Re-Drafting the 2008 NBA Draft Class
Just like in reality, an MVP point guard will occupy the top spot in our 2008 NBA re-draft.
But which one?
This class has a pair of highly decorated backcourt stars, several stretchy bigs—some offering elite defense, some not—and surprising depth that'll see multiyear starters going with picks in the late teens. This is a fun one, and reorganizing the first round is going to require some tough choices.
We won't consider positional needs here. This is strictly a hunt for the best player available, though that designation is fluid. Longevity matters, but a truly transcendent talent can climb over players with longer tenures if his peak years are good enough.
Important note for this particular class: This isn't some "alternate timeline" exercise. We have to assume players who got injured in reality will do so here. It's the only way to be fair, and it forces us to judge those short, spectacular primes against longer periods of solid play.
Yes, congratulations. You've figured it out.
We're agonizing over what to do with Derrick Rose.
1. Chicago Bulls: Russell Westbrook
You name the non-efficiency-based stat, and Russell Westbrook probably leads the 2008 class in it.
Though he shares the distinction of an MVP award with one other player picked this year, Westbrook sits alone atop the leaderboard in win shares, box plus-minus, value over replacement player, total points and total assists while clocking in at No. 3 in rebounds.
His nine All-Star berths are more than the next two most frequent All-Stars combined. Without looking it up, Russ is the only guy picked in 2008 to average a triple-double for a full season. He's done so twice.
Durability? Westbrook didn't miss a game during his first five seasons and has logged at least 80 contests in seven different years. He's reached the Finals, has four of the top five (and 15 of the top 20) individual scoring games produced in any season by this class and, stats aside, alters the complexion of every game he plays with a manic, tightly coiled intensity few have ever matched.
There's room to gripe about his lack of off-ball movement, inefficient shooting, limited defensive impact and nasty habit of detrimentally commandeering his team's offense. But there's not a more competitive, difference-making stat-monger in this class. Whether judging by staying power or peak seasons, Russ has the top pick locked up.
Actual Pick: Derrick Rose
Westbrook's Actual Draft Slot: No. 4, Seattle SuperSonics
2. Miami Heat: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose was a league MVP and the best player on a 62-win, top-seeded Chicago Bulls team in 2010-11. It weighs heavily against him that he played just three superstar-level seasons—one being the 66-game post-lockout campaign of 2011-12, during which he logged only 39 contests.
But that peak, pre-ACL-injury version of Rose reached a level no one from the class (other than Westbrook) could touch.
Ruthless, more than a little reckless and gifted with athleticism perhaps only he and Westbrook have ever displayed at the point guard position, Rose was a punishing force.
Players will come off the board after this pick with more All-Star and All-NBA honors. Five of them will have more total points, and 21 of them will have more career games played. But if the goal of picking in the lottery is to find someone who can elevate your franchise, who can be the reason you've got a realistic chance to win a championship, well, Rose is the only unpicked player from 2008 who proved he could be that guy.
It's impressive that he persevered through several injury-blasted seasons to become the high-end sixth man he is today. But that second phase of his career has almost nothing to do with his position here.
However briefly, Rose was the alpha on a true contender. That sets him apart.
Actual Pick: Michael Beasley
Rose's Actual Draft Slot: No. 1, Chicago Bulls
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love
The re-draft skips a step here, getting Kevin Love to the Minnesota Timberwolves without the need for a draft-day trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Love was never the best player on a winner, but he was a luxury-level support piece on a Cleveland Cavaliers team that made the Finals four years in a row. Combined with elite statistical production during his time as a top option with the Wolves, Love's demonstrated value to a contender (and, in 2016, a champion) is enough to justify taking him third overall.
The five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA second-teamer finished sixth in MVP voting after the 2011-12 season. That year, he averaged 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists while hitting 37.2 percent of his threes.
His best season came in 2013-14 when he averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds and juiced his assists up to 4.4 per game. His box plus-minus of 8.9 ranked second in the league to MVP Kevin Durant and was the second-best BPM produced by anyone in the 2008 class—in any year.
Love could stretch the floor with his career 37.0 percent hit rate from deep, operate as a pick-and-pop release valve and run an offense from the elbow or low block. Defense wasn't and isn't Love's forte, but there haven't been many more complete offensive bigs in any draft.
Actual Pick: OJ Mayo (traded to Memphis Grizzlies)
Love's Actual Draft Slot: No. 5, Memphis Grizzlies (traded to Minnesota Timberwolves)
4. Seattle SuperSonics: Serge Ibaka
Named to the All-Defensive first team three times and twice the league leader in blocks per game, Serge Ibaka is the most decorated defensive player in this class.
Ibaka didn't come to the NBA until 2009, and had he arrived a few years later, he would have immediately been made a center and become one of the single most valuable commodities in the game: a switch-everything shot blocker with three-point range and the hops to finish lobs as a roll man.
That's unicorn stuff.
We can't necessarily credit Ibaka for what he could have been if not for the league norms of the time, but we don't really have to. He was immensely valuable to several high-level Oklahoma City Thunder teams, including one that reached the Finals in 2012.
Even now, Ibaka matters on a winner. He was vital to Toronto's 2019 championship run and was scoring a career-high 16.0 points per game on (another) career-high 39.8 percent shooting from deep for the 2019-20 Raps.
Ibaka ranks first in blocks, fourth in rebounds and seventh in points among 2008 selections. A fit with any team and a weapon on both ends, he offers as much value as you can find in a player who isn't a primary scoring option.
Actual Pick: Russell Westbrook
Ibaka's Actual Draft Slot: No. 24, Seattle SuperSonics
5. Memphis Grizzlies: Brook Lopez
If the past few seasons are any guide, Brook Lopez isn't finished adding to his game or resume.
In 2016-17, the hulking 7-footer suddenly became a high-volume three-point shooter, adding massive value to an offensive profile that had previously been confined to the post. That new dimension was part of what made him attractive to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018 free agency, and his ability to hit from several steps beyond the arc with solid efficiency (33.8 percent from deep for his career) opened the lane for Giannis Antetokounmpo to assume his MVP form.
This past season, Lopez also shored up his rep as a top-end defender. Planted in the lane, he's as imposing a deterrent as there is in the league. Prior to the season's suspension, he was a critical piece to Milwaukee's NBA-best defense. After ranking 10th in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus in 2018-19, Lopez sits at No. 7 in 2019-20.
Now that he's among the league's most valuable rim-protecting, floor-stretching bigs, it's easy to forget Lopez's more conventional impact earlier in his career. An All-Star in 2012-13, he averaged at least 17.2 points per game every year from 2009-10 to 2016-17. Westbrook is the only 2008 pick with more total points.
Actual Pick: Kevin Love (traded to Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lopez's Actual Draft Slot: No. 10, New Jersey Nets
6. New York Knicks: DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan lacks the scoring range of the three bigs drafted just before him, but he makes up for it with exceptional durability, high-efficiency scoring at close range and solid defense.
Some might take issue with categorizing Jordan's defensive impact as merely "solid." Several advanced metrics are friendly toward him because of those hefty defensive-rebound totals, and DJ has long been a good shot-blocker. But scan his full-career on-off impact, and it's clear most of his positive value has come on the offensive end.
Jordan didn't miss a game for four straight years, suiting up every night from 2011-12 through the end of 2014-15. He also led the NBA in field-goal percentage five seasons in a row, which is impressive even if Chris Paul's pinpoint setups had plenty to do with such high accuracy rates.
Jordan has been a grade-A board-hoarder since assuming full-time-starting status in his third season. His 8,862 total rebounds are the most in the league since 2010-11. No surprise, then, that DJ leads all 2008 picks in career boards while ranking second to Ibaka in blocks.
At his best, Jordan was a high-end fourth option on some very good Los Angeles Clippers teams—one who could be counted on to play through injury and make a difference on both ends.
Also, he owns the most vicious alley-oop finish anyone's ever seen. Wrong place, wrong time, Brandon Knight.
Actual Pick: Danilo Gallinari
Jordan's Actual Draft Slot: No. 35, Los Angeles Clippers
7. Los Angeles Clippers: Danilo Gallinari
If efficiency matters at all (it does), Danilo Gallinari is the best scorer in this draft.
He has three seasons of at least 15.0 points per game with a true shooting percentage north of 60.0; nobody else picked in 2008 has more than one.
Persistent health problems have held Gallinari under the 60-game mark in six different seasons, including a completely lost 2013-14 campaign following a torn ACL. But whenever his body has been right, Gallo has been a bucket.
Deadly from deep (38.1 percent for his career), the 6'10" combo forward was a brutally tough perimeter cover in his younger days. A nasty face-up game and a keenly honed knack for drawing fouls made it dangerous to crowd him.
Even in recent years, he's been a tough matchup. He shot 43.3 percent from long range in 2018-19, scoring a career-high 19.8 points per game and posting a 63.3 true shooting percentage. In 2019-20, he's at 19.2 points per game on a 61.1 true shooting percentage.
This is supposed to be the tail end of Gallo's career, but he's never been more effective.
Don't ask about defense.
Actual Pick: Eric Gordon
Gallinari's Actual Draft Slot: No. 6, New York Knicks
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Goran Dragic
This is quite a jump for Goran Dragic, who vaults all the way up to No. 8 after going 45th overall in the real 2008 draft. Of course, it was the San Antonio Spurs who grabbed the little-known lefty out of Slovenia back then, but in a surprising move, they didn't hang onto an international talent who would have thrived in their system.
He made them pay with one of the most electric postseason fourth quarters in memory, blitzing the Spurs for 23 points in the final stanza of Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals.
Dragic has done plenty more after that early-career explosion, peaking with an All-Star trip and an All-NBA third-team spot for the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns. That year, he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from deep. He also earned a Most Improved Player award for his star turn.
Though never an above-the-rim athlete, the 6'3" guard has always been an exceptional finisher inside. Dragic's career field-goal percentage from zero-to-three feet is 65.6 percent. For reference, Derrick Rose is at 58.2 percent for his career. Westbrook is at 59.3 percent, and his personal-best 65.0 percent conversion rate in 2018-19 falls short of Dragic's career average.
A master of timing, quick pivots and the subtle offensive shoulder check, Dragic is the type of ball-handler opponents struggle to contain even when he's only in second gear. He can't be sped up by pressure, and when met with physicality, he just suckers his overaggressive matchup into a foul.
Fourth in points and second in assists among 2008 draftees, he was a high-end starter for several years and can still make a difference in a good team's rotation.
Actual Pick: Joe Alexander
Dragic's Actual Draft Slot: No. 45, San Antonio Spurs (traded to Phoenix Suns)
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Nicolas Batum
It's a shame Nicolas Batum is as notable for underperforming on the massive contract he signed in 2016 as he is for being one of the most complete wings in the league earlier in his career.
In his best years for the Portland Trail Blazers, Batum paired rangy, disruptive defense with terrific passing instincts and top-notch three-point shooting. Facilitation abruptly became part of his game in 2012-13 when his assist percentage leaped from 7.9 percent the previous year to 20.3 percent. From that season through 2017-18, Batum was one of only three players in the entire league to amass at least 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 200 blocks.
The other two were James Harden and LeBron James.
Batum couldn't create his own shots off the dribble like those two, and nobody's arguing he's on the same superstar level. But that's a good illustration of how many different ways the 6'9" wing could impact the game.
Another one: Batum is fourth among 2008 draftees in BPM and third in VORP.
Actual Pick: D.J. Augustin
Batum's Actual Draft Slot: No. 25, Houston Rockets (traded to Portland Trail Blazers)
10. New Jersey Nets: Ryan Anderson
A true forerunner of the modern stretch-4 movement (which has since become the stretch-5 movement; all 4s have to be stretchy now), Ryan Anderson rounds out the top 10, coincidentally landing with the team that actually drafted him.
Anderson spent just one year with the Nets before developing into a lethal sniper for the Orlando Magic. He came off the bench for the 2009-10 Magic team that reached the conference finals, shooting 37.0 percent from deep and playing with a green light you don't see granted to most second-year reserves. His 12.1 three-point attempts per 100 possessions led the league.
Soon thereafter, Anderson got enough playing time to make his rate stats really matter.
He won Most Improved Player in 2011-12, and his 422 attempts and 166 makes from deep led the NBA. Both numbers rose the following year (557 and 213, respectively), but some guy named Stephen Curry picked that season to shred three-point norms. So Anderson finished second in both categories.
The 12-year pro is unquestionably one of the greatest frontcourt shooters in history. He's one of seven players 6'9" or taller to attempt at least 3,000 triples and hit 38.0 percent of them.
By his late 20s, Anderson was only playable against certain matchups because of his defensive limitations. But even then, his ability to bomb away from well beyond the arc was a key to the Houston Rockets' "space the floor at all costs" ethos.
Actual Pick: Brook Lopez
Anderson's Actual Draft Slot: No. 21, New Jersey Nets
11. Indiana Pacers: George Hill
Hill has been a quality two-way starter for the bulk of his 12-year career, plying his low-mistake, high-efficiency trade almost exclusively on winners. The only time he finished a season on a team with a losing record was 2014-15 with the 38-44 Indiana Pacers. It's not a coincidence that organizations hoping to make deep playoff runs have always valued his game.
Career averages of 11.1 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds don't bowl you over, but Hill is fifth among 2008 draftees in win shares and BPM and seventh in VORP. A 38.5 percent shooter from deep, a trustworthy decision-maker, a well-above-average defender and a mainstay on postseason rosters, he's a steady starter who's proved himself in big games.
Even now, he's an important rotation weapon for the East-leading Bucks.
12. Sacramento Kings: Eric Gordon
Some might argue Gordon's superior scoring means he should have gone ahead of Hill. It's true he has four seasons with a higher scoring average than Hill's career-best 16.9 points per game. And his higher-volume three-point shooting might make him a more valuable spacer even if his 37.0 percent hit rate trails Hill's 38.5.
But Gordon has never been confused for a quality defender, and he's well behind Hill in most catch-all advanced metrics.
This is still a good get for the Kings as Gordon was a viable No. 1 option early in his career and has matured into a quality secondary weapon for some high-scoring Rockets teams over the last several seasons.
13. Portland Trail Blazers: Roy Hibbert
The end came quickly for Hibbert, who lost his offensive confidence partway through the 2013-14 season and became nearly unplayable two years later. The pace-and-space revolution wasn't kind to the lumbering 7'2" center.
Before that, though, the Georgetown product was the league's most imposing rim protector, the centerpiece of some elite Indiana defensive units—ones good enough to reach the conference finals in 2013 and 2014. Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George and David West made life easy on Hibbert, who basically stayed in the lane and deterred anyone who eluded that dominant quartet on the perimeter. But there's no denying he was exceptionally good at his job. Just ask Carmelo Anthony.
A two-time All-Star, an All-Defensive second-teamer in 2013-14 and a top-five finisher in blocks per game three different times, Hibbert made a major impact in his prime.
14. Golden State Warriors: D.J. Augustin
Augustin is the only player in this draft with career averages of at least 9.0 points, 4.0 assists and 37.0 percent shooting from deep. That's some obvious cherrypicking, but the numbers paint a clear picture of the 5'11" guard's game.
Too small to make a defensive impact, Augustin's three-point shooting and game management lend him significant offensive value. Though he's been a reserve in 543 of his 856 career games, it's telling that Augustin was a full-time starter as recently as 2018-19 with the Orlando Magic. His five seasons shooting 40.0 percent or better from deep are the second-most in the class.
15. Phoenix Suns: Courtney Lee
In his best years, Lee was a starting off-guard who could hit a three, defend his position and surprise opponents with bursts of athleticism. He spent a lot of time spotted up in corners, which produced a number of driving baseline slams.
Lee's 38.8 percent hit rate on threes is the highest in the class among players who have attempted at least 2,000 deep balls in their careers, and he joins Westbrook and Dragic as the only 2008 picks with at least 800 made triples and 800 steals. Those numbers could justify a higher draft slot, but the fact that Lee played for eight (and counting) different teams in his career suggests most organizations thought his contributions were fungible.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Robin Lopez
Though his career average of 5.1 rebounds per game underwhelms for a center, Lopez's teams have almost always done better defensive boardwork with him on the floor. There aren't many better box-out technicians, and Lopez extends that team-first approach to sound positional defense in the lane.
Though not a scorer by trade, Lopez's funky hook shot gives his game character. And his ongoing feud with mascots across the league offers a glimpse of a fun-loving side you wouldn't expect from a grind-it-out worker who's been an in-demand starter and backup big for a dozen years.
17. Toronto Raptors: JaVale McGee
McGee triumphed over his early-career rep as a space cadet by embracing a backup role and winning a pair of rings with the Golden State Warriors. A rare combination of length and athleticism makes him an elite finisher and lob threat, and when he stays focused on positioning, he can go up and reject shots with the best of them.
A remarkable 17.7 of his 36.4 career win shares have come in the last five seasons, a stretch in which McGee has been the only player in the league with a block rate above 7.0 percent and a field-goal percentage over 62.0 percent (among those with at least 100 games started).
18. Washington Wizards: Mario Chalmers
Probably best known for getting yelled at during the Miami Heat's four straight Finals trips, Chalmers was more than a target for superstar frustration. He shot 38.5 percent or better from beyond the arc for three straight seasons from 2011-12 to 2013-14 and led the Heat in both steal percentage and made threes during the four years LeBron James made them a perennial contender.
Chalmers' best years undeniably stemmed from playing with teammates who drew all the attention and freed him up for clean looks. But he made a two-way difference on championship-level (and two championship-winning) teams.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nikola Pekovic
In addition to getting in some pretty good licks on Superman, Pekovic produced four impressive seasons for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2011-12 to 2014-15. The 6'11" behemoth, listed at over 300 pounds, topped out at 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 54 starts during the 2013-14 campaign, parlaying a bruising style that fit his intimidating looks and terrifying tattoo.
Though not much of a defender, it's rare to find a high-scoring big this far down in the draft—especially one who generally made his teams better when he was on the floor.
20. Charlotte Bobcats: O.J. Mayo
Mayo's NBA career ended in 2016 with a two-year ban for violating the league's anti-drug program, but that doesn't erase what he did prior to his exit. The real-life No. 3 overall pick has fallen far enough.
An All-Rookie first-team honoree in 2008-09, Mayo averaged 18.5 points and hit 38.4 percent of his threes. Though he'd never better that scoring average, the 6'5" guard would post higher true shooting percentages and player efficiency ratings in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Yes, Mayo's teams tended to perform better when he sat. And yes, he was short on intangibles and non-scoring contributions. But the guy could fill it up, and he was remarkably reliable, playing every game in four of his first five seasons.
Even after he left the Memphis Grizzlies, Mayo showed flashes. He had a 40-point game and a 12-assist game with the Dallas Mavericks in 2012-13.
21. New Jersey Nets: Jerryd Bayless
We've exhausted the supply of mid-tier starters, which makes Bayless a sound pick here. A career 36.1 percent shooter from deep, Bayless had a strong shoot-first instinct, but he was also a decent distributor, averaging 4.8 assists per 36 minutes in his 11 seasons.
22. Orlando Magic: Kosta Koufos
Koufos lasted 11 seasons, primarily as a second-string center, and he's one of four players in this class to average at least 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per 36 minutes. Limited mobility and iffy touch meant Koufos only played more than 20.0 minutes per game once, but you knew what you were getting in his short stints.
A somewhat quirky offensive player, Koufos took 41.7 percent of his shots from the awkward three-to-10-foot range. If you tuned into a random stretch of his playing time, there was a good chance you'd see him toss up a floater or hook from a lot deeper than most bigs attempt them.
23. Utah Jazz: Marreese Speights
It just took Speights a little too long to find his niche. By the time he realized his destiny as a stretch big in 2016-17, he was already 29. He shot 37.2 percent from deep on 3.4 attempts per game for the Los Angeles Lakers that year then hit 36.9 percent of his 4.5 deep tries per contest the following season with the Orlando Magic.
That was the last year he played.
Speights was always a perimeter-oriented big, but he'd only attempted 141 threes in his first eight years. He got 510 up over his final two seasons, producing the only positive offensive box plus-minus figures of his career.
Overall, Speights is 20th in points and 16th in rebounds among 2008 selections. If he'd defended a bit more or taken a step back on his jumpers sooner, he'd be a top-15 pick.
24. Seattle SuperSonics: Anthony Morrow
Morrow had one trick, and it was a great one.
He couldn't defend, dribble, pass or finish at the cup, but the undrafted guard out of Georgia Tech shot a blistering 46.7 percent as a rookie with the Golden State Warriors. Then he proved his stroke was real by draining 45.6 percent of his treys the next year. He "slumped" to 42.3 percent in 2010-11 but produced two more campaigns north of 43.0 percent and finished his career at 41.7 percent.
Among players with at least 1,900 career attempts, Morrow's hit rate ranks sixth in NBA history.
25. Houston Rockets: Brandon Rush
Rush tore his right ACL in a 2007 workout then tore his right on a dunk attempt against the Memphis Grizzlies two games into the 2012-13 season. The year prior to the second injury, he averaged 9.8 points and shot a blistering 45.2 percent from deep in a three-and-D role. From a career-momentum perspective, the setback couldn't have come at a worse time.
Still, Rush would recover and rejoin the Dubs in 2014, winning a ring and reaching the Finals again the following year.
At 40.2 percent from deep for his career, Rush had great length on the wing and was a terrific finisher at the rim before that second ACL injury.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Michael Beasley
Picked second overall by Miami, Beasley scored 13.9 points per game on 52.8 percent true shooting as a rookie, establishing a career-long trend of mostly empty-bucket generation. To his credit, the skilled 6'9" forward honed his shot selection and posted four of his five most efficient scoring seasons in the final four years of his career, which he spent bouncing between the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Beasley ranks 16th in his class in total points, but he has more career turnovers than assists and never contributed meaningfully to a winning team. Anyone else giggling while imagining him playing for Gregg Popovich?
27. New Orleans Hornets: Luc Mbah a Moute
Though he was a non-factor on offense and routinely ignored on the perimeter by savvy opponents, Mbah a Moute found other ways to contribute during his 11-year career. His 6.3 boards per 36 minutes marked him as an excellent rebounder, and he's the only player picked in 2008 to log at least 4,000 minutes with a block rate of 1.3 percent and a steal rate of 1.9 percent.
He's also the only actual prince in this draft, which is something.
28. Memphis Grizzlies: Omer Asik
Asik started all 82 games for the 2012-13 Houston Rockets and averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds—his best season by a substantial margin. His 7.1 rebounds per game tie Westbrook for fifth in the 2008 class, but he had no offensive game to speak of and amassed nearly twice as many career turnovers as assists. He also shot 55.1 percent from the line, which made him hard to keep on the floor in key moments.
The five-year, $60 million deal he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015 remains one of the most inexplicable contracts in recent memory.
29. Detroit Pistons: J.J. Hickson
30. Boston Celtics: Darrell Arthur
Arthur ruptured his Achilles before his fourth season, and after sitting out all of 2011-12, he made it back to play six more campaigns split between the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.
Another late-comer to the stretch role, the 6'9" power forward didn't start shooting threes with any real volume until 2014-15. From 2015-16 to 2017-18 (his last year), he shot 41.2 percent from distance on 257 attempts, second-best among players 6'9" or taller with 200 deep tries in that span.