January 29, 2010

The 2009 NBA Draft Revisited...And Other Basketball Thoughts

It’s the midpoint of the NBA season, and while Irish fans stew over Brian Kelly’s recruiting and enthusiasm turns to apathy over the ND basketball program, I figured it would be a good time to take a look back at the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery and make some evaluations. What, I can’t write about something other than Notre Dame football?

Full disclosure, I haven’t watched as much NBA action as I would have liked. Some of these guys I’ve watched on TV (thank you Time Warner for adding NBATV in HD for free!), but others like Tyreke Evans, I’m just going off of SportsCenter highlights and stats, because as far as I can tell the Kings are in the NBA’s version of the witness protection program.

I do know that Larry Brown has cemented his legacy as one of the best pure coaches ever, as in the history of basketball. If you don’t believe me, look at what he has done with the Charlotte Bobcats, who play in a morgue and have a GM who is more concerned with, well, just about everything than actually being a GM. Their best player is an undersized forward who is 7th in the league in rebounding (Gerald Wallace). Their leading scorer, who they willingly traded for, is a guy more known for a) brawling in the Palace, and b) shooting up a strip club parking lot (Stephen Jackson.) So yeah, Larry Brown has earned his paycheck by getting the Cats into the playoff picture. Living in the Charlotte area, myself and 14 other people have definitely caught Bobcat fever.

Ok, back to the draft. I figured I would give the stats of the guy (ppg / rpg / apg, unless otherwise noted), his bust potential going forward, and a reconfigured lottery looking back in hindsight.

1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin – N/A
No brainer pick at the time and no way they could have known he would blow out his knee, try to come back, and have to shut it down for the whole season. The curse of the Clippers lives on!

Bust potential: Low, unless he can’t shake the injuries. He was too good in college too flame out this early.
The pick: Blake Griffin

2. Memphis : Hasheem Thabeet – 2.7 / 3.2 / 1.2 bpg
A pick that was universally panned at the time, and what do you know – it still was a crappy pick. Anyone who watched college basketball could see that Thabeet had no semblance of an offensive game. Anyone who watched pro basketball could see that the NBA was moving away from these big, clumsy, lumbering centers. Apparently the Grizz front office watched neither.

Bust potential: Through the roof. At this point, his ceiling is an Adonal Foyle type career if he’s lucky.
The pick: Tyreke Evans

3. Oklahoma City: James Harden – 9.9 / 3.3 / 2.2
I wasn’t high on this pick and I’m still not loving it, but it’s turned out ok for OKC. Harden will never be a star, which is ideally what you would want out of the #3 pick in the draft, but it filled a need and Harden looks like he has a long NBA career ahead of him as a 12-15 ppg scorer.

Bust Potential : Low, as talked about above
The pick: Brandon Jennings

4. Sacramento: Tyreke Evans – 20.8 / 5 / 5
Umm, not sure if everyone realizes this, but here was LeBron’s rookie line – 20.9 / 5.5 / 5.9. Tyreke Evans through half of a season is the equivalent of LeBron, and he’s doing it while playing the point. He’s already locked up the Rookie of the Year, and there is no question that he is a superstar in the making. The only question is whether he is a point or two guard going forward.

Bust potential: What’s the opposite of through the ceiling? Through the floor?
The pick: Stephen Curry

5. Minnesota: Ricky Rubio – N/A
Who knows what was really talked about between Rubio and the TWolves in the days leading up to the draft? I was buying into the Rubio hype, but if the kid said he wasn’t going to come and play in Minnesota, then maybe they should have moved on and let him be somebody else’s problem.

Bust Potential: Anybody’s guess. I’d like to see him in an NBA uniform before I make any proclamations
The pick: Jonny Flynn

6. Minnesota: Jonny Flynn – 14 / 2.4 / 4.2
I actually like this pick. I always liked Flynn’s game in college and so far it has translated relatively well to the pros. Not that it has actually helped the T-Wolves. Although Kevin Love is actually averaging a 15 and 12 (fourth in the league in rebounding) in case you were curious.

Bust potential: Small. I don’t think Flynn will ever be an All-Star, and his size is a little concerning, but I think he can be an effective point for a long time. Maybe like a TJ Ford type career.
The pick: James Harden

7. Golden State: Stephen Curry – 14 / 4 / 4.5
Curry has pretty quickly silenced the doubters that he was too small or that his game wouldn’t translate to the Association. Sure, it helps that he’s playing NellieBall, but facts are facts. Steph is shooting 43% from 3, and that will earn you a paycheck for a long time. Check out his 26-10-6 and 29-9-7 game from the last 5 games to see how effective he has been.

Bust Potential: None. If he is this proficient offensively as a rookie, there is no doubt he has a permanent place in the NBA. Of course his size will always be a liability defensively, but guards who average 20 a game, which is where I think Curry will end up, don’t grow on trees.
The pick: Ty Lawson

8. New York: Jordan Hill – 4.3 / 2.4 rpg
Wasn’t a huge fan of this pick at the time and obviously I’m guessing the Knicks and their fans aren’t big fans of this pick right now. In fact, his Arizona teammate Chase Budinger, who fell all the way to the middle of the second round, is enjoying a more productive rookie season so far.

Bust Potential: High. Mike Dantoni compared him to a young Amare at draft time. Today, he might be comparing him to a young Stromile Swift. Not great. Could still evolve into something, but really hasn’t shown much on a bad Knicks team.
The pick: Ricky Rubio – Who knows, maybe Rubio comes over to play at the World’s Most Famous Arena for 7 Seconds or Less Genius Mike Dantoni. In fact, yes, I believe that Rubio would have found a way out of his Euro contract to come play for the Knicks. Would playing with a young exciting point guard have been enough to lure LeBron away from Cleveland this summer? We’ll never know.

9. Toronto: Demar DeRozan – 8.2 / 3 / 1
Solid pick for the Raptors. DeRozan is the rare SG who doesn’t shoot 3’s (only 14 all year) but instead is more of a slasher. That fits in well with the Raptors who already have a bunch of 3 point bombers in Hedu and Bargnani. I think DeRozan could evolve into a solid player, maybe like an Andre Iguodala, down the road.

Bust Potential: Medium. You have to be able to shoot in the NBA, plain and simple. If DeRozan can work on his outside shot, he could be a star. Even if it never comes around, he’s a good enough athlete that he’ll make it.
The pick: DeRozan

10. Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings – 17.8 / 3.5 / 6.3
The Bucks straight up nailed this pick. The dreaded “character concerns” plagued Jennings leading up to the draft, but the Bucks obviously did their homework and when he fell into their laps they made the pick. Jennings was anointed the next big thing after his 50 point game, but he has struggled somewhat since then. Of course, it doesn’t help playing on a Michael Redd-less Bucks team. Even so, he is going to be a star in the league for a while. Think Steph Marbury in his prime (and that’s a compliment.)

Bust Potential: None
The pick: DeJaun Blair. With Jennings off the board, the Bucks might have looked to western Pennsylvania for a forward who inexplicably fell to the second round and into the hands of the savvy Spurs. Dejuan Blair – best pick of the draft.

11. New Jersey: Terrence Williams – 7 / 3.8 rpg
What does it say about Williams that he is only getting 20 mpg on a historically terrible Nets team while shooting a horrific 37%. I think it says that he fits into a category that I like to call the “jack – master” player. As in, jack of everything, master of nothing. Williams did a little bit of everything at Louisville, but could you ever really say that he did ONE thing at an NBA level. He was never a great shooter, never a prolific rebounder, and he was a good passer for a bigger guy but nothing that was incredible or anything. There have been a few of these “jack-master” players recently, and almost all of them just haven’t panned out. Corey Brewer (career line of 8-3-1). Julian Wright (career 4-2-1). Even a guy like Hakim Warrick has been a relative bust with a line of 10 points and 4 boards. Look around NBA rosters, and you’ll see plenty of jack-masters who were BMOC’s on campus but whose game just didn’t translate into the NBA.

Bottom line, if you’re not a natural scorer and you don’t do at least one thing really well, whether it’s shoot (Steve Novak, Jasaon Kapono, Kyle Korver), rebound (Paul Millsap, Reggie Evans) or penetrate and dish (Aaron Brooks, Lou Williams), it’s tough to carve out a productive career in the NBA.

Bust Potential: High
The pick: Austin Daye

12. Charlotte: Gerald Henderson – 2.7 / 1
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Bobcats get lazy in their scouting, let their marketing department make the pick, and draft an overrated local player WAY too early. They did it with Ray Felton, Sean May, and now Henderson, who is rotting on Larry Brown’s bench. This was just a dumb and wasted pick. Henderson obviously has the bloodlines, so I’m not willing to write him off yet, but right now he looks like he’ll join the lengthy list of Coach K NBA busts.

Bust Potential: High
The pick: Omri Casspi

13. Indiana: Tyler Hansbrough – 8.5 / 5 / 1
Larry Bird loves his white guys, and he took the best available one here in the lottery. They have to be the only NBA team that can throw out a whitewash lineup of Travis Diener, Mike Dunleavy, Hansbrough, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster, with Josh McRoberts as the 6th man. Seriously, there can’t be any other NBA team that can make that claim. And Larry doesn’t mess around with those Euro’s. Give him red-blooded Americans. Unfortunately, the Pacers are 16-29 and 18.5 games out of first. Might be time to rethink that strategy, Legend.

Bust Potential: Low. Hansbrough will never be a star, but in a relatively weak draft class, getting a rotational big man here is ok.
The pick: Hansbrough.

14. Phoenix: Earl Clark – 3 / 1
Move along, nothing to see here, other than a big man shooting 38%. The Suns may be the worst drafting team of the decade. Other than Amare, they have either gotten nothing or dealt away their pick to save cash every year. Clark is another one of those “jack-master” players. Was never really blown away by him at Louisville.

Bust Potential: Higher than high
The pick: Taj Gibson

Some other NBA thoughts:
- It wouldn’t be an NBA column from me if I didn’t give a State of the Sixers address. I can sum up their organization right now in three words: Blow. It. Up. The whole things. Ed Stefanski, GM? Goodbye. Eddie Jordan, 1st year coach? See ya. Elton Brand, Sam Dalembert, Andre Iguodala? Thanks but no thanks. Build around Jrue Holiday, Thad Young, Marreese Speights. Maybe Lou Williams. Of course this plan is impossible because they gave horrendous contracts to Brand ($80 Million!!??) and Dalembert. My hope is that they can move one of those lead weight contracts at the deadline with Iggy, who actually has some value.

- How fast has Tracy McGrady fallen? Two years ago he averaged 22 points a game. Now he doesn’t even play and can’t stay healthy. He’s only 30, but it seems like an OLD 30.

- Guy about to make the leap to superstardom: Kevin Durant (shaping up to be a Bowie / Jordan draft, with the Blazers taking Oden. Although one has to wonder if Sam Bowie ever took pictures of his, ummm, manhood and posted it online). Durant is simply unbelievable this year, and he has elevated the whole OKC team from its former moribund state. In case you weren’t aware, he is 3rd in the league in scoring at 29.3, ahead of Kobe and D-Wade and behind only a few gentlemen by the name of Melo and LeBron.

- NBA Finals Prediction: Cavs – Lakers; Cavs in 6

A few college thoughts:
-I’ve seen Kentucky play a few times and overall have been pretty impressed. But let me say this. Even though he is averaging a 16-10, I would be extra leery of drafting DeMarcus Cousins. He is just a bad body language, bad character, bad teammate type player. I just keep thinking of Michael Beasley, who has been nothing but trouble for the Heat. Maybe I’m wrong, but those type of guys usually end up being more trouble than their worth. I’m fully prepared to eat my words next year, but that’s how I see it right now. I would go with Derrick Favors from GT, who is averaging a 12 and 9, over Cousins.

- I love John Wall. I think Derrick Rose was better.

- There is a place for Andy Rautins in the NBA.

- I saw Greivis Vasquez come through Winston-Salem a few weeks ago and was pretty impressed. He is not being touted as a big NBA prospect, but I think he is a real sleeper. He is a 6’6 point guard who has been through the rigors of the ACC for 4 years. This year, he’s averaging 17- 4.5- 6 apg, and doesn’t have a whole lot of talent with him right now on the Maryland roster. Plus he’s shooting 38% from 3.

- Guy I’m not sold on who makes NBA scouts and Chad Ford’s heart melt: Greg Monroe.

- Guy who I’m sold on who NBA scouts may not be: Jarvis Varnado from Mississippi State. A few things translate really well to the NBA, but maybe nothing more than rebounding and shot blocking. And Varnado does both of those as well or better than anybody in the country. But you can’t just be a Hasheem Thabeet, you have to have some offensive game, and Varnado does. Plus he’s a lot quicker than Thabeet.

- My favorite player to watch this year, and I’m biased because I got to the same fine institution as he does, is Ish Smith from Wake Forest. So quick with the ball in his hands, such a good passer, and a much improved shooter. He is going to make somebody very happy with a second round pick next year. Check out a Wake game if you can at some point this year.

- For my money, the best team I’ve seen this year is Syracuse. The zone is just suffocating people this year, and they have a great combination of shooters and big guys, plus talent off the bench with Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph.

- My Final Four picks as of right now: Syracuse, Kentucky, Villanova, Michigan State. Not very original, but I think there is a real lack of marquee teams out there right now.

- Finally, I’ll justify the existence of this 3000 words on an ND blog by offering a few quick hitters on ND basketball:

o I don’t know who to blame, Mike Brey or the administration, but I know somebody has to be at blame for the current state of the program.

o You’re telling me we can’t have two questionable students walking around campus. Two out of 8,000? That’s all it would take to make our program a contender. Throw in, let’s say a Damion James and a Wes Johnson with TJ, Abro and Gody and now we’re talking. Not to say that those types of players would even come to ND, but at least let Brey make a run at some of these guys. If a guy comes out of Catholic school in NYC or North Jersey, they are ND material in my eyes.

o There’s not much else to say. We are good enough at home to occasionally win a big game like West Virginia (although even that felt like a loss the way we almost blew it), but the real measure of the talent on hand is more indicative of the UConn, Syracuse and Nova game are a better measure of our place in the Big East right now.

Coming soon (within the next 365 days): A Look Back at the 2008 NBA Draft


gerakis100 said...

Completely agree with you on the NCAA BB thing not having a really marquee team out there this year, it's hurting the fan interest in the college games this season

Pleats 'n Cleats said...

I agreed with the first few ones, but since you live in Charlotte, I'd have to disagree with your assessment of Henderson. Just because Larry Brown has him rotting the wood doesn't mean he's not a good player and doesn't have all the trappings to be a great player. You know Larry doesn't play rookies, and that's not Henderson's fault. As Brown admitted, they have way too many players at the guard position. The issue is that Jackson unexpectedly fell in their lap after the draft and they didn't appropriately handle the remaining guards including their draft pick.

And in the 2000's, the Dukies have produced way more talented NBA players than the traditionally NBA-player producing UNC has.

I don't think the writing is on the wall just yet...

Doug said...

A post for the ages! Great stuff. Really enjoyed reading that. I haven't really followed the NBA too closely this season (Simmons, where have you gone on the NBA?), so it was great to see get an update on how these guys are doing.

Some thoughts:

-"Jack-master" is fantastic. Really hadn't thought about that theory. Some of the names you listed (Corey Brewer, etc) were guys who looked really promising coming out of college.

So who makes your "jack-master" team for this season?? Wes Johnson?? DeSean Butler?

On that note, do you think Harangody can carve out a niche as a 7th/8th man on an NBA roster because of his scoring and rebounding abilities?? Seems like he could come in and bang for 12-15 minutes a game for a long time.

--Figured I'd throw out another name: BJ Mullens. Hasn't played in one game this year. He will not be in the NBA five years from now. I can't blame him for going to the NBA, but I don't think he was mature enough to turn professional and dedicate himself to the game.

--I hope you are right on the Cavs, but I'll believe it when I see it. Two major problems:

1) Mike Brown - He cannot be trusted in a big game/series.

2) No 2nd banana -- The Cavs need a second difference-maker. I fear that they will run into the Celtics or Magic or Lakers and not have the horses to win in a 7 game series. Then again, all three of those teams look weaker than last year.

Lebron is the best, but he needs another guy. If I was Danny Ferry, I'd be pushing all the chips to the center on a blockbuster trade to get a Chris Bosh or some other stud.

--Agree on Cousins although he is really talented. He'll never be a cornerstone franchise big man. He's Zach Randolph 2.0.

--Wall is struggling and badmouthing Cal. I agree that I'd rather build a franchise around Rose.

--Love that Final Four. Agree about the Cuse. I am not as bullish on Nova this year as I was last year. Just don't like them as much without Cunningham. But with those guards, they'll be awfully tough in March.

I think Michigan State is a mortal lock for the Final Four. 9-0 in the Big Ten and playing great ball. If there's one guy I'd trust to get to the Final Four, it's Tom Izzo.

--What's up with the ACC this year?? Major down year for the league.

--Even though I am finally ready to acknowledge that Brey is not worth keeping as the head coach for this program, I really don't think a coaching change is going to solve our problems. Until ND gets serious about basketball, we're never going to do any better than the Brey era. We either need to ramp up the program RIGHT NOW and give Brey an open checkbook with an expectation that he has to produce either (a) a top 10 recruiting class (b) a Sweet 16 appearance or (c) a trip to the BET Finals in the next two years, or we make a change. And if we make a change, you gotta give the new coach everything you possibly can to give him a chance to win.