2011 Draft Round-up (Or, Kevin had writer’s block)

January 17th, 2013 by Kevin Hetrick

Tristan asks, "Kyrie, you think we're the two best players from the 2011 draft". Kyrie says, "No doubt, my man."

We are midway through the Cavaliers 2012 – 2013 season.  These are always only tangentially related to the Cavs, but it is something I like look back on.  In 2011, John Krolik “hired” me to write as the Cavs:the Blog draft expert.  While probably unqualified, I stepped in with zeal.   Obviously, this draft comprised a major chapter in the story of the current incarnation of the Cavs.  Cleveland possessed the 1st, 4th, 32nd, and 54th picks.  Of course, they traded one pick and stashed a Euro with another.  Certainly the day after, I was unimpressed; the aforementioned picks, plus a lottery-project left me underwhelmed.  Two days later though, I came around to the start of a new, athletic era.  Now as that group of draftees reaches the mid-point of their second season, it is interesting to check in.  For a group frequently presented as epically bad, they fare pretty well.

Hopefully after two years of blogging, I have become a slightly better writer and talent evaluator, but let’s see how the class of 2011 is performing, and also how I did (players are listed in draft order.  The number in parentheses is where I slotted them leading to the draft.  Any statistical ranking included is relative to the 27 players who have played in the NBA this season, as of Wednesday morning).

  1. Kyrie Irving (1) – With a fabulous start to his career, Kyrie leads the first-rounders in PER and RAPM, while residing third in win shares this season, despite missing eleven games.  Kyrie’s scoring efficiency at Duke was sick, and in hindsight, that deserved to be the big story leading to the draft, not his toe injury.
  2. Derrick Williams (2) – Struggling to find playing time, Williams’ season has been up-and-down.  Recent injuries increased his playing time to 22 minutes per game in January, when he is averaging 11 points on 55% true shooting.  His numbers are up across the board, and his 15 PER and respectable defensive numbers seem promising.
  3. Enes Kanter (3) –Not turning 21 until May, Kanter’s rebounding dipped this year and his turnover rate soared.  Following 1500 career minutes though, his PER hovers around fifteen, and Utah’s defense plays 8 points better per 100 possessions with him on court (5th best defensive RAPM of this group), so the young, former Euro U18 star flashes skill.
  4. Tristan Thompson (11) – Like most others, I viewed TT as a raw, relatively one-way player.  He was old for a freshman and couldn’t hit free throws.  Now, bolstered by excellent defense and a recent sixteen-game stretch averaging 13.5 points and 12 rebounds on 54% true shooting, he ranks as the second-best player from this draft class.  Yes, besides teammate Irving, Tristan beats out every 2011 draftee in regularized-adjusted-plus-minus (RAPM).
  5. Jonas Valanciunas (4) – Prior to sitting twelve games with a finger injury, Valanciunas posted the sixth-highest true shooting percentage and second-best block rate of this list.  Not turning 21 until May, he is garbage and should move back to Lithuania.
  6. Jan Vesely (16) – Leading up the draft, I rated Vesely lower than most.  So far in the NBA, he combines decent defense, with horrid rebounding, passing, and inefficient shooting on low usage.  His current PER is third-worst of the 27 active first-round picks.  He’s eleven months older than any of the players above him (Tristan is next oldest), so at least I projected one guy correctly.
  7. Bismack Biyombo (9) – Despite offensive struggles, he ranks as the third-best defensive rebounder of this crew, and the best shot-blocker.  His impact at that end leads to RAPM crediting as one of the more effective second-year players.
  8. Brandon Knight (5) – A burgeoning three-point marksman (39% this season), he needs to decrease his turnover rate and increase his assist rate to raise his NBA profile.  PER considers Knight the 17th best first-round pick, while RAPM places him 12th.  He is the seventh-youngest of this crew, so rapid growth is certainly possible.
  9. Kemba Walker (7) – Walker parlays relatively effective use of a high frequency of possessions, and the second-best assist & steal rates, into this group’s third-best PER.
  10. Jimmer Fredette (13) – I ranked Fredette as a lottery pick on June 13th, but downgraded him on June 21st.  Approaching 24 next month, his PER soars to 17 this season, but his defensive efforts match expectations.   RAPM considers him the 2nd worst defensive player in the entire NBA.
  11. Klay Thompson (20) – Leading up to last year’s draft, I was not terribly impressed by Thompson.  Initially, that made me look pretty stupid.  This season, his PER dips to 12, and he turns 23 next month.  The jury is still out.
  12. Alec Burks (6) – I really liked Burks.  After a relatively promising rookie campaign, he plummeted to a 10 PER this year.  In the last two weeks, he averaged 8 points on 60% true shooting though.  He is young, not turning 22 until this summer…so I am holding out hope.
  13. Markieff Morris (12) – Markieff appears poised for a career as a marginal rotation big.
  14. Marcus Morris (8) – Marcus was viewed as the polished, all-around offensive threat of the twin power forwards.  Then, two weeks before the draft, he decided to play small forward.  That went poorly, as he spent his rookie season bombing & missing in the D-League and in limited NBA time.  This year, he has started 17 games for a 21 – 19 team.  In December, he averaged 10 points per game on 46 / 41 / 70 shooting.   In January, it’s 7 on 35 / 31 / 54.  I would not be surprised if he averaged 18 points per game some season or if he exited the league in two years.
  15. Kawhi Leonard (10) – Entering the Spurs well-oiled machine, Leonard ranks second of this group for career win shares, despite missing nearly half this season with injuries.  An aspect of his career that I find astounding is that after shooting 21 and 29% from three in two NCAA seasons, he promptly started drilling 38% from NBA range.  It must be the water in San Antonio.
  16. Nikola Vucevic (14) – I liked Vucevic heading into the draft.  Besting even Kenneth Faried in defensive rebound rate, Vucevic paces this group.  Combined with efficient scoring, his 16.8 PER ranks fifth.
  17. Iman Shumpert (NR) – I was not a Shumpert fan at draft time in 2011, viewing him as a low-efficiency chucker that needed to focus on defense.  He did exactly that, dropping his usage rate and buckling down on defense in the second half of his rookie season.  He has not played in 2012 – 2013 due to injury.
  18. Chris Singleton (18) – Singleton is the only defensive player that RAPM likes better than Tristan Thompson.  His offense is terrible though, featuring the 3rd worst offensive rating despite 5th lowest usage.
  19. Tobias Harris (15) – As a Harris fan, I expect a decent career for him.  While not turning 21 until this summer, his 14 PER in 800 career minutes makes that look like a possibility.
  20. Donatas Motiejunas (25) – The other big Lithuanian in the 2011 draft only experienced 42 minutes of floor time so far this season.  The four rebounds he grabbed as a seven-footer, match my perception of him as soft.
  21. Nolan Smith (NR) – Smith’s 6.7 career PER as a 24 year old does not bode strongly for a long career.
  22. Kenneth Faried (NR) – Certainly my biggest miscue of 2011 “draft experting”; I convinced myself that Faried was a small center that would struggle on defense due to his four-year college stint as a zone-defender.  I ignored that rebounding served as the skill most likely to translate to the NBA.  I ignored that everyone else loved Faried.  Now, he leads this class in win shares and is second behind Kyrie in PER.  My only solace is that RAPM considers him as the 16th best defender of the class.  Opponents post an 18.3 PER against him.
  23. Nikola Mirotic (28) – Turning 22 next month, Mirotic serves as one of European basketball’s most efficient scoring forwards, with deep shooting touch.
  24. Reggie Jackson (21) – My hopes for Jackson were high, and I felt slightly justified when Sam Presti drafted him.  So far, that has not gone as planned.
  25. Marshon Brooks (22) – Brooks has largely met expectations; a quality scorer and marginal defender.  His 16 PER barely offsets the third worst defensive RAPM of the 27 players.  He turns 24 next month and Jamal Crawford represents a best-case scenario for Brooks.
  26. Jordan Hamilton (17) – In 300 minutes this season, Hamilton utilizes decent long-range shooting, strong rebounding, and miniscule turnover rates to secure a 16 PER.
  27. Jajuan Johnson (27) – He has converted 39% of his field goals in the D-League this year.  Yes, I ranked him as a first-rounder.
  28. Norris Cole (30) – RAPM considers him the worst of this group.  His 5.4 PER is not much better.
  29. Cory Joseph (NR) – When San Antonio drafted him, it was considered a reach.  They’re the Spurs though, so I expect him to do something amazing.
  30. Jimmy Butler (19) – Part of my disappointment with the 2011 draft was caused by missing out on Butler.  I had completely talked myself into Jimmy, either at #32 or through trading #32 and #54 to move into the very late first round.  Getting drafted by the Bulls was perfect for him, as he produced exactly as hoped for.  His offensive rating is the highest of this group, as he provides extremely efficient, but low-usage offense.  He rarely turns the ball over, and RAPM considers him the eleventh best defender of the group.  Oh Jimmy; Cleveland could use a young small forward.

And there you have it; the first round of the 2011 NBA draft.  The Cavs employ arguably the two best current performers (RAPM would argue that).  Other than an epic fail on Kenneth Faried, I think my performance looks reasonable, especially considering that my enthusiasm certainly outweighed my college-basketball-viewing in 2011.