NBA Draft 2011: Draft Grades

The question of this draft was to take the PG or the forward first. There was some debate, but most stuff I read and heard seemed to favor going with Kyrie Irving at the top pick. That was my feeling. History would also seem to favor going with the PG. Going back to the 1966 draft, which was the first with no territorial selections, there have been 10 drafts that where a forward (either power or small) and a PG were drafted 1-2.


1st pick

2nd pick

Better Career


Cazzie Russell F

Dave Bing PG



John Lucas PG

Scott May F



Magic Johnson PG

David Greenwood F



Mark Aguirre F

Isaih Thomas PG



Derrick Coleman F

Gary Payton PG



Larry Johnson F

Kenny Anderson PG



Glenn Robinson F

Jason Kidd PG



Elton Brand F

Steve Francis PG



Derrick Rose PG

Michael Beasley F



John Wall PG

Evan Turner F



Kyrie Irving PG

Derrick Williams F


I’m leaving the 2010 debate as an incomplete, though Wall has an early lead. In 7 of 9 drafts the PG outplayed the forward. In most cases it wasn’t even close. Going by career Win Shares, the closest competition was in 1991, when a forward outperformed a guard. Going by history PGs taken in the top 2 generally perform better than forwards drafted immediately before or after them. This doesn’t include 2005 when Marvin Williams was drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul. The advice to take from this: When in doubt, draft the PG over the forward. Based on this it appears Kyrie Irving was the right player to draft at the top.Despite that compelling tidbit of NBA draft history, the 2011 draft simply isn’t one where hopes should be elevated too high. The talent is that thin. Because of that, this is a difficult group to grade. I doubt many teams really improved themselves that much during the draft, so I feel like I should just hand out a few Bs and several C minuses and call it good. But I do have a pretty strict rule about grading drafts that I feel works well. That is to grade on a curve with 3 As, 6 Bs, 12 Cs, 6 Ds and 3 Fs. This is the only way to do it since the teams are all in competition with one another. The grades are given out based on how much I feel teams have improved/declined based on all transactions involving 2011 draft picks.

A: Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and added Baron Davis with the draft that became Irving: They got the two top players on my board, so I guess that gives them the top spot. While Irving was something of a no-brainer, Thompson was also a shrewd pickup. This is a guy who improved as the year progressed, already has the defensive chops and, from everything I’ve read, possesses the type of attitude and work ethic that will serve him well as he improves his game. Just to temper things a bit, let’s be clear that they aren’t bringing in a Derrick Rose and a Blake Griffin here. What they have are a couple of nice building blocks who will help down the road as they rebuild from last summer. I doubt either will become a perennial all-star, if an all-star at all. Such is life in the 2011 draft. But both should become solid players and what the Cavs did with this draft put them up on just about every other team.

A: Indiana Pacers: Traded both picks for George Hill: Trading out of this draft for a proven NBA player is smart to begin with. I know some folks are intrigued by Kahwi Leonard, but the 15th selection in any draft has a poor history of success. In a weak draft it is very unlikely to bring anything. Hill is a productive player who should be just entering his prime years.

A: New Jersey Nets: Traded top pick and Derrick Favors for Deron Williams. Traded Sasha Vujacic for Lakers’ #1 which became Marshon Brooks. Also drafted Jordan Williams: There’s a lot going on here. Bottom line is they got Deron Williams who makes anyone’s top 15 NBA players list. He may not stick around past this year and in 5 years when Derrick Favors is killing it in Utah while Williams is in decline this may not look so good. But for right now I feel the Nets utilized this draft pretty well. They got a star to build around and that’s the first step toward contention. I also like that they got Brooks. While I find it hard to believe that the 25th selection in this draft will have an impact, Brooks fits the profile of a player who outperforms his draft position.

B: Miami Heat: Added Norris Cole in the draft, traded pick for Chris Bosh, : Yeah I know. I hated this Decision thing as much as any non-Heat fan and I loved Dallas winning as much as any non-Heat fan. I’ll add that Bosh was going to Miami whether this pick had been shipped there or not and right now we should be questioning whether or not Bosh is even the right fit at PF on that team. But in this weak draft, answering the question of which teams made the best use of the resources this draft provided them Miami has to be in the top 4.

B: Portland Trailblazers: Drafted Nolan Smith, used a draft pick acquired for Jeryd Bayless to acquire Gerald Wallace: This is a C if we just focus on the Smith selection and look at the trade as Bayless for Wallace. Since they did include a draft pick in the Wallace deal, I’m counting it as part of the draft and kicking them up to a high B. Wallace was a steal for pick #19 in this draft. He’s one of the better forwards in the league and still young enough to expect a few productive seasons from. For a team in contention, like the Blazers this move was big.

B: Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton: Faried is a great fit in Denver. The Nuggets are a team that seems to know the value of such a player. I expect him to excel here. Hamilton is the type of player you pick up at #28 if he’s there, keep him around for a few years and hope he develops into something. He does have NBA ability and the cost is low, so why not? There were no draft picks involved in the Miller-Felton trade, but I like it for both sides. Felton is a better player, but Miller works better as a reserve to Lawson. The Nuggets seem to know a lot about chemistry and this move looks like a good one for them.

B: Atlanta Hawks: Traded pick for Kirk Hinrich. For a team where the Hawks are this was the right move. I suppose Kenneth Faried or Chris Singleton would have looked good coming off their bench, but a veteran guard like Hinrich is going to have much more value to this team as they continue their quest to crash the Eastern elite over the next few seasons.

B: Dallas Mavericks: Traded pick for Rudy Fernandez: The trend in these grades is to congratulate the teams that were savvy enough to not buy into the hype any of these players might be getting and turned what was basically a worthless draft pick into a useful player. In the case of the Mavs, this was a particularly good move. With at least some of their aging roster likely to mail it in next year now that they have their rings, a talented, young guy like Fernandez could give the team a needed boost of energy.

B: Phoenix Suns: Drafted Markieff Morris, also received Orlando’s #1 pick in the Jason Richardson trade, which was flipped for Aaron Brooks: They get the last “B” for two reasons. The first is that Markieff Morris is a steal here. He has the potential to be a Channing Frye who can actually rebound and score inside. I like bringing in Brooks for a late first-rounder, because he’s a better value than what would have been available. I also like that the trade for Orlando’s #1 also netted Marcin Gortat, who is a legit NBA center. The Suns did a nice job and that’s a switch for a team that has seemed hell bent on destroying itself the past few years.

C: Houston Rockets: Marcus Morris, Donatas Montiejunas and Chandler Parsons, traded Aaron Brooks: I like the Morris pick for the value. The Morris twins were the sliders in this draft and the Rockets got themselves a good player at 14. I’m not a big fan of either Montiejunas or Parsons, but I realize this is the Rockets we’re talking about here and they will make good use of whatever skills these two offer. I also know that the Rockets won’t miss Aaron Brooks much, because such players are easily replaced and they seem to get this.

C: Milwaukee Bucks: Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, traded down in draft by swapping one talented, but enigmatic wing for another and aquiring Beno Udrih: Harris and Leuer are both good gets for their draft position. I also like the fact that they traded Maggette for Jackson. In this case a change can’t hurt much and might even turn into a good thing. I do feel that sticking at 9 and drafting one of the Morris brothers would have been the better move though. Udrih is a useful PG and having another one of those on the roster can’t hurt.

C: Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shevlin Mack, traded Kirk Hinrich: All the players were selected about where they were projected to go. I don’t see any stars here, so I can’t say the Wizards took a huge step back to respectability on Thursday. I still find it hard to believe that a 6”11” player who rebounds as poorly as Vesely does will have much success as a pro. Trading Hinrich was a smart move for them. While it may be a downgrade in talent, this team should be collecting young athletes like Singleton right now, as opposed to aging 3rd guards like Hinrich who are better suited to playing for contenders.

C: Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams and the usual flurry of trades and moves we’ve come to expect from this bunch: I’m not on board with the Williams pick. He seems like a good guy and his rise from under-recruited prep to college superstar is impressive. But there is nothing in his numbers that tells me he can defend either forward position well enough. I’m guessing that a weak draft class, along with his destruction of the Plumlee brothers in the tournament labeling him as a crunch time star is what elevated him from the mid-first round, where players of this ability typically are drafted, up to one of the stars of the draft. It was like there were no stars here and Williams’ emerged as everyone’s favorite big guy by default. He also isn’t much of a fit here. This is a team loaded with undersized forwards who can’t defend. What I do find intriguing about Williams is the deadly 3-point skills he flashed this year. I’m skeptical this skill will translate to the NBA, since he doesn’t look like much of a perimeter player in the areas of quickness and ballhandling. But if everyone else is right and I’m wrong, he’ll become a solid pro and a good pick here. On Ricky Rubio, two years ago I felt he flashed enough signs of being a dominant player and was the top PG in the draft because of that. In two years he just hasn’t shown much improvement and now looks like a Brandon Jennings type at best, an inefficient player of questionable value.

C: Philadelphia 76ers: Nicola Vucevic: I don’t know that he’ll amount to much, but he seems like a good value pick at #16 in 2011. Considering the “gains” made by the rest of the league in this draft, the Vucevic pick merits a high C.

C: Detroit Pistons: Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler: Knight just doesn’t grade out that well as a prospect and is a clone of Stuckey even if he makes it. I don’t see an upside here, other than they felt he was the best available and will sort out the crowded backcourt later.

C: New York Knicks: Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson: A couple of nice picks. If any coach can make mold Shumpert into a PG, D’Antoni can. If not, at least he has potential as a great hustle player/defender.

C: New Orleans Hornets: Traded pick to Portland for Jeryd Bayless, who was shipped off for Jarrett Jack..I think: Jack is a good guy to have on a team. He offers more to a contender than whatever may have arrived via the #19 pick.

C: Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Jackson: A PG? Interesting. They have a couple of pretty good PGs already. Probably best to assume this is just a case of a team drafting the best available athlete near the end of the first round in a historically weak draft and hoping he develops.

C: Los Angeles Lakers: Traded top pick for Sasha Vujacic, drafted Darius Morris: I’ve been lauding teams that dealt their picks for players, but I can’t say that Vujacic brings a lot to the Lakers. Draft picks should be traded carefully. Because picks can’t be dealt in consecutive years, the Lakers’ 2012 pick won’t be available as a bargaining chip at the trade deadline when the team might be looking to swing a deal, for whatever that is worth.

C: Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Freddette and Tyler Honeycutt, traded Beno Udrih and acquired John Salmons in draft day machinations: I’m not a fan of Jimmer, but I do like Tyler Honeycutt’s potential. I don’t see that the direction of this franchise was altered a lot by this draft. The future of the Kings is Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. If those two can develop their immense talent into a potent 1-2 superstar punch, this team has a great future.

C: Memphis Grizzlies: Josh Selby, and from what I can decipher, the top pick was traded pick for Ronnie Brewer: I like bringing in Selby at the cost of a 2nd rounder. Low risk/high reward scenarios are always a good thing to get into. Not much was gained or lost in the Brewer deal.

D: Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic and Jimmy Butler, traded James Johnson. In 6 years we may be talking about what a coup it was trading up for Nikola Mirotic back in 2011. But for the immediate future he’s just some guy playing in Europe. The original pick actually belonged to Miami, was dealt to Toronto and shipped to the Bulls for James Johnson. Johnson is a better player than whatever would have been available and this downgrades the Bulls. Jimmy Butler is a nice pickup, but will find minutes scarce on this deep roster.

D: Boston Celtics: JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. I do like E’Twaun Moore, especially here where his defense and smarts might enable him to fill Tony Allen’s old role. Johnson is a reach, even in this draft. They should have held onto Marshon Brooks.

D: Utah Jazz: Alec Burks and Enes Kantor, traded Deron Williams for Kantor pick and Derrick Favors. The Jazz also received the Grizzlies 1st round pick in exchange for Ronnie Brewer, which went to Minnesota in the Al Jefferson deal: The “D” is for losing Deron Williams. He’s a superstar and I just can’t reward losing a superstar, no matter what the reason. If we’re going to give them a high grade for Kantor, we have to look at the cost also. They did get a nice start on the  job of setting themselves up with a solid base for the post-Williams era. Favors is an excellent prospect. I’m still out on Kantor, but going big was the right thing to do.

D: Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas, received Miami’s 1st round pick in Chris Bosh trade, which was dealt to Chicago for James Johnson: I don’t like to punish Toronto here for losing Bosh any more than I like rewarding Miami. It isn’t like the Raptor braintrust sat down and decided it was best to deal Bosh for Miami’s #1. But the draft pick was involved and Bosh helped Miami win the East, while Toronto struggled without him. That gives them a “D”. I do like what they did with the two picks. Valanciunas has nice potential as a center and that’s always a valuable thing. James Johnson was a nice pickup for the 28th overall pick.

D: Charlotte Bobcats: Drafted Bismark Biyombo and Kemba Walker. Traded one talented, but enigmatic wing for another in order to move up in the draft from pick 19 to 7. The 19th pick was originally acquired for Gerald Wallace. They gave up their best player to get the pick that enabled them to make what was actually a decent trade. I do like the draft picks too. Biyombo may never make it, but I’d pay for his potential before paying for the mediocrity of other players. Walker has some potential, though one of the Morris twins would have been a better option. The reason for the “D” is they gave up their best player in Wallace and launched another rebuilding era. Perhaps it was necessary, but it will result in another down year or two and that isn’t something this franchise needs.

D: Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins: Thompson was not only a crazy reach at 11, but plays a position where the team is the strongest. Why not just draft Faried here? Wouldn’t he have been a better fit rather than adding another soft mad-bomber to a roster full of the same?

F: San Antonio Spurs: Traded George Hill for Kahwi Leonard, also drafted Cory Joseph and Davis Bertrans: I don’t like doubting people who are clearly smarter than I am. But trading an important part of your rotation for the 15th pick in the worst draft in a decade just isn’t going to improve your lot in a very competitive conference. Leonard and Joseph are projects at best.

F: Orlando Magic: Justin Harper, Original pick was dealt to Phoenix in the Jason Richardson trade: I doubt the pick was a big deal or even would have become a big deal had Orlando used it or not. And Harper is a nice get early in round 2. I’m flunking Orlando so I can launch into a rant. I just want to say that I can’t believe how this team has squandered the good fortune that has come their way since their inception. They won consecutive draft lotteries in the early 90s, which included once-in-a-decade talent Shaquille O’Neal. In the free agency summer of ’00 they scored a huge coup by bringing in Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. They won the ’04 lottery where they drafted the best center of this generation, Dwight Howard. I know there were some injuries and other little dramas going on, but this organization has been setup for a dynasty on three separate occasions in the past two decades and hasn’t been able to close the deal. That’s what this “F” is about.

F: Los Angeles Clippers: Traded what became the pick while dumping the contract of Baron Davis. Drafted Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie: Kyrie Irving would have been a great fit here.

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