Ball Don’t Lie’s 2011 NBA draft grades

The 2011 NBA draft just about appeared to go down without a hitch, even though it could have been absolute drudgery for those who were forced to either work within it or cover it. Otherwise, it was a good time out, for most of the teams involved.

Sure, there were endless trades, and an even longer litany of names, faces and players that only the most hardened of college and/or international insiders could tell you about. I'm not one of those people. But I did just spend, including the preseason, nine months living and often dying with NBA hoops. So while I'm not the guy to ask if someone named "E'Twaun" will go boom or bust, I can tell you how the Celtics did and those 29 other teams did. Trades included, potential included, needs included as well.

Kindly mind my post-draft optimism, and click the jump for a report card:


Atlanta Hawks

Additions: Keith Benson

Grade: C

Stuck without a first-round pick after trading for Kirk Hinrich midway through 2010-11, the Hawks spent their second-round pick, 48th overall, on a big man in Benson that nobody seems to regard highly.

Benson was a senior at Oakland last year, and he did manage a double-double, but this is a fringe talent at best. The only thing keeping the Hawks from a lower grade is the fact that I really, really dig the way Kirk Hinrich plays defense, and knowing that the team that ended up with Atlanta's first-round pick (Washington, taking Chris Singleton) didn't exactly set the world on fire. Even if Singleton will be more than solid, and a fine fit for the Wizards. Atlanta picked up a competent starter for this selection, even if it was four months ago.

Boston Celtics

Additions: JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore

Grade: A

For the last few years, I've lived in Lafayette, Ind., which is just an eight-minute drive from West Lafayette, Ind., where Purdue is located. Both of these players are from Purdue, and I should either be terribly biased in their favor, or reacting negatively and inappropriately based solely on the punk Purdue hipsters who dodge in front of my car every time I cross over the Wabash River to buy used LPs in West Lafayette.

The truth is that I don't care about Purdue, I watch as much Purdue basketball as I do Duke or College of Charleston basketball (that is to say, no basketball), and my location has no impact on this rating.

With that in place, I think Johnson can be a terrific player in the right system, so much so that he was my favorite target for my hometown Chicago Bulls as they picked late in Round 1. And Moore, though his game is full of holes and he is a wing-trapped in a point guard's body, could be a rotation-level talent. Even knowing Johnson's rebounding issues and understanding his small frame, Boston could turn him into a contributor that lasts for years. Not bad, for the end of the first and second rounds. Boilermaker-hoy!

(I don't think that's what they say, here. I'm not at all certain what they say, here.)

Charlotte Bobcats

Additions: Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker

Grade: A

There's no point in trying to pretend that this grade isn't influenced by the earlier addition of Portland GM Rich Cho. Cho isn't some Jerry West in waiting, but Michael Jordan actually hired someone who might not act as a yes-man to run his team (even if MJ still has the final call on things, as Charlotte admitted earlier this week), and that's a significant grab. And though I'm not Walker's biggest fan and we all understand Biyombo's limitations, for this draft? Not a bad haul.

This is also influenced by the trade that sent Stephen Jackson to Milwaukee for Corey Maggette. Though Maggette's bad contract runs longer than Jackson's, Jax was ready to blow his lid in Charlotte. The amalgamation of good vibes, sound players, nice upside and strong leadership (whether that lies in the off-court savvy of Cho or the on-court savvy of Walker) results in a high grade.

Chicago Bulls

Additions: Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler

Grade: A

As a fan, I walked away disappointed from this draft haul. How could I not? I respect the Mirotic pick, but would prefer some win-now help, and Butler might not even be worth a first-rounder's guaranteed contract.

But once the fan-glasses come off, this was a haul worth appreciating. Mirotic won't be over until 2014 at the earliest, but that's also a player you don't have to pay, and a lottery talent that will no doubt be giddy to join the Bulls once his contract with Real Madrid (a top-flight organization that knows how to develop players) ends. Butler, meanwhile, is a worker who at the very least will spell Luol Deng at times next season defending wings.

Deng, if you'll recall, averaged 49.8 minutes per game in the regular season, a mark that was upped to 992.4 minutes per game in the playoffs. It's late June, and he hasn't even left the United Center court. He's still there, hunched over and grabbing the ends of his shorts, trying to catch his breath.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Additions: Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Milan Macvan

Grade: A

Outside of Pacer/Spurs fans, stung by their team's mid-draft trade, the Cavaliers had more fans upset with their work in Thursday's draft in our chat than any other group. They straight up did not like the Tristan Thompson acquisition, and I can't blame them. Tristan can play, but taking him at No. 4  ahead of bigger names and/or bigger upsides could prove frustrating for the Cavs and their fans years down the road.

Cleveland also walked away from Thursday with the best player in the draft, let there be no mistake, and a player in Thompson who can contribute right away. If the Cavs want a tall, tough-minded internationally bred big man to come over in a year or three, then that's what Macvan's for. This was a great night out for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans. The page has been turned, hopefully. Kudos for that.

Dallas Mavericks

No draft additions

Grade: A

I know, I know. Another "A."

I don't mind. Jordan Hamilton can play, but ring me up in February and let's talk about who is playing better -- Jordan Hamilton or Rudy Fernandez, whom the Mavs scored in a deal for the Hamilton pick at No. 26. Hamilton was a steal at 26, but Fernandez (on a wide-open team and in a new locker room culture with minutes to grab at the off-guard spot) is a steal at nearly any price. Dallas won again.

Denver Nuggets

Additions: Kenneth Faried , Jordan Hamilton, Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

Grade: A

I know, I know. Another "A," again.

This deal is influenced by the addition of Andre Miller in a trade. Raymond Felton is a younger point guard with a lot to give, but Miller is a player Denver can count on down the stretch of close games to orchestrate wins, something that the Nuggets didn't have in the clutch last year. Though they won plenty of games following the trade of Carmelo Anthony, most of those games were decided in the second and third quarters.

Faried will work his tail off, and act as one of our favorite players to watch, but he's a seventh man at best. Hamilton was a nice find at number 26, but on a team with wings like Aaron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler (who I'm assuming is coming back), J.R. Smith (ditto) and Danilo Gallinari, where does he fit in?

Chukwudiebere Maduabum probably won't find his way to Denver anytime soon, but we have enjoyed this short run and his long name.

In the meantime, dial "A" for "Andre."

Detroit Pistons

Additions: Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler, Vernon Macklin.

Grade: D


I don't understand the hype behind Knight. I understand that he has promise, a sprightly nature, and a few years to go before we can ably judge him, but that's the case for quite a few guards his age who have contributed much, much more at this age. Toss in Detroit's already-crowded backcourt and the fact that it was a pick away from possibly adding a needed big man, and I just have to shake my head at yet another blown chance.

Singler seems like a fringe jack of all trades, and Macklin is a big man who averaged 5.4 rebounds per game last year despite working at 24 years of age.

Greg Monroe's pretty awesome, though. Let's just watch him, again.

Golden State Warriors

Additions: Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler, Charles Jenkins

Grade: B+

You might be dismayed by the large amount of high grades I'm giving out, but considering where Golden State was drafting from, where else would you place this team?

Thompson is a sound wing scorer with range, and someone to pass to on the break. The Warriors may have plenty of scorers, but they can always use another pure shooter, and Thompson fits that bill. And considering that then-Laker Pat Riley once wrote half a book detailing new Warriors el jefe Jerry West's dogged pursuit of Thompson's father before the 1986-87 season, I think it only fitting.

Tyler is a project, both in terms of emotional and physical makeup. But for a second-round pick, he's well worth the "risk." And Jenkins' game might not translate to the NBA, but he's also a high-reward sort of guy. So why not take a chance, deep into the second round? He's no Monta Ellis, but he could have his moments pounding the ball up top and then driving against a team's second unit.

Houston Rockets

Additions: Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons

Grade: C

I understand the intrigue behind each of these players, and the selection of Motiejunas will apparently make many draft-heady Rockets fans happy, but this group leaves me cold.

Maybe Morris can play the three. Maybe he can turn into a Lamond Murray-type and keep up. Motiejunas, meanwhile, is just about the worst defensive player you've ever seen, and Parsons (according to trusted accounts) has quite a ways to go when it comes to developing a motor worthy of NCAA hoops, much less NBA hoops.

There is talent here, make no mistake, and I hope this triptych proves me wrong. As it stands in late June of 2011, though? I can't get enthused.

Indiana Pacers

No draft additions

Grade: B

The Pacers had Kawhi Leonard in their hands and then dealt him, essentially, for George Hill. Lots of NBA fans seem to think the world of Hill, an Indianapolis native, but I'm not as smitten. I think George Hill is worth a 15th pick in a good draft, though. Also note that this wasn't a good draft, but then also note that Kawhi Leonard apparently isn't a typical 15th pick in a bad draft.

Even all this out, somehow, and I think this was a fair trade. I don't know what Hill does for a middling team like the Pacers, but he's a combo guard we know can contribute. No amount of scouting reports and likely potential payoff can make up for someone who is NBA tested. So, solid work, nothing more.

Los Angeles Clippers

Additions: Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie.

Grade: D

The only reason that this isn't an "F" is because Eric Gordon won't hate playing with Mo Williams. Blake Griffin won't have to pick up his third foul in the first half because a point guard beat Baron Davis down court, and the Clipper locker room will be a better place without Davis around. I like Baron, personally, but he had to go. Would Kyrie Irving go well here? Of course. In five years, though, I think it will all be worth it in terms of growth and influence.

Thompkins and Leslie are two Georgia teammates that probably won't ever contribute anything at this level.

Los Angeles Lakers

Additions: Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Ater Majok.

Grade: B

Morris can play, and with Los Angeles losing the Triangle, he can possibly contribute down the road at point guard. Goudelock would seem more at home in a Triangle-type offense with his shooting, but he's still worth a camp invite, and Majok has everyone scratching their heads. Mainly because of all the humidity.

Are these all B grade-level players? No. But once you factor in Los Angeles' place in this draft, namely the second round, it's worth a positive take.

Memphis Grizzlies

Additions: Josh Selby

Grade: A

Selby goes both ways. You watch his game clips, and immediately pen him in as an NBA contributor. Someone like him is supposed to succeed at this level.

But he's also a head-case, he apparently skipped workouts, and he has knee issues. And head-cases with knee issues rarely turn it around. They just point to their knee, beg out of that night's game, and collect the check.

With those two sides battling it out, understand that Memphis picked Selby up 49th overall. Forty-nine. That alone deserves the good grade.

Miami Heat

Additions: Norris Cole

Grade: B+

There were analysts that were high on Cole Thursday night, but my thinking is more Heat-based than anything.

This was a team that essentially bought back its initial first-round pick (sent to Toronto in the Chris Bosh deal, which sent it to Chicago who then sent it to Minnesota and back to Miami) in order to add talented depth at a position they need help in. Cole may not usurp Mario Chalmers at any point in the next three years, but he can play at the NBA level. And for a team entering the draft with the 31st pick to deal with, this was a sound hire.

Milwaukee Bucks

Additions: Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer

Grade: B

Harris is 18, but we've seen a lot of do-it-all 18-year-old prospects in our day, and Harris doesn't really blow our minds. All the reports from those who have given him more than two weeks' study, though, say nice things. That said, I can understand a Bucks fan's trepidation at acquiring yet another one of "those guys" (smart, far from explosive, tweener-types) to the roster. Especially after trading down. Then again, you get Stephen Jackson, playing in a contract year.

Leuer will make some fans happy, and the Bucks could clearly use the scoring, but he's camp fodder.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Additions: Derrick Williams, Malcolm Lee, Targuy Ngombo

Grade: A

On paper, it doesn't look like much. And I'm not going to tell you that Minnesota owned the draft, even though Minnesota jokes owned the third straight draft.

The Wolves didn't go for Monta Ellis. They didn't go for Andre Iguodala, and they didn't jump at some other vet making eight figures just for the sake of a splash. They also didn't stay home with the second pick and draft some team-changing talent in Williams. He's a nice player, a potential borderline All-Star, and someone who plays the same position as half of his new teammates.

What Minnesota did do was do the best it could, considering its options. Which, for David Kahn or even any other GM, is an incredible achievement. The team was constantly moving, trading down and acquiring future picks and expiring contracts and cash along the way to help this small market team eat the final two years of Kurt Rambis' contract, while admitting that though 2011 was its last chance to make a draft splash (Minny won't have its 2012 first-rounder), while not freaking out over the fact that the 2011 draft kind of blew chunks.

This was the best possible draft for this franchise. It may not boast the sort of showy allure as something Portland may have done under Kevin Pritchard's tenure, and nobody acquired an All-Star, but this was a good night out.

New Jersey Nets

Additions: Marshon Brooks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Williams

Grade: B-

Brooks certainly has the quickness, hops and touch to take his scoring gifts to the NBA. But he's going to have to completely wipe out just about every instinct he gleaned from his time at Providence, especially if he wants to play under Avery Johnson. He can't dominate the ball and break plays and he's not the man anymore. That's a huge jump, and based on my month-long introduction to the guy, I'm not entirely sure he's up for it. Prove me wrong, mate.

Bojan won't be over for a while and Williams is too small. Considering New Jersey's picking options heading into Thursday, these were fair gambles.

New Orleans Hornets

No draft additions

Grade: F

The Hornets lost their first-round pick in the Jerryd Bayless deal, which turned out to be the Jarrett Jack deal, which turned out to be somewhat passable. Still, turning their second-round pick into a $750,000 haul (dealing it to New York) looks chintzy for all (the Hornets, the league that owns the Hornets and the Knicks) involved.

I mean, $750k, New York? The NBA gave you Patrick Ewing! It gave you Larry Johnson's four-point play? You couldn't have given back a little more?

New York Knicks

Additions: Iman Shumpert, Josh Harrellson

Grade: C+

The Knicks drafted for need. Too bad the need was filled at the most inconsequential position out there.

They needed a defender, at any position, and rolled the dice on the best defender available who also happens to defend the least important position in basketball these days. Shumpert will likely hold down NBA wings, and it's not like the Knicks passed on too much at 17th in a terrible draft. This depth-starved team couldn't afford to roll the dice on a prospect who wouldn't be over in a few years.

Still a tough move. Shumpert had his moments of glory in the NCAAs, though. This can work out, but the ceiling is limited.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Additions: Reggie Jackson

Grade: B

The influence of Sam Presti looms large in this grade. Perhaps he understood that this was a draft full of fourth guards, third forwards and potential (if hopeful) backup centers. So he promised his fourth guard of the future, Reggie Jackson, that he would take him at 24. Jackson didn't work out for any other team, and sho'nuff, there he ended up.

You can wonder where Jackson fits amongst Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Eric Maynor. Wonder no more. He fits in fourth, behind those three. And that's apparently all that Presti was after.

Orlando Magic

Additions: Justin Harper, DeAndre Liggins

Grade: B

Neither may make an NBA impact, but this was good value for drafting position in a bad draft. Harper shot nearly 45 percent from behind the college 3-point arc last season, so he could have a place in this league, even if he's taking Brian Cook's place. Liggins can really move side to side and shut people down.

Philadelphia 76ers

Additions: Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen

Grade: C+

This is sort of the opposite feeling that I have about the Knicks, ending up with the same grade.

I like Vucevic's game. He can shoot, boards like crazy and is a better athlete than some analysts gave him credit for. This is a good NBA player. I just wonder where he fits in Doug Collins' system, and amongst that loaded frontcourt in Philadelphia. I get that you have to draft the best player available, but I also wonder if the next team in Vucevic's career is his best team available.

Allen? Not feeling it.

Phoenix Suns

Additions: Markieff Morris

Grade: B-

The less-heralded Morris brother can turn into a fair pick-and-pop or roll guy, and his long arms and defensive instincts will serve Phoenix well in stretches. With this team in win-now mode, however, I fail to see where he'll make an immediate impact. Does anyone believe that this guy is coming in to play consistent minutes next season?

Considering the options, though, this was a talent worth selecting.

Portland Trail Blazers

Additions: Nolan Smith, Jon Diebler

Grade: C-

Portland needed to trade Andre Miller, I get it. And though taking Ray Felton is a good thing despite his inconsistency and conditioning issues, dumping Rudy Fernandez along the way and picking Smith as your supposed prize from this draft just leaves me, literally as I write this, shaking my head. They couldn't even pull Jordan Hamilton out of the deal.

Felton is younger than Miller, and their contracts run along the same lines. But to dump two rotation players plus a potential prospect (Petteri Koponen) for Smith and Felton? Not the best of nights.

Jon Diebler can shoot. For Bakersfield.

Sacramento Kings

Additions: Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Honeycutt, Isaiah Thomas.

Grade: D+

Remember, trades count in my grades. And while the deal that landed Sacramento John Salmons might not end up as some Isiah Thomas-styled half-decade destroyer, it was a terrible, terrible deal. They could have done so much better, with that cap space and seventh overall pick.

Luckily, they did exceedingly well with their draft picks. Fredette will eventually win the team's coaching staff over because he will stick shot after shot, once he learns how to be as effective in a spot-up situation as he is off the dribble. Honeycutt can really play, and Thomas was bandied about as a first-round selection before dropping to this particular draft's Mr. Irrelevant. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if, by opening night, Thomas is ahead of Fredette in the Kings' rotation. Jimmer has a lot to learn, and I have faith in him, while Thomas might step right in.

Awful trade, considering its potential, but great draft.

San Antonio Spurs

Additions: Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph, Davis Bertans, Adam Hanga.

Grade: B+

Don't give the Spurs too much credit for taking chances with trading George Hill, because while Hill is a nice player, it's not as if they gave up a starter, here. You wouldn't want Hill starting on your team, though as a third or fourth guard he's a wonderful guy to have around.

Joseph won't replace Hill, and Leonard has his offensive issues, but this isn't a bad take. I'm just not going to fawn over it. I'm having a hard time seeing Leonard as someone to rely on for extended bench minutes next season, though as always I'd really love to be proven wrong in this instance.

Considering the assets that San Antonio entered this draft with, this is a sound four-man take. And Hanga looks like a potential star in some of his highlights.

Toronto Raptors

Additions: Jonas Valanciunas.

Grade: B

Few have banged the Valanciunas drum harder than I have in the lead-up to this draft. Cleveland made a mistake in not selecting him fourth overall, and despite his skinny frame he'll be a stud. I don't consider him a Joel Przybilla-type, he's way better than that, but I also know that a healthy and in-prime Joel Przybilla was better than a whole lot of this lottery. So obviously picking Valanciunas is a can't-miss, in my eyes, both in a vacuum and in the context of this draft.

And of all the teams, the Raptors need him most. Assuming that they're taking him in the 2012 NBA draft. Selected on Thursday, though? That's a tough sell. That's really, really tough.

Once again, I credit Bryan Colangelo's moxie in this regard. He selected potentially the best possible player moving forward for his team, because Bismack Biyombo was not going to be able to play alongside Andrea Bargnani. And while Bargs' presence on this team is entirely Colangelo's fault (both the draftin' and the extendin'), this is a nice recovery move. This is potentially a fantastic recovery move.

Perhaps Colangelo has grown wise, and given up on his current roster. I would, too. All of 'em. And if that's the case, and he's just looking forward to 2013 with a 21-year-old Valanciunas coming off his rookie year and Dwane Casey in charge, then this is something I can get behind.

Today, though, will be tough. Real tough.

Utah Jazz

Additions: Enes Kanter, Alec Burks

Grade: A

Burks is probably a reach at 12, but when you pick up a center who can walk and chew gum at the same time, who cares? Kanter will be great. He'll look slow and lacking at times, and at other times he'll be a 7-footer that you can count on for 38 minutes of sound play on both ends (yes, there exists some tape that shows that he can defend).

There aren't many of those in the NBA, and the Jazz just picked one up at third in a crummy draft.

Washington Wizards

Additions: Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Shelvin Mack.

Grade: A+

Vesely fawning aside, this was a terrific draft. Vesely will be must-watch TV for those of us who dread pulling up Wizards games on a Tuesday at 7 at night, Singleton is a needed lockdown defender who might allow Flip Saunders to bust out his zone defense once again, and I don't understand why other teams underrated Shelvin Mack. This isn't an area where I want to be proven wrong.

No boffo names, but Washington did well to surround John Wall with some eager types who couldn't be bothered with the team's recent history. Well done.

Thank you for reading.

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