NBA

The 14 players drafted ahead of Kawhi Leonard - where are they now?

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Kawhi Leonard is currently in the midst of an MVP-calibre season for the San Antonio Spurs in the first campaign since Tim Duncan's retirement.

The Spurs are pushing the Golden State Warriors hard for the first seed in the Western Conference, and it is all down to the incredible work on both ends of the ball by their small forward. 

But his career could have been so different. Nobody could have envisioned the number 15 pick in 2011 would turn into a dominant two-way superstar. When San Antonio traded George Hill to get Kawhi, they were taking a huge gamble.

It has paid off. Gregg Popovich has his franchise superstar. And here's what happened to all of the players taken ahead of Leonard six years ago - there are some absolute clangers. 

1. Kyrie Irving

Starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hit the championship-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals. Well on his way to becoming one of the greatest Cavs ever.

2. Derrick Williams

One of the newest members of the Cavaliers. Joined LeBron James and Co. in February on a 10-day contract before signing for the rest of the season.

Struggled through spells with the Timberwolves, Kings, Knicks and Heat.

3. Enes Kanter

Backup center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Turkish star has developed into a valuable asset for the franchise in the post-Kevin Durant era. 

In a team that is being carried by Russell Westbrook, he is averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds.

4. Tristan Thompson

Also a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Played in 400 consecutive regular season games for the franchise. 

Was a vital part of their title success last season after signing a five-year, $82 million extension.

5. Jonas Valanciunas

Quickly developing into one of the most dominant centers in the league, Jonas Valanciunas was a huge part of Toronto's playoff success last season. 

Still not a forethought in Dwane Casey's plans - due to the presence of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry - he is averaging 12.2 points and 9.6 rebounds.

6. Jan Vesely

Having been drafted after a successful three-year spell with European team Partizan, Jan Vesely averaged just 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 162 regular season games for the Wizards and Nuggets. He shot just 40.8% from the field. 

Now with Turkish club Fenerbahce, he appears to have found his level, averaging 15.6 points last season.

7. Bismack Biyombo

Broke out for the Toronto Raptors during last season's playoffs after injury to Valanciunas. However, has struggled to kick on since joining the Orlando Magic. 

Known for his defensive capabilities, Bismack Biyombo is only managing 1.2 blocks per night - the second lowest total in his short NBA career.

8. Brandon Knight

One of the most frustrating guards in the NBA, Knight has flattered to deceive at every stage of his professional career.

First with the Pistons, then the Bucks and now the Suns, Knight has always had the ability to score but is a career 41.5% shooter from the field. 

9. Kemba Walker

One of just three All-Stars to be selected ahead of Kyrie, Kemba Walker is enjoying a career year. 

Selected to his first All-Star game in New Orleans. 

10. Jimmer Fredette

Recently named International Regular Season MVP of the CBA during his first season with the Shanghai Sharks.

After failed spells with the Kings, Bulls, Pelicans and Knicks, it seems Jimmer's NBA dreams are over. But Jimmer Mania will never die. 

11. Klay Thompson

2015 NBA champion. 2016 three-point contest champion. One half of the best three-point shooting backcourt in league history.

12. Alec Burks

Struggled with injuries throughout the previous three seasons, managing just 90 games in that time. Has played just 32 times this season.

13. Markieff Morris

Excelling with the Washington Wizards after his relationship with the Phoenix Suns broke down. Averaging 14.1 points and 6.7 boards for the third-ranked franchise from the capital city.

14. Marcus Morris

The first Morris brother to leave the Suns. He joined the Pistons in 2015. Is now averaging 14.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in his second season in the Motor City. 

Topics:
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
Kawhi Leonard

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