Upon Reflection: 2011 NBA Draft Losers

Posted: July 6, 2011 in NBA
Tags: , , , , , ,

All NBA fans everywhere are staring down the barrel of a self-destructive lockout these days.  Earlier, I wrote about why I think the NBA’s labor situation is much different from the NFL.  While it appears, at least somewhat, that their football bretheren have finally gotten their collective acts together, it took months of contentious negotiations and court preceedings to get here. 

Hopefully, the NBA won’t follow suit, but with the owners taking a severe hard line tack to this point, I’m pretty certain they’ll soon be playing in a coutroom near you.  Make no mistake, as much criticism as the NFL players took for turning litigious, that effort is precisely why the owners have found the will to compromise, and don’t think the NBA players aren’t paying attention.

But that isn’t the point of this piece.  Having had almost two weeks to digest all the goings on at the draft, I’m going to detail who I believe were the biggest winners and losers from draft night 2011.  This article is for the losers. 

For the sake of optimism and the purposes of this piece, I’m going to assume, rather naively,  that there will be a full season this year.  I’ll do this in reverse order of what I believe are the five biggest losers.

5. Boston Celtics

I like JaJuan Johnson, I really do.  Before the draft I had him pegged as a guy who is going to be a much better player than many anticipate.  It’s just that I liked Marshon Brooks a whole lot more.

When Boston selected Brooks, I immediately thought that was the best pick of the draft.  I had images of a slashing, high scoring guard who would start to transition Boston into a new era.  I was imagining Brooks, a guy who pulled down more than 7 boards a game as a guard in the Big East in the same backcourt with arguably the best rebounding guard in the NBA in Rajon Rondo.  Then they traded him.

Johnson is a nice player, but he’s not going to be a game-changer like I believe Brooks will be.  This move is obviously an effort to make one more run with the same old parts in Boston.  The Celtics faded hard last season, and its difficult for me to imagine them getting through another grueling season with these guys all healthy enough to make a legit run.  Of course, a shortened season may change that, but I doubt it.

With youthful teams like Miami and Chicago in the East, I really feel like Boston needed to start a transition.  Brooks at the two, move Ray Allen for some inside muscle and that would be a good start.  Johnson taking Glen Davis spot and little else, not so much.

4. San Antonio Spurs

Before the draft, I had Kawhi Leonard listed as one of the top possibilities to be an NBA wash out.  When the Spurs traded George Hill to move up and get him, I questioned myself.  The Spurs have a good reputation for being talent judges.  But then again, they did inexplicably give Richard Jefferson a nice contract last offseason coming off a miserable failure the year before.  So I went back to my original belief, Leonard will flop at this level, and not in the useful Ginobili way.

Then, they proceeded to reach for Texas point guard Corey Joseph at the end of the first round, ostensibly to take Hill’s, and possibly Tony Parker’s place. Don’t be surprised if neither of these guys are in the league very long after their rookie contracts are up.

The Spurs, like the Celtics, need to rebuild.  Tim Duncan’s closer to retirement than he is to being an All Star, Ginobili simply can’t stay healthy for a full season and through the playoffs and it kills them every year. Tony Parker took a lot of heat for saying the Spurs days of serious contention are over, but he’s absolutely right.  This draft did nothing but expedite that.

3. Charlotte Bobcats

Will someone please put Michael Jordan out of his misery?  As great a player as MJ was, he’s building an equally bad resume as an executive.  Bismack Biyombo, or as I like to call him, Haseem Thabeet 2.0, is destined for a future on all time NBA draft bust lists.  To make matters worse, they swapped the only useful player on their roster in Stephen Jackson to actually trade up to get him. Not that it really matters much, but he’s also got a contract issue with his current team that will likely keep him out of the league next year.

Of course, they also picked up Corey Maggette in the trade, so that’ll make it all work out, right?  Just look at the kind of difference maker he was for the Clippers, the Warriors and the Bucks.  Maggette hasn’t been a useful player since he suited up for Duke.

Charlotte then nabbed Kemba Walker at the number 9 slot.  I think Walker could be pretty good, but in the Chicago-era Ben Gordon, or Dallas-era Jason Terry mold.  The problem is that you actually need a team for that kind of guy to be useful.  Look how invisible Gordon has been in Detroit the past couple seasons.  Walker’s a future NBA sixth man award winner…for the team that trades for him in a few years.

Charlotte is my odds-on favorite to be the worst team in the league this season.  Of course, that will give them a chance to add to their roster of classic draft busts next year.

2. New York Knicks

We can count on several things every summer; hot weather, high gas prices and the Knicks over reaching on a first round pick.  Taking Iman Shumpert at 17 is probably the worst pick in the draft. Someone was going to pick Biyombo in the top 10 if Charlotte hadn’t, nobody was picking Shumpert anywhere near that point.

Of course, New York then proceeded to buy Kentucky center Josh Harrelson from New Orleans in the second round.  Failing that move by the Knicks, he might not have been drafted at all. 

Before anyone gets carried away about a New York superteam to rival Miami, maybe the Knicks need to learn what the draft is all about.

1. Sacramento Kings

The biggest loser of all on draft night was none other than Sacramento.  Not only did they trade their only point guard, Beno Udrih, in exchange for John Salmons and the right to drop down from 7 to 10, they drafted a player who’s a chucker that will have to play out of position on a team full of chuckers. 

The Kings have a roster that includes faux-point guard Jimmer Fredette, and consciousless shooters Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and now Salmons.  I’d put the over-under on their team shooting percentage at about 38%.  Has an NBA team ever ended a season with more turnovers than assists?  The Kings might become trend setters in that regard. 

The pre-lockout fleecing of Cleveland for J.J. Hickson mitigates this a bit, but only if they are bad enough long enough for that protected first round pick to turn into a second rounder.  That’s what passes for optimism in Sacramento these days.  By the end of this season, the city might just be begging the Kings to move to Anaheim.

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