Biggest draft steals? Biggest reaches?

Originally Published: June 24, 2011
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

Sixty picks later, it's time to assess the 2011 NBA draft. Who won? Who lost? Who ripped and ran, and who got ripped off?

We asked five ESPN.com and TrueHoop Network writers for their takes:


1. Who won the draft?

Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Other than Metta World Peace, who has to be pretty excited that he out-trended the draft, the Jazz had the best evening. They were able to draft for need and overall value with both of their first-round picks without taking too many risks. But it's a close call, because the Wizards did the same.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Cavaliers. They really won the draft on May 17, when they landed the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the lottery. They were guaranteed a victory as long as they didn't do something crazy like pick someone other than Kyrie Irving at No. 1 or reach for Tristan Thompson at No. 4. Oops. At least they got the important pick right.

Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Cleveland got the best combination of prospects in Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson (although I wonder whether they may someday regret passing on Jonas Valanciunas). Charlotte did the most given its initial position, with a solid trade earlier in the day allowing it to grab defensive big Bismack Biyombo at No. 7 as well as dynamic guard Kemba Walker at No. 9.

Michael McNamara, Hornets247: The Denver Nuggets turned Raymond Felton and the No. 22 pick into Andre Miller, Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. That is a huge win that instantly makes the deepest team in the NBA even deeper. Miller will bring the veteran leadership Denver needs, while Faried brings toughness and Hamilton is a great insurance policy if Wilson Chandler leaves.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: The Wizards got Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, two guys who can contribute right away and help turn the franchise around. Vesely has some serious swag to go with his leaping ability. Singleton gives them toughness and could emerge as a quality pro defender. It's a great way to follow up taking John Wall at No. 1 in last year's draft.


2. Who lost the draft?

Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Without even considering whether the Kings reached too high for Jimmer Fredette, they royally screwed up by taking on John Salmons' unmovable contract to move down in the draft. This is the same John Salmons they shipped out in 2009 to create cap space, which they just blew on ... John Salmons, except now he's older and worse at basketball. Also, they reached too high for Jimmer.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Kings. They made a dumb trade that added payroll without clearly upgrading talent -- and traded down. Then they drafted a player whose fan support dwarfs his ability.

In the long run, Jimmer won't sell tickets. Winning will. Can Jimmer help Sacramento win?

Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: The Kings made a mind-boggling trade that made them worse and dropped them from No. 7 to No. 10. Sacramento would have been better off sitting at 7 and selecting one of the several prospects better than Jimmer Fredette at that slot. I'm generally pro-Jimmer, but the expectations for him seem to be growing too high.

Michael McNamara, Hornets247: The Houston Rockets had a golden opportunity to grab their small forward of the future in Kawhi Leonard but instead took Marcus Morris, who can't crack their rotation at the 4 and won't be able to play the 3. Worse is that division rival San Antonio acquired Leonard immediately afterward.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: I'm not a fan of the night the Lakers had -- they didn't do much with their four second-round picks. PG Darius Morris could make the team next season, but L.A. didn't seem active enough in trying to package the picks with a current player to try to move up to get younger and more athletic. Their whole night felt very uninspired.


3. Who made the biggest steal?

Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Indiana, for Kawhi Leonard and ultimately George Hill. The Pacers flipped the 15th pick in a supposedly weak draft for a young, useful, hometown player with a great contract at a need position. That actually happened. Leonard will be a solid addition in San Antonio, but he's really a steal because he made two teams better Thursday night.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Jazz taking Alec Burks. Three guards -- Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and Klay Thompson -- went immediately ahead of him, but Burks will be the best of the four.

He's predominantly a slashing scorer, but he'll also rebound and pass well for his position.

Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Chicago got a long-term steal at No. 23 in Nikola Mirotic, whom many consider a top-10 talent in this draft. Mirotic was available late because he won't be coming over for about three years. He's already productive at the highest levels of European basketball for Real Madrid at age 20 and should be a battle-tested addition for the Bulls in time.

Michael McNamara, Hornets247: Although he still went fairly high, I think we will look back in five years and call Brandon Knight a steal for the Pistons at No. 8. Once Joe Dumars clears out some of the mess that is the Pistons' roster, Knight will become a cornerstone piece that jells perfectly with last year's first-round pick, Greg Monroe.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: The Bobcats getting Kemba Walker with the ninth pick. One of the biggest names coming into the draft, he received head-scratching criticism about his size, among other things. But he's a top-notch leader who might end up as the best scorer in his class. Marshon Brooks (acquired by the Nets from Boston) was a terrific late-first-round steal as well.


4. Who made the biggest reach?

Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: Portland, for Nolan Smith. The Trail Blazers were in major need of a backup for LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward, and Kenneth Faried, fan crush of the draft, was on the board. Instead, Portland went with Smith, who has less potential at guard than the also-available Marshon Brooks. Bet former GMs Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho gleefully texted each other after that pick.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Knicks taking Iman Shumpert. Wasn't it just last year we were forgiving Derrick Favors for not producing like an elite player at Georgia Tech because the Yellow Jackets' guards couldn't throw an entry pass? Well, Shumpert was one of those guards. Athleticism isn't everything.

Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: I am mystified in general by the postseason rocketing up the charts by Klay Thompson and in particular by Golden State's infatuation with him. It seems the Warriors would have been better off with one of the more defensive-minded players still on the board at that point.

Michael McNamara, Hornets247: If Charlotte wouldn't have selected Bismack Biyombo at No. 7, he likely would have gone to Detroit at No. 8, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a reach. I know that Charlotte is hoping Biyombo becomes another Ben Wallace or Serge Ibaka, but I think it is more likely to have the next Saer Sene.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: The Cavs taking Tristan Thompson at No. 4. Vesely would have given the Cavs more size, and he's a big who can run. Or, since they need scoring, if they were going to reach, I wouldn't have been mad at them for going for Klay Thompson, who could be a Kevin Martin-type scorer and could have generated offense in his first season.


5. Give us one fresh take on the 2011 NBA Draft.


Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: The NBA always has designed the draft to help increase overall parity, but the league's perennial also-rans really managed to load up Thursday night. Nine teams, all with uncertain futures, added at least two potential impact players: the Cavs, the Jazz, the Wizards, the Bobcats, the Nuggets, the Warriors, the Rockets, the Kings and the Pistons. Had the Timberwolves done the smart thing and kept Donatas Motiejunas or Nikola Mirotic, they'd be the 10th.

This draft probably will get some of those teams a playoff spot a few years down the road and might have even put a couple in contention for a high seed. For a league currently fighting to give its downtrodden franchises a boost in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, Thursday night was a step in the right direction.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Kudos to teams for realizing how difficult it is to acquire talented size. After the clear top-two players went 1-2, the next five players drafted were tall, interior guys. And all five can play. You're not getting players like that later in free agency or by trade without paying a steep price. Drafting them while you can is wise.

Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Dallas essentially used the No. 26 pick to acquire Rudy Fernandez from Portland. Mark Cuban claims he hired Rick Carlisle because analysis showed that players produced much better for him than for other coaches. Fernandez should be a good test case of this phenomenon because he has looked like an entirely different player when playing for Spain -- he played with a more attacking style and crashed the boards -- rather than Portland.

If Carlisle can extract more of Fernandez's talent, this could be a sneaky little move for the champs. If not even Carlisle can, Dallas likely will be Rudy's last NBA stop on the way back to Spain.

Michael McNamara, Hornets247: The uncertainty of the new CBA cast a dark cloud over Thursday's NBA draft and probably prevented several significant trades from happening, as GMs wait to see what the new landscape will become. Last year's draft was the perfect appetizer for the most intriguing offseason ever, but this year those two events seem completely disconnected.

Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Although many fans didn't recognize the names or faces of some of the NBA's newest players, a ton of talent walked across that stage Thursday night. People went in calling it one of the weakest drafts in history, but I came away thinking it was one of the most intriguing drafts I'd seen.

The diverse mix of talent and playing styles will be a shot in the arm for the league and have me seriously hoping there's not an extended lockout so I can see what these guys can do. This draft, though, is all about promise and potential, and we might have to wait several years to see it fulfilled. My gut tells me it will be worth the wait.