What Could Have Been: 2009 NBA Draft Edition

There are mistakes on draft night every season. Darko over Carmelo, Bowie over Jordan, Oden over Durant, and so on and so forth. If any of those picks are switched, the league today (especially in Jordan’s case) would be so monumentally different that even their die hard fans wouldn’t recognize it.
Here are the top five “What if’s” or “What could have been’s” for the 2009 NBA Draft:

Memphis Grizzlies, 2nd overall pick

Real Pick: Hasheem Thabeet, Center, University of Conneticut

Should Have Picked: Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain

Memphis hasn’t had a bad season. 28-27 is way better than most expected, especially in their division. But, imagine what that team filled with shooters would look like with a pass first point guard that thrives off of getting his teammates involved. The rumor on draft night was that Rubio would not play in Memphis had they drafted him, but who cares. Take that chance. Get Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo someone to distribute the ball evenly between the two and have a complete starting five with Rubio-Gay-Mayo-Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol. Tell me that isn’t the most exciting line-up in the league. You’d be fibbing. Add in some nice rookies in Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll in reserve role, maybe the same trade they just made for Ronnie Brewer and Mike Conley shooting three’s as a back-up. That’s a playoff team.

Instead, they sit one game above .500, which, again, is very good for them considering expectations. But, none of their success has been impacted in a major way by Thabeet, who is averaging three points, three rebounds and a block in about 10 minutes per game. Not terrible if you take him in the second round, but horrible for a #2 overall pick that hasn’t expanded his offensive game like everyone knows he needed to.

Minnesota Timberwolves, 6th Overall Pick

Real Pick: Jonny Flynn, Point Guard, Syracuse

Should Have Picked: Stephen Curry, Shooting Guard, Davidson

For the sake of the argument, lets say that Rubio stays with the Timberwolves if they draft Curry because he has experience playing off the ball and is a way better shooter than Flynn.

Now Minnesota is looking at Rubio-Curry-Corey Brewer-Kevin Love-Al Jeffersonas their starting five. Not bad. It’s a playoff team in the East as long as Jefferson stays healthy. You can definitely run an Orlando style offense with this squad. Put Jefferson in the middle on offense and now everyone around him is capable of hitting a three. Curry would be the second option and the primary scoring guard. Kevin Love is your best defensive player and takes the load of rebounding. Brewer can play well within an offense and score in loads when he is hot. And Rubio controls it all, distributes touches and leads some pretty athletic fast break combinations.

Plus, all of those guys are under 25 years old. Quite a core to have with teams like San Antonio and Dallas aging and the youngsters in the West rising from top to bottom.

Charlotte Bobcats, 12th Overall Pick

Real Pick: Gerald Henderson, Shooting Guard, Duke

Should Have Picked: Earl Clark, Small/Power Forward, Louisville

Any forward could have gone here really. Not to dog on Henderson, I think he’s a fine player and would be getting around 10-12 points a game if, say, the Timberwolves took him, but he hasn’t been a fit on this team whatsoever. He only averages 7.7 minutes a game and that’s somewhat misleading considering the fact that he doesn’t play every game.

Instead, why not take a forward that has Lamar Odom-type skills, can hit jump shots, hustles and is athletic. Or, why not take a shot at Taj Gibson, a guy who doesn’t need offense run for him to score, hits a 12-14 footer consistently and is leading the NBA in rebounds for all rookies.

Without Tyson Chandler being a real monster on the boards, Gibson gives you a whole lot of production on the glass and provides solid offense. And, up until their recent deal for Tyrus Thomas, Clark would have given them a very athletic forward that could score and turn into a defensive beast thanks to his body type under the helm of Larry Brown.

Minnesota Timberwolves, 18th Overall Pick

Real Pick: Ty Lawson, Point Guard, University of North Carolina (Rights traded to Denver)

Should Have Picked: Ty Lawson, Point Guard, University of North Carolina (Rights kept)

It’s actually quite amusing (unless you are a T’Wolves fan) to see Minnesota take three point guards in the first 18 picks of the draft and have one leave the country, have another one stay, and then trade potentially the best one away.

I’ve now created three alternate scenarios for the T’Wolves. One has Lawson coming off the bench behind Rubio with Stephen Curry at the wing, one has Lawson starting in front of Jonny Flynn with their current crew and the other has Lawson starting with Curry and Flynn in Denver.

All three of those situations would he better. Sad.

Oklahoma City Thunder, 24th (or 25th) Overall Pick

Real Pick (25th): Byron Mullens, Center, Ohio State

Should Have Picked: DeJuan Blair, Power Forward, University of Pittsburgh

I could have put DeJuan Blair anywhere in the top 40 picks but I think this pick would have had the greatest impact on the NBA landscape.

Mullens has barely gotten minutes the entire year and with a rebounding machine like Blair, I think the Thunder could be a top five team in the NBA, putting them behind only the Lakers and Nuggets in their conference, and just a big center away from being a title contender.

Tell me this wouldn’t have a chance at being one of the best lines in basketball: Russell Westbrook-Thabo Sefolosha-Kevin Durant-Jeff Green-DeJuan Blair. Throw-in James Harden, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, Nenad Kristic and Serge Ibaka with the second unit and you have a super deep team with a back-up small forward and a big bodied center being the only glaring holes.

Blair could grab 13-15 rebounds a game in starters minutes at the center spot, though he would definitely need some time to adjust to defending starting centers. When you play a tough center, you could start Krstic or Ibaka and bring Blair in off the bench to crash the boards. It would have been the perfect scenario and I would have watched all 48 minutes of all 82 Thunder games with a giddy look on my face. Oh, what could have been.

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Mark is an 18-year old sports fanatic that founded this website back in October of 2008. He is the lead contributor for this site and a credentialed member of the media for several sports leagues and organizations. Mark's main focus is the NBA, though he also covers MLB, NFL, and International events like the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. Follow Mark on Twitter: @Mark_Travis

8 comments to What Could Have Been: 2009 NBA Draft Edition

  • Harry

    Rubio for Memphis? The man would still be playing in Spain, and Memphis would’ve wasted a number 2 pick. No, Memphis should have definitely picked Tyreke Evans, a player who can run the point and a guy who’s ceiling is sky high. A starting line-up with Evans-Gay-Mayo-Randolph-Gasol? Wow. That would be very fun to watch, and would only get better as time went on.

    I know Harden fans will disagree, but I think the Thunder would’ve been better of taking Tyreke over J-Hard as well. It’s not that I don’t like Harden. He’s money and will only get better (although his sub-40 FG % is suspect, especially for a guy who everyone is touting as a “knock down, lights out” jump shooter). But Evans is going to be a perennial all-star in this league and could definitely be moved into shooting guard to let Westbrook continue to run the point. Westbrook-Evans-Durant-Green-Krstic? That would be the most exciting young starting line-up of, well, all-time. Plus Sefolosha really should be a back-up shooting guard who can come in as a lock down perimeter defender if needed. The guy’s just not starter material.

    As for the Clippers, the jury is obviously still out on Blake Griffin as he is yet to play a minute in the league, so we’ll have to wait until next season to see. I could really see Griffin floundering in that hell hole of a franchise as his talent goes to waste. I hope that doesn’t happen, but we’ll see.

    Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make here is that Tyreke is so money, and for him not to be included anywhere in this list is, in my opinion, a huge oversight.

  • Wow, you make a great point about OKC and Blair. Even Taj Gibson was still there at 25. OKC would have set themselves up really nicely in case Ibaka doesn’t exactly pan out to be real good (though I think he will be)

    I think OKC was/is going for the homerun with picking Mullens because they need a long term solution at center but Mullens is the epitome of a project. Liklihood he ends up like Robert Swift instead of Kaman is about 99% I’d say.

  • @Harry:

    Rubio for Memphis? The man would still be playing in Spain, and Memphis would’ve wasted a number 2 pick.

    I left personel decisions out of this. And, why wouldn’t he want to play in Memphis? Marc Gasolis a fellow countryman and Memphis has a lot of young talent. I think the only reason he didn’t want to go to Minnesota was because they drafted another point guard right after him.

    Memphis should have definitely picked Tyreke Evans

    Believe me, that would give them a big amount of talent, but Evans looks amazing right now because there is literally noone on his team that demands the ball or creates their own shot, especially with Kevin Martin gone.

    I assume you have watched Reke play this year, so you should know that he has the ball in his hands 75% of the time on the offensive end (maybe even more). In Memphis, you already have three guys that dominate the ball and shoot the ball 12-15 times a game apice with Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph.

    Rubio distributes the ball there, he doesn’t look to score. That’s what they need, someone to create plays for Gay-Mayo-Z-Bo without having to score on his own.

    Evans is a heck of a player, one of the top young talents in the leauge. But what does he do that Mayo or Gay don’t do already? Gay is more athletic, finishes just as well at the rim, and can rebound. And Mayo can handle the ball and is a much better shooter from outside the paint. Not knocking Evans, just saying.

    Evans brings better passing skills than Gay and perhaps Mayo, but he does that by holding onto the ball for the majority of the possession. That wouldn’t work with Mayo and Gay And Randolph, at least in my opinion. I think Rubio would have been a much better pick.

    I know Harden fans will disagree, but I think the Thunder would’ve been better of taking Tyreke over J-Hard as well.

    I think a lot of that hinges on whether or not Westbrook would move to the two because, though his body screams two-guard, Evans is not nearly a good enough shooter right now to man a wing position. Maybe that will change sooner rather than later, but the ball dominating issue comes up again. Does his tendency to stall on offensive possessions hinder Russell Westbrook’s development and stop Kevin Durant from showcasing all of his abilities?

    A part of me says yes to that.

    I think that Harden was a fine fit. He has the intangibles to be a winner, is a good shooter despite the numbers (he’s had a lot of 5-6 games and a lot of 1-7 games), and can create shots pretty well, too.

    In all honesty, I would rather see Stephen Curry on the Thunder. A knock down shooter that can nail three’s like few others to stand in the corner or on the wings waiting for Kevin Durant to pass out of a double team or Russell Westbrook to penetrate and kick? That’s deadly.

    Plus Sefolosha really should be a back-up shooting guard who can come in as a lock down perimeter defender if needed. The guy’s just not starter material.

    Are you sure you want a rookie to start against Kobe Bryant when you know Sefolosha is a top five perimeter in the leauge? I’m not. In fact, I’m extremely behind Thabo as a starter.

    As for the Clippers, the jury is obviously still out on Blake Griffin as he is yet to play a minute in the league, so we’ll have to wait until next season to see.

    I don’t think L.A. had much of a choice. He was clearly the best college player in the nation and their fans would have rioted for years if Griffin had gone to OKC and won five titles with Durant in the next seven years.

    Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make here is that Tyreke is so money, and for him not to be included anywhere in this list is, in my opinion, a huge oversight.

    I’m not sure why being the fourth overall pick is such a bad thing. I think he looks as good as he does because he is in the perfect scenario for his personal talents. He’s on a team where him taking control of the offense at ALL times is all right and encouraged. It wouldn’t be that way if he weren’t the best player on his team, which would be the case in Memphis and Oklahoma City. He wouldn’t even be the best point guard for the Thunder.

    I think Evans is perfect where he is.

  • @toasterhands:

    Wow, you make a great point about OKC and Blair. Even Taj Gibson was still there at 25. OKC would have set themselves up really nicely in case Ibaka doesn’t exactly pan out to be real good (though I think he will be)

    I know. Blair or Gibson would be perfect fits for Oklahoma City. 11-14 rebounds a game and some high energy play in the paint is exactly what that team needs. That need was magnified when Jason Richardson pretty much outrebounded their starting line-up combined yesterday.

  • POW

    Harry, Tyreke Evans is amazing and hands down ROY. And barring injury, he can only get better. But your scenraios don’t make much sense. Tyreke needs the ball in his hands, Kings management didn’t think he could coexist with Kevin Martin but you think he can thrive in a lineup with Mayo and Gay? Not happening. Grizzlies would do much better teamwise with a great distributor like the game Rubio plays.

    Similar for the Thunder. Durant is the MAN on that team, and their most glaring need is a big man who can crash the boards.

    Tyreke will likely one of the best scorers in the league but he’s not fit to lead a good team yet. I will enjoy him at Kings (a woefully awful team) that will let Tyreke be the main scorer and still let him make rookie mistakes while developing.

  • knickerboxer

    New York Knicks, 8th Overall Pick

    Real Pick: Jordan Hill, Power Foward, Arizona
    Should Have Picked: Brandon Jennings, Point Guard, Italy

  • knickerboxer :

    New York Knicks, 8th Overall Pick

    Real Pick: Jordan Hill, Power Foward, Arizona
    Should Have Picked: Brandon Jennings, Point Guard, Italy

    ReplyReply

    I think that one was to obvious to even point out, haha. However, you did remind me of part of the original idea I had. I intended to have a section that had the other picks that would have been affected if one of my other picks had happened. I assume if Curry goes to Minnesota, the Warriors could take a variety of guys (Flynn, Hill, Jennings, DeRozan) which would have influenced the Knicks pick in some way.

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