NBA Draft: Grading the 2009 Class
The 2009 NBA season is almost over. As a site dedicated to covering NBA rookies we thought we'd give a shot at assigning grades to each of the first—round picks.
Like most drafts, some players overachieved, others struggled, and some never got to see the court due to injury or lack of development.
30: Christian Eyenga (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Eyenga was probably the biggest head—shaking pick of the first round. Coming into the 2009 draft he wasn't even projected to be drafted, let alone be picked in the first round.
When picked, he was playing in the second division of Spain for CB Prat Juventud, an affiliate for DKV Joventut. This year for Prat he only played 12 minutes per game scoring under four points.
Obviously the Cavs had no intention to play Eyenga this year. It is interesting to note that the Cavs could have drafted Pitt's DeJuan Blair, saving them the expense of signing Leon Powe.
Grade: Incomplete due to remaining overseas.
29: Toney Douglas (Los Angeles Lakers traded to New York Knicks)
Douglas transferred from Auburn to Florida State because he wasn't given an opportunity to play point guard. The Knicks have given him that opportunity, in part because they believe in Douglas, and in part because they really don't have anyone else.
Early in the season Douglas wasn't getting much playing time, coming off the bench behind Chris Duhon. He has started each of the last ten games for the Knicks averaging 15 points, four rebound, and four assists.
Douglas still needs to learn better shot selection and cut down on his turnovers, but he looks like he may be the point guard of the future for the Knicks.
28: Wayne Ellington (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Wayne Ellington was the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player in 2009, leading the Tar Heels to the National Title. When he was on the board at No. 28 the Timberwolves quickly pulled the trigger.
Since the Timberwolves had already drafted three point guards when this pick came up, adding a shooter made sense. It became even more obvious that Minnesota had to go with a wing player when you consider their established front court of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.
Wayne has appeared in 71 games for the Timberwolves this year, averaging only seven points for game. He has, however, shown he still has the ability to shoot from deep, making just under 40 percent from behind the arc.
If the Timberwolves get the second pick, the selection of Evan Turner may limit the minutes for Ellington even more.
27: DeMarre Carroll (Memphis Grizzlies)
Carroll's draft stock was lifted based on his performance in the 2009 NCAA Tournament where he led the Missouri Tigers to the Elite Eight. Just before the draft, it didn't seem he would be able to capitalize on his performance because of a newly discovered liver condition.
Apparently, NBA teams were satisfied that he wouldn't require any immediate treatment, and ultimately the Grizzlies took him No. 27 overall. In his rookie season with the Grizzlies he's seen limited, but consistent minutes at both forward positions. He started seeing somewhat substantial playing time, but as the Grizzlies have competed for a playoff spot, it has slowly dwindled.
It is hard to say what the Grizzlies long term plans are for Carroll, but if they decide not to bring Rudy Gay back he could see a significant increase in his role.
26: Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls)
Taj is one of the few players who is starting as a rookie for a playoff contender. He has started 64 of the Bulls' 76 games so far this year. Chicago seems to have found a consistent starting front court with Gibson, Deng, and Joakim Noah.
His numbers have improved as the season has gone on, especially as a rebounder. During the losing streak the Bulls suffered in March, Gibson was a welcomed bright spot with eight double-doubles. As the season winds down, Gibson will continue to see big minutes and make a strong push for first team all—rookie.
25: Rodrigue Beaubois (Oklahoma City Thunder traded to Dallas Mavericks
Rodrigue showed his potential when he dropped 40 points a week ago on the Warriors. In that game, he showed his ability to shoot from three, going nine out of 11 from behind the arc. That 40 point performance led us to write a fairly long story about him.
For the month of March, "Roddy" averaged a season best 19 minutes where he posted 13 points a game. His size makes him better suited to play the point guard position, but he has the mentality of a shooting guard. This should remind Mavericks fans of a young Jason Terry, which is meant as a sincere compliment.
The future for Beaubois is bright, but he may not see a great increase in playing time for a few years with the Mavericks. Almost the entire team is returning next season with Terry and Jason Kidd on the books until 2012.
Grade: Incomplete due to lack of consistent playing time.
24: Byron Mullens (Dallas Mavericks traded to Oklahoma City Thunder)
Mullens entered his freshman season at Ohio State projected to be a top five pick. After a below average season with the Buckeyes, and struggling in pre-draft workouts, Mullens fell to the Mavericks at No. 25 before being dealt to the Thunder.
This season, Mullens has appeared in only 12 games, averaging four minutes of playing time. Not much can be taken from such a small sample size. It is entirely possible that Mullens has shown growth in practices and could be a part of the Thunder's future, but the playing time of Serge Ibaka makes us think Mullens could be the odd man out.
23: Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)
Casspi was no stranger to professional basketball when he was selected by the Sacramento Kings. As a 17 year old, he made his debut with Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. In his last season with Maccabi he was voted the Israeli league Sixth Man of the Year in 2008.
With the Kings, he has shown why he was so highly regarded in Israel. He has appeared in 72 games for the Kings, with 32 starts. Casspi is perfect for the Kings' offense due to his ability to spread the floor (37 percent from three) and his ability to help on the glass (five rebounds per game). Depending on what the Kings do in the draft this year, he could be the teams full—time starter at small forward next season.
22: Victor Claver (Portland Trailblazers)
The Blazers have been successful drafting international players in the past, so they did the same with Victor Claver (currently with Valencia in Spain) at No. 23. Whenever Claver comes over he will be more tested than just about any other rookie due to the level of competition he's facing night in and night out in Spain.
His averages aren't overwhelming: nine points, five rebounds, and two assists. However, his athleticism and understanding for the game make him a great asset to have going forward for the Blazers.
Grade: Incomplete due to staying overseas.
21: Darren Collison (New Orleans Hornets)
Darren Collison wasn't even the first point guard from UCLA drafted in 2009, despite the fact he was the teams starter. Apparently, that disrespect motivated Collison because he has been absolutely wonderful this season.
Many, ourselves included, thought Collison would be a serviceable back—up behind Chris Paul in New Orleans. However, after Paul went down with injury Collison got to show us what he could really do.
In February of this year, when he was first filling in for Paul, Collison posted averages of 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds. The Hornets now have the luxury of employing two fantastic point guards and the difficult decision of deciding if one should be traded for another starting player.
20: Eric Maynor (Utah Jazz traded to Oklahoma City Thunder)
Maynor was the perfect fit for the Jazz, a bigger pass—first point guard that played hard every play. The Thunder obviously saw that same potential when they traded for the VCU product in what Jazz fans called a salary dump.
Maynor hasn't seen a ton of court time with the Thunder due to the team battling for a playoff spot and giving the lion's share of their minutes at point guard to Russell Westbrook. Currently, he's averaging 16 minutes a night for the Thunder, putting up four points, two rebounds, and three assists. As long as Westbrook is on the roster it's hard to see Maynor becoming anything more than a role player.
19: Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks)
Teague would have likely gone in the lottery if the 2009 point guard class wasn't so deep. As a sophomore at Wake Forest he averaged 19 points, three rebounds and three assists. The Hawks picked him to give them scoring off the bench at No. 19.
For Teague, this has been a year of learning. He is only seeing nine minutes of action per game and has really struggled shooting the ball. He has shown flashes of the player the Hawks hope he is, like the 11 point and seven assist game he had in a win over Toronto.
Not much is expected right now of Teague, but with Joe Johnson potentially leaving, his role could increase greatly next year.
18: Ty Lawson (Minnesota Timberwolves traded to Denver Nuggets)
Ty Lawson was the best point guard in college basketball before declaring for the NBA draft. He led a stacked North Carolina team to the NCAA Championship while averaging 17 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and two assists.
Coming into the draft, there were questions whether Lawson was just benefiting from such a talented supporting cast. That question has been answered by Lawson's play this year for the Nuggets backing up Chauncey Billups. So far, he has averaged nine points, four assists, and two rebounds while shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc in only 20 minutes a game.
On most other teams Lawson could start and post gaudy numbers, but he has fit the role asked of him by the Nuggets perfectly this year.
17: Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers)
Holiday came into the draft as one of the many highly touted point guards. Unfortunately, as the draft unfolded, the player many considered to be a lottery pick found himself falling back to the 76ers at No. 17.
This year, Holiday has played almost 24 minutes per game in his 67 appearances. In the 76ers last game against the Raptors, Holiday gave 76er fans a peek of what they hope he can be, scoring 24 points and dishing out seven assists in 43 minutes. Hopefully Holiday can finish the season strong and position himself as the starting point guard for next year.
16: James Johnson (Chicago Bulls)
If the 2009 draft happened all over again you might see Taj Gibson go at 16 and Johnson fall to the Bulls at the bottom of the first. Everything we've heard has said that Johnson has been wonderful in practice, but isn't getting the opportunity to show that on the court.
Johnson is just seeing 12 minutes a game for the Bulls. In his last ten games he has seen his role begin to increase; starting nine games and averaging 25 minutes. He's not forcing shots (49 percent from the field), but also isn't putting up very impressive numbers; nine points, five rebounds and two assists.
Johnson may be the future for the Bulls, but at present he's looking like a potential bust.
15: Austin Daye (Detroit Pistons)
Austin Daye declared for the draft after a sophomore year at Gonzaga where he averaged 13 points, seven rebounds, and shot 43 percent from behind the arc. At 6'11'' Daye was an intriguing prospect due to his outside shot and ability to handle the ball. However, he lacks the strength and confidence to contribute for the Pistons on a nightly basis right now.
Daye has appeared in 63 games for the Pistons, making two starts, but has averaged only 12 minutes per appearance. This limited exposure makes us think that the Pistons understood that Daye wouldn't be ready right away and are bringing him along slowly.
The three point shooting ability that made him a valued prospects seems to have fallen off slightly this year as he is only hitting 32 percent of his attempts. Given that he is coming into games for short bursts, it's not surprising he's struggling to shoot consistently, but if the numbers don't improve with increased playing time it may be a cause for concern.
If you want to see the 2009 NBA Draft lottery picks and grades, go to The Rookie Wall.