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Recapping and Reacting to the 2011 NBA Draft

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To the surprise of no one, Pat Riley did what many anticipated: leave Newark with a point guard.

After working out 15 different point guards over the last few weeks, Miami was not able to get its first, or perhaps even second choice, but still wound up with a solid prospect in Celeveland State senior Norris Cole.

The 6-foot-2 wiry-framed Cole was considered by ESPN’s draft expert, Chad Ford, to be the fifth-best point guard prospect behind the obvious four: Irving, Knight, Kemba and Jimmer.

In yesterday’s column, I had him fourth on my list of realistic possibilities behind Nolan Smith, Reggie Jackson and Iman Shumpert.

Smith, Jackson and Shumpert were all projected as second round picks before the draft, but all three were drafted before Miami’s turn came up.

Smith was taken at No. 21 by the Portland Trailblazers, Jackson went at No. 24 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in one of the surprises of the night, Shumpert went ahead of both at No. 17 to the New York Knicks.

You have to believe that missing out on Jackson, the athletic 6-foot-3 Boston College point guard with the seven-foot wingspan, had to be disappointing to Riley and co.

Many reporters believed Jackson was at the top of the Heat’s list and some speculated that Jackson had stopped working out for other teams after getting a guarantee from Riley that the Heat would draft him.

Being drafted by Oklahoma City’s shrewd GM, Sam Presti, validates on some level the Jackson hype.

Still, Cole could be a valuable addition to the team and considering who was available, you can argue that Miami did the best it could, given the circumstances.

With Cole, Miami gets an experienced point guard who improved statistically in each of his four years at Cleveland State.

Last year, he averaged 21.7 points and shot 34 percent on three pointers.

The knock on him is he doesn’t do one particular thing exceptionally well, but is instead more of an all-around, solid player.

Chad Ford wrote: “If he had played at a school such as Duke, he'd have gone much higher. As a pure point guard with NBA quicks, I think he's an upgrade over Mario Chalmers.”

However, the Heat did have to concede a future second round pick in a trade with Minnesota to get him.

While some may shrug their shoulders at giving up a future second round pick, keep in mind that Miami has precious few draft picks going forward.

You have to look at the other players taken after Miami’s pick when you evaluate the trade for Cole.

For instance, Miami could have taken a number of other point guards without conceding a pick, like Butler’s Shelvin Mack, Michigan’s 6-foot-5 Darius Morris, or ultra-athletic Josh Selby from Kansas.

While Selby and Morris are considerably less experienced and would be seen more as projects than instant contributors, it’s hard to make a case against Mack.

The 22-year-old Mack played three years at Butler, leading successful teams deep into the NCAA tournament.

At 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, he has about 30 pounds on Cole and could play either guard position, whereas Cole’s slender physique limits him to solely playing point guard.

Still, Cole is a strong pick-and-roll player with a quick first step and if he is able to consistently hit open shots and run the offense when James or Wade need a breather, then Miami will have done well with the pick.

Overall, it was an interesting draft, with a number of intriguing trades and somewhat questionable decisions.

Here, then, are three quick thoughts on some of last night’s moves.

1. Cleveland will regret passing on Derrick Williams

In a few years time, or perhaps even by the end of next season, we will look back at how Cleveland used the first and fourth pick and compare it to what Minnesota did a couple of years back.

While they didn’t go as far as to select two point guards, they did pass on the best talent in the draft to take a point guard who played 11 games and a power forward that averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last year at Texas.

Here’s what they should have done: taken Williams first and then either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker fourth, with Kemba being the preference here. The Cavs followed the trend of taking a point guard first, even though Irving is nowhere close to a John Wall or Derrick Rose.

Some compare him favorably to Chris Paul, but in the league he will look a lot more like Mike Conley.

Williams will be a beast, something of a hybrid between Blake Griffin and Michael Beasley, maybe not quite Griffin's athleticism, but with a much better jump shot. It's a shame he probably won't live up to his potential in Minnesota, where David Kahn is applying the same mantra to tweeners as he did to point guards, "You can never have too many!"

Yes, Kahn. Yes you can.

A lineup of Baron Davis-Kemba Walker-Derrick Williams-JJ Hickson-Anderson Varejao would be far more dangerous -- playoff calibre even-- than the team it will field next year. Plus, giving Williams his college number, 23, would be a great way to get back at LeBron James.

2. You can’t question San Antonio.

There were many, yours truly included, who raised a quizzical eyebrow when the Spurs dealt the still-developing George Hill, who Greg Popovich always spoke so highly of, to the Pacers for 6-foot-7 forward Kawhi Leonard.

Considering the team has been shopping incumbent point guard Tony Parker, trading Hill seems to make little sense. If almost any other team had made the deal, the analysts would have crushed it.

But because it’s the Spurs, the team with arguably the best scouts in the league and the track record to prove it, many of us had a similar reaction to Jeff Van Gundy, which in a nutshell was, “I’ve learned not to question the Spurs. They probably know something I don’t.”

3. Charlotte finally has a competent GM.

The fingerprints of newly minted Bobcats GM Rich Cho are all over the draft already.

Instead of staying in that dreaded 30-40 win purgatory, where you’re not good enough to make any noise in the playoffs and not bad enough to get a good pick in the draft, Cho has learned from his Portland predecessors and finally did what the Bobcats should have done a long time ago: rebuild by bottoming out and developing young talent in the process.

They shed salary by dealing Jackson, stole Kemba Walker with the ninth pick, and took a player in Bismack Biyombo that could eventually be the second coming of Serge Ibaka.

Plus by taking on chemistry-killer Corey Maggette for a year, the Bobcats are guaranteed to have a top-five pick next year. Amazing what a little front office foresight can do.

You can follow Thomas on Twitter @tjohnsonwriter
Contact Thomas at: thomasheatbeat@gmail.com

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