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2011 NBA Draft Re-grade: Western Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

Every year the 2011 NBA Draft becomes more impressive. Kyrie Irving was the first pick and ended up being one of the three or four best No. 1 overall selections of the last decade. However, it’s the guys drafted behind him that have made the biggest impact on this class including Kawhi Leonard — the No. 15 pick — who just led the Raptors to an NBA Finals and is one of the two or three best players in the NBA. 

Some franchises made decade-defining picks like the Golden State Warriors who took Klay Thompson 11th. Maybe the highest value No. 30 and No. 60 picks of all time came out of this draft in the form of Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas. The two rank fourth and seventh in points, respectively, and Butler is the win shares leader out of this class even ahead of Leonard.

But, of course, there were also picks that teams would like to forget like the Timberwolves who picked a player at No. 2 that ended up being one of the more uninspiring picks of the decade. 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Picks: Derrick Williams (No. 2), Donatas Motiejūnas (No. 20)

A lot happened on draft night in 2011 for the Timberwolves but most of it was eventually irrelevant. Motiejūnas was traded on draft night along with Jonny Flynn for a collection of players that were moved later that evening. At the end of the night, the Timberwolves had used their No. 2 overall pick on a player who is no longer in the NBA, averaged 8.9 points for his career and played for six teams in seven seasons. That’s all you really need to know.

Grade: C- | It’s not that Williams was bad, he just wasn’t the guy Minnesota needed him to be taking him at No. 2. 

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Utah Jazz 

Picks: Enes Kanter (No. 3), Alec Burks (No. 12)

Utah’s No. 3 pick came by way of the Nets in a trade that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey and found Derrick Favors and Devin Harris coming to Utah. All things considered, these are two solid draft picks. Kanter isn’t No. 3 but would still be taken pretty high. He’s 16th in points scored among this draft class, but 10th in win shares and fifth in rebounds. His career averages of 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds are very respectable and he’s now found a home coming off the bench in Boston. Burks has bounced around the league the last few seasons but was a contributing member to some solid Jazz teams in the early part of the decade.

B+ | The Jazz get a B+ because they probably wouldn’t draft Kanter at No. 3 or Burks at No. 12 if given another chance. However, these guys have had solid NBA careers which is more than most teams can say about all of their draft picks.

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Sacramento Kings

Picks: Bismack Biyombo (No. 7), Tyler Honeycutt (No. 35), Isaiah Thomas (No. 60)

There’s something comical about Thomas easily being the guy the Kings would pick first out of these three. The No. 60 overall pick is 11th in minutes played, eighth in win shares and fifth in points per game. It really is a shame that injuries have kept Thomas from maintaining the level of play he achieved in Boston. The Kings should get a really nice grade here but they traded Biyombo for Fredette who barely had an NBA career and Honeycutt played just two seasons in the NBA. There just has to be more value from two picks inside the top 35 and, more specifically, in the top 10. 

Grade: B | They get the B because they drafted a top 10 guy in this draft with the No. 60 pick. The lack of value from the other picks puts a pretty low ceiling on the grade. 

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Golden State Warriors

Picks: Klay Thompson (No. 11), Charles Jenkins (No. 44)

Thompson might be the best 11th overall pick in NBA history. Not only is he one of the best two-way players in the NBA, he’s a top five shooter of all time and few players are a better fit for a team than Thompson is for Golden State. This is the best version of Thompson’s career and the Warriors get some of the credit for that. It almost doesn’t matter that Jenkins played just two seasons in the league. In fact, it doesn’t. Thompson is second in minutes played, second in points and seventh in win shares.

Grade: A+ | A perfect fit and a franchise defining pick that played a huge part in creating one of the best basketball teams in NBA history. This is the only appropriate grade.

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Phoenix Suns

Picks: Markieff Morris (No. 13)

It’s a little uncanny how similar the Morris twins’ careers are. Markieff has played 631 games, 16,145 minutes and scored 7,250 points. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris has played 600 games, 16,181 minutes and scored 7,248 points. They rank higher in games, minutes and points than their 13th and 14th overall picks suggest they should. Both Houston and Phoenix made good picks on draft night.

Grade: A- | Markieff has been an impactful NBA player since he came into the league.

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Houston Rockets 

Picks: Marcus Morris (No. 14), Nikola Mirotic (No. 23), Chandler Parsons (No. 38)

Chandler Parsons was technically traded to the Timberwolves on draft night and then traded back for cash in the same evening. Parsons adjusted to the NBA faster than most of the players in this draft, averaging 15 points his second season in the league and at least 13 points four of his first five seasons. Injuries have plagued Parsons since 2015 and he hasn’t played more than 36 games since that season. 

Morris, as we discussed, was a really solid pick. Both Morris brothers play in Los Angeles. It’s no mistake that they are both on teams who fancy winning a championship in 2020.

Grade: A | The Rockets got a little more from the 2011 draft putting them just ahead of the Suns. 

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Portland Trail Blazers

Picks: Nolan Smith (No. 21), Jon Diebler (No. 51)

This was a tough draft for Portland. To be fair, they had just gone 48-34 making it to the playoffs and losing in the first round. But with a top 25 pick, the Blazers should’ve gotten more than two years and 84 games which is what they got from Nolan Smith out of Duke. Then you had Diebler who played a grand total of zero NBA games and the Blazers would’ve ended up in the same place if they hadn’t attended the 2011 draft at all.

Grade: D- | There’s just nothing to be proud of in this draft. 

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Denver Nuggets

PIcks: Kenneth Faried (No. 22) 

The Nolan Smith pick looks even worse when Faried was still at the board and was picked right after him. Faried has done exactly what he did at Morehead State in the NBA: play good defense, rebound at an elite level and score at a respectable level. Despite not playing more than 37 games in a season since 2016-17, he is the fourth leading rebounder out of this class. Denver went 50-32 in the 2010-11 season and added an impact player with the No. 22 pick to add to that team. Of course, they also traded Carmelo Anthony that season so there wasn’t much to build on but the point is the same.

Grade: B+ | Faried was a really solid pick, but the NBA has left him and his skillset behind causing him to fall out of the NBA earlier than he would have otherwise. 

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Picks: Reggie Jackson (No. 24)

Considering the career Jackson has had, it’s a little ridiculous to think that he was once on the same team as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Jackson was a solid backup point guard for Westbrook until he was traded to the Pistons in a three team trade that got Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City. He’s simply not good enough to be the starting point guard on an elite team but would be a top backup point guard in the NBA. He is currently a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. OKC traded their 2011 second round pick on draft night in 2010 for Latavious Williams.

Grade: B+ | Jackson isn’t elite, but would be picked a little higher than 24th if this draft was done again. That’s good value and he contributed to the Thunder’s Finals run in 2012. 

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Dallas Mavericks

Picks: Jordan Hamilton (No. 26), Tanguy Ngombo (No. 57)

Neither pick was all that exciting for the defending world champs in 2011. Hamilton spent five years in the NBA averaging 5.9 points per game. He, along with Ngombo, were both traded on draft night. Ngombo is actually a fascinating player. His name is typically misspelled as Targuy instead of Tanguy, but things don’t stop there. It’s disputed whether Ngombo was born in the Congo in 1989 or 1984. He has been listed as both in different FIBA championships. For those who are unaware, if he was born in 1989, he would be about to turn 22 making him eligible for the NBA draft. However, if he was born in 1984 he would be ineligible because international players over the age of 22 cannot enter the NBA through the draft, they must be signed in free agency. If you want to read for yourself, click here.

Grade: C- | Ngombo is interesting, but the fact of the matter is that he didn’t play an NBA game and Hamilton only played five seasons. The Mavs get a C- because context matters and they had just won a title. 

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San Antonio Spurs

Picks: Cory Joseph (No. 29), Adam Hanga (No. 59)

The Spurs were one of the best teams in the league in 2010-11. They went 61-21 in the regular season only to be upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. As a Memphis native, it’s a pleasure to get to write that if I’m being honest. However, the Spurs made a really solid pick with the 29th overall selection finding a really solid backup point guard in Joseph. His stats won’t blow anyone away, but he was a good backup who appeared in 68 games when the Spurs won a title in 2013-14. Only three players taken in the 2011 draft after Joseph have played more minutes than him and only 14 of the 28 taken before. That’s pretty good value out of the No. 29 pick.

Grade: B | This is a solid pick with good value for the Spurs but ultimately isn’t all that special and Hanga never saw an NBA floor. 

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Los Angeles Clippers

Picks: Trey Thompkins (No. 37), Travis Leslie (No. 47)

This was a rough draft for the Clippers just because they won the lottery but had traded their first round pick to the Cavs for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The extra pick in the second round came in a trade done in February of 2009.

To add insult to injury, the Clippers put a lot of stock into Georgia Bulldogs from the 2010-11 college basketball season. It didn’t exactly work out. Thompkins and Leslie — both out of Georgia — combined to play 34 NBA games and a whopping 164 minutes. Needless to say, it was a forgettable draft night.

Grade: F | The Clippers traded away the No. 1 overall pick for essentially nothing and drafted essentially nothing. An F is what you get when you don’t turn anything in, right?

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Los Angeles Lakers

Picks: Darius Morris (No. 41), Andrew Goudelock (No. 46), Chukwudiebere Maduabum (No. 56), Ater Majok (No. 58)

The 57-25 Lakers ended up with four picks in the bottom 20 of the 2011 draft. They got very little from those four picks. Morris was easily the best out of this group of players, playing four seasons for five different teams. That’s not saying much, he only averaged 11.1 minutes per game and averaged 3.3 points. 

Grade: D+ | They didn’t have any high draft picks, but just seven seasons between four players isn’t good and, even though they didn’t know it, the Lakers were quickly reaching the end of Kobe Bryant’s — rest in peace — dominant run in LA. They could’ve used more productive pieces in this draft.

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New Orleans Hornets

Picks: Josh Harrellson (No. 45)

The Hornets traded their first round pick for Jerryd Bayless in October of 2010. They drafted Harrellson in the middle of the second round and proceeded to trade him to the Knicks for cash. That’s pretty much it.

Grade: No grade | There just isn’t enough here to assign a grade. 

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Memphis Grizzlies

Picks: Josh Selby (No. 49) 

The Grizzlies weren’t capable of drafting good players with advantageous draft positions — see Hasheem Thabeet. So, they didn’t do it with a less than exciting pick like the 49th. Selby played 38 games over two seasons averaging 2.2 points. To make matters worse, the Grizzlies 2011 first round pick was traded to Utah for Ronnie Brewer who ultimately played five games for Memphis before signing with the Bulls in free agency after the season. Chris Walace at the peak of his powers in 2011.

Grade: D | It’s not an F because it is the No. 49 overall pick, but nonetheless it’s another draft for the Grizzlies that produced essentially nothing. 

Photo by: Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

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