2009 NBA Top 15 Redraft: Where the Stars of the Future Should've Gone
The 2009 NBA Draft was certainly a weekend full of major stories. From a near miss trade between the Warriors and the Suns to the puzzling draft David Kahn and the Timberwolves had, the draft was one to remember.
In a draft labeled as the “draft of the point guards," the rookies have certainly lived up to that expectation, as four of the first five and six of the first eight players taken in my “Draft Redo” are point guards (assuming Tyreke Evans is considered a point guard).
Additionally, this year was one of disappointment for many teams at the top, as three of the first five picks in the draft have contributed little to nothing and other teams are kicking themselves after watching players such as DeJuan Blair fall to the second round only to come in and prove executives wrong with his impressive play.
Certainly many teams would like a crack at a redo for this draft. The Wolves’, Grizzlies’, Knicks’, Nets’, Bobcats’—among others—draftees have all fallen well below expectations each team had for them, losing a great opportunity for those teams to improve themselves after a poor previous year. Unfortunately, because of poor drafting and other personnel moves, many of the lottery teams last year are still stuck in the lottery for this year.
Interestingly enough, seven of the fifteen players that I had teams drafting in the redraft were not drafted in the top 15, with three second-rounders joining the mix. This shows the importance for teams to have good scout evaluations, as many of the top picks who fell out of the top 15 in the redraft were the consensus picks for their spot, but have not performed up to expectations.
Finally, I have one last note. The team needs for the draft were based upon the teams as of now, with midseason trades taken into account, so keep that in mind.
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
With the first overall pick in the NBA Re-Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers made the right choice again in Blake Griffin.
Despite an unfortunate rash of injuries that has kept Griffin from logging a single minute this season, he is still by far the best prospect from the draft. A fantastic athlete, Griffin has drawn comparisons to everyone from Amare Stoudemire to Carlos Boozer.
While knee injuries are certainly worrisome in a player as young as Griffin, there is no denying he has the potential to dominate the game as soon as he enters. He has an NBA body, is a excellent rebounder at both ends of the floor, and despite not having a terrific post repertoire, is very creative in his scoring efforts.
When the Clippers finally manage to get Griffin out on the court, he is going to brighten the future in a way no other player has since Michael Olowakandi. (Just kidding)
2. Grizzlies: Stephen Curry
After originally drafting a project center in Hasheem Thabeet, if the draft were held today, the Grizzlies would be best served drafting Stephen Curry. While Hasheem Thabeet has the potential to be a game changing defensive center, Marc Gasol was arguably the Grizzlies most effective player last year and they have added another stud big man in Zach Randolph.
However, at the point guard position, the Grizzlies have Mike Conley, a below average starting point guard, and Marcus Williams, who probably wouldn’t be in this league if the Grizzlies didn’t have such a need for a point guard.
Already having one of the best pure shooters in the league in OJ Mayo, Curry would help form possibly the sweetest shooting backcourt this league has seen in a long time. Curry has already shown an ability to play alongside another small offensive guard in a system almost tailor-made for him in Golden State.
He has taken the league by storm with his shooting, quickness, and leadership; and while Tyreke Evans may have played better than he has up to this point, Curry is the best guard prospect for the future to come out of this draft.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyreke Evans
While James Harden has proven to be a good fit in Oklahoma City with his three-point shooting and his veteran mentality, Oklahoma City would be even more improved had they drafted Tyreke Evans instead of Harden.
While the Grizzlies touted Evans as a point guard, it was clear from day one that Evans’ natural position in the NBA would be as a two-guard. With the Thunder, Evans would combine with Russell Westbrook to form a strong and dominating backcourt. The two of them would frustrate defenses with their driving abilities and would also form a formidable rebounding backcourt.
Additionally, moving Thabo Sefolosha to the bench would strengthen the bench’s defense and form a solid hour guard rotation of Sefolosha, Evans, Westbrook, and Maynor.
Because the future is now in Oklahoma City, the Thunder would do well to get the most NBA ready guard in the entire draft.
4. Sacramento Kings: Brandon Jennings
The Kings would certainly be one team that would prefer not to redraft with all the information they know now. The Kings were criticized for not taking Ricky Rubio, potentially the top point guard of the draft, instead deciding on a “safe” option in taking Tyreke Evans.
Evans has certainly turned out to be better than anyone could have predicted, taking the Rookie of the Year race by the horns and assuming a leadership role on a Sacramento Kings team that lost more games than any other last year and lost its leading scorer in Kevin Martin.
However, with the Thunder taking Evans off the board with the third pick, the best player remaining for the Kings would be Brandon Jennings. Originally the only one to come close to Evans in the Rookie of the Year race, Jennings captivated the entire league with his exciting play and tremendous scoring ability; and much like Evans, joined a bad team that lost its leading scorer and took a leadership role.
While Kings fans must be happy with Beno Udrih finally playing better than an average D-League callup, he clearly is not the solution at the most important position in the game, and Jennings would fill the void that the Kings have had there since the departure of Mike Bibby.
While the Bucks have also improved in many other areas besides point guard, their surprising performance this season can mostly be traced to having a point guard who can run a team and score at will.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Darren Collison
The Wolves perplexed the entire league by drafting two point guards in a row early in the first round without trading either of them. To put it lightly, David Kahn has to be disappointed in the way his two draftees have produced.
Jonny Flynn has played well enough to still earn minutes on a terrible T-Wolves team, but their other draftee, Ricky Rubio, is currently playing in Europe and likely will not sign until 2011 or 2012.
David Kahn set out to remake his backcourt after trading away his two starters to acquire the number five pick in the draft, and the best way to do so would be to draft the guy who has been masquerading as Chris Paul for the last couple months.
Darren Collison has helped Hornets fans forget Chris Paul, as he has struggled with injuries this year, and would be the perfect building block for Minnesota to start a backcourt with.
A true point guard makes everyone on the team better, and with Collison throwing passes down to Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, the Wolves certainly would be much less miserable to watch this year.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Harden
David Kahn’s effort to remake the Wolves backcourt led him to draft two point guards who truly did not fit together, as Jonny Flynn is likely not big enough to be the scoring guard—alongside Rubio—that Kahn hyped him up to be.
Instead, putting a true two-guard alongside their newly found point guard, Darren Collison, would set the Wolves up with a fantastic backcourt for now and the future.
With his veteran mentality even in his rookie season, James Harden would help bring some stability to a team that has been so unstable ever since the departure of star forward Kevin Garnett. As Al Jefferson draws double teams inside, Harden’s three point shooting would prove invaluable to burning defenses.
While the Wolves would not be a playoff team even if they played their cards right in the draft, they certainly would have set themselves up to be one of the better young team in the league with a foundation of Jefferson, Love, Harden, and Collison. Given the big jumps that Memphis and Oklahoma City have made—mostly by just drafting smart and waiting—the Wolves must be kicking themselves now.
7. Golden State Warriors: Ricky Rubio
Sure, Ricky Rubio is in Spain and likely will not sign with the Wolves until at least 2011, but at number seven Rubio would be the best pick for the Warriors.
While Rubio decided that more time in Spain would be better for him than coming to the NBA immediately after being drafted by the Wolves, had he been drafted into the sunny state of California, he would be much more inclined to sign as he claimed his mother did not like the cold of Minnesota.
The risk is well worth it for the Warriors.
If Rubio signs immediately, they get the most talented pure point guard in the draft and an excellent pass-first guard to go along with Monta Ellis. With his youth he would learn offense from one of the most brilliant offensive minds in the league in Don Nelson, and would instantly infuse a sense of sanity to an insane team.
If he refuses to sign because of his hefty buyout, the Warriors have less to lose. With or without Rubio, the Warriors are going nowhere until they find another talented big man to pair with Andris Biedrins and learn to play defense. For the Warriors it’s a relatively low risk, high reward move on a team that desperately needs change.
8. New York Knicks: Ty Lawson
With the eighth pick in the 2009 Draft, the Knicks were hoping to get their point guard of the future. However, instead of reaching for a player they did not rate as a top eight prospect, the Knicks chose their highest rated player, Jordan Hill. While Hill has shown some flashes as an athletic big man who can rebound and block shots, he is more potential than actual skill right now.
If the Knicks could do it again, the Knicks would take the pint-sized point guard Ty Lawson. After being taken as the Timberwolves’ third point guard of the first round, Lawson was shipped to the Nuggets for a future first rounder.
In his action as the Nuggets’ backup point guard, Lawson has shown the ability to be a very good starting point guard in the league, and gives the Nuggets an heir apparent to the point guard job when Chauncey Billups eventually wears down.
This year, the Knicks have had more starting point guards than Henry XII has had wives. Chris Duhon, Tracy McGrady, Bill Walker, and Sergio Rodriguez have all started at point guard with little success in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and the Knicks are sputtering.
Even if the Knicks manage to bring LeBron James and another star onboard this offseason, very few championship teams have won with a bad point guard. Ty Lawson would be a perfect start to the beginning of a new era in New York.
9. Toronto Raptors: DeJuan Blair
With the ninth pick in the Draft, the Raptors took high upside wing DeMar Derozan. He has been adequate but not spectacular in his first season with the Raptors, but it has become clear this season that the Raptors are in need of toughness and rebounding down low, as Andrea Bargnani is quite soft in that area.
After a slide in the draft boards because of questions about his knees and his short stature, DeJuan Blair has proven his doubters wrong in a season in San Antonio. He has improved his offense somewhat, but more importantly has been a source of strength and intensity for the Spurs, whether coming off the bench or starting.
If Chris Bosh decides to leave Toronto as every New Yorker is hoping, Blair would be a perfect partner for Bargnani. He is everything Bargnani isn’t with his rebounding and strength, and Bargnani is everything Blair isn’t with his polished offensive game.
However, in the underreported and likely possibility that Bosh stays in Toronto, Blair would still be a perfect fit in Toronto, as the Raptors could experiment with Bargnani at the 3 to diminish his rebounding deficiencies, or with Blair coming off the bench to dominate the boards and providing a much needed rest for Chris Bosh.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jonny Flynn
Much like the Kings, the Bucks would not approve of a redo of the Draft. With the tenth pick, the Bucks snagged their point guard of the future, the exciting and always entertaining Brandon Jennings. With Jennings at the helm, the Bucks’ center Andrew Bogut has gone from solid to arguably the second best center in the league, and the offense has been running like a well oiled machine.
In a redo, the Bucks obviously would like to get a point guard, as Luke Ridnour has been solid but is better suited for a backup role. In this position, the Bucks would do themselves a favor if they picked the best available player left in the draft, Jonny Flynn.
With his catlike quickness and leadership qualities on the floor, Flynn would be a good fit for a team that has needed playmaking ability out of their point guard following the loss of Michael Redd. He would not provide as much excitement and entertainment value as Brandon Jennings, but would keep the Bucks in games with his scoring.
While number six with the Wolves may have been a bit of an overdraft, at number ten he would provide good value to a vastly improved Milwaukee Bucks.
11. New Jersey Nets: Marcus Thornton
The Nets have been terrible this year. Absolutely terrible. A better mid-lottery pick would not change their fortunes, but picking up underrated rookie Marcus Thorton this year would certainly help. With questions about his size and athleticism, Thornton slipped into the mid-second round despite big scoring numbers at LSU.
The Nets actual first round pick, Terrence Williams, has been so bad that he has struggled for minutes on arguably the worst team in history. He has improved slightly as of late, but has not been near as good as the Nets had hoped.
The Nets have so many problems that it’s impossible to count, but a lack of talent on the wings is a crucial one. Chris Douglas-Roberts is one of the most underrated players at his position and Courtney Lee is a solid wing stopper, but the Nets have dearth of wing talent outside of those two.
Even Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes, who have played so badly that they belong out of the league, have gotten serious minutes this year, another sad fact speaking to the lack of talent on the wings for the Nets.
Adding Thornton, an absolutely explosive scorer and a good defender would certainly help rectify these issues on the wings. He has been a ray of sunshine in a tough season without Chris Paul for the Hornets. Perhaps with Thornton instead of Williams in the fold, the Nets would not be challenging for the fewest wins ever and instead would be just another bad team.
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Hasheem Thabeet
The Bobcats have perhaps the most money tied up in useless centers in the league. Between Desagana Diop, Tyson Chandler, and Nazr Mohammad (who has been surprisingly effective this year but historically bad) the Bobcats have plenty of depth but no definite starting center.
With the twelfth pick in the draft, the Bobcats blew another lottery selection, picking safely with the smart but inconsistent Gerald Henderson. Henderson, a shooting guard out of Duke, has turned out not to be just what the Bobcats were hoping for and plays a position that the Bobcats are strong in after the acquisition of Steven Jackson.
Thabeet is certainly raw offensively, but in his brief bursts with the Grizzlies this season, has shown that he can already be a game-changer defensively and can send back shots with ease. Additionally, with the addition of Jackson and Gerald Wallace’s offensive improvement, the Bobcats are more in need of defense from their center position than offense.
Thabeet could contribute immediately to a team in need of help in the middle and could potentially become a great player in the future.
13. Indiana Pacers: Jrue Holiday
Like the Bobcats, the Pacers played it safe in the draft, selecting Tyler Hansborough, the college star who was projected to be a consistent solid contributor in the league but never a star player. Unfortunately, the Pacers decided to draft a power forward, the position of arguably their second best player, and missed an opportunity to shore up their point guard position.
With AJ Price being the only Pacers point guard playing well, the Pacers desperately need some help at point guard for the future. Jrue Holiday could fill that void very well. In fact, one scout said that while Tyreke Evans will likely be the best guard in this draft class as of now, eventually Jrue Holiday will be considered the best point guard of the class.
With good size for a point guard and a ball hawking mentality on defense, Jrue Holiday has great potential because he is only nineteen years old. He is smart and sees the floor well, making everyone around him better. If he develops a more consistent jump shot he has a chance to be a special player one day.
14. Phoenix Suns: Jonas Jerebko
Surprisingly enough, the Suns didn’t sell their first round pick this year. Instead they selected a long and lean combo forward who many thought could be a top five talent. Unfortunately, the man they should have drafted was another long and lean combo forward, Jonas Jerebko.
Earl Clark has disappointed in his first season with the Suns, showing talent as a dribbler and passer but shooting the ball so poorly that he fell out of the rotation and eventually was sent down to the D-League.
Jerebko, on the other hand, fell to the second round after being assured by his agents that he would be a first round pick, but has surprised everyone with his good shot selection and incredible hustle. His offense has improved throughout the year and he has rebounded well despite his slight build.
For the Suns, Jerebko would fit in perfectly, assuming the role of heir apparent to the three position once Grant Hill breaks down (although if things continue as they have that won’t be for a while). Additionally, he could play some power forward and allow the Suns to go small with Amare at center, giving the Suns endless variations to their already multi-faceted team.
15. Detroit Pistons: Taj Gibson
Considering their starting center is playing for the league minimum and Kwame Brown is getting big minutes in the frontcourt, the Pistons’ frontcourt can be described as a frontcourt in shambles.
Instead of addressing this glaring lack of size and post scoring with their lottery pick and their huge cache of cap space, they instead signed and drafted three perimeter players that will do little to shore up their dearth of talent inside.
While Austin Daye’s upside is certainly high, he likely will have to gain 30 pounds to be able to defend other players at his position and drafting Taj Gibson instead would give the Pistons a tough and dependable big man to help keep the Pistons from being overwhelmed by bigger teams.
At 6'10" Gibson is not huge, but he certainly is bigger than Jason Maxiell and other Pistons, who have struggled against teams that have multiple seven footers.