The big story lines of the 09-10 season; Free Agency this summer, another MVP for Lebron, game winners from Kobe, the rise of the Mavericks, George Karl’s health and the Nets trying to avoid history. Any time you watch an NBA telecast, these story lines are hammered into the ground. That’s why I want to talk about my personal favorite story of the season, one that’s getting barely any attention. The 2009 draft class is potentially the best ever.
I know you’re thinking to yourself, “What the hell is he talking about? Has he heard of Lebron/Wade/Carmelo/Bosh?” You may even be wondering if I’ve ever looked at the ’96 draft that had Kobe/A.I./Ray Allen/Nash. Yes, I have seen these drafts. And I’m telling you this one has the potential to be the best ever by far.
Take a look at the class…
Jury’s still out: Jordan Hill, Terrance Williams, Tyler Hansbrough, Austin Daye, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Dante Cunningham, Sam Young, Toney Douglas
That’s 9 rookies who haven’t really gotten a chance. Nevertheless, this group has looked relatively good when given playing time.
Role players: James Harden, Demar Derozan, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Omri Casspi, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jonas Jerebko, Marcus Thornton (My personal favorite), Jrue Holiday, Chase Budinger, Taj Gibson
There’s 11 rooks having an impact as role players. 8/11 are even on solid teams. These are the guys that ultimately will make this draft class the best ever. It’s the depth that’s important here. These are 11 players who you want on your team. If you haven’t seen Marcus Thornton play you’re missing out. This guy will average 25 points a game very soon. By the way, he was the 43rd pick.
Impact players: Jonny Flynn, Dejaun Blair, Darren Collison
Flynn has been incredibly impressive on a terrible team, with an inexperienced coach, and a joke of a GM. Blair dropped in the draft for having no ACLs and has been punishing teams ever since. He’s averaging nearly 17 points and 14 rebounds per 40 minutes. As for Collison, some NBA players have been quoted as saying he’s just as good as Paul. He’s averaging about 18.5 points and 9 assists per game as a starter. He’s kept his team relevant in the Western Conference.
Stars: Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings
These 3 have had different types of standout rookie seasons. Evans has had ROY clinched for 4 months. He’s been averaging 20,5,5 from day 1. He takes over on a nightly basis. However, Tyreke’s team has been out of the race for 50 games. The same can be said for Curry. The Warriors are horrendous and have been all year. The difference is Curry started extremely slow. It wasn’t that he was playing badly. Curry shot about 43% his 1st 2 months. Stephen just blew up in December and hasn’t looked back. How about these numbers in 13 games since the all star break: 20 pts, 7 asts, 5.5 reb 45% shooting.
Then there’s Jennings. The guy who talked his way out of being selected in the top 10. Brandon immediately quieted critics with a 55 point performance in November that had the League buzzing. But some analysts quickly wondered if the 55 was a curse. That people would expect these types of performances consistently and he wouldn’t be able to deliver. Well that’s been true. He isn’t going to score 55 ever again. He probably won’t score 35. Jennings has shot horribly ever since. But for some reason people think he’s completely fallen off. The guy is in on every play the surging Bucks make. His 6 assists per game lead all rookies. Buck fans don’t care that he hasn’t made a jumper in 4 months. They wouldn’t trade him for anybody.
That’s 17 players who are establishing themselves their rookie year and 9 talented rookies waiting for their chance down the stretch. I can’t remember ever seeing potential from 26 different rookies 3/4 of the way through their 1st year.
Still not satisfied? Then you’re probably forgetting about Blake Griffin, the 1st overall pick and the best player in the draft by far. Does anybody even remember the play that ended his season? Here’s the clip in case you missed it.
Griffin blocks the shot off the backboard, grabs the rebound, hits the point guard with the outlet to start the break, sprints the floor, catches the ball 3 steps inside the foul line, and tomahawks the dunk. How many guys in the league can do that? Lebron and who else? He’s going to be unbelievable. Not even the Clipper stink can ruin his career. They played it right having him sit out the season. He’ll be fine next year.
How about Ricky Rubio, the Spanish sensation who’d be averaging 12 assists a game for the Knicks if David Kahn wasn’t alive. Some forget about Griffin, but everyone forgets that Rubio is part of this class. Rubio is the type of player that would be on SportsCenter top 10 nightly. Something tells me he’s going to end up in the NBA next year. And that something certainly isn’t common sense. Just a hunch.
Finally we get to the bust of the draft, Hasheem Thabeet. The DLeague champ and the king of the DNPCD. Thabeet was such an obvious bust that Chris Wallace couldn’t resist. But the truth is there’s the .0006% chance he turns his career around. To do that he would have to become the first prospect in NBA history who ripened when his weakness was he was raw (do you ripen in sports when you’re not raw anymore? Did I say that right?). So the jury is still out on Thabeet, kind of. But not really.
Forget about star power for a second. I understand there will never be a draft that has 4 superstars in the 1st 5 picks. But you have to see past that with this years group. This draft will make the league better all around for a decade. Teams are going to become deeper because of the excess talent. There are so many rookies making an impact that almost every team has one. This class holds its own against the 2003 draft and the 1996 draft classes without its best player and #1 pick. Its 2nd pick is a bust and its 2nd best player (potentially) is overseas. The fact that I can even make an argument for this years class with all these missing pieces says it all. This is about depth. And no draft comes close in that regard.
Fortunately, Walsh whiffed completely this year. Collison, Jennings and Lawson would have been perfect at 8. Now we’re talking ourselves into the Toney Douglas era. I like Toney, but in a draft like this you have to nail it. He didn’t and Knicks fans will salivate at these point guards for a decade. It never stops.
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