Klay Thompson’s 60 point game this week was a reminder of how well the Warriors have drafted over the years to get their team to where it is now. Sometimes, good fortune is the result of another’s misfortunes or mistakes. That was the case in the 2011 draft. The moves of both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings on that night changed the superstar landscape of the NBA. In an article this week by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski we were reminded that the Milwaukee Bucks were considering drafting Klay Thompson at the 10 spot but eventually traded the pick to the Kings so that they could draft Jimmer Fredette.
It’s easy to look back on the move by the Kings now and balk. The Kings management got caught up in the Jimmermania craze that engulfed much of the sports world in Fredette’s last season at Brigham Young University. After the Fredette selection, the Warriors took Klay Thompson at 11. The Jazz took Alec Burks at 12 after already selecting Enes Kanter at number 3. From Woj’s article he mentions that both the Warrior and the Spurs wanted to trade up to get the Raptors’ pick at number 5 and select Jonas Valancunias. And they both wanted Klay Thompson. The Spurs ended up trading George Hill to the Pacers to move up and draft Kawhi Leonard at number 15.
How does the Jazz roster look today if the Kings don’t make that trade and the Bucks draft Klay Thompson at 10? It’s hard to see a scenario in which Thompson drops to the Jazz at 12 unless Golden State somehow works out a deal to jump up to 5 and take Valancunias. But, if Thompson is off the table do the Warriors consider taking Burks? Do the Jazz take Leonard if Burks is off the board? Both of the Morris twins were drafted 13 and 14 and it’s hard to see the Jazz drafting a 2nd big after taking Kanter at number 3.
How would the last few years have gone for the Jazz if they are the ones dealing their pick to the Spurs for George Hill instead of the Pacers? It’s hard to think, given the context of the Spurs wanting Leonard and Thompson, that there wasn’t at least a call made to the Jazz by the Spurs. The Jazz were only a few months removed from trading Deron Williams. It’s unlikely the Jazz draft Trey Burke in 2013 if the have Hill since 2011 and they also likely win a few more games to the point that they are not in a position to draft Dante Exum in 2014.
It’s easy to look at the 2011 draft and say that the Jazz missed because of Kanter (they did) given that Klay, Kawhi, Kemba Walker (picked 9th), and even Jimmy Butler (30th pick) were taken after Kanter but picks 10-15 seem to be where the real action was. There is a real discussion to be had about the Jazz not drafting Kanter and keeping Millsap instead. But that’s a discussion for another day. Also, it’s tough to know how much circumstance, coaching, and organization have shaped Thompson and Leonard but it’s hard to see those two being unsuccessful in this league. There is no question, however, that picks 10-15 have changed the landscape of NBA, the Jazz, and the Kings.