The last major event in the NBA schedule before the inevitable lockout is in the books. The 2011 NBA Draft went off as expected with Kyrie Irving landing in Cleveland and Derrick Williams heading to Minnesota with the top two overall selections. From there, the the night boiled down to a flurry of trades with the occasional unexpected pick being announced - particularly in the second round.
In all, nine players from non-BCS conference teams heard their name called in Newark last night, most expected, at least one was a bit of a surprise. But who were the individual winners? Which players landed in ideal situations and who would have been better off going elsewhere? Here's a look at our winners and losers from last night.
Jimmer Fredette: This pick by the Sacramento Kings has drawn mixed reviews in the initial hours since it was made, as questions swirl around the ability for the BYU star to co-exist in the same backcourt as Tyreke Evans. So why is this a win for The Jimmer? His ability to succeed in the NBA is almost entirely predicated on the system he plays in. An offense that plays up-tempo, gives Fredette the green light and is willing to forgive his defensive transgressions could allow him to flourish in the same way that Steph Curry has done so far in Golden State. The Kings were the third fastest team in the NBA last season and with a dribble drive talent like Evans getting into the lane consistently, Fredette should have the luxury of being able to spot-up on the perimeter. Neither is a pure point guard, both will look for their shot, but both are more than capable of making the right pass. It might take some feeling out initially, but this could be a good fit in the long term.
More winners and losers after the jump.
Kawhi Leonard: At first glance it might seem like Leonard was one of the losers in last night's draft, after slipping to No. 15 when many had considered him a top ten prospect. That may be the case, but the benefits of being traded to the Spurs far outweigh the sting of slipping an extra seven or eight spots. Is San Antonio on the down slope of a decade long run as one of the elite teams in the NBA, of course, but Leonard now lands in a situation where he can learn from a group of experience veterans. More importantly, however, the San Diego State product isn't going to be asked to do more than he's capable of right away. As physically gifted as Leonard is, he isn't a very skilled offensive player and is still working on making the transition to being a full-time perimeter player. On the Spurs he won't be asked to score much, but can focus on being a defensive presence and making plays with his physical ability as the rest of his game develops.
Kenneth Faried: This is another case of a player landing on a team where he can focus on his strengths without being asked to go beyond himself. We know Faried can't score, we also know the Denver Nuggets have more than enough players on their roster presently that can. Denver landing a high energy, rebounding machine of Faried's level late in the first round is a real nice selection and his role shouldn't change all that much from what it was at Morehead State: rebound, hustle and play defense.
Shelvin Mack: The Butler star definitely leapfrogged a few picks higher than many though, landing at No. 34 overall with Washington. The Wizards had a great draft overall landing Jan Vesley and Chris Singleton as well, and while Mack isn't garnering nearly as many headlines as his two new rookie teammates, he finds himself in a pretty solid scenario backing up John Wall. Mack has a winning mentality, is a smart player and has shown that he can be a true point guard in doses. He will get that opportunity with the Wizards where his big game experience will be a valuable addition to a young, developing team.
Andrew Goudelock: Let's break this one down. You're a deadly perimeter shooter with outstanding range, but also making the transition to being a full-time point guard at the NBA level. You're selected by a talented team, two years removed from winning a championship and with enough juice left conceivably to at least be in the discussion come playoff time. You get to learn the floor general life from one of the sage veterans of the NBA (Derek Fisher), while probably receiving a steady diet of open three's when on the floor thanks to the attention of the greatest pure scorers ever will draw from the defense (Kobe Bryant). Andrew Goudelock, welcome to the NBA.
Justin Harper: The Richmond big man is another player who was being discussed as a possible late first round selection, but landing in Orlando should make up for that. Ryan Anderson's days with the Magic could be numbered as Harper is cut from the same mold as a versatile power forward with range beyond the perimeter. He can be a real asset as a pick-and-pop player, who can rotate on the wing while Dwight Howard draws attention from the defense. We saw the kind of impact Anderson could have with Orlando, there's no reason to think Harper doesn't do the same if given the chance.
Lavoy Allen: Outside of the fact that he's a local product having played at Temple, I'm not sure what the 76ers were thinking with this one. I can't think of a single mock draft that had the forward being drafted, but there was Philly snagging him at No. 50 overall. So good for you Mr. Allen just for being selected.
Charles Jenkins: For a time it looked like the Hofstra star was a popular pick to be a late first round pick, possibly landing in Chicago. Instead, Jenkins slipped to the middle of the second round at No. 44, landing in an already crowded Golden State backcourt. Granted, Monta Ellis reportedly could be on his way out, but as it stands, the guard rotation includes the aforementioned star, burgeoning third-year pro Steph Curry and fellow rookie Klay Thompson. It's entirely possible and likely that Jenkins can slide into the back-up point guard role behind Curry in the depth chart, pushing aside Acie Law, but the fact remains that the CAA scoring machine slipped and is looking at being the fourth or fifth man on the totem pole in the backcourt.
Norris Cole: OK, the pro is that Cole stands a good chance to win an NBA Championship in his rookie season assuming he sticks on the Miami Heat roster. The cons? For starters, being under the glaring spotlight that is South Beach these days is an enormous weight to bear for anyone on the roster, let alone a rookie from Cleveland State. Furthermore, I don't know if Cole is even necessarily the second best point guard on this team right now. He's smaller than Mario Chalmers and not anywhere close to him as a defender. Then there's Mike Bibby, an aging veteran to be sure, but still savvy enough to run the show when called to. There are likely better situations that Cole could have landed in to be sure and the D-League certainly seems like a very plausible scenario at this point.
Malcolm Thomas and Greg Smith: Both were projected as mid-to-late second round picks and both failed to hear their name called last night. In most years I would say that Thomas's hustle and Smith's size and strength would go a long way to helping impress someone during summer league or training camp, giving them a fair shot to earn a roster spot. Instead, with the looming lockout, the road to the NBA is substantially more difficult and uncertain. In order to avoid unemployment, both may have to opt to the European route for a year now.
Could Go Either Way
Keith Benson: I'm still trying to decide which way I want to go with this one. I think the addition of Benson gives the Atlanta Hawks more depth in the frontcourt to be sure, but where does he fit within this roster? Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia are the only big men under contract for next season at this point, but it wouldn't be shocking if Jason Collins was resigned given the job he did in the playoffs this year. At the same time, Benson does need to continue developing his game and certainly needs to get stronger, so playing a more limited role early on could be very beneficial to the Oakland big man. Get back to me on this one in a year or so.