With two of the top five selections in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, which threw the draft its first curve ball, but gave them the two players they had ranked at the top of their board.
They had projected Irving and Thompson as the two prospects with the most potential in this class and fell in love with their engaging personalities after bringing them in for workouts.
They also saw the chemistry between the players. Rather than drafting a foreign prospect like Jonas Valanciunas - which was heavily considered - the team knew that Irving and Thompson were already close friends, could relate with one another and would be able to go through this process side by side.
After Irving was picked, he was ushered into the media room and his press conference dragged on throughout several selections. As the fourth overall pick was announced, Irving was being asked a question, but kept leaning over to the television to see who would be joining him in Cleveland. After seeing Thompson was the selection, Irving smiled and his eyes lit up.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Irving said. "Tristan is a great friend of mine, and just having another fellow freshman being drafted to Cleveland and playing with him, I'm really excited. He's also a young player, and having somebody alongside you that will go through the rookie ups and downs with you, it will make the transition into the NBA that much easier."
While many were surprised to see Thompson selected, the Cavs rely heavily on advanced analytics, which chart how effective a player will be five years down the road. When Thompson's statistics, age and efficiency were put into Cleveland's formula, Thompson actually had a higher rating than Irving. The numbers also ranked Thompson higher than recent big men selected in the top ten such as Greg Monroe and Derrick Favors.
Now, playing with Irving, it'll be even easier for him to reach his full potential.
"I love it," Thompson said. "One of my strengths and attributes is getting up and down the floor so playing with Kyrie, it's going to be exciting. Knowing Kyrie and having a friendship prior to the draft, it's definitely [better] having somebody there to support you and go through what you go through. He's almost like a brother to me, and will have my back and I'll have his. We'll get through this together."
Around this time last year, there was panic in Cleveland due to LeBron James' upcoming free agency. Now, with Irving and Thompson, there is hope that the Cavaliers can turn this team around and once again return to an elite level. The cornerstones are in place and the future in Cleveland looks extremely bright.
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