Every year we have an NBA draft. It is the time when the dreams of young men from Alabama to China can finally come to reality. During these highly televised events, 60 players are selected to join the top basketball league on the planet. And while that is all perfect for the 60 guys who have the privilege to be part of this party, it imposes a high level of scrutiny on the people who have the tough job of selecting the best out of this highly talented bunch.
No matter how much experience you have or how much you study as a general manager, it is tough to predict who is going to be the best out of these 60 guys five or 10 years into the future. Sure, there are times when a LeBron James or a Shaquille O'Neal appears and makes things easier for the person who has the number one pick, but as a rule of thumb, there is a pretty high chance that most of the lottery picks in any given year will be busts.
The 2009 draft was no different. While one of the guys who was picked in the lottery that year already has a couple of MVPs to his name, and another guy will get his MVP award eventually, a good part of the top 15 picks of that year’s draft is not even in the NBA anymore. Meanwhile, some guys who slipped out of the top 15 during the draft night have gone on to build fairly successful NBA careers. So here we have separated for you what we believe the 2009 NBA draft should’ve looked like if the GMs had their predictions on point.
26 James Harden - L.A. Clippers
Original Pick: Blake Griffin
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good number two is because number one is just out of this world. Selecting James Harden with the third pick of the 2009 draft was one of the greatest moves Sam Presti ever made. Sure, Harden’s time in Oklahoma City wouldn’t last more than three years, but it would be enough for them to make a trip to the NBA finals where they played that legendary Miami Heat team. After that, Harden decided to go solo in Houston and quickly went from being the best sixth man in the league to being one of the best players in the league. The only reason he might not get an MVP award this year is because of his former teammate, Russell Westbrook, just broke one of the longest-standing records in the league.
But what made the difference when deciding whether Harden or Curry would take the top spot on this list was the win shares statistic. According to basketball-reference.com, during his career Harden contributed with an estimated 91.3 wins to his teams, while Curry added 84.2. It was a close race, but at the end of the day, we had to let the numbers speak for themselves.
25 Stephen Curry - Memphis Grizzlies
Original Pick: Hasheem Thabeet
Cue the drum rolls because here is where the Warriors' fans start complaining. Whether you agree with it or not, this was an incredibly difficult decision to make. But at the end of the day, we decided to stick to the numbers in order to separate this top two. Curry has gone above and beyond what anybody expected the seventh pick of that year’s draft to go. In terms of awards, he is the most decorated player in his class. Two MVPs and an NBA championship are not accolades a lot of players in the world can boast about. He is also arguably one of the, if not the, best shooter in the history of the NBA. This guy literally changed the game, and he should be recognized for that. Be it the NBA creating a four-point line or whatever; there is little doubt that Curry towers over 99 percent of his competition.
24 Blake Griffin - Oklahoma City Thunder
Original Pick: James Harden
No one had any doubt that the Los Angeles Clippers would select Blake Griffin with the number one overall pick in 2009.He was already a human highlight reel and averaged 22.7 points and more than 14 rebounds per game as a sophomore in Oklahoma. Who knows, perhaps if the draft happened again today the Clippers might still select Griffin first. However, what a story it would have been for the Thunder, shortly after their move to OKC to select the hometown kid.
The truth is that even though he went on to become a five-time All-Star and one of the best big men in the league, two other players from that draft class just shook the rest of the world over these past few years.
Number one or not, there is no shame in being a top-three pick in the NBA draft in a year that was as stacked on the summit as 2009 was.
23 DeMar DeRozan - Sacramento Kings
Original Pick: Tyreke Evans
When Vince Carter left Toronto, many imagined that the term Air Canada wouldn’t be used again as often as it was with Vince. Don’t mistake this; we are not raising comparisons about dunking skills because no one will ever get close to Vince Carter on that matter. And yet, when DeMar DeRozan arrived in Toronto not many people expected he would be as good as he became.
Originally the number nine pick of that year’s draft, DeRozan’s place actually seemed pretty high considering that this was a freshman who only averaged less than 14 points per game playing for USC. But it only took him two years to make everyone realize that he would be no average player in the NBA. Already a three-time All-Star and coming off the best year of his career, don’t be surprised if you see DeRozan flying even higher when next season comes around.
22 Jeff Teague - Minnesota Timberwolves
Original Pick: Ricky Rubio
Teague is the very definition of a player who worked hard to rise in the league and had his sweat rewarded. This guy was not a superstar from the get-go, and it wasn’t until his third season with Atlanta that he became their starting point guard.
It took him a while, but ever since then, Teague has not looked back. After earning that starting role with the Hawks, the 6’2” guard out of Wake Forest quickly put his name in the conversation for being one of the best guards in the league. He was even selected to play in an All-Star game, and might still do it again depending on how well the Indiana Pacers fare next season. A little fun fact for you guys: Teague’s last game of the 2016-17 season, was his 600 NBA game.
21 Jrue Holiday - Minnesota Timberwolves
Original Pick: Jonny Flynn
When we rank how important this guy was to the teams he has passed through; it is easy to reach the conclusion that Holiday was someone who should have been picked earlier in the draft. Especially when you consider Jonny Flynn was picked by the T-Wolves in this spot. Moreover, he was not a top-five pick only because the five guys ahead of him are beasts. Nevertheless, there is not much of a case to be made on this one considering that in the real draft, the number six pick was Jonny Flynn. Do you remember him? Not really, right? That’s probably because Flynn only lasted three very disappointing seasons in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Holiday has built a solid career in the league and averages more than 14 points and six assists per game through his eight years in the NBA.
20 Tyreke Evans - Golden State Warriors
Original Pick: Stephen Curry
Don’t let anybody tell you Tyreke Evans is not a good basketball player. He was undoubtedly good enough to be selected in the lottery of the 2009 NBA draft. However, he should not have been the number four pick in that draft if we are ranking long-term effectiveness. We understand that this is a guy who is a triple-double threat on any given night.
The problem is that Evans is also a player who peaked at a very young age. Take a guess of what was his best season in the NBA. Yeah, his best year in the league was his rookie season. This guy averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game in his first year with the Sacramento Kings. Ever since then, he has been good and maintained the pace, but never really lived up to the astronomical expectations that were put on him after that fantastic first year.
19 Taj Gibson - New York Knicks
Here is a tale of another terrible mistake the New York Knicks committed during a draft night. With countless prospects still on the board, the Knicks decided to go and pick Jordan Hill out of the University of Arizona. Like it happens with most of the guys the Knicks pick in draft lotteries, Hill became a disappointment. He is still in the NBA but only played seven games with the Minnesota Timberwolves this year.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls selected Taj Gibson with the 26th pick in that same draft. Gibson is in no way a superstar. But he is exactly what the Knicks were expecting Jordan Hill would be when they drafted him: a physical defender and a force around the rim who can also contribute on the offensive end.
13 Brandon Jennings - Toronto Raptors
Original Pick: DeMar DeRozan
Jennings was one of the most surprising rookies of that class out from the get go. He was an instant starter with the Milwaukee Bucks and took the role of protagonist of that team incredibly seriously. It is not always that we see a rookie point guard averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 assists per game in his debut the year. Jennings did just that. He kept that pace and continued improving until January 25, 2015. Undoubtedly the worst thing that happened to Jennings’ career, he ruptured his left Achilles tendon and was never the same.
A prolific point guard during his time with Milwaukee and even his beginning with the Pistons, Jennings quickly went from averaging more than 15 points and more than six assists per game, to playing off the bench and being limited to numbers even inferior to that of his rookie season. Hopefully, he will manage to get his career back on track, because we sure miss that Brandon Jennings from Milwaukee.
11 Ricky Rubio - Milwaukee Bucks
Original Pick: Brandon Jennings
It is hard to imagine an international talent that came into the NBA with as much hype around him as Ricky Rubio. He was still in his teens when he was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth pick of the 2009 draft. And don’t get us wrong, while he might have a barrage of haters in the NBA, Rubio has provided in the league everything that was expected of him. This guy was never a scorer, everyone in the NBA knew he was a horrible shooter.
He was good because of his defense and his playmaking skills, both of which are on full display now that he finally has great teammates in Minnesota. Even with all the talk about the Wolves trading him, Rubio just had the best season of his career in the NBA, and mark our words, if the Wolves make a playoff run next year this guy is going to play a vital part in making that happen.
10 Wesley Matthews - New Jersey Nets
Original Pick: Terrence Williams
How crazy is it that a Wisconsin Mr. Basketball who was also selected to the second team All-Big East in college went undrafted? Sure, we understand why nobody would take him in the lottery or even in the first round. But seriously, was Wesley Matthews not better than guys like Ahmad Nivinis or Lester Hudson?
Well, it didn’t take long for Matthews to show everyone who passed up on him that they made a mistake. This guy became a starter halfway through his first year in the NBA, and by his second season, Matthews was already a starting shooting guard and a top scoring option. And we will be damned if we can't say with certainty that the New Jersey Nets made another terrible mistake when they selected Terrence Williams with the 11th pick while this guy was on the board.
8 Darren Collison - Charlotte Bobcats
Original Pick: Gerald Henderson
Darren Collison deserved a better placement in the draft so much that he was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team the year after he was drafted. He started 37 out of the 76 games he played for the New Orleans Hornets that season, averaging 12.4 points, 5.7 assists and one steal per game in Louisiana. Afterward, Collison became sort of an NBA nomad and has played for five different teams in the league.
Nevertheless, his numbers have never wavered as he kept his consistency of scoring more than 12 points per game and dishing out almost five assists per outing throughout his career. He has also become a very reliable shooter as he ages. Not only that, but Collison is also one of those guys who is fun to watch but never gets carried away by the hype and always seems to make the right decision.
6 Gerald Henderson - Indiana Pacers
Original Pick: Tyler Hansbrough
From Carolina to Duke, with the 13th pick of the 2009 NBA draft, we say that the Indiana Pacers should’ve picked Gerald Henderson Jr.
Hilariously enough, the real 13th pick was a North Carolina player, Tyler Hansbrough. The way Hansbrough’s career went was not what most people expected. He was as good as they came in college and even led North Carolina to a national championship. The NBA however, was a bit harsh on Psycho T.
The same can’t be said about Henderson. Here we have dropped him from his original 12th spot simply for the fact that there were better players in the draft than him. But this guard from Duke has been a solid contributor everywhere he went during his NBA career. You won’t see him winning any awards, but he is one of those guys who will play out the rest of his basketball career in the NBA.
4 Ty Lawson - Phoenix Suns
Original Pick: Earl Clark
There was no doubt in anybody’s mind when Ty Lawson declared for the draft that he would become an elite point guard in the NBA. And despite some bumps along the road, especially as of late, Lawson has been a fairly good point guard. During his six seasons with Denver, this guy averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 assists per game. In the 2014-15 season, he was .4 assists shy of averaging a double-double for the year.
By no means are we claiming that he should’ve been a top-five pick, but after the disaster that was Earl Clark with the Phoenix Suns, we can fairly certainly argue that the Suns would have much rather had taken the 2009 ACC Player of the Year with the 14th pick of the 2009 draft.
2 Patrick Beverley - Detroit Pistons
Original Pick: Austin Daye
In the real draft, the Detroit Pistons selected Austin Daye with the number 15 pick. Now unless you followed the Pistons very closely, the odds are pretty high that you have never heard of this guy. He managed to hang around the league until the 2014-15 season, but never even averaged double digits during his career.
Meanwhile, with the 12th pick in the second round, the Lakers selected Patrick Beverley. But despite being drafted in 2009, Beverly only started to play in the NBA in 2013, after he got a chance to hone his skills in Europe. Partly because of that, he became one of those guys whom coaches love. A tenacious defender who can balance out the lack of defense provided by his backcourt teammate in Houston, the Pistons would not be disappointed if they had picked this guy during that year’s draft.
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