Re-Drafting Stephen Curry and the Epic 2009 NBA Draft Class 10 Years Later

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 13, 2019

Re-Drafting Stephen Curry and the Epic 2009 NBA Draft Class 10 Years Later

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    The Golden State Warriors have been the most dominant team of the last decade. Stephen Curry, who they picked seventh overall in the 2009 draft, was the biggest reason why.

    As we approach the 10-year anniversary of Curry's arrival in Golden State, now seems like a good time to look back at his entire draft class.

    As we reorganize a new first round of 2009 draftees, we're going to ignore team needs. Ten years is a long time, and it raises innumerable roster-construction variables. We're going with the best player available here.

    As for defining "best," we'll consider career peak and longevity. Weighing those two against each other will be tricky. Just because a 2009 draftee is still in the league (only 20 of them are still playing) doesn't mean he's worth a higher pick than a player who put together a handful of valuable years before fizzling out.

    If teams knew then what they know now, what would the 2009 draft have looked like?

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    Actual 2009 pick in parentheses.

    30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jordan Hill (8)

    The 2008-09 Cavs team LeBron James dragged to a league-high 66 wins and a conference finals berth was almost unfathomably bad. Mo Williams, Delonte West and Zydruans Ilgauskas were the only players besides James to average double figures, and the husk of Ben Wallace finished second on the team in box plus-minus.

    Jordan Hill originally went eighth, but he never secured a regular starting job until catching on with some truly awful Los Angeles Lakers teams from 2012-15. Still, he was a decent scorer who, if developed better, might have added a three-point shot before he bowed out of the league in 2017. At No. 30, there's good value here.

           

    29. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Thornton (43)

    A chucker through and through, Thornton ranks fifth among 2009 draftees with 15.9 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes. The only guys who got up shots more often were Stephen Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan, who have 23 All-Star nods between them.

    Thornton played for seven teams in eight years, peaking with 18.7 points per game as a member of the Sacramento Kings in 2011-12.

           

    28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gerald Henderson (12)

    Little more than an athlete when he entered the league with the 12th pick in 2009, Henderson deserves credit for developing his outside shot to the point where he was a legitimately useful three-and-D wing for four straight seasons in his prime.

    Henderson averaged between 12.1 and 15.5 points per game from 2011-12 through 2014-15, and though he rounded out his game, he's still probably best remembered for his work above the rim. Hip surgeries and a torn Achilles ended a solid career in 2017.

            

    27. Memphis Grizzlies: DeJuan Blair (37)

    Blair did more winning than Henderson, thanks to spending his first four seasons (166 starts) with the San Antonio Spurs. But the No. 37 overall pick broke down physically and was out of the league after his age-26 season in 2016. Effectively an ace role player from the moment he debuted, Blair overcame limited bounce and an unusual 6'7", 270-pound frame to make real contributions to a quality team.

    He just didn't make them for long enough to rank higher.

            

    26. Chicago Bulls: Omri Casspi (23)

    Casspi has averaged double digits only twice in his career. He put up 10.3 points in 77 games as a rookie with the Sacramento Kings, and he posted 11.8 points per game on a return trip to Sacramento in 2015-16. In the latter season, he was involved in one of the most electrifying back-and-forth stretches of the year as he and Stephen Curry traded deep bombs in front of a delirious crowd.

    With more career games played than either Blair or Henderson and a 36.8 percent career three-point accuracy mark, Casspi also owns the distinction of still being an active player, which can't be said about anyone ranked behind him.

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    25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonas Jerebko (39)

    You could swap Casspi and Jerebko without ruffling any feathers. The two have similar statistical profiles, right down to their career minute totals (11,959 for Casspi; 11,323 for Jerebko) and true shooting percentages (54.7 percent for Casspi; 55.4 percent for Jerebko).

    Jerebko gets the narrow edge because of his superior ability to hold up defensively at the 4. Neither he nor Casspi have ever been regarded as ace stoppers, but their similar offensive profiles have different values based on the positions they defend. Floor-stretching is worth more from a power forward than a wing, and Jerebko has spent 77 percent of his career minutes up front. Casspi, meanwhile, has logged only 33 percent of his minutes at the 4.

            

    24. Dallas Mavericks: Aron Baynes (undrafted)

    When Baynes went undrafted out of Washington State in 2009, he turned into a world traveler. Following professional stints in Lithuania, Germany, Greece and Slovenia, he finally debuted with the San Antonio Spurs in 2012-13. Though career averages of 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds don't leap off the page, Baynes is the first player featured here who's still occupying a meaningful role in the league.

    He started 67 games for the 2017-18 Boston Celtics and further increased his relevance by developing a three-point shot this past season. If the only criterion was "who could help you win a game today?," Baynes would rank several spots higher.

            

    23. Sacramento Kings: Dante Cunningham (33)

    A 6'8" combo forward out of Villanova, Cunningham has been a rotation player for each of his 10 career seasons, although he's never averaged more than 8.7 points per game. He earned his minutes initially as a potent defender. Though he's lost several steps on that end with age, Cunningham continues to earn trust from coaches.

    He's one of only four players from his draft class with career totals of at least 4,000 points, 2,500 rebounds, 500 assists, 400 steals and 300 blocks. The other three are James Harden, Blake Griffin and Taj Gibson.

            

    22. Portland Trail Blazers: Jodie Meeks (41)

    Like Cunningham, Meeks is still in the league, although his last half-decade or so has been injury-plagued and underwhelming. He slots in this high because he provided value as a true specialist during his short prime.

    From 2010-11 through 2013-14, Meeks made 519 threes, the 10th-most in the league. He hit them at a 38.2 percent clip during that span, too. In a draft class full of phenomenal shooters, Meeks spent several years as one of the best.

            

    21. New Orleans Hornets: Garrett Temple (undrafted)

    Temple lacks a singular quality that matches Meeks' prime three-point shooting, but he makes up for it with a more complete game.

    A capable defender at both guard spots and against most small forwards (Meeks could never quite guard anybody), Temple also has 251 more assists and 140 more stocks (steals and blocks) than Meeks despite playing 25 fewer career games.

    Throw in Temple's career-long reputation as a steadying locker room presence, and it's just enough for a one-spot edge.

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    20. Utah Jazz: Wayne Ellington (28)

    We're alternating between well-rounded players and specialists over these last few picks, and we're firmly back in the one-skill standout department with Ellington.

    A career 37.9 percent three-point shooter, the 6'5" guard out of North Carolina has averaged more than 10 points per game in four of his last five seasons. Always a knockdown sniper, Ellington came into his own over the last few years as a weapon best deployed at high velocity.

    Few shooters are better on the move. Ellington's ability to sprint into a catch, rise and fire with defenders nearby made him a key part of the Miami Heat's offense in 2017-18. His arrival in Detroit via trade this past season provided badly needed spacing.

    Think of him as a more reliable, more mobile and presently much more valuable version of Meeks.

            

    19. Atlanta Hawks: Brandon Jennings (10)

    Jennings roared onto the scene as a high-usage, high-confidence lead guard, announcing his rookie presence with 55 points in his seventh NBA game. Among 2009 draftees, only Curry, Harden, DeRozan and Griffin scored more total points in their first five seasons.

    Jennings was always an inefficient scorer and a reluctant defender, which is largely why he was no longer a regular starter by 2015. This past season, he was out of the league entirely.

    Still, he provided a ton of excitement, scoring punch and early-career value. A half-decade of that is worth the No. 19 pick.

            

    18. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Johnson (16)

    Johnson got in shape upon joining the Miami Heat in 2016-17 and was one of only six players in the league to average at least 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and a block that year. Coupled with versatile defense and a career-best 34 percent hit rate from beyond the arc, Johnson's production in 2016-17 marked a clear peak.

    That was his age-29 season, though, and it came after a career mostly spent as a non-spacing, oversized wing who provided toughness but little else. Johnson has played at least 50 games per year every season since he was drafted, so his career has hardly been a disappointment. But it begs the question of how much more he could have given had he put an emphasis on conditioning before his eighth season.

             

    17. Philadelphia 76ers: Patrick Beverley (42)

    Effectively the anti-Brandon Jennings, Beverley's game is all grit and no glamor. Also unlike Jennings, Beverley didn't exactly make an immediate splash. It took him until 2012-13 to finally play a regular-season NBA game.

    Since his debut with the Houston Rockets, though, Beverley has been a consistent starter on playoff teams. He made the All-Defensive second team in 2013-14 and first team in 2016-17.

    A career 38.0 percent shooter from deep and one of the peskiest backcourt defenders around, Beverley is an ideal low-usage contributor on a winner. Undersized but full of fight, the 30-year-old is the most currently useful player we've highlighted so far.

            

    16. Chicago Bulls: Patty Mills (55)

    Among 2009 draftees, only Curry, Danny Green and Darren Collison top Mills' 39.1 percent three-point accuracy mark. And though he's spent his entire career as a reserve, Mills' 905 made triples trail only Curry, Harden, Green, Ellington and Jennings.

    While he's slowed down in recent years, Mills' dogged on-ball defense made life difficult for opposing point guards during several deep playoff runs, including a title-winning season in 2013-14. Mills shot 42.5 percent from deep that year.

    Perhaps none of this would have happened had Mills not joined the Spurs after two underwhelming years with the Blazers. But there's no way to be sure. For now, 16th feels about right for a rotation guard who's still playing well and offered excellent two-way value in his prime.

    Mills' jump in the redraft from 55 to 16 is the biggest we've seen so far.

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    15. Detroit Pistons: DeMarre Carroll (27)

    Carroll might be best remembered as the only starter on the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks who didn't make the All-Star team, but that undersells a player who eventually established himself as a terrific two-way starter after bouncing around between four teams in his first four years.

    Carroll and Johnson, whom we ranked 18th, aren't all that different in their overall production. But Carroll's clear advantage as a three-point shooter (career 36.0 percent versus Johnson's 30.5 percent) gives him an edge. 

    Though he primarily came off the bench last year (for the first time since 2012-13), Carroll is still a clear rotation talent who would fit on virtually any team.

            

    14. Phoenix Suns: Joe Ingles (undrafted)

    An even later arrival than Beverley, Inlges didn't ditch the overseas gig and make his NBA debut until 2014-15 with the Utah Jazz. Perhaps making up for lost time, Ingles has missed three games in five years and grades out as one of the best three-point shooters in the league during that stretch.

    He's one of seven players to make at least 600 threes while shooting at least 40 percent from deep since 2014-15, joining Curry, Klay Thompson, JJ Redick, Kyle Korver, CJ McCollum and Buddy Hield.

    An intelligent defender whom the Utah Jazz also trust to run their offense as a pick-and-roll initiator, Ingles averaged a career-high 5.7 assists this past season. It's hard to determine how much his absence from the NBA from 2009-14 should matter here, but it's hard to knock Ingles down too far when he's the best no-questions-asked current starter we've covered to this point.

            

    13. Indiana Pacers: Ty Lawson (18)

    Witness the value of a short, brilliant prime.

    Lawson has been out of the league since 2017, and he stopped being a productive starter two years before that. Yet he still ranks 11th among 2009 draftees in total points, seventh in assists and eighth in win shares.

    If we start from 2010-11—when Lawson became a full-time starter after the All-Star break—and run through 2014-15, which is when he left the Denver Nuggets and lost his starting gig, Lawson's 2,542 assists were the most in his class. He was a borderline All-Star (though he never made the team) in many of those seasons, and he and Curry were the only players to average at least 15 points and seven assists during that span.

    Before several DUI arrests and declining play soured teams on Lawson's value, he was one of the fastest pace-pushing point guards in the league. If not for off-court issues, he'd easily be a top-10 pick in our redraft.

            

    12. Charlotte Bobcats: Tyreke Evans (4)

    Evans won Rookie of the Year as the fourth overall pick in 2009-10, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only first-year players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Luka Doncic has since expanded that group to five.

    You can question whether Evans is a winning player, given that he only made the postseason twice—with one of those trips coming in a relatively minor and ineffective role with the Pacers this past year. However, Evans is in the top 10 of this class in total minutes, points, rebounds and assists. That's good enough for the 12th spot in our do-over, but we can't go any higher because his two-year ban for violating the NBA's anti-drug program could mean his career is now over.

            

    11. New Jersey Nets: Darren Collison (21)

    In 10 seasons, Collison has played fewer than 50 games only once. He's never averaged more than 16.1 points or fewer than 10.4. His assists per game have ranged from 3.7 to 6.0. Excluding his rookie season, he has never shot worse than 35 percent from deep, and though his slow release precluded high volume, he's also shot better than 40 percent of his treys in five separate seasons, peaking with a league-leading 46.8 percent in 2017-18.

    That's all to say: Collison has been remarkably steady, if unspectacular.

    Maybe a low-end starter isn't what you want in the lottery, but it's hard to be negative about a 10-year vet who's started 518 of his 708 career games.

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    10. Milwaukee Bucks: Ricky Rubio (5)

    You could absolutely make the case for Collison here. He's played nearly three more full seasons' worth of games than Rubio, who didn't debut until the 2011-12 season and had a hard time staying healthy early in his career.

    However, Rubio has a significant edge on Collison as a defender and distributor. So while his career-long struggle with scoring efficiency limits his impact in one way, Rubio's more complete game gives him an advantage over Collison in another.

    Rubio ranked second among point guards in ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus in 2013-14 when he led the league in steals, first in an abbreviated 2014-15 campaign, second in 2015-16, 11th in 2016-17, fifth in 2017-18 and 12th in 2018-19. Collison ranked in the top 30 only once during that span.

    Throw in 274 more career assists than Collison despite playing in 210 fewer games, and Rubio looks pretty good here.

    9. Toronto Raptors: Jeff Teague (19)

    Finally! An All-Star!

    Teague made it in 2014-15 as the starter for the 60-win Hawks and owns career averages of 12.7 points and 5.8 assists. He's fifth in games played, seventh in points, fourth in assists and fifth in steals among all members of his draft class.

    Though Rubio was the better defender, Collison the better shooter and Evans the better stat-stuffer, Teague is perhaps the most well-rounded of the guards we've covered in the last four picks. At his best, he was a reliable three-point threat, a sound defender and a clever in-between finisher for some consistently successful Hawks teams.

    At No. 9, 10 spots higher than he went a decade ago, Teague's consistent reliability pays off.

    8. New York Knicks: Taj Gibson (26)

    Gibson's 808 blocks lead all 2009 draftees by a mile (James Johnson's 538 swats are a distant second), and he ranks behind only Blake Griffin in total rebounds. Though we aren't necessarily giving points for how 2009 draftees would fare if they were entering the league today, it's easy to imagine a 2019 version of Gibson wreaking havoc as a switchable 5 who could still defend the rim.

    Though he probably peaked on D in 2013-14 when he trailed only Draymond Green in DRPM among power forwards, Gibson has provided positive defensive value every year since then.

    Maybe this seems too high for a defense-first power forward who spent most of his late 20s as a sixth man, but Gibson was an integral part of some hugely successful Chicago Bulls teams. He's brought extreme toughness wherever he's played and has never gotten enough credit for the dirty work he's spent a decade doing. 

           

    7. Golden State Warriors: Danny Green (46)

    Our highest-ranked specialist, Green has been among the league's premier three-and-D wings since earning a rotation spot on the 2011-12 Spurs.

    Green earned a second-team All-Defensive nod in 2016-17, has shot at least 41.5 percent from deep in five seasons and may be the greatest transition defender among guards in recent history. If that skill is too niche, consider that Green has also made a habit of showing up on offense when it matters most: in the playoffs.

    He shot 48.2 percent from deep in the Spurs' run to the Finals in 2013 and hit 47.5 percent from downtown when San Antonio won a ring in 2014. 

    If anything, this is too low for a shutdown wing defender with a career 40.4 percent mark from long range. 

    6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wesley Matthews (undrafted)

    Matthews' position ahead of Green is all about quantity. Though Green's career three-point percentage is higher and his defense has probably been superior, Matthews has played more. A lot more.

    Undrafted out of Marquette, Matthews made the Utah Jazz's roster as a rookie, played all 82 games and seized a full-time starting job by February. That kicked off a 10-season streak in which Matthews logged at least 2,000 minutes every year. That's especially remarkable considering Matthews tore his Achilles in March 2015.

    All told, Matthews' 23,579 career minutes are fourth-most of anyone in his draft class and well ahead of Green's 15,769. Though he may not be as valuable as Green in terms of minute-to-minute impact, Matthews' enormous lead in volume has to count for something.

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    5. Minnesota Timberwolves: DeMar DeRozan (9)

    If the goal is winning playoff games, which requires defensive aptitude and efficient long-range shooting from wings, you're probably better off with Green or Matthews than DeRozan. But let's not overlook the fact that DeRozan—a four-time All-Star, a six-time 20-points-per-game scorer and a full-time starter for his entire career—has provided high-end play for a decade.

    It isn't his fault the Raptors overvalued his scoring averages and paid him like a superstar in 2016.

    Scoring points still matters, and Harden and Curry are the only 2009 draftees with more of those than DeRozan.

            

    4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday (17)

    Holiday has made only one All-Star game, and stress fractures/reactions in his right leg cost him the better part of the two seasons immediately following that 2013 nod. But over the last four (mostly healthy) years, Holiday has become one of the most complete guards in the league.

    An All-Defensive first-team member in 2017-18, Holiday followed that up with a second-team spot this past season. Over these last two years, Holiday is one of only three players with averages of at least 20 points, six assists and 1.6 steals. The others are Harden and Russell Westbrook, and neither of them sniffed an All-Defense honor.

    Holiday's recently completed age-28 season was the best of his career, and he's the first guy we've reached whom you could call a true cornerstone.

            

    3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Blake Griffin (1)

    Despite missing his entire rookie season following knee surgery, Griffin leads all 2009 draftees in career rebounds and ranks fifth in minutes played. He's made six All-Star teams, captivated the league with rarely seen athleticism and then morphed into a ball-handling offensive hub who rarely dunks. His adaptability alone makes him worthy of a top-three spot.

    And who knows what might have been possible if injuries hadn't cost him chunks of every season from 2014-15 to 2017-18?

    Griffin's career averages of 21.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists are unmatched by anyone in his class, and his five All-NBA nods are the most of any player we've listed so far.

    It says more about the transcendence of the next two players than any flaw of Griffin's that he slips two spots from his original top overall position.

            

    2. Memphis Grizzlies: James Harden (3)

    Harden has more total points and assists than any player drafted in 2009. He's an MVP, a six-time All-NBA performer, a seven-time All-Star, a two-time scoring champ, a Sixth Man of the Year (forgot about that one, didn't you?) and just completed one of the most singularly brilliant individual offensive campaigns in league history.

    Until Harden did it in 2018-19, nobody had ever averaged more than 36 points per game with a true shooting percentage north of 60 percent.

    Extreme physical strength, the ability to add new elements to his game and the continued upward progression of his scoring rate suggest Harden has a chance to someday flip spots with our new top pick.

    For now, he'll have to settle for being a grossly overqualified No. 2. 

           

    1. Los Angeles Clippers: Stephen Curry (7)

    If you're looking for criteria to set Curry apart from everyone else in his class, you're not going to do much better than his unanimous MVP award in 2016. That's a historic, standalone achievement no draftee from 2009 (or any other year) can match.

    Steph also has a class-leading three rings to go along with a scoring title, six All-Star trips and six All-NBA nods.

    Perhaps because of his singular excellence, Curry is the only player drafted in 2009 who is still playing for the team that picked him. Think about that: Curry, perhaps the player most responsible for the way the game has changed over the last decade, has never changed teams.

    Well, until now. In this hypothetical, he's suddenly a Clipper.

    You can't go wrong taking Harden in this spot, by the way. But if the great hope when drafting a player is that he'll someday lead your team to glory, Curry has delivered in ways Harden hasn't.

           

    Stats courtesy of Basketball ReferenceNBA.com and Cleaning the Glass unless otherwise indicated.