As the pro-longed 2019-2020 season comes to a close, several team are left waiting for their next big basketball thing - the NBA draft. The NBA draft is where teams can instantly change their fortunes or continue in their cycle of despair. Some draft classes though, are better than others. The well vaunted 1984 draft may be the greatest in NBA history, while the much maligned 2000 draft class may be the worst. |
The best drafts change the game and people look back in awe at how some of the best players in the draft could have fallen. John Stockton, the NBA's all-time leader in steals and assists, was part of the 1984 but fell all the way to 16th. Knowing what we know now, he likely would have been the 4th pick behind Hakeem, Jordan and Barkley.
Other well know modern day draft classes that provided the NBA with a ton of legends are the 1996 and 2003 classes.
Another class is starting to very quietly rival those great classes; The 2009 draft class.
The draft was highlighted by Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and he was the top prize. But this draft class had many goodies instore for teams who drafted later than the first couple of picks.
The 2009 draft has some of the sharpest contrast between teams hitting grand slams with their pick and teams not even able to find home plate to take a swing. Griffin went #1 overall to the Clippers, but the Memphis Grizzlies followed that pick up by drafting Hasheem Thabeet. While Griffin is a 6-time all-star and 5 time all NBA player, Thabeet became the highest drafted player ever sent to the D-league.
But it gets worse for the Grizzlies, the third pick belonged to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who used it on James Harden. Harden became one of the best offensive players of the modern era.
If you think the Grizzlies feel bad about drafting Thabeet over Harden, image what the Minnesota Timberwolves feel like. The Wolves had the 5th and 6ths pick in the draft and used both picks on point guards. First they drafted highly touted Spanish project Ricky Rubio at 4, and Syracuse's Johnny Flynn at 5. The Golden State Warriors drafted immediately after that and drafted Davidson's Steph Curry.
Rubio has become a very solid point guard, but never lived up to his hype. He was hyped as the next Pete Maravich, but has instead become an above average guard. Flynn lasted all of 3 seasons in the NBA and the Wolves traded him before his rookie contract ended. Curry meanwhile has become a two-time MVP and guided the Warriors to 3 NBA titles, and is one of the faces of the game.
Curry and Harden have both become MVP's in their first decade in the NBA, and Griffin was the most hyped prospect of the bunch, but none of them won rookie of the year. The rookie of the year award went to Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, the 4th pick.
One interesting thing about the 2009 draft class was that it started out very slow for the future stars. Griffin hurt his knee in the pre-season and missed the entire season. Harden came off the bench for the Thunder, and Curry had injury problems as well. All 3 stars never looked like superstars their first few years in the league and it took some changes to set all 3 on their NBA hall-of-fame trajectories.
For Griffin the changing moment came when the Clippers paired him with Chris Paul. The Clippers immediately became a title contender and Griffin, despite injuries, was usually the teams leading scorer.
Curry needed to get healthy and have a coaching change, and both of these things happened. First, he stopped having chronic leg injuries and his production jumped through the roof, and he took the next step to MVP level when the Warriors hired Steve Kerr.
The Thunder traded James Harden to the Rockets and he became their savior. With the Thunder, Harden was a very good bench player winning 6th man of the year, but he played behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The draft has 6 total all-stars, in addition to Griffin, Harden and Curry; Demar DeRozan (The 9th pick by Toronto), Jrue Holiday (The 17th pick by Philadelphia) and Jeff Teague (The 18th pick by Atlanta) have also made the mid-season classic.
Going into it's 11th season, it is unlikely that any one else will be added to this draft classes all-star list. Most drafts have 5 or fewer all-stars, and very few drafts have multiple MVPs. Only the 1972 (Erving and McAdoo), 1984 (Olajuwon, Jordan and Barkley), 1996 (Iverson, Bryant and Nash), and 2008 (Rose and Westbrook) have had multiple MVP's from the same draft like the 2009 class has.
Basketball has always had a unique live game experience, but the 2009 draft really added to that experience. The draft also had some very solid role players as well. James Johnson, Darren Collison, Taj Gibson, Demarre Carroll, Wayne Ellington, Patrick Beverly, Danny Green and Patty Mills have carved out very solid careers and are still active in todays NBA. Others have had very good careers but where cut short by injuries or off the court issues. Players like Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Brandon Jennings, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglass, Joe Meek, Jonas Jerebko and Dante Cunningham all had solid but short careers.
The 2009 draft lacks the depth of the 84, 96 or 03 classes, but it almost rivals them in star power. In the end it was a good draft that nobody really expected at the time to change the fate of so many NBA teams.