Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Idea, Bad Idea: The 2009 NBA Draft

The 2009 NBA Draft came with selected NBA-ready talent, but contained plenty of solid players that could emerge into definitive role players in the NBA. Just as any draft brings potential, 2009 brought potentially good and bad picks for the talent-hungry lottery teams.

With so much pressure on these lottery franchises to dig themselves out of a hole, the GMs were put in a position to make smart, progressive picks for their teams. So which GMs had good ideas and which had bad ones? We weigh in on the first 14 picks.

The Los Angeles Clippers made the smartest and most definitive choice in the NCAA Player of the Year, Blake Griffin. The big man brings plenty of toughness on defense and demands lots of attention in the paint. He also makes way for payroll dump offs in the form of LA's surplus forwards/centers (i.e. Chris Kaman and Zach Randolph). Verdict: Good Idea.

The 2nd overall pick went to the Memphis Grizzlies and they had a wealth of talent available to them. Their choice in Hasheem Thabeet was as good as it could get for a team in need of a defensive presence. Now with Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet the Grizzlies are filled with youth and immense talent. The only thing left is for their potential to convert into performance on the court. Verdict: Good Idea.

Then came the 3rd and 4th picks in the draft, owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings. Both made solid choices in James Harden and Tyreke Evans, which are not instant all-stars, but almost certainly future studs in the league. Harden brings an all around game that fits well into the NBA system, while Evans harnesses an explosive ability to get to the basket. The Verdict: Good Idea (for both).

Now the Minnesota Timerwolves had the NBA draft world at the tip of their fingers with the 5th and 6th picks. It cannot be argued that Ricky Rubio is the most exciting and NBA-ready point guard in the draft as he played on the world stage for multiple years, even as a young teenager. Rubio addresses an unsure point guard spot in Minnesota, currently held by Sebastian Telfair. What was a head-scratcher move was the ensuing pick of another point guard with the selection of Jonny Flynn. Not to downplay Flynn's talent and potential, but Minnesota just drafted a world-class point guard. Addressing another position could have been a wiser choice for the Wolves. The Verdict: Good Idea (5th pick) / Bad Idea (6th pick).

The next pick stole the show in New York as the Golden State Warriors nabbed Stephen Curry from the Knicks. Could you tell by the crowd's reaction? They definitely got a player that is en route to becoming a premiere player in the league. The issue with this pick is the conflict that may arise between him and Monta Ellis. Who will be the starter? Both have a similar game and can't be on the court at the same time, so it brings up some questions. Questions that may be answered by the rumored trade that would send Curry to the Suns and Amare Stoudemire to the Warriors. The Verdict: Good Idea.

After the NY fans got over their missed opportunity on Curry, the New York Knicks went ahead and went for toughness and hustle with Jordan Hill. There were mixed feelings on the pick, but generally the team was satisfied with the pick. Hill can score, rebound and grow his potential with the Knicks and bring that hard-nosed approach to the game that David Lee already brings every night. The Verdict: Good Idea.

With the 9th pick, the Toronto Raptors took (probably) the highest risk and reward player available in the draft - DeMar DeRozan. Analysts have compared him to Tracy McGrady with his high vertical leap and volume scoring ability. The Raptors are hoping that he turns out like T-Mac and not Harold Minor (remember, the next Jordan?). DeRozan is likely to end up on the right side of fate with Toronto's legacy of breeding some explosive players (Vince Carter and T-Mac). The Verdict: Good Idea.

With a blockbuster trade already behind them, the Milwaukee Bucks went next with the 10th pick and chose the young and highly talented Brandon Jennings. Jennings went from high school directly to Europe and gained experience overseas - something that was very questionable by NBA scouts. His quickness and strike ability are there, but maturity and NBA-readiness are up in the air with this kid. Eventually, he could become a threat in the league, but it doesn't seem so for quite a few seasons. With that said, a top 10 pick should have instant impact and the Bucks may have just missed out on that. The Verdict: Bad Idea (in the short-term).

The New Jersey Nets took a solid player at number 11 by choosing Louville's Terrence Williams. Great shooter, dynamic position player and a nice addition behind Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Bobby Simmons. I don't think you can complain with a pick like that since their center and point guard positions are already filled. Why not take a SG/SF? The Verdict: Good Idea.

With the 12th pick, the Charlotte Bobcats took a high-flying Duke Blue Devil that just finished having a breakout season for the Dukies - Gerald Henderson. This kid can definitely "rise up" to the occasion and rock the rim at any given point in a game. He could end up being a surprise player in the league that outperforms some of his previously chosen draft classmates. With some already athletic pieces (i.e. Gerald Wallace and Raja Bell), the Bobcats added a nice versatile talent to the organization. The Verdict: Good Idea.

Tyler Hansborough displays hustle, competitiveness and genuine desire to win - traits that overshadow many of his weaknesses. He isn't the most athletic, graceful or dominant player on the court, but he brings priceless intangibles to a team. It would not be farfetched to see this kid be a model for the Indiana Pacers alongside their star player, Danny Granger. He's just a Pacer kind of guy. He could be the Udonis Haslem, Emeka Okafor and David Lee prototype player that does all the small things to win games for his team. Hansborough seems like a 12 PTS-10 REB NBA prospect, which is welcomed by any NBA team. The Verdict: Good Idea.

With the last lottery pick, the Phoenix Suns took Earl Clark out of Louisville in an effort to bring height and hustle amidst the Shaq departure and Amare trade talks. Clark currently does not have the body type to dominate at the PF/C position in the NBA. He will need to beef up if he hopes to translate his success in college into the NBA. It is clear that Phoenix is always aiming for athletic players that will fit into their run-n-gun system, but it seems doubtful that Clark will replace Amare Stoudemire's pure talent. With Shaq gone and Amare on his way out, Clark has big shoes to fill and pressure will be heavy on his shoulders. The Verdict: Bad Idea.

* * *
On a side note, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the most opportunities in this draft and seemed to put most of them to waste by initially drafting four point guards and investing their first two picks on potentially conflicting picks. If we had to rate their decisions, it would be poor. Primarily because they had a pool of talent atop the draft to pick and choose from - they opted for two small guards that may fail in playing simultaneously on the court.

On another note, the San Antonio Spurs emerged as our winners in the draft, given their position. They took DeJuan Blair and Jack McClinton (who we wanted here in Miami) in the second round. Blair is a big man who can push some bodies around like Glen Davis, Jason Maxiell and maybe even Al Jefferson - injury proneness shouldn't be too big of an issue. Jack McClinton is a shooting specialist that will be great in San Antonio's role player dependent style of play. You can't ask for more if you're a Spurs fan: acquiring Richard Jefferson and drafting two solid picks.

P.S. The New York Knicks trade Quentin Richardson for Darko Milicic...really?

P.P.S. What's up with all the foreign picks that were drafted with the accompanying "you won't be seeing this guy for a few seasons" comment? How many times have we heard that and have never seen those guys come back to the league? Tiago Splitter was highly touted a few years back (yea some Brazillian player picked by the Spurs) and he's nowhere to be seen today. There are other international players, whose names are too difficult to even spell out, that suffered the same fate. So, can we really expect to see any of this year's picks on this list:
  • Omri Casspi
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Segio Llull
  • Jonas Jerebko
  • Henk Norel
  • Nando De Colo
  • Ahmad Nivins
  • Emir Preldzic
  • Chinemelu Elonu
*I'm sure we might see a couple, but the majority will probably stay overseas - sad but true.

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