Chicago Bulls: Revisiting Kawhi Leonard 2011 NBA Draft

The 2008 and 2011 NBA Drafts reshaped the Chicago Bulls for a long time, and Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard was picked up during the latter.

It was the NBA Draft that changed it all ahead of the NBA Finals this year between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. A former member of the San Antonio Spurs, superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, just led the Raptors to a stunning victory by a good margin over the Warriors in Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls also had a large stake in that 2011 NBA Draft.

In the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls elected to go with the former Marquette Golden Eagles small forward Jimmy Butler with their pick. The Bulls also landed power forward Nikola Mirotic in that draft. That draft class played a key role in the shaping of the Bulls throughout much of the decade.

Yet, the most pivotal player that came out of that draft class was Kawhi Leonard. He just led the Raptors to that shocking Game One victory with a solid 23 point and 8 rebound performance. Although, that wasn’t the best outing for Kawhi during this run through the NBA Playoffs. It was the 32-point performance from Pascal Siakam that ultimately pushed the Raps to that 118-109 win.

Looking back at that loaded draft class from 2011 brings a load of names to the forefront that are among the NBA’s best players right now. Butler and Leonard are two that come to mind for Bulls fans. Leonard is killing it in the NBA Finals right now.

Other highlights coming out of the 2011 NBA Draft include Kyrie Irving to the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1), Kemba Walker to the Charlotte Hornets (No. 9), and Klay Thompson to the Golden State Warriors (No. 11). Leonard wound up falling at No. 15 to the Indiana Pacers before getting traded to the Spurs. And Butler went at No. 30 to the Chicago Bulls.

Next: Should the Chicago Bulls trade up or slide down?

Another interesting tidbit from the 2011 NBA Draft is that former Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas was picked in the second round in the spot that originally belong to the Bulls. That would be a fun fit if that had panned out the way it would have with the original slotting.