2011 NBA Draft

The Next Bull-In-Waiting

HANG TIME WEST – The Nikola Mirotic Watch is officially on, with an NBA.com story last week stating the No. 23 pick in the 2011 draft likely would have gone in the lottery had he waited a year to declare followed by a Chicago Tribune article that increases the spotlight on the Bull-in-waiting.

In short, if Mirotic is improving this much and is plotting an eventual jump to one of the prominent organizations in the NBA – and the world, thanks to the long-ago Michael Jordan branding – there will be a lot of eyes on him going forward. Plus, there is the wait that will also drive curiosity: the Tribune’s David Haugh reports the summer of 2013 appears to be the earliest Mirotic would leave Real Madrid in Spain and that ’14, two more seasons away and three since he was drafted, is possible.

“I can’t tell you right now when, but for sure I want to be totally ready when I take that step,” Mirotic told the Tribune. “Currently I have a contract with Real Madrid and personal and team goals that I’d like to achieve. I want to improve as a player, and to get this goal (of playing for the Bulls), it’s not advisable to go fast.”

More buildup?

Ettore Messina, the Real Madrid coach the previous two seasons before joining the Lakers’ staff for 2011-12, told NBA.com:

“I think he can be very good. He has the size, he has the mobility, he can put the ball on the floor for a big man, and he has range. He definitely has the NBA range and a quick release. I think he can really be effective in this league once he gets physically stronger, more powerful.”

Who does Mirotic compare to in the NBA?

David Lee, maybe,” said Messina, a coaching legend in Europe who left the Lakers after the season to be a head coach again with CSKA Moscow. “Can we call him a young Kevin Love just to get the fans excited? Yes, we can call him a young Kevin Love. Obviously he has a long way to go to become like Kevin, which an All-Star, but that kind of player while being very effective on the perimeter has the ability to put the ball on the floor and is tough enough to get the job done close to the basket…. Nikola will be able to play inside, outside, flash, pop, roll. Mix his game.”

Mirotic, 21, needs to add muscle on his 6-foot-10, 210-pound frame to play power forward, but two years is a lot of time to bulk up. It’s a lot of time for a lot of things at his new level of prominence in Europe and at least one city in North America.

Valanciunas Closer to Joining Raptors

Jonas Valanciunas has started negotiations on the release agreement with his team in Lithuania, sources said, an important step in the 2011 lottery pick finally being able to join the Raptors.

While it has been expected all along that Valanciunas would be in the NBA in 2012-13 after a final season in his native country, news of talks with Lietuvos Rytas are a comforting development for Toronto fans who missed having their center of the future in 2011-12.

The release agreement is part of the process before Valanciunas can pay the $2.4-million buyout to the team in Lithuania and sign in Toronto. The Raptors are allowed to pay $550,000 of that.

There is no timetable for Valanciunas to join the Raptors and end the uncertainty that started last June, when NBA teams became concerned about the absence of a buyout in his contract, creating the possibility he would have to play in Europe for multiple seasons. That never happened. Toronto took him fifth overall in an investment for the future and quickly, and thankfully, saw Valanciunas sign a new deal in Lithuania that allowed him to get out of the deal in the 2012 offseason.

One non-Toronto executive called Valanciunas “a future franchise center” before the 2011 draft. While not every team shared the belief that he would be a star, there was a strong belief the 7-foot, 240-pounder would have a long and successful NBA career and that the Raptors made a sound choice despite the wait.

“I have no doubt that is the right pick or was the right pick for us,” Bryan Colangelo, the president and general manager, told NBA.com in March. “But it certainly wasn’t one that would gather instant gratification. There were other players on the board… that our fans and perhaps the media wanted us to take because they might come in and be an immediate-impact pick, if you will. But we made a long-term decision. We drafted a 19-year-old center prospect and despite the pressure of picking a so-called sexy pick or someone that might be a more-popular pick, we made the pick that we felt was the best decision, long term and short term, for the franchise because it fit right into this building process that we’re going through right now.”

Get To Know The New Guys

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) — The days after the NBA Draft are the time for fans and reporters to get to know their team’s new players.

Team executives, of course, have nothing but good things to say about the guys they picked. They’re quick to tell you that they had the player(s) higher on their draft board than the spot at which they were actually selected.

These players will prove some of the executives right, and they’ll prove some of them wrong. For now, let’s just learn about the league’s new faces…

Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer takes us back to the childhood of No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, in a must-read profile

Though he is just 19, his life already has been filled with sadness and success. There have been many changes and an equal number of accomplishments thanks in large part to his father, Drederick, known as Dred.

“After my name was called [Thursday], I wanted to hug my father for 10 minutes, knowing that all the hard work had led to this moment,” Irving said.

Irving, who promised his father he would earn his degree in five years, comes across as intelligent, polite and mature for his age. His father calls him an “old soul.” On Thursday at the NBA draft in New Jersey, and then again on Friday in Cleveland, that father stayed mostly in the background watching and trying to come to terms with what has happened.


Rookies Say The Darndest Things

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ve got dreamers, late-bloomers, trail blazers and twins, oh and at least two guys — Kyrie Irving and to a lesser extent Derrick Williams — who are supposed to be franchise saviors.

The NBA Draft is the gift that just keeps on giving, year after year and player after player. The 2011 edition was no different, with tons of colorful sorts from lands near and far joining the party.

The rookies, whether they realize it or not, will probably never be more entertaining than they are right now and in the next few months, when all of this is still new to them, before they are no longer blinded by the lights, cameras and non-stop action that is the daily grind of NBA life.

Of course, we are not talking about Wizards rookie Jan Vesely, who seemed more than a little bit comfortable with the bright lights shining on him and his girlfriend, Eva Kodouskova, on draft night.

But even without the cameras around, the new guys can’t help but make you smile. Because rookies say the darndest things sometimes. After spending a few days with them leading up to the big night, we gathered a couple of examples to share with you:

“Well, I truly believe that Duke is a professional program.  The way we prepare, practice, we practice like professionals and that’s what he taught me and that’s what I’m going to carry to the next level is how to prepare like a professional:  Countless hours of film, breaking things down in practice, preparing for the next team, thoroughly.  There’s not one team that I thought we were unprepared for, even when I was hurt.

“So being a part of the Duke program and shadowing the coaches when I was hurt, I really learned a lot how to prepare like a professional.  When I was playing it was a little different, because things were happening really fast.  But when I was hurt, things ‑‑ it slowed down for me.  So I really got a chance to learn from them, learn from the coaches especially.”

— Irving on why Duke is such a great training ground for future professionals


Bobcats Walker, Biyombo Ready To Rock

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We have no idea what kind of pros Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo are going to be for the Charlotte Bobcats.

There are legitimate questions surrounding both players, though we have a feeling Walker will answer many of those the minute he hits the floor under a veteran coach like Paul Silas and Biyombo will do the same with a little time and seasoning.

We do not, however, have any questions about their ability to entertain and connect with fans. Both of these young men possess all the personality needed to fit in on any NBA team (and they’ve got moves, too. Check them out six minutes in):

Are The Wolves Finally Moving Forward?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) — At this point, we’ve come to expect the worst from David Kahn and the Timberwolves. So how does that affect our evaluation of how the Wolves did on draft night?

One thing that we know is that they did a lot…

  • Selected Derrick Williams with the No. 2 pick.
  • Traded Jonny Flynn and the No. 20 pick to Houston for Brad Miller, the No. 23 pick, and the Grizzlies’ 2013 first-round pick (lottery protected).
  • Traded the No. 23 pick to Chicago for the No. 28 pick and the No. 43 pick.
  • Traded the No. 28 pick to Miami for the No. 31 pick and a future second-round pick.
  • Traded the No. 31 pick to New Jersey for a future second-round pick and cash (not yet official).
  • Selected Malcolm Lee with the No. 43 pick.
  • Acquired the No. 57 pick from Dallas and used it to select Targuy Ngombo, who may or may not have been draft-eligible (not yet official).

Miller is recovering from microfracture surgery and probably won’t be available until at least January. So essentially, with all that movement, the Wolves are just adding Williams and Lee to their depth chart, with Ricky Rubio replacing Flynn…

PG: Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Lee
SG: Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington
SF: Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Lazar Hayward
PF: Kevin Love, Williams, Anthony Randolph
C: Darko Milicic, Anthony Tolliver, Nikola Pekovic, Miller

With the additions of Rubio and Williams (and the removal of Flynn), the Wolves have five players on their roster who have been selected with a top-five pick in the last five years. Add Milicic and Webster and they have seven who have been selected in the top six in the last nine years.

So it’s probably time for the Wolves to move forward, but just how much they might improve next season is anyone’s guess. It will partially depend on who their coach will be and what they might get in exchange for Beasley if they think that Williams can play big minutes at the three.

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune finds it all fascinating

We don’t know whether Rubio can play effectively in the NBA. We don’t know whether Love is an accumulator of numbers, or a franchise cornerstone. We don’t know whether Johnson will prove the Wolves were right to choose him over DeMarcus Cousins, or whether that choice will hang over the franchise like all of their other draft-day black clouds.

A good coach might solve many of these problems, or at least provide sound advice as the franchise claws upward. Kahn needs to prove he can hire such a coach.

A good coach, with the implicit backing of a solid front office, could push this group of athletes to play defense and share the ball, could make the Wolves worth watching for the first time in a handful of years.

Stay tuned. This team might actually start moving in the right direction one of these days…


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Jimmer-Mania Headed For Sacramento

NEWARK — The celebration was interrupted at the start, delayed a little longer and then held mostly behind closed doors for No. 10 pick Jimmer Fredette.

Sure, the Prudential Center got a dose of “Jimmer-Mania” during Thursday night’s draft, but nothing like we might have seen had Fredette not been a part of a three-team trade that saw him put on a Milwaukee Bucks hat to make his ceremonial walk across the stage to shake NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s hand, only to swap it out later for a Sacramento Kings’ lid.

Instead of making the normal media rounds like most of the other draft picks, Fredette remained sequestered in a private room in the bowels of the arena as the details of that trade were worked out.

By the time he did emerge from the back, it was clear that former BYU star was just relieved to finally be able to celebrate properly.

“Took a while waiting back there,” Fredette said. “But it’s a great moment for me and my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organization. Hopefully their fan base is excited, because I’m really excited to get out there and start the season with them and have a great year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Not anymore than the folks in Sacramento.

The 10th pick in the draft was the only one to receive a shout out from the mayor of the city he will call home for the start of his professional career.

Former NBA star and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made his approval of the Kings’ pick public immediately.

“Jimmer is exactly what the Kings need right now,” he said in a statement. “He’s electric, a fan favorite and a competitor. Together with Tyreke [Evans], they will create one of the most dynamic, young guard combos in the NBA. Congrats to the Kings on an exciting pick.”


Draft Night: Trades “R” Us!

NEWARK — Kyrie Irving was the point guard of note in the opening minutes here Thursday night.

But as the trade winds started blowing, and blowing, veteran names started moving around the league and changing the landscape for several playoff outfits on a night usually reserved for the youngsters.

Draft night turned out to be trade night as deals large and small were made throughout the evening, causing all sorts of confusion for fans at the Prudential Center who cheered for players as they walked across the stage with one team’s hat on only to find out later that several of those players would have to switch hats later.

For a complete look at all the deals that went down on Draft night, you need to dive in here and study NBA.com’s Trade Tracker.

The Portland Trail Blazers acquired Raymond Felton in a three-team deal that sent fellow veteran Andre Miller (back) to Denver. The Trail Blazers did draft a Duke point guard of their own, selecting Nolan Smith with the 21st pick. Dallas also got in on the deal, acquiring Rudy Fernandez and the rights to the 30th pick in 2007, Petteri Koponen, from the Blazers in exchange for their first-round pick (Jordan Hamilton, the No. 26 overall choice). Portland then shipped Hamilton to Denver.

With the likelihood of a lockout growing stronger with every statement released by both sides in the labor negotiations and the very real possibility that the free agent summer could be delayed at best, draft night provided teams with their last chance to do any significant business for a while.

Another three-team deal highlighting the top of the draft involved Charlotte sending Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston and the draft rights to No. 19 pick Tobias Harris to Milwaukee, Sacramento trading Beno Udrih to the Bucks and the draft rights to No. 7 pick Bismack Biyombo to the Bobcats and the Bucks sending Corey Maggette to the Bobcats and John Salmons and the draft rights to No. 10 Jimmer Fredette to the Kings.

After all the chatter about the Spurs possibly moving Tony Parker, it was his backup, George Hill, who found himself on the move Thursday night. The Indiana Pacers acquired Hill and for the rights to 15th pick (Kawhi Leonard), the 42nd pick  (Davis Bertans) and the No. 46 pick from 2005 (Erazem Lorbek).

Draft Night Trades:

  • Charlotte trades Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston and the draft rights to No. 19 pick Tobias Harris to Milwaukee
  • Sacramento trades Beno Udrih to Milwaukee
  • Sacramento trades the draft rights to No. 7 pick Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte
  • Milwaukee trades Corey Maggette to Charlotte
  • Milwaukee trades John Salmons and the draft rights to No. 10 pick Jimmer Fredette to Sacramento
  • Boston trades the rights to No. 25 pick MarShon Brooks to New Jersey for the rights to No. 27 pick JaJuan Johnson and a 2014 second-round pick
  • New Orleans trades the draft rights to No. 45 pick Josh Harrellson to New York for cash.

Bobcats, Kings, And Bucks Rumored To Have 3-way Deal In Place

A three-way deal involving the Bucks, Bobcats, and Kings is in place. The particulars:

  • Milwaukee gets Beno Udrih, Steven Jackson, Shaun Livingston and 19th pick (which currently belongs to Charlotte).
  • Charlotte gets Corey Maggette and 7th pick (via the Kings).
  • Sacramento gets John Salmons and 10th pick (Milwaukee’s pick).

That’s a pretty big trade, and an excellent way to get the night underway.

Obviously we have to wait and see which players get chosen with the swapped draft slots, but if it happens, which team do you think gets the best end of this one?

Draft Rumors: Blazers, Nuggets Discuss Point Guard Swap

The Nuggets and Blazers have had discussions about Denver trading point guard Raymond Felton and the 22nd pick for Andre Miller and the No. 21 pick. The talks appear to be dormant for now, with Portland balking at including other assets in the deal.

Earlier in the day, DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony reported via Twitter that the Magic and Blazers were discussing a swap of Orlando’s Jameer Nelson to Portland for Miller and the No. 21 pick. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins, however, refuted that report:

Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith joked the other day on a local sports-talk radio show that trade rumors always surround Jameer Nelson.

Add another unsubstantiated rumor — with heavy emphasis on the words “unsubstantiated rumor” — to the list, courtesy of Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com.

Givony said over Twitter today that the Magic “are talking about” a trade with the Portland TrailBlazers that would send point guard Jameer Nelson out west for point guard Andre Miller and the 21st overall pick in tonight’s 2011 NBA draft.

However, an NBA source indicated to the Orlando Sentinel that the report is being overblown — at least for now.

In other words: No matter how juicy this rumor seems to be, you’d be best-served to temper your expectations of it actually happening.