Draft Do-Over: 2011 Edition
For the lifetime Cleveland Cavaliers fans, watching the 2010-11 season may have been the most painful in the club’s history.
After seeing LeBron James leave for the Miami Heat, the Cavaliers posted their fourth worst record in team history at 19-63. With the season lost at the trade deadline, the Cavaliers pulled the trigger on a deal that to this day is the most important in franchise history.
The Cavaliers would enter the draft with odds at the 2nd (Cavs) and 8th (Clippers) overall selections, but with the help of Nick Gilbert, Joe Haden and Josh Cribbs, Cleveland would leave with the number one (Clippers) and number four (Cavaliers) selections.
Armed with an incredible chance to revamp the team just a season after the departure of James, the Cavaliers struck gold.
Playing just eleven games for Coach Krzyzewski at Duke University due to injury, many doubted Kyrie Irving to be the franchise player Cleveland needed him to be. Not only did the Cavaliers need him to be the new face of Cleveland, but he was the guy after James.
Irving would prove the Cavs right, giving their fans some real hope for the future. Irving would be named to Team Chuck of the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge, winning the MVP award after dropping 34 points in the game, including going 8-of-8 from three-point range.
He went on to win the 2012 Rookie of the Year honors, and was the only unanimous selection to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. The fact that Derrick Williams has ended up on the Cleveland roster, and Enes Kanter’s demands to be traded from the Utah Jazz, its safe to say the drafting of Kyrie Irving was a good one.
In case your mind isn’t quite made up, here’s a clip to make it for you.
Just about every mock draft leading into the 2011 NBA Draft had the Cavaliers selecting Lithuanian big-man, Jonas Valanciunas. The Cavaliers had been led by fellow Lithuanian and club legend, Žydrūnas Ilgauskas in the past, with most expecting the Cavs to repeat history.
This wasn’t the case. The Cavaliers would shock many and select Canadian prospect, Tristan Thompson. Thompson made an immediate impact in Cleveland, and would be rewarded by joining Kyrie Irving at the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge, on the opposing ‘Team Shaq’. He was also named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, starting 25 games in his rookie year.
In just his sixth season with the Cavs, Thompson finds himself at number six in Cleveland’s all-time rebounding count, and also leads the franchise, and league, in consecutive games played. ‘Double T’ receives standing ovations almost nightly at Quicken Loans Arena with his tenacity on the offensive glass, truly one of the league’s best in that category.
With the earlier selection of Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker was no longer needed. Klay Thompson played for the little known Washington State University and the same can be said about Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State.
Looking back in hindsight, either Thompson or Leonard would have been incredible picks for the Cavs, but after seeing Tristan Thompson become a vital part of a championship starting lineup in Cleveland, who cares?
We love you Tristan.
With the second pick of the second round, the Cavaliers had a chance to further their draft luck. Instead of throwing all their eggs in the 2011 basket Cleveland would select, and then trade, Justin Harper. The Cavs would receive two future second round picks in return for the former University of Richmond Spider.
Turning one second round pick into two seemed like a no-brainer at the time, and avoiding loading the roster with rookies was a smart move. However, trading Harper for a pick and a proven veteran would have provided much needed experience to a young Cavaliers squad.
Kyle Singler was underwhelming in his time with the Detroit Pistons, eventually being traded and currently finds himself buried in Oklahoma City‘s bench. Meanwhile, Jon Leuer actually found himself as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012-13 season, playing in 9 games (8 games with the Canton Charge), before being shipped to Memphis in a multi-player deal.
It would be Chandler Parsons that would be the obvious do-over. He earned himself a questionable max contract after a couple of solid seasons in Houston, and his 9.5 points a night would have been truly useful in his rookie season.
At this point in the draft, the Cavaliers had already selected two vital parts of their future, and traded away for future assets. The odds of the Cavs using this pick on a player that would make an immediate impact in Cleveland were very slim, instead they went with the draft-and-stash strategy.
The Cavaliers still own the NBA rights to the Serbian, who currently plays for Olimpia Milano of the Italian League. His best year came with KK Partizan of the Serbian League, with nightly averages of 15 and 15 in the 2011-12 season.
It was the Sacramento Kings who ended up with the steal of the 2011 Draft, selecting eventual two-time All-Star, Isaiah Thomas, with the very last pick. Thomas would likely have been nowhere on the Cleveland radar, with the selection of their point guard of the future earlier in the night, Kyrie Irving.