Redrafting the 2011 NBA Draft

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As we at Basketball Insiders take turns re-picking some of the most recent NBA drafts, I can’t help but feel a bit giddy at receiving 2011 as my year. There might not be a single draft in the last decade more intriguing to reconsider a few years down the line, with legitimate NBA talent all the way from first overall to, literally, the 60th pick of the draft.

In the following re-draft, I’ll consider all the elements involved – player value, future ceiling, contract situation, team fit, you name it. I’ll list their actual draft slot in parentheses. Here’s how they’d stack up today:

  1. Kawhi Leonard, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (15th)

The best two-way player in the game is still only 23, and is still getting better. It’s a trip to imagine the trickle-down had the Cavs actually selected Kawhi, who went 15th in reality – no Kyrie Irving would have left them thin at point guard, but they may have been more inclined to use the fourth pick this same year on (or trade slightly down for) someone like Kemba Walker to fill that need. Would LeBron James still have returned home with another dominant wing on the roster, albeit one who doesn’t need the ball as often? Assuming he would have, imagining both together has to be a nightmare for wing rotations around the league.

  1. Kyrie Irving, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (1st)

This would have been a tough spot for the Wolves, who drafted two point guards (Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn) in 2009 and viewed Rubio as the heir apparent. Knowing what we know now, a trade might have been on the horizon – Irving’s value would be too high to pass up regardless of the positional overload if they couldn’t move the pick.

  1. Klay Thompson, SG, Utah Jazz (11th)

Deciding between Thompson and Butler here is legitimately difficult, but Klay gets the nod as a more consistent shooter. With Gordon Hayward already on board, it’s okay that Thompson is a bit less of a creator on the ball. And the Jazz still held the 10th pick this year, meaning they could have pursued a potential frontcourt option there instead of taking Enes Kanter third overall.

  1. Jimmy Butler, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (30th)

Again, assuming teams have 2015 levels of information on these players, a trade of at least one of these picks would surely be in the cards for the Cavs, who wouldn’t want to draft Leonard and Butler consecutively, but also couldn’t justify passing on either in these respective slots given the talent level.

  1. Nikola Mirotic, F, Toronto Raptors (23rd)

Things get very interesting at five, but Mirotic would be a perfect fit in Toronto. They’d likely have been able to hold onto Amir Johnson this last offseason, and that duo in the frontcourt would be spacing galore alongside Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

  1. Chandler Parsons, F, Washington Wizards (38th)

The Wizards had needs everywhere besides point guard in this draft, and any realistic option here would have been worlds better than Jan Vesely.

  1. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Charlotte Hornets (via Sacramento) (5th)

Charlotte took Bismack Biyombo here, but Valanciunas would give them a better, higher-ceiling player, plus likely allow them to look elsewhere besides Al Jefferson in free agency down the line. Things could have gone better or worse as a result, but they’d have been at a better starting point.

  1. Brandon Knight, PG, Detroit Pistons (8th)

It likely comes down to Knight or Kemba Walker for Detroit. It may be cheating a tad, but the knowledge that Andre Drummond was their 2012 pick makes selecting one of the available bigs here less likely, even if Knight isn’t on the roster anymore.

  1. Tobias Harris, F, Charlotte Hornets (19th)

Charlotte could have gone back to back and found their frontcourt foundation of the future with Valanciunas and Harris.

  1. Kemba Walker, PG, Sacramento Kings (via trade) (9th)

Walker would have been an infinitely better guard option for the Kings than Jimmer Fredette, and might have even helped the team avoid bits of controversy and mismanagement surrounding their point guard position in recent years with more consistent play.

  1. Nikola Vucevic, C, Golden State Warriors (16th)

The Warriors are likely the first team on the list who would get a markedly worse pick in a re-draft than they did in the actual draft. Vucevic has some shooting range and a good offensive game, but this would have been an abjectly bad situation for the Dubs if it had meant they passed on Andrew Bogut the following offseason along with missing out on Thompson here.

  1. Donatas Motiejunas, C, Utah Jazz (20th)

There might be better value with a few other guys in a vacuum, but Motiejunas’ fit would be fantastic in Utah. Assuming he didn’t prevent them from drafting Rudy Gobert in 2013 (unlikely), he’d be the perfect backup center – one who could play in big and small lineups, and offer much of what Enes Kanter did offensively (plus distance shooting) without anywhere near his defensive deficiencies.

  1. Kenneth Faried, F, Phoenix Suns (22nd)

It’s a close call whether Faried has more value than someone like Tristan Thompson or actual Suns pick Markieff Morris, but he gets the nod by a hair and would fit with an up-tempo style.

  1. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Houston Rockets (60th)

Assuming this exercise also gives the Rockets the clairvoyance to know that both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic would be jettisoned in the upcoming years, Thomas would have been a great replacement.

  1. Markieff Morris, F, San Antonio Spurs (13th)

Can anyone definitively prove that Morris wouldn’t have been the latest Spurs success story, one who overcame some of the personality issues we’ve seen recently and maximized every ounce of skill in his body?

  1. Tristan Thompson, PF, Philadelphia 76ers (4th)

His 2015 playoff performance might convince some otherwise, but this is still a player badly dependent on context and teammates to succeed. Had he landed in a different situation from the jump, he might even be talked about in a lower tier. Of course, with the right group, one could justify picking him several spots higher than this.

  1. Alec Burks, SG, New York Knicks (12th)

Instead of Iman Shumpert, the Knicks may have benefitted from the presence of another guy who can create alongside Carmelo Anthony, though the difference between the two might be negligible as far as overall value.

  1. Iman Shumpert, SG, Washington Wizards (17th)

Shumpert was a rare 2011 case who was drafted right around the slot in which he’d ultimately be valued.

  1. Reggie Jackson, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (via trade) (24th)

This might seem low to some, but I don’t think Jackson is worth anywhere near his most recent contract. He can’t shoot, needs oodles of space to make things happen offensively, and is an overrated defender with previous locker room issues.

  1. Marcus Morris, F, Houston Rockets (via trade) (14th)

The lesser of the Morii could have potentially had a bit more value in a Houston organization that does a great job maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

  1. Enes Kanter, C, Portland Trail Blazers (3rd)

The biggest lottery drop besides Jan Vesely. Portland had interest in Kanter this summer, throwing a massive offer sheet his way that the Oklahoma City Thunder matched, so perhaps things would have worked out better for him there than in Utah.

  1. Bismack Biyombo, C, Denver Nuggets (7th)

They’d rather have Faried, but the Nuggets and their tempo wouldn’t be an awful spot for Biyombo.

  1. Kyle Singler, SF, Chicago Bulls (via trade) (33rd)

Another instance where the Bulls would rather have their actual pick, Mirotic, but they could have also done worse than a mostly consistent guy who knows his role on both ends of the floor.

  1. Cory Joseph, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder (29th)

With the same opportunity, is it that strange to imagine Joseph approximating much of Reggie Jackson’s production after being selected here by OKC? I don’t think so.

  1. Shelvin Mack, PG, New Jersey Nets (via trade) (34th)

He’s certainly been more valuable than MarShon Brooks, the guy the Nets picked in reality.

  1. Jon Leuer, PF, Denver Nuggets (via trade) (40th)

He’s been all over the place both value-wise and geographically in his NBA career, but his upside and shooting still warrant an inclusion in the top 30.

  1. Norris Cole, PG, Boston Celtics (via trade) (28th)

This class really thins out in the early 20s.

  1. Bojan Bogdanovic, SF, Miami Heat (via trade) (31st)

Bogdanovic was actually pretty useful in his only NBA season last year with Brooklyn, and could improve even more if his transition to the NBA yields further comfort. He might belong a bit higher.

  1. Jordan Hamilton, SF, San Antonio Spurs (26th)

Hamilton has always felt like one of those guys who could be more productive in just the right circumstance, and perhaps the Spurs could have been it.

  1. Lavoy Allen, PF, Chicago Bulls (50th)

Don’t ever suggest this alternate reality to Bulls fans.


Check back in this week for redrafts of the 2010 and 2009 classes among others. We’ll take a long look at how history could have been different if teams only could have known how their picks would have played out.