Whoever gets taken first overall in the NBA draft usually gets the headlines after the draft. The top pick sometimes ends up being a bust, but he often ends up being a star — after all there’s a reason he was chosen No. 1. Kyrie Irving fits into the latter category.
The first pick in the 2011 draft is still playing at a high level after nearly a decade in the league. But not all of the teams who had high picks chose as wisely as Cavs did when they took Irving. It was a deep draft in terms of talent, but some of the biggest stars to come out of the class were taken later than stars are usually drafted.
Kyrie Irving’s pre-draft scouting report
Bleacher Report gave Irving a scouting report leading up to the draft. In it, the website praised his “lean, angular frame” and noted that he had room to bulk up without sacrificing his quickness. Some of the positive qualities mentioned include good balance, body control, and foot speed. Bleacher Report also complimented Irving on his high basketball IQ. But it wasn’t all good news.
The site pointed out that Irving lacks the “explosive feet” demonstrated by John Wall, who went No. 1 the year prior. He was also downgraded for being “turnover-prone for a point guard” and having a “shoot first, pass later” mentality.
Irving’s impact on the NBA
Bleacher Report gave the Cavs an A for taking Irving with the top pick. In its evaluation of the first round, the site noted that he wouldn’t be able to take over a game on offense, but Irving is a player the team can build around — and that is what Cleveland did. In six seasons with the team, Irving averaged more than 21 points per game. And his presence helped the Cavs convince LeBron James to leave the Heat and return to his hometown team for the 2014-15 season.
That reunion allowed the Cavs to dominate the Eastern Conference for several years, including winning the NBA title in 2015-16. Irving would stay with the Cavs for one more season after the championship before being traded to the Celtics. Last offseason, he signed with the Nets in free agency. For his career, Irving is averaging 22.4 points per game and has made six All-Star appearances.
Other players in the 2011 NBA draft
Irving certainly isn’t the only star to come out of the 2011 draft class, but there were also some busts. Here are some players who fit into each category.
No. 2 pick: Derrick Williams
The Timberwolves took Derrick Williams with the second overall pick. That didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. He only played in 155 games for the team before they traded him to the Kings. He ended up being a journeyman, playing for six teams in seven seasons before leaving the NBA and heading overseas to continue playing.
No. 11 pick: Klay Thompson
The Warriors got a relative bargain getting Klay Thompson with the 11th pick. He became part of the core of the team that won three titles in four seasons and won an NBA-record 73 games in 2015-16, when Thompson averaged 22.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
No. 60 pick: Isaiah Thomas
There are 60 picks in the draft, and the last pick rarely ends up being a star. But that wasn’t the case in 2011, when the Kings took Isaiah Thomas with the last pick. He only played three seasons with the team, but he averaged more than 15 points and dished out nearly five assists per game in his time in Sacramento. For his career, Thomas is averaging 18.1 points and five rebounds per game — not bad for the NBA’s equivalent of “Mr. Irrelevant.”