The 2011 draft is proving to be one of the greatest draft classes in league history. It is easily the best class we have seen since the legendary 2003 class. A draft which produced Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. There are already eight players who were drafted in 2011 that played major roles in their teams winning an NBA championship, there is also one player from the 2011 class who scored 73 points after going pro ( kind of.)
One of the many impressive things about the 2011 draft class is the depth of talent. The draft was bookended by future All-Stars. Most people remember the Cavaliers drafting Duke star Kyrie Irving with the first overall pick, but what many don't know is that Isaiah Thomas was drafted 60th overall; the final selection the draft. The talent drafted between Irving and Thomas is equally as impressive. Guys like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker just to name a few. Without doubt, there are many teams still kicking themselves for not drafting some of the premiere players of today, back when they had the chance.
30 Cleveland Cavaliers - Kawhi Leonard
Original Pick: Kyrie Irving
As the debate rages on as to who is the second best player in the world behind LeBron James, many die hard NBA enthusiasts are beginning to believe it is 'The Claw.' Kawhi Leonard is already a two time Defensive Player of the Year, and this season he averaged a career high 25.5 points per game.
Leonard was the key piece in one of the biggest draft day heists in league history. The Spurs swindled the Pacers into a deal which sent George Hill to Indiana and in return San Antonio acquired Kawhi. At only 25 years old and his best days ahead of him, Kawhi has the Spurs faithful giddy about the future of San Antonio basketball. Had the Cavaliers had the foresight to see what he would become Cleveland would be the greatest team ever assembled. Imagine a roster that includes Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James.... yeah that would be game over for the rest of the league.
29 Minnesota Timberwolves - Klay Thompson
Original Pick: Derrick Williams
Without question one of the best two-way players in the game today, Klay Thompson was slept on in the 2011 NBA draft. Klay slipped all the way down to 11th overall. Coming out of Washington State University many people didn't even know who Klay Thompson was back in 2011, but they quickly found out.
Once he was paired with Steph Curry the 'splash brothers' were born. Klay and Steph have already led the Warriors to back to back NBA Finals appearances, including one ring. With the addition of Kevin Durant this season, they have become the clear cut favorite to win the title again. Just to think, Minnesota drafted Derrick Williams instead of Klay, oh how the unknown can be so brutal.
28 Utah Jazz - Jimmy Butler
Original Pick: Enes Kanter
The Utah Jazz are not the only team to regret passing on Jimmy Butler, as he was the final selection of the first round, 30th overall. The Bulls found a diamond in the rough when they landed Jimmy back in 2011. In fact, the Bulls grew so fond of him that they traded away a former league MVP in Derrick Rose in order to give the reigns to Butler.
Now an All-NBA player, Butler is leading the Bulls franchise into the future. It is expected that the Bulls will offer him the max level contract this off season, and it will be a tough decision weather he stays in the windy city or joins a team better set to compete for a title right away. Whatever Butler decides to do he will forever be one of the biggest steals in draft history.
27 Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving
Original Pick: Tristan Thompson
This is an interesting one. The Cavaliers did select Kyrie Irving in the 2011 draft, only they selected him with the first overall pick. It is hard to say that was the wrong choice seeing as how Kyrie was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2011, but there are a few other players who have ascended to levels yet to be reached by Uncle Drew.
There is no question that Kyrie Irving is an elite talent, and his knack for creating, and sinking shots in clutch time is not lost on any true NBA fan. He has paired with LeBron James to create perhaps the best 1-2 punch the NBA currently has to offer, and as defending champs it is hard to argue against them. As we get closer to the new guard taking over the league, look for Kyrie to transition into the leader of the Cavaliers in the years to come.
26 Toronto Raptors - Isaiah Thomas
Original Pick: Jonas Valanciunas
Listed at 5'8", Isaiah Thomas has been overlooked pretty much his entire life. When he entered the draft out of the University of Washington many people believed he made a mistake leaving school early. When he was drafted with the final pick in the draft (60th overall) many of those doubters felt justified.
Being drafted with the final pick of the draft means that every team passed on Thomas at least once, and as he improved his game he drew motivation from that fact. Now in his sixth season, Thomas has reached the pinnacle of success. He led the Boston Celtics to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game along the way. Now in the discussion for top points guards in the NBA, Thomas has earned the respect of every NBA team in the league.
25 Washington Wizards - Kemba Walker
Original Pick: Jan Vesely
The Wizards really fell flat during the 2011 draft. Owning two of the top eighteen picks in the draft they ended up having nothing to show for it only three years later. With the 6th overall pick in the draft, the Wizards took Jan Vesely, right.... who?
Instead of a guy who played just over 100 NBA games, the Wizards could have had a backcourt consisting of Kemba Walker and John Wall; now that is scary! Kemba was still on the board when the Wizards made their selection, and the folks in Washington are still waiting to see Jan Vesely do something. As abysmal as the Wizards 2011 draft was, they seem to have made up for it in the years after. Currently the Wizards are one of the top three or four teams in the Eastern Conference, which just goes to show how quickly a franchise can turn things around. But come on, really.... Jan Vesely?
24 Sacramento Kings - Tristan Thompson
Original Pick: Bismack Biyombo
Tristan Thompson has become perhaps the best offensive rebounder since Dennis Rodman cleaned the glass in the 80s and 90s. There is no doubt that the Cleveland Cavaliers are happy they have him, as evident by the 5 year/$82 million contract they gave him in 2015.
However, if they had it to do all over again, things may have gone down slightly different. In 2011, the Cavs had two of the top four picks in the draft, first overall and fourth where they took Thompson. As you will see in the final six selections there was a lot of talent in this draft, and Cleveland could have build an historic juggernaut of a team had things gone differently. That said, Tristan Thompson is a great player who helped Cleveland capture its first NBA title in over 50 years, so who knows if they actually would have done it any different.
23 Detroit Pistons - Jonas Valanciunas
Original Pick: Brandon Knight
When he entered his name in the draft pool, Jonas Valanciunas was immediately viewed as a high lottery pick. That belief was proven true when the Raptors took him with the 5th overall pick. Being a top five pick is an incredible accomplishment, but it does come with big expectations, expectations that Jonas has yet to live up to. That being said, he certainly has shown that he can play the game at the highest level.
Jonas has averaged double figures in points every season of his career minus his rookie season. His rebounding numbers have improved each season, culminating in this season where he averaged 9.5 boards per game. It is hard to say the Raptors made a mistake drafting Jonas, but he certainly would be a more appropriate pick at number eight.
22 Charlotte Bobcats - Brandon Knight
Original Pick: Kemba Walker
For as much as Michael Jordan has struggled as a GM, in 2011 he finally got it right. The Bobcats were able to land Kemba Walker with the 9th overall pick back in 2011, which has proven to be quite a steal.
Kemba has ascended to borderline elite level status amongst the best point men in the game, so to act like Brandon Knight would be an improvement would be silly. However, in our re-draft scenario Kemba Walker would be off the board by the time Charlotte got a chance to pick. So with Walker out, that leaves Brandon Knight. Unfortunately for Brandon he has become more famous for getting dunked on than for what he actually produces on the court. Currently trapped in the black hole that is Phoenix, Knight quietly averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 assists per game in 2015-16.
21 Milwaukee Bucks - Marcus Morris
Original Pick: Jimmer Fredette
The Bucks appeared to be a confused franchise back in 2011. They used the 10th overall pick in the draft to select BYU star Jimmer Fredette, only to trade him away before even had a chance to check out the arena. The Bucks had a bounty of options when they selected Fredette, however they were unable to see through "Jimmermania."
Had the Bucks been thinking clearly, perhaps they would have realized that the key to success in the Eastern Conference comes with versatility, and that is precisely what Marcus Morris brings to the table. Morris had been somewhat of an under-achiever early on in his career, but the past couple season in Detroit have been a coming out party for him. Finally in a system that suits his ability, Morris has increased in every meaningful statistical category over the past two years. With Milwaukee trending in the right direction, perhaps even becoming contenders in the Eastern Conference, they could really use a player as multi-dimensional as Marcus Morris.
20 Golden State Warriors - Nikola Vucevic
Original Pick: Klay Thompson
This would clearly be a downgrade from the actual pick the Warriors made back in 2011 when they struck gold finding Klay Thompson outside of the top ten. However, had things gone as they should have, Klay would have long been drafted when the Warriors got on the clock.
With all that said, Nikola Vucevic has proven to be a very talented and sought after player in his own right. In his rookie season Vucevic was traded after just 51 games in Philadelphia. The 76ers traded him to Orlando, and since then his career has taken off. In only his second season he averaged a double-double (13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds.) Since then he has upped his points to a very impressive 16.4 over the past four seasons. Had the Warriors drafted Nikola they would be a dramatically different team, but perhaps equally successful.
19 Utah Jazz - Nikola Mirotic
Original Pick: Alec Burks
The Jazz seem to be looking good these days, but during the early part of the decade many people questioned some of their draft choices. In 2011 they chose to draft Alec Burks, who over the follow few years appeared to be a quality player. However, in the front court acquisitions they repeatedly picked players with nearly identical skill-sets. Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson were all on their roster in 2012.
The Jazz lacked any kind of floor spacing big man, and had they had a chance to do it all over again I am certain they would have drafted Nikola Mirotic with the 12th pick in 2011. In his rookie season, Mirotic was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and has averaged over ten points every season of his career. Mirotic would be a perfect fit with the Jazz right now, as they still lack perimeter shooting from their forward position.
18 Phoenix Suns - Reggie Jackson
Original Pick: Markieff Morris
The Phoenix Suns have become the place where good players go to die. They have soiled the careers of Tyson Chandler, Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, and many others over the past handful of years. When the Suns selected Markieff Morris 13th overall in 2011 it was just another case of a player with potential going to a team who would mismanage him.
It is rare to see anyone compete with Russell Westbrook these days, but that is exactly what Reggie Jackson did during his time in OKC. He was earning minutes over an elite player in the league, and after a few seasons it was clear that there was just not enough minutes for the two of them to share. When it became clear that Jackson was going to test free agency the Thunder wisely traded him. The following offseason Jackson signed an incredible 5 year/$80 million contract with the Pistons. That's a contract many believe is going to cost Detroit any hope of success over the next few years.
17 Houston Rockets - Kenneth Faried
Original Pick: Marcus Morris
The Rockets had a dreadful draft back in 2011. They had two first round picks, ( Nikola Mirotic and Marcus Morris) but neither one of them materialized in Houston. To add insult to injury for Houston, both went on to become high level players elsewhere.
Kenneth Faried was not drafted until the 22nd pick, meaning many teams passed on one of the leagues elite rebounders. In his rookie season, Kenneth was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and in his second season he came up 0.8 rebounds shy of averaging a double-double. Houston has clearly recovered from their underwhelming 2011 draft, but there is no question that they would welcome 'The Manimal" to their roster, as almost any team would.
16 Indiana Pacers - Iman Shumpert
Original Pick: Kawhi Leonard
The Indiana Pacers were fleeced back in 2011. Larry Bird and the Pacers made an agreement to trade their pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for George Hill. The pick the Pacers made ended up being Kawhi Leonard, needless to say the Pacers would have been best served keeping Kawhi.
In a world with perfect hindsight, obviously Leonard would not be around when the Pacers made there selection, but Iman Shumpert would. The Pacers could really use a lockdown defender with an above average three point shot. Not only that, but Iman proved last season that he has what it takes to help a team reach the promise land. It is a shame, but the San Antonio Spurs took advantage of a desperate team back in 2011, and sadly they are still feeling the aftershocks.
15 Philadelphia 76ers - Cory Joseph
Original Pick: Nikola Vucevic
The 76ers have been a sorry franchise since the departure of Allen Iverson, but it appeared they may be on the right track when they drafted Nikola Vucevic back in 2011, but in true Sixer fashion, they traded Nikola before he had a chance to develop.
As we now know, the Spurs snuck in late in the first round and took the unheralded Cory Joseph. And in true Spur fashion, they turned him into a great player. Joseph provided quality minutes for the Spurs championship run in 2014 as the backup point guard to Tony Parker. In 2015 Cory signed a 4 year/$30 million deal with his hometown Toronto Raptors. It is a shame for Philly, because after six years, they still have not found a point guard they can trust.
14 New York Knicks - Enes Kanter
Original Pick: Iman Shumpert
Kanter was drafted third overall back in 2011, a little bit high for a player who is now a sixth man for the Thunder. However, Kanter has proven he can produce good numbers at the NBA level.
If Kanter had been evaluated properly coming into the league he would have been available for the Knicks, and boy could they have used him down low. Enes progressed slowly with the Jazz over four seasons, and after realizing it was not a perfect fit, the Jazz opted to ship him to the Thunder in 2015. Once joining OKC, Kanter immediately began showing how good he could be. In just 26 games with the Thunder at the end of the 2105 season he averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds. After showing what he could do, the Thunder signed Enes to a 4 year/$70 million contract. Since the huge payday Kanter has cooled off a bit, but the Knicks certainly could still use a player like him.
13 Washington Wizards - Alec Burks
Original Pick: Chris Singleton
The Wizards made one of the more laughable picks of 2011 when the selected Chris Singleton 18th overall. Singleton, who lasted three years in the NBA, was never able to average over five points per game. After those three seasons the Wizards moved on from Singleton, and no other team was willing to give him a shot, and he now plays professionally overseas.
If things would have gone slightly differently, the Wizards could have had another electric backcourt player to play along side John Wall and Bradley Beal. It wasn't long ago that Alec Burks was viewed as an up and coming star in the league. In only his third season Burks averaged over 14 points per game, and he was expected to be a key to the Utah Jazz future. Burks has been battling injuries the past couple season, but when he is healthy, the skills are still there, however with the emergence of Gordon Hayward, and the solid play of Shelvin Mack and George Hill it appears Alec may be being pushed out of Utah come next season. Perhaps the Wizards could correct their mistake and pursue him this offseason.
12 Charlotte Bobcats - Markieff Morris
Original Pick: Tobias Harris
Michael Jordan has pretty much flopped as a general manager and hands on owner since the day he bought the job. In 2011 the Bobcats actually made a nice selection when the picked Tobias Harris, however they opted to trade him for nothing on draft day.
If MJ and the Bobcats had been a bit wiser they could have drafted Markieff Morris. Since being drafted, Morris has been a quality player for some very good teams. He spent his first five seasons with the Phoenix Suns, averaging around 13 points and six rebounds over those five years. In 2016 he was traded to the Wizards where he still plays. Since joining the Wizards he has become a big role player for a team that has title hopes and an extremely bright future. It should come as no surprise that the Bobcats flubbed another pick, we all remember that MJ is the one who drafted Kwami Brown first overall many years ago.
11 Minnesota Timberwolves - Tobias Harris
Original Pick: Donatas Motiejunas
Harris was the 19th overall pick in 2011, just a single pick ahead of where he should have gone. The Timberwolves would have been in a great position if they were the team lucky enough to land Harris, however it was unclear how good he would become early on.
After originally being drafted by the Bobcats, Harris was traded to Milwaukee on draft night. After two lackluster seasons with the Bucks, it appeared Harris was on his way to the D-League or perhaps a career overseas. However, the Orlando Magic saw something in Harris, and they gave him a chance to prove himself in 2013. After joining Orlando, Harris has averaged over ten points per game every single season. After three and a half quality seasons Tobias was traded to the Detroit Pistons, where he is currently a major part of their rebuilding process. Harris has averaged over 16 points per game since joining the Pistons, and to think he could have been playing along side Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine all this time, had things just gone a little bit differently.
10 Portland Trail Blazers - Donatas Montiejuinas
Original Pick: Nolan Smith
Throughout the history of the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers have to rank number one in the "bad luck" category. From Sam Bowie, to Greg Oden, to Brandon Roy, the Blazers have always had horrible luck drafting and keeping great players on the court. When they decided to take the undersized Duke guard Nolan Smith back in 2011 many fans were excited about the pick.
Smith ended up playing just 84 games in his two year career. If things would have gone differently the Blazers could have had themselves a 7' perimeter threat and a reliable player to help Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Montiejuinas spent several years in Houston before joining the Pelicans this past season. He had a career season back in 2015 when he averaged over twelve points and six rebounds a night. The Blazers could use some help stretching the floor, which is precisely what Donatas is known for.
9 Denver Nuggets - Bismack Biyombo
Original Pick: Kenneth Faried
I am sure the Nuggets are happy with the selection they made back in 2011. They landed "the manimal" Kenneth Faried, however, if things would have played out as they should have, Faried would have been off the board by the 22nd pick and Denver could have landed themselves Biyombo.
Bismack may have peaked early on in his career, but there was a time when some people were ready to put him in the discussion for best up and coming big men in the game. Biyombo was drafted 7th overall back in 2011 by the Kings, but was traded on draft night to the Hornets. He had a few solid years with the Hornets franchise, but nothing too spectacular. It was in the 2016 playoffs when Bismack made a name for himself. By 2016 he was a member of the Raptors, and during their playoff run he averaged a shade under ten rebounds per game, and many people began to compare him to Tristan Thompson. Biyombo took advantage of the great playoff numbers and signed a 4 year/$72 million deal with the Orlando Magic. In a way the Nuggets should be thankful they didn't get Biyombo, but for a brief time he was in very high demand.
8 Houston Rockets - Shelvin Mack
Original Pick: Nikola Mirotic
Many teams passed on the opportunity to draft Shelving Mack, and since that day he has been out to make them feel silly. After being drafted in the second round by the Washington Wizards, Mack has played for the Wizards, the Sixers, the Hawks, and now the Utah Jazz, playing well at every stop along the way.
The Rockets drafted Nikola Mirotic back in 2011, but he opted to wait until 2015 before joining the NBA, rendering the Houston pick worthless. By the time Mirotic was ready to join the NBA he had been traded three times already. If the Rockets had been a little wiser they could have had a quality rotation player in Mack for years. Mack has since been reunited with his college teammate Gordon Hayward and the two are helping lead the Utah Jazz into a very bright future for the franchise.
7 Oklahoma City Thunder - Norris Cole
Original Pick: Reggie Jackson
Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has a knack for finding talent through the draft, and in 2011 he did it again. The Thunder selected Reggie Jackson 24th overall back in 2011, which proved to be a great pick, however, they lost Jackson to free agency a few years back.
If things would have gone the way they were supposed to however, Jackson would not have been available for the Thunder to take so the would have been forced to pick up Norris Cole. Cole is not a bad substitution for Reggie Jackson, as Cole proved he had championship DNA when he helped the Miami Heat reach four NBA Finals. Since leaving the Heat, Cole has become somewhat of a journeyman, and many have a hard time believing Cole has only been in the NBA for six years. In a funny chain of events Norris actually ended up with the Thunder this season, but his presence alone has proven to not be enough to help OKC and their lack of roster talent.
6 Boston Celtics - Bajon Bogdanovic
Original Pick: MarShon Brooks
The Celtics chose to skip over Bajon when they drafted Marshon Brooks in 2011. Many teams passed on the Croatian, but in the end he is having the last laugh. Although Bojan didn't play in the NBA until 2014, he was drafted in 2011 by the Miami Heat in the second round.
Since joining the league in 2014, Bogdanovic has become a real solid player. After three productive season with the Nets he was trade to the Wizards, where is now getting major playing time, and producing. He has averaged over 10 points per game for three straight seasons, including a career high 14.1 in his final season with Brooklyn a couple years ago. It appears he has earned a spot for years to come in Washington as they continue to improve and perhaps join the ranks of the elite in the NBA.
5 Dallas Mavericks - Kyle Singler
Original Pick: Jordan Hamilton
Rather than drafting Jordan Hamilton, who never played a game for the Mavs, Dallas could have had a solid role player in Singler. Kyle was an early second round selection in 2011, but quickly proved he deserved more. In his rookie season Kyle was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
After his solid rookie season Singler averaged more minutes with the Pistons, who drafted him, but his production stayed the same. After three seasons in Detroit, Singler was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is still a solid rotation player with the Thunder, but with the log jam at the forward position in OKC his minutes have gone down quite drastically. Had the Mavericks taken Kyle late in the first round like they could have, perhaps they would not be sitting in the NBA lottery again this year.
4 Brooklyn Nets - DeAndre Liggins
Original Pick: JaJuan Johnson
It took a couple trips to the D-League, and even a trip overseas, but DeAndre Liggins proved he was worthy of an NBA roster spot over the past several years. After being drafted 53rd overall back in 2011, Liggins was not given much of a chance to show what he had to offer.
When he was forced to prove his worth in the D-League, Liggins did just that. In his one full season in the developmental league, he was named Defensive Player of the Year, while leading his team to the D-League Championship. In 2016 the Cavaliers picked him up with plans of getting him in their rotation, but after acquiring a couple other players in a trade, they were forced to release DeAndre. It took only two days before the Mavericks picked him up. Liggins could have been a much needed boost for the Nets in 2011.
3 Chicago Bulls - Derrick Williams
Original Pick: Norris Cole
Although many people view Williams as a bust, it is only due to the fact that he was drafted with the second overall pick in 2011, and by that measurement, yes he is in fact a bust. However, over the past couple years Derrick has found a way to earn himself a spot on a title contending squad.
After spending a season dominating overseas, Williams was signed by the Cavaliers earlier this year. With the guidance of LeBron James, it appears Williams has matured and finally settled into a role he is comfortable with, and can thrive in. He is now a solid role player for the title contending Cavaliers, and to his credit, he has taken the challenge head on. If things had gone the way they should have back in 2011 though, he would have been taken late in the first round by the Bulls and perhaps had a much greater chance at early success. Pressure gets to some people, and perhaps the pressure of being a number two selection was a bit much for they younger version of Derrick Williams.
2 San Antonio Spurs - E'Twaun Moore
Original Pick: Cory Josepth
Since being drafted 55th overall by the Boston Celtics, Moore has proven to be a very serviceable player for several teams. Having already played for four different franchises, Moore understands the uncertainty of being an NBA role player. However, he has earned playing time, and a lot of respect during his six years in the league.
He is spent this season playing for the New Orleans Pelicans where he started over twenty games, and averaged just under ten points per game. He will likely return to the Pelicans next year as they hope to build off of a promising finish to the season after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins in a late season trade. Moore would have been a solid pick for the Spurs back in 2011, but of course San Antonio out did themselves when they found a diamond in the rough with Cory Joseph, a player we will see later on in the countdown.
1 Chicago Bulls - Jimmer Fredette
Original Pick: Jimmy Butler
The Bulls actually made a great selection back in 2011 when they grabbed Jimmy Butler with the final pick of the first round, but obviously in the re-draft Butler would be selected much higher than 30th overall.
Remember in the intro when we said there was a player from the 2011 class who scored 73 points in a game after going pro? Yeah, that would be Jimmer, he scored 73 last season while playing in China. Fredette was a scoring machine during his days at BYU, but once he got to the NBA his skills seemed to diminish, however it is now beginning to look like Jimmer may have a future in the NBA after all. If he decided to come back to the NBA he would likely be a role player, which for some would be a great way to spent a career. Jimmer now has a choice to make, come back to the states and be a role player, or possibly become a legend in China.
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