By Brandon Niles

With the finals completed, NBA fans look to free agency and the draft for hope that their teams will compete next season. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and during the draft, even fans of the worst teams are able to find hope for the future. With the 2011 NBA draft in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best and the worst of draft night.

WINNERS

Cleveland – This is a weak draft, but

the top pick, point guard Kyrie Irving

from Duke, is as close to a sure thing

as you can get this year. The addition

of Irving gives them a young,

talented player to build around and to

re-energize their fan base. As a bonus,

they also drafted

Texas power forward

Tristan Thompson

fourth overall.

Thompson has the

potential to develop

into a great player

and should team up

well with Irving.

Cavs fans should be

happy.

 Charlotte – The

Bobcats are in

rebuilding mode,

shedding salaries and trying to accumulate

young talent to develop.

With that in mind, they made a trade

that sent aging Stephen Jackson to

Milwaukee for Corey Maggette and

the 19th pick for the seventh. The

Bobcats already had the ninth pick,

and with their two top-ten choices,

they grabbed Bismack Biyombo,

power forward from Congo, and

guard Kemba Walker from UConn.

Biyombo has a rare blend of athleticism

and ability, while Walker brings

a winning attitude and the ability to

hit big shots.

Portland – Portland came into the

draft needing a long-term solution

at point guard and some frontcourt

depth. They drafted Duke guard

Nolan Smith to add some backcourt

depth and outside shooting, but most

notably they traded aging but reliable

point guard Andre Miller to Denver

for young and talented Raymond

Felton. Felton has the ability to be the

future in Portland. This trade allowed

the Trail Blazers to come out of the

draft well after addressing one of

their two biggest needs.

LOSERS

Minnesota – As usual, the Timberwolves

made questionable moves

during the draft. With the second

pick, they selected the second-best

player in forward Derrick Williams

from Arizona. However, the forward

position is arguably the strongest on

their team and they should’ve traded

that pick for something else. Minnesota’s

failure to add a center or a

reliable scorer at the shooting guard

position makes them a loser in this

draft, despite the addition of Williams.

Toronto – Needing help in the

backcourt, the Raptors chose instead

to take a developmental big man in

Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania

with the fifth pick. While talented,

he has contract issues and may not be

available next year. Meanwhile, they

let Kentucky point guard Brandon

Knight slide past them. Knight

would’ve instantly upgraded the

Toronto backcourt. Toronto failed to

address any needs, while rolling the

dice on an international player with

contract issues.

Golden State – The Warriors chose

to grab shooting guard Klay Thompson

from Washington State 11th

overall. Thompson isn’t a bad choice,

but the Warriors badly need reliable

players at the forward positions and

instead went with a guard. The team

has a loaded backcourt, and they

passed on available forwards like

Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris.

While I do like the acquisition of center

Jeremy Tyler in the second round,

Golden State didn’t get as much as

they could’ve out of this draft.

Brandon Niles has done online freelance

writing since 2007. A Communication

Studies graduate student

at the University of North Carolina

Greensboro, Niles is also an avid Miami

Dolphins fan, which has led to his

becoming an avid Scotch whisky fan

over the past decade. He’d love to visit

Montana one day.