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Lessons From The 2009 Draft

Only about five weeks remain until the end of the regular season, and with the NCAA Tournament in full swing, NBA teams are beginning to look at draft prospects for next year. With that in mind, it's helpful to look back at previous drafts to see what we can learn. Three years after a draft offers a fairly relevant sample size to judge teams on their selections and players on their performances. It also offers a look ahead to next season, when some of the 2009 draftees will be extension candidates ahead of a chance at restricted free agency in the summer of 2013. Here are the top five overachieving picks from 2009, and the top five underachievers, with the team that drafted them, draft position, and relevant career stats in parentheses.


  • Brandon Jennings (Bucks, 10th overall: 16.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 15.9 PER) He's a lottery pick with a career 38.6 shooting percentage, but when he scored 55 points in his seventh NBA game, he showed why he's got more talent than the average 10th selection. He's improved his field-goal percentage and PPG in each of his three seasons, and the 22-year-old is the Bucks leading scorer this year.
  • Marcus Thornton (Heat, 43rd overall: 14.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 17.1 PER) The Heat traded him on draft night to the Hornets, but it's been in Sacramento where Thornton has truly flourished, putting up 21.3 PPG after arriving last year and 18.6 this season. Credit former Kings coach Paul Westphal with putting him in the starting lineup and getting the best out of this former second-round pick. 
  • Ty Lawson (Timberwolves, 18th overall: 11.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 17.6 PER) Of all the point guards the Wolves drafted that year, he might be the best. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, GM David Kahn traded Lawson to Denver on draft night. Lawson served as an understudy to Chauncey Billups his first year and a half, but was picked to start over Raymond Felton after the Carmelo Anthony trade last year and has held the job ever since. He's averaging a career-high 15.2 PPG and 6.8 APG this season.
  • Taj Gibson (Bulls, 26th overall: 7.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 14.6 PER) He became a bench player after starting 70 games in his rookie season, but he often plays the crunch-time minutes of a starter. He's earned coach Tom Thibodeau's trust, which speaks to his defense, and he's tough to handle on boards, averaging 9.7 RPG per 36 minutes for his career.
  • DeJuan Blair (Spurs, 37th overall: 8.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 17.3 PER) There aren't many second-rounders who start for contending teams in their third seasons, and fewer still who do it without ACLs in their knees. He plays less than half the game for the Spurs these days, even though he starts, but is efficient in his time, averaging 15.8 PPG and 9.7 RPG per 36 minutes this season.


  • Hasheem Thabeet (Grizzlies, 2nd overall: 2.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 10.6 PER) It's not a positive sign for a No. 2 overall pick when he goes down to the D-League in each of his first two seasons, but that's exactly what happened here. Memphis GM Chris Wallace has avoided too much criticism for this one because the spectre of the Blazers' wasted pick of Greg Oden two years prior overshadows it, the Grizzlies have been winning, and the team was able to trade Thabeet in a package that netted Shane Battier, a key figure in their playoff run last year.
  • Terrence Williams (Nets, 11th overall: 7.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 10.5 PER) After being waived by the Rockets last week, he's headed for his third NBA team, this time on a 10-day contract with the Kings. That's a long fall for a lottery pick.
  • Jordan Hill (Knicks, 8th overall: 5.4 PPG, 4.2 PPG, 14.1 PER) He was traded to Houston midway through his rookie season, and now finds himself with the Lakers after another deadline deal this year. Still, since L.A. gave up trusty Derek Fisher to get him, the Lakers may see enough in Hill to think he can at least carve out a niche as a solid contributor.
  • Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves, 6th overall: 9.7 PPG, 3.9 APG, 11.2 PER) David Kahn raised plenty of eyebrows when he followed up his pick of Ricky Rubio at No. 5 with another point guard. He was a reliable insurance policy in his first year as Rubio played overseas, starting 81 games and averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.4 APG. He's started only eight games since, but could see time with his new team in Portland, as the Blazers look at some of their younger players.
  • Earl Clark (Suns, 14th overall: 3.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 8.7 PER) Buried on the bench with the Suns, Clark got a look as the backup to Dwight Howard after being traded to Orlando last year. His 4.1 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 11.9 MPG was underwhelming enough for the Magic to give his minutes to Glen Davis this year, and Clark is once more out of the rotation.


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4 thoughts on “Lessons From The 2009 Draft

  1. Table

    “With that in mind, it’s helpful to look back at previous drafts to see what we can learn.”

    It would have been nice if there were some analysis in this article so that we could you know…LEARN. Just summarizing a player’s time in the NBA gains us nothing.

  2. K-Hopp

    Also, it’s extraordinary that Lawson’s current 6.8 APG is a career-high when your overall stats say he’s averaged 8.6 APG…could you mean 4.6 perhaps?

  3. cseehausen

    I think Hill is already a decent bench big. I don’t know that he lived up to what you would hope from a #8 overall pick, but he’s an NBA player and will likely remain one. Very good rebounder.

  4. dc21892

    Thabeet has been a huge bust.

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