- David Thorpe, ESPN Staff Writer
The 2011 NBA draft was a weak class and has produced just six full-time starters so far. Interestingly, one of the best players wasn't even a lottery selection -- Kawhi Leonard.
Teams drafting in the lottery projected Leonard to be just a solid role player. Yet it took only one season for him to prove that most of the teams who passed on him had erred badly. And in just his third season, Leonard earned Finals MVP honors.
The truth is, coming out in 2011, Leonard couldn't shoot and didn't look as though he was going to be a good scorer simply because he didn't do those things during his two years at San Diego State. His ballhandling skills also did not suggest he would be able to beat most small forwards off the dribble. But his advanced metrics did suggest he would be a great defender, given his outstanding 7-foot-3 wingspan and 8-10 standing reach despite being just 6-7 in shoes.
The teams that passed on him need to learn a valuable lesson from the San Antonio Spurs -- this is about player development. And this year, teams in the first round should be careful not to pass on Syracuse's Jerami Grant.
6dEthan Sherwood Strauss
7dMatt Walks, ESPN.com