12 June 2012

Grading the 2011 NBA Draft, One Year Later

In about two weeks and change, the 2012 NBA Draft will be held, once again at the Prudential Center in Newark. Why don't we take a look at who did well at the NBA Draft, one year ago.

Post-Draft Grades

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
The sad city of Cleveland found the star their basketball club had been craving ever since LeBron James made his decision to leave town. Irving was tremendous as a rookie, averaging a solid 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game, and easily winning Rookie of the Year. Most importantly, the New Jersey native gave hope to the Cavs and their fans, and it looked like they would contend for the playoffs for a short while. As he grows into a star and they build around him, they may be saying "LeBron who?" Okay, maybe not.
Grade: A+

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams, SF/PF, Arizona
I was not very high on this selection, even as I really liked Williams coming out of Tucson, because I failed to see this filling any of the Timberwolves's needs. All in all, Williams had a decent season for the Wolves but certainly did not set the league on fire as a rookie, averaging a little less than a 9 and 5. With Michael Beasley probably going to get traded to open up some more playing time for Williams, he should have a greater opportunity to flourish next season.
Grade: B-

3. Utah Jazz - Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
I really liked Kanter at the draft last season and I thought he had the skills to develop into a very good center down the line. We never really got a fair shake on Kanter this season because the Jazz had a very deep frontcourt, especially at the five as Al Jefferson had a really good season. In the limited amount of minues that the big Turk got, he played solidly, averaging 16.7 and 15 per 48 minutes. We should get a better shake next season.
Grade: B-

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
The consensus with Thompson after the draft last season was that he was liked as a prospect but he just went too high. I feel the same is applicable but he had himself a fine rookie campaign. Thompson did not get huge minutes as both Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao were in his way but when he got increased minutes over the season, he played better and closed the season pretty well. I think he can do even better next season.
Grade: B

5. Toronto Raptors - Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
You can't apply a grade to this pick as the big Lithuanian remained over in Europe this season. But it does seem that Valanciunas will be coming over to the Raptors and is expected to contribute right away, as it would allow them to either move Andrea Bargnani to power forward or off the club.
Grade: Inc.

6. Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic
I liked the Vesely pick a year ago as I thought that his talents would make for a natural fit in Flip Saunders' offense but I did not factor in the logjam at small forward as well as the mess that was the Wizards all season. Vesely struggled to adapt to the NBA game and admittedly had a tough rookie season but when he did more playing time in the final month, he did showed some skills as well as working a solid rapport with John Wall.
Grade: C

7. Charlotte Bobcats - Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, Democratic Republic o' Congo
The Bobcats were taking a clear risk in the extremely raw Biyombo, who had strong bust potential. Nobody sane thought that Biyombo, as the youngest player in the NBA, would have a great rookie season and while his offensive game needs a lot of work, he made his mark as a quality interior defender and a pretty good shot blocker as well as an able rebounder. As he is not even twenty yet, it looks like he could develop into a solid one for the pitiful Bobcats.
Grade: B

8. Detroit Pistons - Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Pistons were highly impressed with Knight and thus jumped on the chance to take the talented combo guard in a quality value slot. And Knight had himself a solid rookie season, with the third highest scoring average on the team with 12.8 points-per-game. The only problem is that the Pistons are chock full of combo guards like Knight in Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon, that was the one thing that I didn't like about the pick. And unless either Stuckey or Gordon are dealt, that problem will remain in Auburn Hills.
Grade: B

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
The Bobcats really needed Walker to step right in and play a little like he did in the NCAA Tournament when he carried Connecticut to the title as their roster had less talent than the writers at this website. All kidding aside, the Bobcats proved to be as bad as they were on paper on the court, finishing with the worst winning percentage in league history. The team does have somewhat of hope at the point in Walker, who had a solid rookie season with averaging 12 points-per-game. With D.J. Augustin likely gone, Walker's numbers will only rise.
Grade: B+

10. Sacramento Kings - Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
I was not as high on Fredette as others were because while there is no question that the Glens Falls native could shoot, could he really handle the point in the NBA? And he really struggled to adapt to the NBA game, struggling to get on the court and was ultimately outshined by fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas. Now while many put heat on Kings coach Keith Smart for not playing Fredette, it was not as if Jimmer was lighting the court up when he did play. Plus, they never made the Jimmer and Tyreke films.
Grade: C-

11. Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
This ultimately proved to be a solid fit for both parties. The Warriors looked for some insurance in their backcourt so they could ultimately deal either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry, which they ultimately made a dumb move to give up Ellis for essentially an injured Andrew Bogut. Thompson played well and shot the ball really well, particularly from deep, something the Warriors always love. Although their defense won't stop anyone, Thompson and Curry will make for one dangerous backcourt from downtown.
Grade: A-

12. Utah Jazz - Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
The Jazz were looking for the Colorado prospect to add some scoring to their backcourt but Burks never really saw much playing time, averaging sixteen minutes a game. He was instead outshined at the two by Gordon Hayward but when Burks got on the court, he did not play awful as his per-48 minutes points-per-game average came in around 22. Not sure how much playing time he will get next season if the Jazz want to make another run at the playoffs.
Grade: C+

13. Phoenix Suns - Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Suns were looking for the slightly older Morris twin to add a physical presence to what was kindly considered a weak frontcourt. Fortunately Marcin Gortat had an awesome season and while Morris did not play a huge amount of minutes, when he did see the court, he played relatively well. His per-48 minutes numbers came out to an 18 and 11.
Grade: B

14. Houston Rockets - Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
I really liked this selection at the time last year for Houston as I considered him a steal and would make for a nice fit on that club. Safe to say it did not quite work out that way as the younger (by seven minutes) Morris barely saw any playing time and bounced between the Houston bench and the NBDL. Maybe he'll improve next season to actually play next season because Houston could use the help up front.
Grade: D+

15. San Antonio Spurs - Kawhi Leonard, SF, Utah
I loved the move by the Spurs to move up for Leonard and I thought he would have been a great fit for the Spurs as what has been a weaker position on their court of late. And he really worked out big time for the Spurs. After they finally got rid of Richard Jefferson to open up more playing time, Leonard really showed his talents. His offensive numbers aren't great on paper but he was the fourth option on an elite offensive club. Where he really shined was on the defensive front, where he showed the skills to be an even better Bruce Bowen down the road.
Grade: A

16. Philadelphia 76ers - Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, USC
I was not as high as others were on Vucevic at the draft last year and I really did not get why he rose in the draft but ultimately Philadelphia needed some depth down low. He certainly showed that he was raw last season but in his limited playing time, he was not awful, averaging a 17-15 in 48 minutes. But he really needs to greatly improve his shooting percentage, which was low for a center at 45% he did also show a solid shot on the perimeter which a three point percentage of 38%. Needs to work on his post game at both ends.
Grade: B-

17. New York Knicks - Iman Shumpert, G, Georgia Tech
I was not a huge fan of Shumpert coming out of college as I felt he was a player who did many things well but nothing great with the Yellow Jackets. While he does not project to be a point guard like the team hoped, plus his offensive game is not great, his tremendous defensive game played a key role in the Knicks actually playing defense for the first time in many years. Once Shumpert gets his offensive game on track, he could be a good one.
Grade: A-

18. Washington Wizards - Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
I really thought this was a good selection by the Wizards a year ago as I was a big fan of Singleton coming out of college due to his strong defensive skills. Unfortunately, he really struggled all season, particularly offensively. He did not show much improvement during the season and with the Wizards having such a glut at small forward, he was not as able to get more playing team. When the team is rumored to possibly trade you after one season, that's not a great sign.
Grade: D+

19. Milwaukee Bucks - Tobias Harris, F, Tennessee
I'm not sure whether or not the Bucks were expecting a lot out of Harris his debut season as the teenager did not see much court action all season. But when the Long Islander saw the court, he did make the most of his minutes on the court, as his numbers when stretched out to 48 minutes came in as a 20 and 10. Look for more a contribution next season as the Bucks are not that deep at the forward position.
Grade: B-

20. Houston Rockets - Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Lithuania
Motiejunas did not come play in the NBA this season so I cannot put a grade on this pick as of right now. It is expected that the Rockets will sign him at the start of next month so it will be interesting to see what the Lithunanian can bring to a thin Rockets frontcourt.
Grade: Inc.

21. Portland Trial Blazers - Nolan Smith, PG, Duke
While I did not feel that taking Smith here was an awful pick, it was a reach as there were better guard prospects on the board. That said, Smith saw limited playing time all season and when he did see the court, he did not make himself really worthwhile. The fact that the Trail Blazers are looking to bring in a point guard in this year's draft to groom to replace Raymond Felton shows what they think of Smith.
Grade: D+

22. Denver Nuggets - Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
There is a reason why Faried got the nickname "Manimal" and it's why I loved him coming out of college. The guy absolutely loves to crash the boards. Despite playing in only around 22 minutes a game, he led the team in rebounding plus he showed a solid offensive game as well, which was somewhat of a concern of his at the draft. As he gets more minutes, he will be a double-double threat and a very solid power forward.
Grade: A

23. Chicago Bulls - Nikola Mirotic, PF, Spain
I didn't mind this pick considering the Bulls had a relatively set roster at the time so they could afford to stash a player overseas. As expected, Mirotic did not come to the NBA last season and it is unclear when he will, if at all. Who knows, he could be the next Fran Vazquez.
Grade: Inc.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder - Reggie Jackson, G, Boston College
I liked Jackson coming out of college and I thought he could be a solid scoring combo guard off the pine for some club. Now as expected, Jackson did not play very much at all this season and he really struggled to shoot when he did get on the court, shooting only 32% from the floor.
Grade: D+

25. Brooklyn Nets - MarShon Brooks, SG, Providence
There was not much to smile about in Newark last season for the Brooklyn-bound club. There's no reason to believe that Deron Williams will return. The Gerald Wallace trade was just inane in all aspects. Billy King is still a moron. One of the few bright spots was the play of Brooks, who despite his head-scratching tendencies has the skills to be a really good scorer in the two guard slot.
Grade: A-

26. Denver Nuggets - Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
The Nuggets had a pretty deep roster at the time of the draft and had throughout the season, which saw Hamilton getting very limited playing time as Denver was deep on the wings. But when you stretch his numbers over 48 minutes, he averages a 21 and 12 so if he gets some more playing time, he could strut his talents.
Grade: C+

27. Boston Celtics - JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
Johnson was expected to help the Celtics ease their aging big men into retirement by providing some key minutes off the bench in the frontcourt. However, Johnson saw sparingly minutes all season long and was not all that impressive when he was on the parquet court. In order to stick around, he is going to have to step it up.
Grade: C-

28. Miami Heat - Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State
With such a frontloaded roster, the Heat only needed at the very least middling players around them to be a great club. Cole probably exceeded expectations as he had himself a fine rookie campaign and got some solid minutes at the point for this Heat club. He is going to have to improve his shooting as he shot below 40%, which is not good at all if you have the reputation of a chucker.
Grade: B

29. San Antonio Spurs - Cory Joseph, PG, Texas
There was somewhat of a void for a backup point guard behind Tony Parker at the time last year but Joseph was a clear reach at this point late in the first round. Joseph contributed next to nothing this season in very limited playing time and got passed by multiple other points on the depth chart. I would not expect Joseph to return to San Antonio next season but what do I know?
Grade: D+

30. Chicago Bulls - Jimmy Butler, PF, Marquette
To give Butler some credit, he truly is an incredible story of how he got to the NBA after being abandoned by his father as an infant and kicked out of his house by his mother when he was 13. That said, he saw very limited minutes for a veteran-laden Bulls club and when he did see the court, he did not really impress.
Grade: D+

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