It usually takes four to six seasons to finally understand everything a player can do. Can he score? Rebound? Can he absorb pressure? Is he a contact player, tough at the rim? Can he take physical punishment and still score? How is he built mentally? Does he shy away from moments of consequence or attack like a soldier? These are questions that make the NBA draft one of those puzzles you don’t really solve until years pass and players let you know who they are.
In the 2011 draft, Kyrie Irving was the number one pick and nothing in his career so far refutes that. He can drive to the rim and finish. He’s a quality perimeter scorer and a mid-range shooter. He can change directions at the rim and is explosive enough and athletic enough to bypass rim protectors. He was the face of a franchise…well sort of, until LeBron James came back to Cleveland and dropped him to little brother. Kevin Durant, (was he drinking something?), said Kyrie is better than Allen Iverson. But, still, Kyrie is a true number one pick, a player who is arranging the building blocks for a Hall of Fame career punctuated with game winners even if he is addicted to injury.
But after the first pick and Kyrie Irving, the draft gets particularly dicey. The last pick in the 2011 draft was Jimmy Butler. He was the 30th pick. 30th.
Kawhi Leonard, 2014 Finals MVP, was traded on draft night by the Indiana Pacers. Imagine Leonard and Paul George in the same starting lineup.
Other curiosities: Klay Thompson, the best pure scorer of the 2011 draft lottery class was taken 11th. He played college at Washington State and was a scorer there too. So what happened? Team scouts couldn’t stay up late and watch his games on the west coast? Tobias Harris was out of the lottery and he should have been in it. Same with Kenneth Faried who could jump out the gym and has the fifth most rebounds of anyone in the 2011 draft class. The best rebounder in this draft class, Nikola Vucevic, was thought to be blah.
So if we were doing the 2011 top-10 again, given what we know now, this is how it would look. (Actual draft selections in parentheses).
1. Kyrie Irving (Kyrie Irving): 441 games. 22.0 points. 5.5 assists. Five time All-Star. NBA Champion
2. Kawhi Leonard (Derrick Williams): 407 games. 16.3 points. 6.2 rebounds. Two Time All-Star. NBA Champion. NBA Finals MVP. Two Time Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Klay Thompson (Enes Kanter): 537 games. 19.2 points. 3.4 rebounds. Four Time All-Star. Three-time NBA Champion.
4. Jimmy Butler (Tristan Thompson): 458 games. 16.4 points. 4.9 rebounds. Four Time All-Star.
5. Kemba Walker (Jonas Valanciunas): 523 games. 18.9 points, 5.4 assists. Two-time All-Star.
6. Isaiah Thomas (Jan Vesely): 473 games. 18.9 points. 5.1 assists. Two-time All-Star.
7. Nikola Vucevic (Bismack Biyombo). 456 games. 14.8 points. 9.8 rebounds.
8. Jonas Valanciunas (Brandon Knight): 440 games. 11.7 points. 8.5 rebounds.
9. Tristan Thompson (Kemba Walker): 519 games. 11.7 points, 7.3 rebounds.
10. Kenneth Faried (Jimmer Fredette): 441 games. 9.0 points. 8.4 rebounds.
Most Minutes Played:
1. Kemba Walker
2. Klay Thompson
3. Jimmy Butler
4. Kyrie Irving
5. Tristan Thompson
Best 3- Point Shooters (%)
1. Klay Thompson, 42.2%
2. Kyrie Irving, 38.8%
3. Kawhi Leonard, 38.6%
4. Bojan Bogdanovic, 37.7%
5. Chandler Parsons, 37.7%
1. Nikola Vucevic (4,477)
2. Tristan Thompson (4,378)
3. Enes Kanter (3,777)
4. Jonas Valanciunas (3,745)
5. Kenneth Faried (3, 634)
Most Points Scored
1. Klay Thompson, (10,315)
2. Kemba Walker (9,907)
3. Kyrie Irving (9,698)
4. Isaiah Thomas (8,923)
5. Jimmy Butler (7,515)
1. Kemba Walker, (2,824)
2. Isaiah Thomas (2,430)
3. Kyrie Irving, (2,420)
4. Reggie Jackson, (1,986)
5. Brandon Knight, (1,629)