Denton: If 2009 NBA Draft Was Redone

By John Denton
June 22, 2013

ORLANDO – In the days, weeks, months and years following the June 27th NBA Draft, the players selected will become subject to revisionist history. Not only will that draft class be forever linked, but those players will also be compared against one another every time they face off.

Because the impact of a high draft pick can be so great – or disastrous, for that matter – there will be much attention paid to the order that players are selected in the NBA Draft later this month. The Orlando Magic have the second pick, just behind the Cleveland Cavaliers at the top of the draft order. Washington, Charlotte and Phoenix round out the top five picks.

The Magic have a long history of getting it right when they select in the top five of the NBA Draft, picking Dennis Scott (1990), Shaquille O’Neal (1992), Chris Webber (who was traded for Penny Hardaway in 1993), Mike Miller (2000) and Dwight Howard (2004). O’Neal, Hardaway and Scott formed the foundation on Orlando’s 1995 team that reached the NBA Finals, while Howard led the 2009 Magic to the NBA Finals. And Miller emerged from a weak draft class in 2000 as the Rookie of the Year.

The course of history in the NBA could have been dramatically different had players been properly evaluated and drafted accordingly. While some picks were dead on, most GMs would like a do-over with the benefit of history to make their picks.

Imagine if any of three Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley or John Stockton had gone No. 2 to Portland instead of Sam Bowie in 1984. What if Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chis Bosh had been taken by the Detroit Pistons in 2003 instead of wasting that pick on Darko Milicic? And what if Portland, and not Oklahoma City, had grabbed Kevin Durant with the top pick in 2007 rather than the brittle Greg Oden?

As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20, so with the benefit of history before us let’s look back at the past 10 years of NBA Drafts and pick how those draft nights should have unfolded. There have been draft night home runs and major misses in recent years, so let’s pinpoint how the top five picks (plus the Magic’s picks) of those drafts should have played out.

Today, we’re going to break down the 2009 NBA Draft – a draft that was notable for the high-flying Blake Griffin going first overall and the underachieving Hasheem Thabeet flopping badly as the No. 2 pick. As it turns out, the best two players of this draft – James Harden and Steph Curry – went with the No. 3 and No. 7 picks.

A whopping 12 point guards – Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Steph Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois and Toney Douglas – went in the first round of this draft. Holiday is the only one of that group to make a NBA All-Star Game so far, but Curry is destined for several all-star appearances in the years to come.

Here’s how the 2009 NBA Draft might unfold today if GMs were given a do over:


1 Clippers Blake Griffin Blake Griffin


REVIEW: Griffin was the no-brainer first pick at the time of the 2009 NBA Draft, but he followed it up by missing all of his rookie season with a knee injury and regressing this past season following an explosion into stardom. Griffin fills up the highlight reels with dunks, but he is looking less like a franchise player because of his inability to develop much of a post game and his slow progress defensively. Personality problems with star point guard Chris Paul also don’t bode well for his future with the Clippers.


2 Grizzlies Hasheem Thabeet James Harden


REVIEW: Thabeet was the first player ever from Tanzania to be selected in the NBA Draft. But he will be more infamously known for being the worst No. 2 pick in NBA history. He lasted just two seasons in Memphis before they dumped him because of his poor work ethic. If picking today, Memphis would have a difficult decision between Harden and Curry because both are elite-level shooters. But the Grizzlies already have a good point guard (Mike Conley) and Harden’s ability to pile up points, get to the free throw line and initiate the offense from the shooting guard slot would have given him the advantage.


3 Thunder James Harden Steph Curry


REVIEW: Curry became the star of these NBA playoffs with the way he almost single-handedly carried the Warriors past the Denver Nuggets in the first round. It seems now the only thing standing in his way of being a star player are the troublesome ankle injuries that slowed his first three years in the league. Just imagine how loaded the Thunder would have been had they wound up with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook AND Curry.


4 Kings Tyreke Evans Tyreke Evans


REVIEW: The 2009 NBA Draft featured several strange twists of fate for the Kings. They had the NBA’s worst record and best odds at winning the No. 1 pick, but dropped to No. 4 in the lottery. They eventually ended up with the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in Evans. But the big point guard has regressed badly since his rookie season because of poor shot selection, sloppy ball-handling and questionable decision-making. He could benefit from having an older veteran around to teach him how to play the point guard position.


5 Wolves Ricky Rubio Ricky Rubio


REVIEW: A case could be made here that Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson, who was actually drafted by Minnesota but traded to Denver, should be the selection. Of the three point guards the T-Wolves foolishly selected in this draft – Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Lawson – Lawson is the best of the group and he plays elsewhere. I still think Rubio has the potential to be a standout player in the NBA because of his incredible vision and ability to create something out of nothing. But his jump shot is a total wreck and he is a defensive liability at point guard. If he can get a jumper and get stronger, Rubio can still possibly have a Steve Nash type of career (minus the MVP awards, of course).


Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.





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