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.