Tomorrow’s biggest booms (and busts) of the hardwood were the center of attention Thursday June 23 as the 2011 NBA Draft was broadcast live on ESPN.
Arizona’s Derrick Williams, Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, and Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette were a few of the more high-profile names to enter the draft.
The draft’s first surprise came early when the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Duke point guard Kyrie Irving instead of the more highly touted Williams.
The 6’3 Irving is certainly no slouch himself. He was a top-rated high school basketball phenom in 2010. As a freshman at Duke, Irving went on to lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 17.4 points per game on 53.2% shooting through the first eight games of the season. He also totaled 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
NCAA Freshman of the Year was a definite possibility for Irving until a severe ligament injury sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. He returned to score 28 points in a NCAA tourney game however.
Some analysts such as ESPN’s Bill Simmons lambasted the selection saying, “You know, because any time you can grab a freshman point guard who missed two-thirds of the season when you have $20 million of point guards on your roster, you have to do it.”
Simmons is of course being sarcastic, referring to the flurry of guards already on Cleveland’s roster. Many felt that Williams should have been the pick when considering the huge void of talent and play-making ability on the team since the departure of LeBron James.
Williams, arguably the best pure talent in the draft, instead fell in the laps of the Minnesota Timberwolves who happily selected the 6’8 forward #2 overall.
In his freshman year at Arizona alone, Williams averaged 15.7 points per game and was named a freshman All-American and also the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. He also was the Fred Enke Most Outstanding Player (Team co-MVP) and was selected to the All Pac-10 team.
Williams led the Wildcats to a regular season Pac-10 championship, led the NCAA in shooting percentage (.690), and won numerous awards and recognitions in his sophomore season before declaring eligibility
Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan (yes, that Michael Jordan) continued his obsession with established collegiate players by taking Walker from UConn #9 overall.
Walker became a household name in 2011 with his 23.4 points per game helping to lead the Huskies to their NCAA title. Walker was the tournament MVP and the recipient of the 2011 Bob Cousy award for best collegiate point guard.
Jimmer Fredette, another human highlight reel from the 2011 NCAA season was selected right after Walker, #10 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. He was acquired by the Sacramento Kings as part of a three-team trade.
Fredette was the NCAA Division I leading scorer in 2011 and earned all the major ‘player of the year’ honors including the Wooden and Naismith awards.
Two local favorites were also picked, as Washington State’s Klay Thompson was selected #11 overall by the Golden State Warriors and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas #60 overall to the Sacramento Kings.
With the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) set to expire in early July, The NBA is in danger of facing a lockout very similar to the one currently plaguing the NFL. This is definitely something NBA enthusiasts will need to keep an eye on as it may be some time before they get to see their favorite new players in uniform at the start of the 2012 season.