With the NBA season coming to a close, teams who are not advancing to the playoffs will be looking at prospects for the upcoming draft. It has been said that this year’s NBA Draft is one of the weakest in league history, and that only a few teams who are positioned to get lottery picks will have the best chance of selecting a good, talented player. However, there was another “weak” draft not too long ago that was supposed to be lacking in talent, but some teams outside of the top 10 picks walked away with a great player that is now part of the main rotation for their respective organizations.
Let’s take a look at five players from the 2011 NBA Draft who are either starters or important role players that weren’t expected to make that big of an impact.
1) Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets 11.7 ppg 9 rebounds
Before draft night, Faried was someone to watch for as scouts and draft experts had him on their radar for being a potential steal. They were right, but I don’t think they fully knew the effect he’d have on the Denver Nuggets. In his first two seasons, Faried has almost averaged a double-double, and in the first playoff series of his career, he averaged 10.4 ppg, grabbing 10 rebounds as a rookie. He was going to be one of the bright spots in the very dim 2011 draft, but he’s out-shined everyone, being an important asset to Denver. He’s a game changer for sure, and his toughness and ability to grab rebounds shows his worth. Most franchises only dream of having a hard worker like Faried, and on draft night 21 teams ahead of Denver missed out on a talented player.
2) Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs 11.7 ppg 5.7 rebounds
Coming into the draft, it was predicted that Leonard was going to be a great role player, and that he is. He was traded by the Indiana Pacers and sent to San Antonio for George Hill. It was a great acquisition on the Spurs part and from day one, Leonard has stepped in very veteran-like. This season he was given the starting job as a forward/guard and has been a main contributor for the currently number one seeded Spurs. He’s not superstar caliber, but he’s an important piece to the veteran team.
3) Iman Shumpert – New York Knicks 6.2 ppg 2.6 rebounds
It’s not the stats that show Shumpert’s worth to the New York Knicks. The defense that he supplies changes the complexion of games and has been known to shut down some of the best guards in the league. He’s highly underrated on both ends of the floor. Shumpert is an excellent three point shooter making 42% of his shots beyond the ark, and on a few occasions can finish games with double figures in points. However, it’s his defense that makes him stand out. He’s given the Boston Celtics a lot of trouble, especially when he’s going up against Avery Bradley or Jason Terry. His size makes him a combo guard who can keep up with point guards, but he’s big enough to take on decent sized shooting guards. When New York selected Shumpert Knicks fans booed and weren’t sure what he could bring to the team. One year later, they’re not questioning the organization after what he’s displayed on the floor.
4) Tobias Harris – Orlando Magic 9.6 ppg 4.6 rebounds
After being sent to Orlando in a trade during this year’s trade deadline, Tobias Harris has impressed a lot of people. When he was with the Milwaukee Bucks, Harris didn’t get much playing time, and his talent was rotting on the bench. Since arriving in Orlando, his scoring totals have soared and is now averaging 16.4 ppg, scoring 15 or more points in 12 out of 20 games with the Magic. Orlando is currently going through a rebuilding period, and it’s very possible that they may have found their centerpiece of the organization. For a player picked 19th overall in the draft, no one expected him to emerge as a scoring threat.
5) Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls 7.8 ppg 3.6 rebounds
Due to injuries, Tom Thibodeau has had to look to the bench for players who can come in and temporarily fill the shoes of key rotational players, and Jimmy Butler has been that guy. Selected at the 30th pick overall in the draft, Butler wasn’t expected to be a big time scorer, but in the month of March he’s put up two 20 point night’s against the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Butler is a hard worker, just like Leon Powe when he was with the Celtics. It’s been great watching him be successful with Chicago, and the team needs him, especially with all the injuries they’ve endured.
Time will tell if this year’s NBA draft will have any hidden talent late in the first round. It’s never wise to overlook drafts, because there is always the chance a rising star could be born. Kyrie Irving only played 10 games with Duke, and now he’s one of the best point guards in the game today. This draft may not be as good as last year’s, but it’s up to GM’s to evaluate talent correctly and come away with a great player.