with the #13 pick because his twin brother Marcus was considered the better pro prospect and hadn’t yet been selected (Houston made him the next pick). Robin Lopez, the less skilled twin brother of Brook, has been on the Suns for the past three seasons after Phoenix made him the #15 pick in 2008. In 2009, Phoenix selected Taylor Griffin, the less skilled older brother of Blake (not twins, but they look pretty similar), in the second round of the draft; he played in 8 games for the Suns in 2010. As the old timers may remember, twin brothers Dick and Tom Van Arsdale both played for the Suns during the 1976-77 season.


Pick Most Likely To Cause A Fight

The Memphis Grizzlies are pretty much at maximum capacity for head cases, with Zach Randolph being the poster child for criminal and deviant behavior that is detrimental to his team (but somehow staying out of the police blotter and not punching any teammates for the past year), O.J. Mayo has had a long string of questionable and stupid actions from early in his high school days until now (just in the past six months, he was in a fight with teammate Tony Allen and suspended for using PED’s), and Tony Allen was charged with aggravated battery in an incident that lead to a shooting in 2005 (plus he was in that fight with Mayo five months ago). Well now you can throw in #49 pick Josh Selby, a SG/PG out of Kansas who has been one disastrous decision after another that lead to multiple high school expulsions (according to rumors), multiple college commitments, a 9-game suspension to start his college career, and all-around uncoachability problems. The Grizz are already flirting with trouble with Z-Bo, Mayo, and Allen, but adding in the super-athletic, super-inefficient Selby could spell doom to team chemistry.


Hottest Moment In Draft History

Jan Vesely, who went to the Wizards with the #6 selection, may have trouble making an impact at the NBA level, but he’ll certainly be remembered for his first action as an NBA player.


Best Second Round Picks

1. Charles Jenkins, #44, Golden State: I guess the Warriors want another combo guard, and Jenkins is one with super shooting and passing numbers – quite possibly the best PG in the draft after Irving.

2. Isaiah Thomas, #60, Sacramento: With the last pick in the draft, the Kings picked up a gutsy PG with elite quickness, an improving shot, and great instincts.

3. E’Twaun Moore, #55, Boston: Moore is probably the most complete SG in this draft, and his attitude will allow him to fit anywhere.

4. Darius Morris, #41, Los Angeles Lakers: Morris is a smart, 6-feet-5 PG who can drive to the hoop all day in order to get his own shot or to create for others – might be one of the draft’s three best PG’s.

5. Keith Benson, #48, Atlanta: Benson is a versatile scoring center who has averaged 10.3 rpg and 3.5 bpg over the last two seasons.


Best Player Not Drafted

Not. Even. Close. Ohio State SG David Lighty has "great role player" written all over him. He hustles all out and is very smart. He’s unselfish yet capable athletically and skill-wise to do whatever is needed of him. Plus it seems like every team on the planet wants a great perimeter defender who can knock down corner 3’s (he hit 43% from deep last year) – and that’s Lighty. While most teams do the foolish thing in a weak draft and pretend guys with crazy athleticism that exist later in the draft will suddenly learn how to have a good attitude and actually play the game (e.g. Josh Selby, Travis Leslie), players like Lighty are ready to step in and contribute right away without requiring much of the ball being in their hands. It’s a shame he wasn’t drafted, but now he gets to pick the best team fit for him; you watch, he’ll be on a championship contender next year and probably getting minutes.


Most Well-Rounded Group of Relatives

Kenneth Faried had his one-and-a-half year old daughter on his lap, his white-haired grandfather next to him, a male (father? uncle?) who did the very Western World choreographed handshake thing with the new draftee, and a female (grandma?) who brought much more of an Eastern World feel by wearing her Muslim hijab (head scarf). Check it out.


Worst Interview

When Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas was being interviewed after going #5 overall to the Raptors, he twice answered “I don’t know” to questions comparing him to Chris Bosh, and the interviewee had to explain that “he was able to tell me that earlier” when he got confused on a question about his ability to run the pick and roll.


Great Pair of Back Stories

Although there are a lot of questions about Jimmer Fredette’s ability to play the NBA game, the story about his older brother TJ making him sign a hand-written contract on January 27, 2007, that Jimmer would do whatever it takes to make the NBA was touching. In addition, they used to go into the Glens Falls, NY, prison to play against the inmates (not sure how that works exactly), and Jimmer supposedly dropped 40 points his first time there.


Not To Be Outdone By Jimmer’s 40 In Prison

After Charlotte selected Kemba Walker with the #9 pick, we found out from Heather Cox that Walker once scored 88 points “in the park by his school.”


11th Spot Is Where You Take Pure Shooters

From Reggie Miller in 1987 to Trajan Langdon in 1999 to JJ Redick in 2006, the 11th spot in the draft is where a lot of pure 3-point shooters have been taken. In line with that this year, Klay Thompson was snagged by Golden State in the 11th spot last night. Thompson is considered by most pundits to be the draft’s best outside shooter.


Most Worthless Comment

Minnesota ended up with #43 pick Malcolm Lee, who we were told writes poetry and has a blog. Stuart Scott, much more famous for “Boo-Ya!” than for legitimate insight, said “there’s value in that.” I guess if he was being drafted to read at a poetry reading, sure, but this was a basketball draft that was being watched by basketball fans.


Best Punchlines

I’m not sure which announcer asked the question and which two answered, but one asked what the Blazers needed right before they made the 21st selection, and one said “health” and another said “a doctor.” Well said. Either would be more helpful to the club than should-have-been-second-rounder Nolan Smith.


Staying Together

Purdue had two prospects in the draft, C JaJuan Johnson and SG E’Twaun Moore. Although going 28 picks apart, Johnson at #27 and Moore at #55, both are now Celtics. Not to be outdone, Georgia’s outstanding athletic duo of PF Trey Thompkins and SF Travis Leslie were both selected in the second round and ended up with the Clippers. I’d say Boston certainly got the better pair of teammates considering Purdue played hard and made it to the third round of the tournament while Georgia underperformed and was ousted in round one; the Bulldogs generally had an underwhelming season in a large part because Thompkins and Leslie lack skills and drive and fall back on their athleticism.


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Reader Comments (2)

I admit, I don't follow international players at all. Do you think three tall (6'11") international players got selected in the top 8 strictly because of their talent, or partially because how well another tall international player has been doing (Dirk)?


June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

Kanter is legit and would be a top-5 pick in most drafts, and deservedly so. Jonas Valanciunas has everything to become a very good NBA center, although he's much more a low post guy than Dirk, so their games aren't comparable. On the flip side, guys like JV are considered much more of a real possibility in the league because of the success of Dirk. Vesely is fool's gold and will be remembered for his kiss - I think everyone got enamored with his dunks and the fact that he is capable of shooting from outside and figures he'll do great. He won't, but he gets much more of a look than he should because a) it's a weak draft for the collegians, and b) Dirk hit it so big and people are still trying to find the next European scorer. Honestly, the closest thing to the next Dirk is Nikola Mirotic (again, CLOSEST thing, not a close thing), who the Bulls got and will keep overseas for a few years until his ridiculous contract and its buyout untangles itself.

June 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

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