Each year, college basketball seems to get worse and worse. Gone are the days I could name every player on Duke, UCLA, North Carolina, or even LMU (Jeff Frye, anyone?) Today, you’d be hardpressed to get me to recognize the likes of such college basketball 1st and 2nd round “talent” as Klay Thompson and Tyler Honeycutt. Making matters worse, the NBA draft has become a showcase of who can pick the more obscure European talent (and if you’re in the 2nd round, then African talent). That being said, the NBA draft is a great time because it starts a long, hopeful process for fans of the have nots of the league to begin hoping and dreaming that their Hasheem Thabeet can develop an offensive game and become a dominant force that will guide their team for years to come. Unfortunately, in most cases, that dream winds up in the development league faster than you can say “untapped potential”.
With all this being said however, there are always some teams that seem to come out of the NBA draft smelling like a rose, and then there are the Minnesota Timberwolves. Without further adieu, the 2011 NBA Draft winners and losers are:
Charlotte Bobcats – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. After unceremoniously being dumped by the Portland Trailblazers (why the hell did you try to save our team by stealing away Gerald Wallace mid-season?), Rich Cho re-emerges looking like the bright guy in the room. In one day, he reinvented the Bobcats and actually gave them a few assets looking into the future. First of all, he shipped Stephen “great for helping your team make the playoffs in his first year, terrible for long term chemistry” Jackson out of town along with the $3MM+ left on Shaun Livingston’s contract. This netted him a tremendous defensive prospect in Bismack Biyombo (with Corey Maggette to fill the Stephen Jackson void while the team rebuilds its core). Cho closed out Bobcat activity by drafting the small, but feisty Kemba Walker. Given Walker’s size, I’m not sure I love this pick, but it’s a good value down at no. 9 considering his collegiate pedigree. Lastly, all of this activity ensured that the Bobcats fell out of the true NBA wasteland, being an annual 30-45 win team. This type of team has no hope of ever getting better (because you are alway in the mid-1st round). By completing depleting their talent, the Bobcats have given themselves a real shot to be relevant again in 2-3 years.
Houston Rockets – Some teams just get it. And the Houston Rockets with their resident MIT stat geek Daryl Morey are one of those teams. Shortly after taking Jonny Flynn, a former no. 6 overall pick, off the hands of David Kahn, the Rockets turned around and drafted Marcus Morris. Morris is a high upside forward from Kansas whose scoring and rebounding figures increased each of the 3 years he was with the Jayhawks. To top off the night, the Rockets dumped salary in advance of the impeding CBA by shipping Brad Miller and the 2 years remaining on the $15M contract he signed last year to the Wolves as well.
Detroit Pistons – Joe Dumars, please do not try to take any credit for this. You’re still a terrible GM, but Brandon Knight has the potential to be one of the top 2-3 players in this draft, so pat yourself on the back…(ok, and now kick yourself again for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva)
Dallas Mavericks – The hits keep coming for Mark Cuban and the Comeback kids. Getting Rudy Fernandez for nearly nothing (a low 1st round pick) is a stroke of genius. Fernandez has always been an underrated player and should thrive in a Dallas offense that relies on ball movement and outside shooting.
Washington Wizards – Getting Chris Singleton with the 18th pick might have been the steal of the first round. Singleton is an experienced defender from Florida State who should be a no brainer to stick in the NBA for years to come. This is as bankable an 18th pick as you will typically find.
San Antonio Spurs – nice job trading George Hill at what is probably the peak of his trade value and getting a player in Kawhi Leonard that has lottery level talent.
Utah Jazz – kudos to the Jazz for not getting sucked into the “Jimmer would be a cool white guy to have playing in Salt Lake” trap. From the little I’ve seen of Enes Kanter, I think the guy has tremendous upside. With the #3 pick and given the remaining talent left on the board, this is a bit of a risk, but one that could pay off big time for the Jazz.
Minnesota Timberwolves — Another GM, David Kahn, that deserves no credit for this. Derrick Williams is the most NBA ready talent in the draft and should make for a nice Williams-Love frontline for years to come.
Cleveland Cavaliers– Sorry Dan, you have the no. 1 and no.4 picks in the draft and you end up with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. Just to give you a sense of what those picks could get you in prior drafts, look at some of these players taken #1 and #4 over the last 10 years:
I omitted years where 1 of the players didn’t pan out, but at least in most of those cases, the other player was Dwight Howard, John Wall, and so on. Irving and Thompson, while having the potential to be nice players, are not the type of loot you expect to take home when select the first and fourth best players in college basketball.
Golden State Warriors — It will take Jerry West some time to turn this stinker around. In the meantime, the Warrior continue to build a team as if they were playing the Harlem Globetrotters. Klay Thompson may be a nice offensive player, but he is sorely lacking in the skills the Warriors really need. Hopefully for the Logo, someone will be willing to jump on the Monta Ellis grenade.
Sacaramento Kings — Primarily for 2 reasons: why would you trade down to take Jimmer Fredette instead of Brandon Knight? And, what the hell is John Salmons going to do for you with Tyreke Evans now slotted in at the 2 guard?
Los Angeles Lakers – Four 2nd round picks? What did you plan to do with all of those? One to carry each of Vanessa Bryant’s leopard print bags?