Re-Drafting the 2010 NBA Draft Class

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2020

Re-Drafting the 2010 NBA Draft Class

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    In many drafts, there's a clear No. 1 pick whose identity is known for as much as a year in advance. 2010 was one of those times—all along, it was the John Wall draft, and the one-and-done Kentucky superstar went first overall to Washington. His Kentucky teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, was also a consensus top-five pick.

    In a redraft 10 years later, however, neither would go first. That honor, with the benefit of hindsight, belongs to Paul George, who has been a five-time All-NBA player over the past decade and led the Indiana Pacers to two conference finals after being taken 10th overall.

    There were four All-Stars in this draft: Wall, Cousins, George and Gordon Hayward. They all have one thing in common: They all suffered catastrophic injuries after personal-best years, which prevented their careers from going as they should have.

    George and Hayward recovered fully from their leg injuries; Wall's and Cousins' futures are still up in the air after Achilles tears, which Cousins has since followed with two serious leg injuries.

    Beyond those four All-Stars, there were plenty of solid players in the draft. Eric Bledsoe went 18th overall and starts on the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks; second-rounder Lance Stephenson started alongside George on those Pacers teams in the mid-2010s; the undrafted Jeremy Lin was briefly the most famous person in sports in 2012.


    A note on this redraft: Team needs were not taken into account, and picks were made going by the best player available.

1. Washington Wizards: Paul George

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    A handful of future stars were in this draft, and George's career has turned out to be the best. He got an opportunity in Indiana earlier than expected because of injury issues for All-Star small forward Danny Granger and quickly established himself as one of the NBA's best two-way players.

    The Pacers made the playoffs in his rookie season. Their core of George, David West, George Hill, Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert was a consistent presence in the postseason for most of the ensuing half-decade, most notably in a pair of epic Eastern Conference Finals battles with the Miami Heat in 2013 and 2014.

    George won Most Improved Player in 2013 and has mostly been at an All-NBA level since. He suffered a broken leg in the summer of 2014 at a USA Basketball exhibition, causing him to miss most of the 2014-15 season, but he picked up where he left off after that.

    He had one of his best years in 2018-19, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and was in the MVP conversation until shoulder injuries hampered the end of his campaign. Last summer, he and Kawhi Leonard engineered their way to the Los Angeles Clippers and helped form one of the premier teams in the Western Conference before the season went on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Actual pick: John Wall

    George's actual draft spot: 10th, Indiana Pacers

2. Philadelphia 76ers: John Wall

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    The consensus No. 1 pick at the time, Wall mostly lived up to the hype in his first eight years with the Wizards before missing most of the past two seasons with major injuries. One of the fastest, most explosive point guards in the NBA over the past decade, Wall made five straight All-Star teams from 2014 to 2018 and was named third-team All-NBA in 2016-17.

    Wall and 2012 No. 3 pick Bradley Beal led the Wizards to the franchise's best stretch in years, gradually dragging the team out of the laughingstock years of the late 2000s into Eastern Conference respectability. Washington made the playoffs four out of five seasons from 2014 to 2018, and made the second round three times.

    The one knock on Wall's career has been his health. He suffered various knee and wrist injuries over the years that caused him to miss time, and during the 2018-19 season, he suffered a torn Achilles that has kept him out since.

    Actual pick: Evan Turner

    Wall's actual draft spot: 1st, Washington Wizards

3. New Jersey Nets: DeMarcus Cousins

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    Like his former Kentucky teammate Wall, Cousins had a short peak as one of the most dominant players in the NBA at his position before a series of major injuries left his career in doubt. Heading into the draft, the big man was largely seen as the second-most talented player on the board, but concerns about his demeanor saw him fall to Sacramento at No. 5.

    Those concerns weren't unfounded, as he clashed with coaches and management repeatedly during his time in Sacramento. But his talent was undeniable, and he eventually put it together and became a four-time All-Star, averaging 20.2 points and 10.9 points per game over nine seasons.

    The Kings traded Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans at the 2017 deadline. He and Anthony Davis became a dominant frontcourt duo in their short time together before Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in January 2018.

    He left New Orleans that summer to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, and he spent most of the year rehabbing. He returned in time for the 2019 playoffs but suffered a quad injury during the first round that limited his time on the floor. He came back during the Finals against the Toronto Raptors, which Golden State lost, before signing as a free agent last summer with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    During an offseason workout, he suffered a torn ACL which, when combined with his other injuries in the same leg, leave his career in limbo.

    Actual pick: Derrick Favors

    Cousins' actual draft spot: 5th, Sacramento Kings

4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gordon Hayward

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    After a standout college career at Butler, Hayward went No. 9 to Utah in the draft. His career started slow, but he eventually developed into one of the West's most consistent scoring wings, making his first All-Star team in 2016-17. That year, he helped the Jazz to their first playoff series win since 2009-10.

    Hayward left the Jazz that summer to reunite with his college coach, Brad Stevens, in Boston. He missed all but the first five minutes of his first year with the Celtics after suffering a broken leg in their 2017-18 opener and struggled to regain his form the following season.

    This year, he returned to something close to his peak and reasserted himself as the go-to scorer he was in Utah.

    Actual pick: Wesley Johnson

    Hayward's actual draft spot: 9th, Utah Jazz

5. Sacramento Kings: Eric Bledsoe

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    Bledsoe showed more promise than production early with the Clippers, especially once they traded for Chris Paul in 2011 to start at his position. But a summer 2013 trade to Phoenix led to his coming-out party—he averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game in 2013-14 as the Suns unexpectedly won 48 games and barely missed the playoffs. Since then, he's been a consistent scoring threat.

    Bledsoe was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks early in the 2017-18 season and has started there ever since, including this season, when the Bucks had the best record in the NBA before the season shut down.

    Actual pick: DeMarcus Cousins

    Bledsoe's actual draft spot: 18th, Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to Los Angeles Clippers)

6. Golden State Warriors: Derrick Favors

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Nets traded Derrick Favors to Utah partway through his rookie season in the blockbuster Deron Williams deal, and he was a mainstay with the Jazz for the next decade. One of the most unheralded but consistent bigs in the NBA, Favors grew into a perennial double-digit scorer while remaining a solid rebounder and versatile defender.

    Actual pick: Ekpe Udoh

    Favors' actual draft spot: No. 3, New Jersey Nets

7. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe

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    Old-school big men like Greg Monroe have slowly been phased out of the NBA in recent years, but it shouldn't be overlooked how effective he was at the beginning of his career in Detroit. For five of his first six seasons, he was a reliable 15-point-per-game scorer with a variety of effective post moves.

    He went right where he should have in the draft.

    Actual pick: Greg Monroe

    Monroe's actual draft spot: 7th, Detroit Pistons

8. Los Angeles Clippers: Jeremy Lin

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    The first line of Lin's career retrospective will always be the otherworldly two-week peak of "Linsanity" in 2011-12, when the former undrafted G Leaguer saved the New York Knicks' season and became a worldwide sensation. That time period, along with his status as the first prominent Asian American player in the NBA, makes him one of the most notable figures in that decade of the league's history regardless of how his career went.

    But while Lin never reached the heights of Linsanity again, he went on to have a solid NBA career. That summer, he signed a three-year deal with Houston and started alongside James Harden for his first season there.

    After that, he settled into a backup role, which he played effectively for the Lakers, Hornets and Nets. Injuries limited his effectiveness afterward, and he bounced from Atlanta to Toronto, signing in China last offseason when he had no NBA offers. But Lin proved, despite that surreal, unsustainable two-week peak in New York, that he was more than just a flash in the pan.

    Actual pick: Al-Farouq Aminu

    Lin's actual draft spot: Undrafted (signed with Golden State Warriors)

9. Utah Jazz: Al-Farouq Aminu

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Al-Farouq Aminu was another late bloomer, beginning his career as a journeyman while bouncing around from the Clippers to the New Orleans Hornets to the Dallas Mavericks and establishing himself as an outstanding defender in need of a consistent jump shot to stay on the floor.

    His career took off in 2015 when he signed a four-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. After that, his shooting improved dramatically, with his three-point percentage jumping from the high .200s to the mid-.300s, and he was a consistent starter on four straight playoff teams in Portland.

    Actual pick: Gordon Hayward

    Aminu's actual draft spot: 8th, Los Angeles Clippers

10. Indiana Pacers: Hassan Whiteside

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    Hassan Whiteside's path to NBA success was long and winding. A second-round pick of the Kings, he didn't last long in his first stint, playing just 19 games over two seasons as questions about his attitude and work ethic dogged him.

    After stints in several international leagues, he signed a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season and exploded as a rebounding, shot-blocking machine, proving definitively he belonged in the NBA.

    After another excellent year with Miami in 2015-16, the Heat rewarded him with a four-year, $94 million contract. The rest of his career has been up-and-down—he wore out his welcome eventually in Miami because of a mix of defensive lapses and vocal dissatisfaction with his role.

    He was traded to Portland last summer, and his first season with the Blazers has been similarly inconsistent, although the best version of his play is still highly impactful.

    Actual pick: Paul George

    Whiteside's actual draft spot: 33rd, Sacramento Kings

Late Lottery

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    11. New Orleans Hornets: Ed Davis

    Davis is a solid defense-focused big man and rebounder who knows his role and has played it to perfection for the Raptors, Grizzlies, Lakers, Blazers, Nets and Jazz over his 10-year career. Every team he has been on has been better for his presence.


    12. Memphis Grizzlies: Evan Turner

    Turner is unfairly maligned due to a combination of never living up to the hype of being a No. 2 overall pick and the four-year, $70 million contract he signed with the Blazers in July 2016. But throughout his career, he's been effective when utilized properly as a big ball-handling guard on bench units. His best stretch was a two-year stint with the Celtics from 2014 to 2016.


    13. Toronto Raptors: Patrick Patterson

    Patterson is a versatile, sharpshooting big man who played a crucial role on the Raptors' pre-title playoff resurgence. After a disappointing, injury-plagued two seasons in Oklahoma City, he was in the midst of a late-career revival this year with the Clippers, playing valuable minutes off the bench and shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range.


    14. Houston Rockets: Lance Stephenson

    Stephenson was drafted No. 40 overall in 2010, but he was a key piece of the Pacers' success during the Paul George-Roy Hibbert era. He was also one of the only players capable of getting under LeBron James' skin on a consistent basis.


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    15. Milwaukee Bucks: Avery Bradley

    Bradley carved out a role with the Celtics as a reliable three-and-D wing bridging the gap between the end of the Big Three era and the start of their current run of contention. He's played a similar role off the bench this season for the Lakers.


    16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Trevor Booker

    Booker wasn't a starter or a big-minute player, but there were few more reliable backup big men over the last decade. He formally announced his retirement on April 14.


    17. Chicago Bulls: Nemanja Bjelica

    Bjelica was drafted in the second round in 2010, but he didn't make his NBA debut until 2015. In five seasons with Minnesota and Sacramento, he's been a reliable perimeter threat in the frontcourt, with a career mark of 39.3 percent from three-point range.


    18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ish Smith

    Although he went undrafted in 2010, Smith has made himself into a solid backup point guard for the last decade through stops with 11 different teams.


    19. Boston Celtics: Wesley Johnson

    Johnson never lived up to his billing as a top-five pick, but he became a solid rotation wing, most notably with the Clippers.


    20. San Antonio Spurs: Boban Marjanovic

    Mostly known to casual fans for his size and cameo in John Wick: Chapter 3, Marjanovic has found a niche as a mismatch big capable of dominant scoring stretches in certain matchups. He went undrafted in 2010 but later caught on with San Antonio and has contributed key minutes on playoff teams with the Spurs and 76ers.


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    21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Greivis Vasquez

    Vasquez had a nice seven-year run as a backup point guard. His best season came in 2012-13, when he averaged 13.9 points and 9.0 assists per game with the New Orleans Hornets. 


    22. Portland Trail Blazers: Ekpe Udoh

    A top-10 pick who never lived up to it, Udoh nevertheless hung around for nearly a decade as a capable fourth big.


    23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Larry Sanders

    Briefly one of the most dangerous rim protectors in the NBA, Sanders' career was done in by injuries and repeated violations of the league's drug policy, which eventually led to his exit from the Bucks in 2015. A 2017 comeback attempt with the Cavaliers was short-lived.


    24. Atlanta Hawks: Landry Fields

    Fields came out of nowhere as a second-round pick in 2010 who started on two Knicks playoff teams. He never matched his outstanding rookie season, though. He signed a three-year, $20 million contract with the Raptors in 2012, but his career was derailed in large part thanks to injuries.


    25. Memphis Grizzlies: Quincy Pondexter

    Pondexter was a capable three-and-D wing for a short time before serious health problems cut short his peak in Memphis. He later played for the Bulls and Spurs but was never able to recapture his status as a rotation player.


    26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cole Aldrich

    Aldrich disappointed as a lottery pick (No. 11 overall), but he hung around for eight seasons as a solid backup big man for the Thunder, Rockets, Kings, Knicks, Clippers and Timberwolves.


    27. New Jersey Nets: Jeremy Evans

    Though he was a stellar athlete and the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest winner, Evans never put those physical tools together to become a consistent NBA contributor.


    28. Memphis Grizzlies: Luke Babbitt

    Babbitt bounced around between Portland, New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami with a stint in Russia in between, but he made a place for himself in the league thanks to his formidable three-point shooting stroke.


    29. Dallas Mavericks: Jordan Crawford

    A classic bench gunner, Crawford had five seasons of double-digit scoring averages but was never consistent enough to find a long-term home in the NBA.


    30. Washington Wizards: Kevin Seraphin

    Seraphin had a few good years as a backup big man for the Wizards, averaging 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 2012-13. He's been out of the league since 2017.