2009 NBA Draft Grades and Analysis
This draft wasn’t top heavy in talent, but it did provide for some interesting prospects for some teams and some blockbuster deals.
The report cards are in.
Here are the winners, losers, and everyone in between.
Los Angeles Clippers – B+
F Blake Griffin
The Clippers had the easiest decision of the night and took the consensus top prospect in this draft.
He won’t be the best player from this draft in ten years, but he’s a solid player who could average a double-double for a long time.
Now the Clippers have to trade either Chris Kaman or Marcus Camby to make room for Griffin. There is more interest in Camby because of his versatility and his contract.
Since Camby is the likely casualty of this selection, the Clippers fall short of a top grade.
Memphis Grizzlies – A
C Hasheem Thabeet, F DeMarre Carroll, F Sam Young, G/F Quentin Richardson
When Darko Milicic and Kwame Brown are in your front-court rotation, you need help.
Thabeet will be a shot blocking presence from day one. If the Grizzlies focus his efforts on becoming a great defender, he should fare better than Greg Oden in Portland.
With no power forward prospects in this spot, Thabeet was the only smart pick for them to make.
Carroll was a stretch but the Grizzlies made up for it by stealing Sam Young in the second round. He will be a major contributor off their bench.
Getting a productive player for Milicic is also a plus.
Q-Rich should help mentor their young core of players and will especially help the development of O.J. Mayo.
Oklahoma City Thunder – A+
G James Harden, C B.J. Mullens, G Robert Vaden
Harden is a perfect fit to play alongside Kevin Durant. He can shoot and drive into the lane. He complements Durant perfectly.
Also, he isn’t someone who can lead an NBA team and be the primary creator of offense. However, as a supporting facilitator, he’s the best available in this draft.
The only spot in their starting lineup which isn’t set in stone for the next five years is center. Mullens is athletic and could develop into that guy.
Right now he’s an upgrade over Robert Swift.
Vaden can flat out shoot it from the perimeter, and that’s his trump card to earn a roster spot.
Sacramento Kings – A
G Tyreke Evans, F Omri Casspi, F Jon Brockman, G Sergio Rodriguez
Evans can play either guard position and could develop into the next Brandon Roy if everything clicks for him. He walks in as the best player on the team.
Casspi is the first Israeli player taken in the first round and will be the first to play in the NBA.
He is a tough player with a little more offensive skill than most are giving him credit for. He should develop into a consistent contributor off the bench.
Brockman should be able to get rebounds for a team lacking interior toughness. Realistically, that’s about all he’ll consistently provide at this level.
“Spanish Chocolate” will remind fans of the Jayson Williams days of exciting and erratic basketball. He puts some pressure on Beno Udrih.
Minnesota Timberwolves – B-
G Ricky Rubio, G Jonny Flynn, G Wayne Ellington, F Henk Norel, F/C Etan Thomas, F Darius Songailia, Oleksiy Pecherov,
The T-Wolves didn’t have to move up to get who was supposed to be their guy in Rubio. He is Steve Nash reincarnated and will be a perennial all-star in this league.
Flynn isn’t the flashiest player but has the toughness and the “it” factor to lead the Wolves for the foreseeable future.
Flynn, at No. 6, was the most puzzling selection of the night. T-Wolves president David Kahn says he wants both point guards to play together.
This would be a complete disaster as opposing back courts destroy the duo defensively. Flynn is undersized and Rubio physically is no match for most NBA guards.
If Kahn is serious about playing them both at the same time, he might have to go Kevin McHale and coach the team himself because no legit NBA coach is going to sign off on the idea.
If Minnesota wants to keep both players, the smart solution is to use Rubio as an insurance policy. They can save money and let him stay in Spain next year while playing Flynn as the primary point guard.
If Flynn becomes the floor general of the future, they can then trade Rubio next year for a great player or a high lottery pick.
There are already reports that Rubio isn’t pleased with the idea of playing in Minnesota and that he might prefer to stay in Spain. The situation could work in the T-Wolves' favor if they play their cards right.
Otherwise this could be Yi Jianlian with Milwaukee all over again.
Ellington is a pure shooter who will replace the departed Mike Miller.
Thomas and Songailia give Minnesota some versatility for their second team front-court.
Pecherov is famous for his role as Stewie Griffin in Family Guy and for getting dunked on by Andres Nocioni:
Warriors – INCOMPLETE
G Stephen Curry, G Acie Law, G Speedy Claxton
Law never found himself in Atlanta and could resurrect his career in Golden State in the same way as current Warriors G Kelenna Azubuike.
The Warriors don’t have a grade yet because Curry might be part of a trade package to bring in Suns F/C Amar’e Stoudemire. The rumored trade proposal would send Curry, G Marco Belinelli, F/C Andris Biedrins, and F Brandan Wright to Phoenix.
If the trade goes through, the Warriors get an A+. Amar’e isn’t even in the prime of his career yet and is a major upgrade over Biedrins.
Golden State already has plenty of scoring guards and Belinelli and Wright aren’t the greatest prospects on the planet.
Getting Stoudemire makes the Warriors a playoff team.
New York Knicks – B+
F Jordan Hill, G Toney Douglas, C Darko Milicic
The Knicks got the short end of the stick when both Flynn and Curry were taken ahead of them. Hill was the only pick they could make given the circumstances.
With that said, Hill is a solid player who could develop into a well balanced machine.
In the short term he will replace David Lee when he’s traded or gets the big contract he deserves in free agency.
Douglas is a tough guard who can get his shot up and drill it from almost anywhere on the court. He isn’t afraid to play defense either and his efforts are contagious.
If Douglas played for a high-profile program, he easily could’ve landed in the lottery.
Milicic saves the Knicks around eight million dollars in 2010. He’s useful for once.
Toronto Raptors – D
G DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan didn’t show anything at USC to warrant a top ten selection. There has to be a bust in the top ten and he’s the most likely candidate.
The Raptors needed a long term answer at the two-guard. They’ll need to find it in whatever they get back in the inevitable Chris Bosh trade.
Milwaukee Bucks – C+
G Brandon Jennings, G Jodie Meeks, F Bruce Bowen, F/C Kurt Thomas, F Amir Johnson
Jennings is a player with a ton of upside who accelerated his maturity curve by going to Italy for a year and learning about real life and responsibility. He isn’t the same person he was in high school and that’s a positive.
With the rumored departure of Like Ridnour, there should be a good chunk of playing time for Jennings.
Meeks can score but will struggle in the NBA unless he learns how to separate from defenders.
I know moving Richard Jefferson was purely a salary cap move, but to get absolutely no major future value in return for his talents is a waste.
New Jersey Nets – A+
F Terrence Williams, G Rafer Alston, G Courtney Lee, F/C Tony Battie
The Nets were finally able to move the huge burden of Vince Carter’s contract, and unlike some other teams trading away big name players, they got some talent back in return.
Courtney Lee will continue to develop and will become much more of a scorer in New Jersey as he gets a lot more touches. He is a slasher with some range and creates a quick back court with Devin Harris.
Alston solidifies the point guard position off the bench and provides a nice marketing chip as Skip to My Lou when the Nets move to Brooklyn if they keep him.
Battie gives them some much needed depth and veteran know-how behind C Brook Lopez.
Williams is an outstanding selection. He has point guard passing ability and lock down defense. He can get to the rim and is simply a winner.
The Nets are planning for the future but should be a perennial playoff contender in a few years.
Charlotte Bobcats – B
G Gerald Henderson, F Derrick Brown
The Bobcats didn’t hit a home run with either pick but picked up two athletic players to work into the rotation at some point in the future.
Charlotte basically has its major rotation in place, so they didn’t need an impact player in this draft.
This is the year the Bobcats make the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers – C-
F Tyler Hansbrough, G A.J. Price
Hansbrough is a gritty player who will earn his paycheck in the league for many years. But the Pacers had bigger needs.
They needed someone athletic in the front court with some range for the future. James Johnson was still available.
They also could’ve taken the point guard of the future as it doesn’t seem T.J. Ford or Jarrett Jack provides a long term solution.
Price gives the Pacers decent value but isn’t something they don’t already have at point guard.
If the goal of the draft is to improve the quality of your team, the Pacers didn’t help themselves much.
Phoenix Suns – INCOMPLETE
F Earl Clark, F Taylor Griffin, F Emir Preldzic, G/F Sasha Pavlovic, F/C Ben Wallace
Clark is a very talented player who just couldn’t take his game to the next level at Louisville. If he can utilize his skills and play consistently, he has all star potential. He can do a little bit of everything.
The other Griffin is a novelty pick. The fact that he could make the team tells you a lot about the depth on the Suns.
Pavlovic and Wallace are cap savers. Neither will be a major factor as players for this franchise.
The incomplete grade stems from the potential Stoudemire deal. In that case, the Suns would get an F. They would be trading a big man with immense skills for a couple of solid role players and a couple scrubs.
The Shaq trade was understandable. That experiment was a failure. They needed to just unload his contract.
If the Suns just waste Amar’e, they’re making the type of move which haunts a franchise for at least a decade.
Curry would be a nice addition but there’s no evidence to show he can actually play the point in the NBA. He didn’t make his supporting cast at Davidson any better and they had experienced players who should’ve progressed.
It’s no accident Davidson was an elite eight in 2008 with point guard Jason Richards, who led the country in assists.
With a veteran squad, Curry didn’t even make the big dance running the offense.
If Curry plays shooting guard, then you have a major defensive liability on the floor and no plan behind an aging Steve Nash.
Biedrins is a great rebounder but is very limited offensively.
The Suns need to try and trade Stoudemire for a proven star if they insist on moving on without him.
Otherwise Steve Kerr will continue to murder the Suns.
Detroit Pistons – B-
F Austin Daye, F DaJuan Summers, F Jonas Jerebko, C Fabricio Oberto
The Pistons don’t receive a great grade for a couple of reasons.
Daye is the primary one. He’s a toothpick and is easily the softest player in the draft. He has great potential and range, but doesn’t have the mentality to capitalize on his skills.
He’s the next Channing Frye. And just like Frye, Daye will find himself in NBA obscurity in four years.
Summers can get after the ball and knock down a jump shot. He should develop into a consistent scorer and gives the Pistons second unit a different dimension.
Jerebko is a developmental talent who could evolve into a Trevor Ariza type, so he’s worth a shot at some point.
The other reason for the low grade is that all three of these picks address the same position.
If rumors about the Pistons moving Richard Hamilton and/or Tayshaun Prince are true, the Pistons could have covered themselves a little by drafting a shooting guard.
Chicago Bulls – B
F James Johnson, F Taj Gibson
Johnson is an excellent selection as the Bulls finally take a front court player who can score from outside ten feet.
He gives them great depth at the three or four, and with the uncertainty surrounding Luol Deng, he’s a solid insurance policy who should develop into a starter down the road.
Gibson can make an NBA team but didn’t make much sense for the Bulls in the late first round. They needed guard depth and will now have to either resign Ben Gordon or find that player for Kirk Hinrich.
Philadelphia 76ers – B+
G Jrue Holiday
The Sixers needed a point guard prospect for the future.
As long as they keep Andre Miller, they can wait on Holiday to mature and develop while staying with Miller and backup Louis Williams.
Denver Nuggets – A
G Ty Lawson
The Nuggets needed a better backup behind Chauncey Billups.
Lawson loves to push the ball up the floor and fits in perfectly with the likes of J.R. Smith and Chris “Birdman” Andersen on Denver’s second unit.
Atlanta Hawks – A-
G Jeff Teague, G Sergiy Gladyr, G Jamal Crawford
Teague is a nice point guard prospect and the Hawks can let him come off the bench and ease into the starting spot in a couple of years.
For now he’s an energy guy with some scoring ability off the bench.
Crawford is an excellent addition as the Hawks lost nothing to get him after drafting Teague.
He is a great scorer and a severely underrated point guard. When given the slim opportunity in New York he easily proved he can run an offense in the half court and get the bigs involved.
If this move means the Hawks lose Mike Bibby, it’s an added plus. Bibby is a perennial choke artist and the team played better with Johnson running things.
Johnson and Crawford can switch off point guard duties. Together they’ll give NBA defenses all kinds of issues, especially with Josh Smith patrolling around and a center in Al Horford who can knock down a 12-footer.
The only minus sign is the second round pick. The Hawks need some front court depth.
Ahmad Nivins was available and is the type of player they still lack on their second unit.
Utah Jazz – C
G Eric Maynor, C Goran Suton
The Jazz drafted two solid players. The problem lies in where they fit in.
Maynor is an underrated point guard who can lead a team and score.
It seemed the Jazz were set on Ronnie Price as the backup to Deron Williams after his performance in the playoffs, but this move indicates he could end up elsewhere.
Suton is a decent center prospect who has solid rebounding and touch around the basket.
He’s basically a polished Kosta Koufos. Either this pick means Koufos isn’t coming along as planned or the Jazz are log jammed at center.
Either way, it doesn’t help the Jazz catch up to the contenders out west.
New Orleans Hornets – B
G Darren Collison, G Marcus Thornton
Collison is a quick point guard who can spell Paul for a few minutes.
The Hornets needed a backup point but Collison was a bit of a reach. They could've traded down easily and still had him, and the way the board unfolded there were probably teams interested in moving up.
With that said, Collison is an accomplished defender and can keep pressure on the ball like Paul.
Thornton is a nice acquisition and can light it up. The Hornets hope he can replace what they lost a couple years ago when they let Jannero Pargo go.
Portland Trail Blazers – B+
F Victor Claver, F Dante Cunningham, G Patrick Mills, F Jeff Pendergraph,
Claver is a talented player who the Blazers can stash overseas.
Mills is an absolute steal in the second round and will find himself on an NBA roster someday. Portland has no use for him right now and will ship him overseas.
Cunningham and Pendergraph give the Blazers some scoring depth in the front court. With Portland willing to wheel and deal, a spot should open up in the rotation for one of these two when the season starts.
Dallas Mavericks – C+
F Ahmad Nivins, G Rodrigue Beaubois, G Nick Calathes
Beaubois is supposed to be a talented point guard but will take years to develop. The Mavericks needed more of an immediate impact.
Nivins is a gritty hustle player, but the Mavs already have that kind of player in Brandon Bass.
Calathes could make or break this draft. If the Mavs still have Jason Kidd next year, they should try and bring Calathes over this season for Kidd to mentor him.
There is an element of Kidd in Calathes in how Calathes anticipates plays. On a team with an actual basketball IQ, he could blossom into a major steal.
He needs to become an offensive asset because he will never get it done in man to man defense in the NBA.
Cleveland Cavaliers – D-
F Christian Eyenga, F Danny Green, C Shaquille O’Neal
The Cavs were decimated by the Magic because they had no depth. They failed to address that glaring weakness in this draft.
Green gives the Cavs someone off the bench with shooting ability but he’s as inconsistent as the shooters they already have.
The deal for Shaq has been widely praised as a major move which steers the Cavs toward the NBA finals. I completely disagree.
Can Shaq guard Rashard Lewis? Hedo Turkoglu? Rajon Rondo? Paul Pierce? Kevin Garnett? Pau Gasol? Lamar Odom?
The Cavs were slammed by the Magic because they had no one to stop any of their key players. Skilled starting lineups can destroy Cleveland.
Now they have an aging Shaq who didn’t help Phoenix do anything.
He’s a much better fit in the Cavs half court offense but will also clog the lane and hamper LeBron James in his assault on the paint.
There is also the issue of what happens to Zydrunas Ilgauskas. You obviously can’t start both players and Z is a capable starter in this league.
Cleveland absolutely needs another major roster shakeup before next year, and odds are Z will have to be part of that deal.
As it is now, the Cavs have no front court bench and still have a midget back court which will struggle to stop championship contenders.
Once again, GM Danny Ferry is chasing a big name, but hasn’t helped his efforts to get LeBron a ring.
The only reason they don’t get an F grade is the fact that at least they finally turned Sasha Pavlovic into something.
Washington Wizards – A++
G Randy Foye, G/F Mike Miller
The Wizards are looking to win now. With their trade for Miller and Foye, they’re a top three team in the east if they stay healthy.
First off, they now have tremendous depth. They can start Arenas, Miller, Butler, and Jamison and have solid reserves at all positions.
Foye and Nick Young will anchor the second unit for some time and could eventually start themselves.
Getting Stevenson out of the starting lineup is another plus as he’s much better suited as a role player off the bench.
Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee should continue to develop and are nice options off the bench up front. One of them could also be involved in a trade to bring in an established center.
The Wizards now have tremendous firepower. It’s now or never for coach Flip Saunders.
If the Wizards can play under control, they’re the sleeper in the east.
Houston Rockets – INCOMPLETE
G Jermaine Taylor, G Sergio Llull, F Chase Budinger
The Rockets bought three useful players in the second round to bolster their roster.
Taylor is a cheap Aaron Brooks and Budinger gives the Rockets tremendous offensive talent for someone in the middle of the second round. He should have an immediate impact.
The Rockets needed depth and got it in this draft.
They don’t have a grade because of the impending departure of Tracy McGrady. It’s long overdue and if they get anything of value in return, the draft was a success.
San Antonio Spurs – A+
F DeJuan Blair, G Jack McClinton, G Nando De Colo, F Richard Jefferson
The Spurs continue to show why they are the best run franchise in the NBA. They had a tremendous draft given they were out of the first round.
Blair is an absolute steal and is a perfect replacement for the departed Kurt Thomas. He is tough as nails and is the best rebounder in the draft since Paul Millsap. He also has an underrated face-up jumper from ten feet.
He will immediately spell Duncan and Bonner in the rotation.
McClinton might be one of the best pure scorers in this draft and has ridiculous range for a second round pick. With Roger Mason getting major minutes next year, McClinton has a chance to become the bench guard scorer who can make some big shots when Ginobili or Parker doesn’t have the ball.
De Colo is a talented prospect and allows the Spurs to continue stockpiling talent overseas.
Jefferson is an excellent addition, especially for what they gave up.
The Spurs didn’t need Bowen anymore with George Hill and Ime Udoka.
Jefferson gives the Spurs a reliable scorer and should thrive not being a primary option. He also serves as major insurance should Ginobili go down again.
The Jefferson deal puts the Spurs back in contention for the west crown.
Miami Heat – C-
F Robert Dozier, G Patrick Beverly
For a team which needed better depth, the Heat didn’t accomplish much.
Dozier can block shots and get on the boards, but with the Heat picking up the option on Joel Anthony, Dozier either starts in the NBDL or will be cut.
Beverly is a defensive minded player who will have to fight to beat out Yakhouba Diawara and Dorell Wright for a spot on the team.
Los Angeles Lakers – INCOMPLETE
F Chinemelu Elonu
The Lakers sold their first three picks in an effort to save as much money as possible to get back Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom.
This draft is a success if it helps the Lakers keep their title team together.
I’m sure Elonu can be had for the right price too.
Boston Celtics – B
G Lester Hudson
The Celtics might be in need of a shooter. Rumors are swirling about Ray Allen and Eddie House might actually opt out of his deal.
Hudson was the best shooter available.
If they landed McClinton, he would’ve been a perfect replacement for House if he skipped town, but the Spurs beat them to the punch.
Overall, the Celtics get a player who could make their roster, and that’s a plus at the bottom of the second round.
Orlando Magic – C+
G/F Vince Carter, F Ryan Anderson
The Magic traded their starting back court from the NBA finals to bring in Carter and a talented offensive minded bench player in Anderson.
Carter can still score but is a shadow of what he once was. He isn’t a good defender and is more of a volume shooter.
The Magic see him as an all star caliber player but he won’t help them win a ring.
He is another jump shot happy player and will stunt the growth of Dwight Howard as the few touches Superman got in the fourth quarter may have just vanished.
The Magic are a good team but aren’t aggressive enough in driving to the paint. They also don’t play enough smart basketball and take too many bad shots.
Carter doesn’t fix any of their problems.
If they also bring back Turkoglu, which just became even more of a costly move with the luxury tax situation attached to Carter’s contract, they have an offensive force of a starting five.
Defensively though, they are worse off. Lee was the closest thing they had to a shutdown defender in the starting lineup.
Pietrus is going to have his hands full coming off the bench to stop every wing player giving the Magic fits.
If Turkoglu isn’t back, then Pietrus is the starting two guard, which would kill a second unit already sure to lose Marcin Gortat.
Rafer Alston was expendable but Lee was developing into a very good player. If the Magic don’t reach the finals with Carter, they’ll regret trading Lee away in a couple years.
If they keep Turkoglu, their grade is elevated to a B-.
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