In Retrospect: Examining the 2011 NBA Draft First Round

 

[The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic.]

The NBA draft is a fascinating social phenomenon. Front offices use it as an opportunity to pitch entice their team’s fan base to renew their season ticket packages (sometimes before the season is even over). Some fans use it as a beacon of hope for their favorite team and some players see the draft as a harbinger of what is to come for their own careers. 

A great draft can create a dynasty, a good one can extend it, and a bad draft can set a franchise back five to ten years. The line between bust and boom depends on two important factors: the health of a player and the health of a franchise. Would Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard be the same kinds of players had they landed in Brooklyn or Indiana? Would we think of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant the same had their careers started in Portland?

Sometimes it really is just a matter of a player landing in the right situation. Successful organizations invest in their draft picks and put them in situations to succeed. Not all superstars come into the league ready made; some need to be developed and coached and polished into the diamonds they eventually become.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Veterans carry value within the locker room as well as on the court. As is in life, sometimes its all about meeting the right people to help steer you in the right direction. But NBA success isn’t guaranteed. For every Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Butler, there are tons of players who eat themselves out of the league, have substance abuse problems, and even cases of mental illness. The NBA draft is a crapshoot, and some organizations were good, some bad, and others were just plain (un) lucky.

In this chapter we examine a few select draft classes–ones which altered the league indefinitely–that were springboards to some franchises success and doomed others to being league doormats. These drafts were full of generational talent that changed the league for years to come. Some teams set themselves up to contend for the decade, while other teams set themselves up for failure. You can take a look and see from the drafts which teams trended where.

2011 First Round Picks

  1. Kyrie Irving PG Cle
16. Nikola Vucevic C Philadelphia
2. Derrick Williams SF/PF MIN 17. Iman Shumpert SG New York
3. Enes Kanter C Utah 18. Chris Stapleton SF Washington
4. Tristan Thompson C Cleveland 19. Tobias Harris SF Charlotte (traded to Milwaukee)
5. Jonas Valanciunas C Toronto 20. Donatas Motiejunas PF Minnesota (traded to Houston)
6. Jan Vesely PF Washington 21. Nolan Smith PG Portland
7. Bismack Biyombo C Sacramento (traded to Charlotte 22. Kenneth Faried PF Denver
8. Brandon Knight PG Detroit 23. Nikola Mirotic PF Houston (traded to Mirotic)
9. Kemba Walker PG Charlotte 24. Reggie Jackson PG Oklahoma City
10. Jimmer Fredette SG Sacramento 25. Marshon Brooks SG Boston (traded to New Jersey)
11. Klay Thompson SG Golden State 26. Jordan Hamilton SG Dallas (traded to Denver)
12. Alec Burks SG Utah 27. Jajuan Johnson PF New Jersey (traded to Boston)
13. Markieff Morris PF Suns 28. Norris Cole PG Chicago (traded to Miami)
14. Marcus Morris PF Rockets 29. Cory Joseph PG San Antonio
15. Kawhi Leonard SF Indiana (traded to San Antonio) Jimmy Butler SG Chicago

 

All Stars

Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Vucevic

 

Notable Role Players

Norris Cole, Jonas Valuciunas, Iman Shumpert, Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson, Cory Joseph, Enes Kanter, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Bismack Biyambo, Kenneth Faried, Brandon Knight, Bojan Bgdanovic, Shelvin Mack, Davis Bertans

 

Busts

Derrick Thompson, Jan Vasely, Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Jonas Valaciunas, Enes Kanter

 

Steal of the Draft

Jimmy Butler easily with the 30th pick of the draft.The guard out of Marquette was drafted to be a defensive specialist, but soon worked himself into a viable offensive option and eventually into an Olympian. Now Jimmy Butler is known throughout the NBA as one of the best two way players in the league (considering there may only be ten legitimate two way players left).

 

Notable Undrafted 

Zoran Dragic, Justin Holiday

 

NBA Champions

Kyrie Irving (2016), Klay Thompson (2015, 2017, 2018),Cory Joseph (2014) , Iman Shumpert (2016), Tristan Thompson (2016), Kawhi Leonard (2014, 2019)

 

Draft Notes

 

  • Kyrie was the number one pick out of Duke after playing 14 games entire season
  • Of the top 15 players drafted, other than Klay Thompson, can you think of a player who made more of an impact in the league than Kawhi Leonard?
  • Klay Thompson best two way player at his position, and won multiple titles at Golden state as one half of the splash brothers. Sacramento can kick themselves for drafting Jimmer Fredette a pick ahead of Thompson, but management would’ve found a way to stunt his growth, or alienate him to the point where he would leave for another team. Then again, a building around a core of Thompson and (pre-injury)Boogie Cousins could change any team’s fortunes–even the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isiaiah Thomas, out of Washington, was the last player picked this draft. He worked himself into an all star, and was in line for a massive contract, but that was derailed by a hip injury that he aggravated in the playoffs playing for the Boston Celtics. The next season, he was traded for Kyrie Irving.
  • Detroit found another way to shoot themselves in the foot, drafting Brandon Knight one slot ahead of Kemba Walker; a point guard from the northeast who could’ve matched the grit of a blue collar town like Detroit and would’ve certainly been a fan favorite there.
  • In hindsight, Klay Thompson probably should’ve been picked at number 2 behind Kyrie Irving (Not even the Spurs knew that Kawhi Leonard would become the player that he turned out to be).
  • Three of the best two-way players in the league came from this draft with Thompson, Leonard, and Butler.

 

And the Winner of the 2011 Draft is…

The Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson not only became one of the most recognizable faces of the league, but made a name for himself as one the most clutch, earning the nickname “Game 6 Klay”.  The Warriors also managed to select one of the best shooting, shooting guards in league history. So far, they have three NBA titles to show for it. No other team in this draft yielded as high a return on their investment as Golden State did (Sorry Spurs fans!). In conclusion, Jerry West knows basketball.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

In Focus: KU vs Duke 1988 Final Four

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[The following is an excerpt of a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if ,and when we survive this global pandemic.]

 

The 1988 Final Four is remembered for many things, people have written ad nauseum about “Danny and the Miracles” besting OU and Duke to hoist up Kansas’ first national championship since 1952. I wanted to pinpoint and highlight a historical game from the national semifinal between Duke and Kansas, but not because of the score–or anything that happened in the game for that matter–, but because of all the players involved in this nationally televised piece of theater.

Not only was this a rematch of the 1986 National Semifinal (both teams had also played each other earlier in the a regular season game in Lawrence, Kansas), but this game was a confluence of different basketball minds who would impact the game in a variety of ways. 

 

This was the first of five straight final fours for Coach K [Duke would go to 7 Final Fours in a 9 year span from 1985 to 1994. ] and the second time in 3 years the teams would face off in the National Semifinal. Larry Brown ( a Dean Smith protege) was facing off against Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a graduate of the Bobby Knight School for the Gifted Bullies. 

The side stories turned out to be more interesting than the game itself. It was a pretty intense game (because of the stakes) but anything but pretty. It wasn’t a terribly entertaining game, one of many turnovers, and lots of stoppage in actual play. Kansas controlled the game for the most part, and Duke would have trouble getting loose against the Kansas defense. In fact, it would be a forgettable game if not for the names of the schools involved. If this had taken place during the regular season there would be very little reason to recall this event. The final score was a tepid 66-59.

Duke’s record was 28-7 for the season and at 26-11, Kansas would barely make the tournament. Neither team won their conference, yet here they both were in the Final Four; facing off for the chance to play against the Sooners.

The Game was played in Kemper Arena; in Kansas City, Missouri, which is only 45 minutes from the town of Lawrence the location of University of Kansas campus. So this was basically a home game for the Jayhawks. Anyway, enough background let’s get to it. 

                           Duke Blue Devils

  • The Duke Blue Devils were of course, coached by the legendary whiny Mike Krzyzewski.
  • Future Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was an assistant coach on the bench, as well as future NBA scout Bob Bender.
  • Coach K’s starting point guard was former Mercer Island standout, and future Utah Jazz head coach, Quin Snyder (before his stint in the NBA, Snyder would strangely enough become the head coach of Mizzou, Kansas’ biggest rival, for 6 years; perennially losing to first Roy Williams, and later Bill Self). Snyder would have stops in Los Angeles (for both franchises), Philadelphia, and Atlanta as an assistant coach before getting the head gig in Utah.
  • Power forward Danny Ferry would not only go on to to play 13 seasons in the NBA, playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs. Ferry would go on to gain notoriety as a GM for the Cavs and later the Atlanta Hawks (before famously get canned for speaking too freely about African free agents during team conference calls).
  • Center Alaa Abdelnaby spent four seasons in the NBA, bouncing around the league; playing for five teams in that short span of time.
  • Future Nets and 76ers GM (and Bill Simmons punchline) Billy King started at small forward for the Dukies. King would manage to last 18 years in the NBA as an executive before getting replaced during the Brooklyn Nets house cleaning period.

 

                                  Kansas Jayhawks

 

  • Head coach Larry Brown would win this game and the next one, then proceed to take a 25 year break from coaching college; taking jobs on the NBA level for teams like the Sixers, Pacers, Knicks, Pistons, Clippers, and Bobcats (now the Hornets again). Brown would spend a little time in Dallas at SMU before leaving his position for suspicious reasons.
  • Assistant coach Ed Manning (who played for coach Brown with the ABA Carolina Cougars) was also Danny Manning’s father. Many thought Danny Manning was going to go to University of North Carolina, but when Larry Brown hired Ed Manning to coach with him at Kansas, Ed moved the entire family to Lawrence, Kansas where Danny won the state championship at Lawrence High School, then four years later won the national championship less than a mile away at the local university. Danny’s father would go on to be an assistant for Larry Brown when Brown left Kansas for San Antonio, and later, to be an NBA scout.
  • Ed’s son, Danny, would not only manage to play 16 injury riddled seasons in the NBA, but then would go on to coach at University of Tulsa and later Wake Forest. Of course, Jayhawks fans will remember Manning as a bench coach during Bill Self’s title run 20 years from Manning’s own title run in 1988.
  • Future San Antonio Spurs executive RC Buford was an assistant coach on the Kansas bench, as well as Alvin Gentry, who would later be a head coach in the NBA for the Suns (Gentry was an assistant for Mike D’Antoni during the :07 seconds or less era), Pistons, Heat, Clippers, and Pelicans. Gentry would get his first NBA ring as an assistant for Steve Kerr on the Golden State Warriors.
  • Starting forward, Milt Newton would go on to play overseas, before becoming an NBA exec, eventually landing as GM for the Timberwolves for a time spell.
  • Guard Mark Turgeon would go on to have a successful head coaching career; most notably at Wichita State, Texas A & M, and currently Maryland.
  • Guard Kevin Pritchard would be successful as an NBA executive and not a player, working as a GM for first the Portland Trailblazers (he was doomed the minute he selected Greg Oden) and currently the Indiana Pacers.

Aside note: Forward Scooter Barry happens to be the son of Rick Barry; who played with Larry Brown in the ABA for the Oakland Oaks.

 

The conclusion to be drawn from all this useless bit of trivia is that obviously your kids are better equipped to succeed in life if they choose to go to Kansas over Duke. Larry Brown would win an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Alvin Gentry would get a ring as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors in 2015. RC Buford would help the Spurs to develop enough talent around Tim Duncan, as the Spurs would win 5 titles in 15 years. On the Duke side, besides Coach K, no one involved in that game really won anything ( Danny Ferry did get a ring in 2003, playing sparingly on the Spurs). So mothers, don’t let your kids grow up to be Dukies.

 

BM

Tobacco Road’s Top 5 Duke Carolina games

[The following is an excerpt of a  chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if ,and when we survive this global pandemic.]

With only 8 miles separating the schools, it is only natural for a  rivalry to develop between Duke University (a private school) and University of North Carolina (a state school);especially as both basketball programs continued to develop in their competition for the state (and the nation’s) top basketball talent. Being in such close proximity only lends to more intrigue; much like two neighboring high schools. Teams hop on the bus to go play in the next town, and after the game, win or lose, they got to get on the bus to go back. Anyone who played high school athletics knows that feeling. Only a few miles separate Wake Forest, NC State, Duke, and North Carolina. This is what makes the Atlantic Coast Conference rivalry between the schools so special. For quite a while, to make the tournament from the ACC, a team had to win the tournament in order to qualify. This created a hostile four day environment for the conference tournament. NC State, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Clemson were tough opponents and things routinely got testy, but none of those games have the innate gravitas and star power as Duke and Carolina.

 

Some historians point to the year of 1961 as the tipping point of the rivalry, when an on the court fight–which turned into a brawl–between Art Heyman and Larry Brown.

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What followed from that game came a series of knockdown, bloody drag downs that defied the records of either team. 

 The rivalry leveled up a notch in the 1980’s when upstart coach Mike Krzyzewski took over the coaching duties for the Duke program. By 1984, Duke was regularly penciled in for the Final Four, and as college basketball rose to higher prominence and viewership, the rivalry got ratcheted up in intensity. Some games were better and more memorable than others, but outside of the Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, Miami-Florida State in football, you will not see a rivalry (with such national appeal) with such star power as Carolina v. Duke. For both programs, this is usually a measuring stick event to see where they rank vs. the rest of the field. In the past 27 seasons, either Duke or North Carolina have won the National Championship; accounting for 33.3 % of the National titles between the two programs.

Below are the top five games in no particular order

2/01/2001 85-83 Carolina

 

Notable Players:

UNC: Brendan Haywood,Ronald Curry,Julius Peppers ,

Duke: Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer

 

Future NBA bust Joseph Forte had 24 points and 16 assists to lead the Tar Heels to a win in Durham. Fans were robbed of an overtime game after Shane Battier inexplicably fouled Brendan Haywood going for a loose ball with 1.2 seconds left. Duke had just tied the game on a spectacular sequence that led to a Mike Dunleavy Jr. game-tying three with only 3 seconds left. Haywood (who had strangely enough had a chance to ice a game against Duke at Cameron Indoor 3 years earlier, but missed both free throws) connected on both attempts to win the game 85-83. Chris Duhon’s full court heave hit the back of the rim as time expired. 

 

2/2/1995 102-100 UNC in Double OT

 

Notable Players

UNC: Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Dante Calebria, Jeff McGinnis, Donald Williams

Duke: Cherokee Parks, Trajan Langdon, Chris Collins

 

This is one of Duke’s worst teams (talent and record wise) in the Coach K era, but to be fair, Coach K was out that year due to back surgery. Although Langdon and Cherokee Parks both went on to have brief NBA careers, neither would make an impact on the next level. Despite the gap in talent, Duke made a game out of it, and somehow survived a barrage of legendary slam dunks by the Stackhouse and Wallace duo. Of course no Duke-UNC game is complete without some late game drama, and just when the Tarheels seemed to have things wrapped up, Jeff Capel hits a half court runner–at the buzzer– in the overtime period to send it to another overtime. Carolina would outscore Duke 7-5 in the additional OT period. Some consider this to be the greatest game in the rivalry, and having watched it live (and every other time it comes on television), I find it hard to disagree with this sentiment.

 

3/5/1994 UNC 87 Duke 77

 

Notable Players

Duke: Grant Hill, Cherokee Parks, Antonio Lang Duke

UNC: Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps

 

Despite the score, this was a competitive game until the very end. It was tied for at 61-61 before Carolina took control of things. Grant Hill showed why he was a can’t miss lottery pick ; showing no weakness in his game. Back then, he was easily the most talented player that Duke had produced thus far, and at the time was their version of Michael Jordan as far as producing complete players. Duke could not find an answer for Rasheed Wallace (in only his third start),  and eventually the Blue Devils got worn down by the big front line of the Tarheels. The game clinching run by the Tarheels was stamped by a high flying alley oop dunk by Sheed, followed by a back breaking 3 pointer by Donald Williams.

 

02/05/2004 Duke 83-81 OT

 

Notable Players

Duke:Chris Duhon, J.J Redick, Luol Deng, Daniel Ewing, Shelden Williams

Carolina: Sean May, Raymond Felton, Jackie Manuel, Rashad McCants

 

Frequently referred to as the “Chris Duhon” game. Duke would have four players from this team go into the NBA (Shelden WIlliams would make it big in his own way by marrying WNBA beauty Candace Parker). Raymond Felton ended up as the best NBA prospect on this Carolina team full of Blue Chip Recruits. This back and forth affair would be punctuated by a gorgeous reverse layup by Chris Duhon after a game tying Rashad McCants 3 pointer to tie the game up with 13 seconds left. Duke led most of the overtime period until the McCants’ bucket. His three was almost an exact play by play of when Carolina’s Jawad Williams hit a game tying 3 pointer off a pump fake to send the game into overtime. It was just another unbelievable frantic endgame in college basketball’s best rivalry.

 

03/03/1984 96-83 Carolina in Double OT

 

Notable Players:

Duke: Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Tommy Amaker

UNC: Kenny Smith Michael Jordan Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty Brad Daugherty

 

This would go down as one of the most talented teams in UNC history, losing only 3 games total and going through the ACC regular season undefeated. Duke had a chance to escape Carmichael Auditorium with a win, but Matt Doherty’s jumper at the buzzer tied it up and sent it into overtime. By the second overtime, Duke was gassed and Carolina busted the game wide open. This did not diminish the excitement, as it would prove to be both Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins’ final games in Chapel Hill.

 

Historically, star power has always separated this rivalry from annual skirmishes of other college programs. Yet, for a number of years (probably starting around mid 2000’s) the star power just wasn’t there. When top pro prospects, R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson stepped onto the Durham campus in 2018, the buzz level was akin to the old 90’s classic games which featured players who were not only stars, but school legends. Both schools still get NBA talent, but the way college ball operates these days, fans don’t get to see the best players develop from year to year; eventually seeing their talent and maturity coalesce into strong senior seasons.

This never stopped the games from being competitive or exciting, however; up until the 2019-2020 season, the two teams had split the last 100 games 50-50; with each team scoring 7,746 points each. The first meeting of the 2019 season between these two resulted in a buzzer beater game winner for Duke that would make honorable mention if there weren’t at least 50 other games that were just as good;if not better. It was a good one too. Duke won 98-96 at the Dean Dome in overtime, and hit two buzzer beaters–one to send it to overtime, and the next one to take the game. There were some nice players–some will even make the NBA of course–unfortunately there were no monsters on either school’s roster, but it still had the DNA of a good ass game–which is almost always a guarantee when Duke plays Carolina.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com