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In 2011, the Spurs made their most legendary draft day decision

A gutsy move paved the way for the Spurs to transition from the Duncan era seamlessly.

Denver Nuggets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Welcome to the Open Thread. During the month of July, we are talking NBA Draft. As we lead up to the 2021 NBA Draft on July 29th, we will be revisiting the Spurs draft choices. Today we remember the 2011 NBA Draft.

Question: What do Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valančiūnas, Jan Veselý, Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris have in common?

Answer: They were all drafted before Kawhi Leonard.

Whether their respective drafting franchises would take a mulligan in lieu of their original choice considering the emergence of The Klaw would make for the best question at any press conference. That said, Kawhi Leonard may not have become the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, 2014 Finals MVP, or a continual threat for league MVP year after year without the expert tutelage of Gregg Popovich and his merry band of coaches.

As will go down in Spurs lore, the Spurs traded Pop’s favorite George Hill for the San Diego State Aztec along with draft rights to Dāvis Bertāns and Erazem Lorbek. At first glance, this may have appeared to be a long-shot of a trade and quite the sacrifice on the part of the Spurs. A relatively unknown Leonard with 25% 3-point shooting along with a couple of draft rights to overseas players for George Hill. Hill was emerging into the starting point guard he has become. But keep in mind, Hill had one more year on his contract and there was no way he was going to take Tony Parker’s starting position.

In the end, this was the biggest steal in Spurs history. Kawhi Leonard was still an elite athlete and made significant contributions to the San Antonio Spurs (when he suited up).

As if obtaining Kawhi wasn’t enough, trading mate Dāvis Bertāns made it to San Antonio and as #42. His sharpshooting supported the firepower coming off the bench. In what is now the hindsight, both Leonard and Bertans are on other teams and many, many conversations have been had as to how both of these players exits were handled.

As if Leonard and Bertāns were not enough to obtain from the draft, Cory Joseph was the Spurs actual first round pick at the 29th spot. Joseph is noted for requesting to be sent down to the Austin Toros to develop, a move which enhanced his game and endeared him to coaching staff and fans alike. He stepped in for Tony Parker as the starting point guard at times and found success in the role. He won a championship with the Spurs before moving to his native Toronto. He has since spent time with the Raptors, Kings, Pacers, and Pistons.

And finally, with the 59th pick in the draft, The Spurs chose Hungarian swingman Ádám Hanga, Hanga has continued to play in Spain since the draft earning EuroLeague Best Defender in 2017 and winning the Spanish Cup in 2018. He has yet to come to the states, but has also been a consistent topic for Pounders throughout the years.

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