the 2011 NBA

Breaking Down the Draft

Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A tried-and-true practice, The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery (retro) Diary, with thoughts on the first 14 selections:

?First Round
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? 

NBA Draft

Tristan Thompson, left, and Kyrie Irving hold up Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys, Friday, June 24, 2011, in Independence, Ohio. Irving was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA basketball draft and Thompson was the No. 4 overall pick.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Tristan Thompson was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. This selection makes Thompson the third highest selection to come from Texas behind LaMarcus Aldridge in 2006 and Kevin Durant in 2007, who were both chosen second overall.

“We’re very excited for Tristan,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly once he came to campus. Tristan is a wonderful person and Cleveland is getting a special individual who will work hard every day.”

The Cavaliers finished second-to-last in the 2010-11 season with a final record of 19-63.

Thompson will join former high school teammate Samardo Samuels on the Cavalier roster. Samuels and Thomson played together in New Jersey at Saint Benedict’s Prep for a year.

“It’s great, especially having a big brother in the situation that I am in right now,” Thompson said. “Having him be almost like a mentor to me that’s had a year under his belt with the NBA — it’ll just help me a lot.”

The Cleveland basketball community has continually expressed their excitement with Thompson’s constant energy on the court and his ability to make game-changing plays. Thompson, who considered staying at Texas another year, is equally pleased with his future with the Cavs.

“Everyone here is upbeat and likes when we run,” Thompson said. “Look at me on the court — I’m like a relentless bulldog. I think we are going to go hand-in-hand like a perfect marriage.”

NBA Draft

Tonight, three Longhorns will be watching for their name in the 2011 NBA Draft. Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton have all chosen to forgo the rest of their eligibility at Texas.

Last year, the Longhorns sent three players to the NBA in the 2010 draft.

The first to go last year, Avery Bradley, was selected 19th overall by the Boston Celtics. After spending some time in the developmental league, Bradley was called up to the Celtics in February following Marquis Daniel’s spinal cord injury. Bradley played in 31 games last season for the Celtics and shot 34 percent from the floor.

The Atlanta Hawks selected Damion James with the 24th overall pick last year. His stay with the Hawks was short-lived, however, when James was traded to the New Jersey Nets for more draft picks. James has played in 25 games for the Nets, averaging 44.7 percent from the floor and 64.3 percent from the foul line.

Dexter Pittman was the last Longhorn to go in the draft. He spent his first year in the pros alternating between the bench and the developmental league. In April, Pittman played in two games for the Heat before sustaining an injury. He went in the second round as the number two pick.

Texas’ participation in the draft has increased dramatically over the last 50 years. Since 1957, the Longhorns have sent 37 players to the draft with 22 going in the first two rounds. Over half of those 37 were in the last two decades.
Before 1990, the Longhorns sent one player to the draft every couple of years, but since then, Rick Barnes has sent 13 players to the draft. In the 12 years Barnes has been at Texas, he has sent more players than any other previous Texas coach. In the past few years, Texas has sent more high profile players to the draft, such as T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant.

Speculation came to an end on Friday when three Texas basketball players announced they were entering their names into consideration for the 2011 NBA draft, including freshman forward Tristan Thompson and sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton.

Hamilton will hire an agent and forego his final two seasons at Texas. Thompson has not hired an agent yet, meaning he has until May 8 to remove his name from the draft. Fellow freshman and childhood friend of Thompson, Cory Joseph, also entered his name but did not hire an agent.

The three combined to score 42.1 of the team's points per game in the 2010-11 season.