2009 NBA Draft Review
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
Weird, weird draft. It was billed as one of the weakest in recent memory, but teams were still getting value well into the second round. The Timberwolves took to point guards the way Matt Millen took to wide receivers, Brandon Jennings had to hop in a cab to get back to Madision Square Garden and slap on a Bucks hat, and Ricky Rubio gave us the best "no really, I'm happy" draft- day face since Eli Manning. Or maybe Steve Francis.
For fantasy purposes, here's what you need to know about the 2009 Draft:
a) Most NBA observers thought this draft was only seven or eight players deep - after that, we're looking at rotation players, backups and roster filler.
b) That list of seven or eight players includes an 18- year- old point guard who might not even play in the US this season, an incredibly raw center that's only been playing basketball for seven years, and a couple of guys who will be learning new positions at the pro level.
Add that rookies tend not to be great fantasy options anyway, and you've got a whole lot of "guys you'd be better off letting some other team draft." But the rookie class of 2009 isn't an entirely lost cause.
James Harden (OKC) - Harden is regarded as one of the most NBA- ready players in the draft this year, and he's headed to a team where he could start right away. He could have a rookie season similar to O.J. Mayo's.
Stephen Curry (GSW) - Sorry, Knick fans - it just wasn't meant to be. Honestly, I think the Curry hype has gotten out of control. I think he'll be a very good rotation player and possibly a dependable point guard… but I'm thinking "better version of Steve Blake" at this point. I don't love the fit in Golden State, where Don Nelson will apparently be starting two shooting guards that think they're point guards, but they'll score points, at least. There are strong rumors that Curry might wind up in Phoenix, as part of a deal for Amar'e Stoudemire - and playing alongside Steve Nash wouldn't hurt his scoring average, either.
DeJuan Blair (SAN) - I would love to see the medical reports that the 29 teams other than San Antonio were looking at. I don't care if he had a couple of knee operations in high school - in college, he absolutely dominated the top center in this year's draft. San Antonio is an ideal landing spot for Blair, as the Spurs just dealt Kurt Thomas in the Richard Jefferson trade. Even as a reserve, Blair should get enough boards (and put- backs) to be worth a spot in a lot of leagues.
Jonny Flynn (MIN) - Without even meeting his teammates - or his coach, who hasn't even been hired yet - Flynn is the best point guard on the Timberwolves. (Yes, that includes Ricky Rubio - more on him in a second.) And the native of Niagara Falls, NY won't be scared off by the cold.
Blake Griffin (LAC) - Griffin is good enough to rise above the logjam at the four and five spots for the Clippers, and combined with Eric Gordon, should provide LA with a nice inside- outside core to build around. His fantasy stock will improve significantly if the Clippers find a taker for Zach Randolph - though it seems more likely Marcus Camby will be the one to go.
Terrence Williams (NJN) - Williams is regarded as something of a free spirit. If he can keep his head on straight, he could win a major role in the Nets rotation this season, especially with Vince Carter traded to Orlando.
Earl Clark (PHO) - During the lead- in to the draft, Clark drew more than a few comparisons to Tim Thomas and Lamar Odom - and not in a good way. There's a chance that Clark will become the latest example of a guy who doesn't live up to his massive potential - but he's got a chance to become the combo forward Phoenix has been missing since Shawn Marion started pouting.
Toney Douglas (NYK) - Douglas could be a really nice "get" for the Knicks with the 29th overall pick. A high- energy combo guard, he could end up as the third guard in Mike D'Antoni's rotation if Donnie Walsh opts not to retain Nate Robinson.
Jordan Hill (NYK) - Can't really call the eighth- overall pick a sleeper, can you? The Knick fans at last night's draft, disappointed that Curry didn't get past Golden State, greeted Hill with a hail of boos. My guess is they'll respond better once he starts racking up double- doubles, which he could, especially if David Lee isn't around next season.
Omri Casspi (SAC) - Casspi drew raves from scouts for his toughness and hard- nosed approach - two qualities in short supply in Sacramento. Don't be surprised if he wins a very significant role right off the bat.
Ricky Rubio (MIN) - T- Wolves president David Kahn is talking a good game… but does anyone really think he's going to play Rubio and Jonny Flynn simultaneously? (As a bonus, in an interview on ESPN Radio this morning, Kahn had the nerve to say that they opted not to draft Stephen Curry because Curry "says he's a point guard." Uh, David?)
If Rubio is dealt - one credible rumor circulating last night had him going to New York for Hill and Nate Robinson in a sign- and- trade - his value gets a major boost. If Minnesota insists on hanging on to his rights, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Rubio play at least one more season in Spain.
Tyreke Evans (SAC) - Evans moved ahead of guys like Rubio and Curry on the strength of individual workouts, but individual workouts play to his strength - outstanding size and athleticism - and mask his deficiencies - he's not a natural point guard. I'd feel a lot better about his immediate prospects if he'd landed with a team that could play him at the two initially and gradually slide him to the point... but Kevin Martin is pretty firmly established as the two in Sacramento. This doesn't mean he won't be a very good player - I just don't think he'll be a great fantasy option as a rookie.
Brandon Jennings (MIL) - He's a tremendous athlete and a great story - but he didn't play all that much in Italy; it stands to reason he'll need a little time to develop.
Hasheem Thabeet (MEM) - A tremendous physical specimen, with remarkable agility for a man his size, but I just can't shake the image of Thabeet getting torched by DeJuan Blair last season. He'll probably have fantasy value as a shot- blocker, but playing against guys that aren't intimidated by his size will be a major adjustment.
Austin Daye (DET) - Good shooter, has NBA height, but Jonny Flynn - who is nearly a foot shorter - outweighs Daye by about five pounds. Hit the weight room, young man, and get back to me. (Is anyone else disturbed at the idea of Daye and Tayshaun Prince on the floor together? Joe Dumars should just sign Paris Hilton to play the point.)
We'll have a better idea of which rookies will make immediate contributions and which to avoid as rosters are filled and playing time situations become clearer. Enjoy the summer.
Article first appeared on 6/26/09