Final Top 25 for 2009

Now that the 2009 NBA draft has come and gone, let’s take one final look at our Top 25 as we make our final judgment based on where each player was selected and which system they’ll be playing in. It’s of course incredibly difficult to project which players will have productive careers and which players will be out of the league within a few short years. It’s a tough call. But this final Top 25 is our best guess at which players are the most likely to excel in the NBA.

nba_g_eclarkts_576

For this thread, we referred heavily on John Hollinger’s 2009 Draft Rater and our own impressions to determine where each player should be ranked. A player’s fit into the system to which they were drafted also played a small part. Though most players will not spend their entire careers with a single team, so we didn’t put a heavy emphasis on that factor.
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ncb_g_griffin_400#1] BLAKE GRIFFIN –lac
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Position: PF
Size: 6-10 250
Age: 20
College: Oklahoma

Analysis: Griffin is the prize of this class and, with his NBA-ready physique and game, he’ll likely win Rookie of the Year honors now that the Clippers have shipped Zach Randolph to Memphis. Long-term, he has the work ethic and determination to eventually become a superstar. He has a lethal combination of Carlos Boozer’s physicality in the post mixed with the raw athleticism of Amare Stoudemire. It’s difficult to imagine even the Clips holding Griffin back from being one of the premier players in the league before long.

stephen_curry1#2] STEPHEN CURRY – gsw
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Position: CG
Size: 6-3 185
Age: 21
College: Davidson

Analysis: Curry is an easy pick as the one who’ll likely give Griffin the most competition for NBA Rookie of the Year honors next season. He and Monta Ellis will form a deadly combination in the backcourt and it’s safe to say that Curry will have the opportunity to play both backcourt positions from time to time. His shooting touch and deep range will be a perfect contrast to Ellis’ slashing ability. Perhaps most importantly though, Curry will likely be one of the more electrifying players in the league if he can find his niche. He’s also very marketable.

nba_tourney_3panel_576#3] JAMES HARDEN –okc
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Position: SG
Size: 6-4 215
Age: 19
College: Arizona State

Analysis: Some thought Rubio should’ve (and would’ve) been Oklahoma City’s pick in the draft, but we think they got it right with Harden. He not only fills a need, but is also the most NBA-ready player in the class next to Griffin. Harden already has an NBA-ready body, a high basketball IQ, and an old school game. He’s also an underrated athlete and the best all-around scorer in the class. Though the Brandon Roy comparisons may be premature, he has a lot of Roy’s capabilities.

dm_081220_syr_mem1#4] JONNY FLYNN – min
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Position: PG
Size: 6-0 185
Age: 20
College: Syracuse

Analysis: Flynn is not only the safest bet among pure point guards in this class, but he’s also the most NBA-ready. Though he doesn’t have the size or upside of others at his position, he has tremendous ability on both ends of the floor and he’ll be rock solid as a floor general for at least a decade. He’s one of the classiest young players in the game and is as competitive a player as there is in the NBA. As a bonus, his marketability is right there with Griffin and Curry and he’s proven he’ll shine in big games.

tyrekeevans7_2515022 #5] TYREKE EVANS – sac
SACRAMENTO KINGS
Position: SG
Size: 6-6 210
Age: 19
College: Memphis

Analysis: Some were reluctant to place Evans this high until recently, but he was in our top ten all season. But how does he fit in Sacramento, where he’ll likely be expected to handle the ball and play out of position in the backcourt with Kevin Martin? That’s the only real question mark. He’s one of the five most skilled players in the class, and Memphis excelled with him as the lead guard, but few see him playing that role in the NBA. Perhaps his best chance for success is with another team or if the Kings blow things up and move Martin.

nba_rubio_hansbrough1_5764#6] RICKY RUBIO – min
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Position: PG
Size: 6-4 180
Age: 18
Country: Spain
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: The Spanish phenom is an absolutely amazing talent and is second only to Griffin in terms of potential at the NBA level. Perhaps the only variable holding him back from the No. 2 spot, where we had him all year long, is the current situation with his buyout in Spain and the fact that we may not see him in an NBA uniform for a year or two as a result. But if he comes over and finds himself in the right situation, he could be an absolute game-changer with his high basketball IQ, amazing court sense and leadership ability.

r_05#7] AUSTIN DAYE –det
DETROIT PISTONS
Position: SF
Size: 6-11 192
Age: 20
College: Gonzaga
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Daye is perhaps the 2009 version of Anthony Randolph; lottery level talent trapped in an underdeveloped body. Once he develops though, he’ll have the chance to be a very good player in the right situation. It all depends on how well he develops and the opportunities he’ll have for growth and maturity. Based on his size, athleticism, and freakish wingspan, he’s a very intriguing prospect, and could even be a special player down the road. But it’s going to depend on how dedicated he is to becoming a better player and reaching his potential.

a34852#8] TY LAWSON –den
DENVER NUGGETS
Position: PG
Size: 5-11 195
Age: 21
College: North Carolina
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Lawson finds himself in a near perfect situation in Denver, backing up veteran point guard Chauncey Billups. After a couple years under Billups’ tutelage, Lawson will have the chance to become his successor. According to John Hollinger’s draft rater, Lawson as the potential to really excel in the NBA and the situation and style of play in Denver should allow him every opportunity to reach that potential. Injuries and conditioning have been an issue for Lawson while in college, but he has the ability to eventually be a terrific player.

849690971#9] DeJUAN BLAIR – sas
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Position: PF
Size: 6-7 260
Age: 19
College: Pittsburgh
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Simply put, if Blair’s knees hold up for a few years, he’ll be the steal of the class. The Spurs nabbed him in the second round, but he has lottery level talent and ability. He’s a bit undersized for his position, but he has freakishly long arms (7-foot-3 wingspan), power in the paint and a nonstop motor that should serve him well in San Antonio. His knees are a concern, but if healthy, he can be an absolute force in the paint as a rebounder and scorer, and doesn’t seem to mind going against bigger players (see: Hasheem Thabeet).

nba_rubio_hansbrough1_576-22-51-27#10] TYLER HANSBROUGH – ind
INDIANA PACERS
Position: PF
Size: 6-9 250
Age: 23
College: North Carolina
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Up until recently, scouts and GMs wondered if Hansbrough’s game would translate to the NBA. He dominated the NCAA for four years, but that didn’t seem to matter. The good news for Hansbrough, though, is the fact that he has good size and strength for the power forward position and he’s an underrated athlete. He’s also an absolute warrior, a hard worker, and a terrific free throw shooter for a big man. He plays with heart and toughness and he plays the right way. In a league lacking of those qualities, he should have a solid career.

dm_090214_ncb_uconn_hall112#11] HASHEEM THABEET –mem
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Position: C
Size: 7-3 265
Age: 22
College: Connecticut
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: We’re not as excited about Thabeet as perhaps others are, but he has two things that translate well to NBA game: size and defense. He’ll never be a star – and maybe not even a starter with the way teams are going with smaller, quicker lineups – but he can be an effective shot blocker and defensive presence in the middle … and that’s exactly what most teams are looking for. But with his limited capabilities, it’s doubtful he’ll be considered one of the best players in the class when it’s all said and done.

3147913471_322ea231d9#12] NICK CALATHES – dal
DALLAS MAVERICKS
Position: CG
Size: 6-5 185
Age: 20
College: Florida
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Once Calathes comes to the NBA from Greece, he’ll be a legit player because of his ability to play both backcourt positions and shoot the ball efficiently. Though he doesn’t have the athleticism that would give him a higher ceiling for potential, he’s an above-average rebounder and underrated defender. When thinking of triple-threat players (handle, shoot, pass), Calathes instantly comes to mind. Big guards who can play the point are highly valued in the NBA, which should make him an intriguing player once he gets to the NBA.

ncb_g_green_600 #13] DANNY GREEN – cle
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Position: SG
Size: 6-6 210
Age: 22
College: North Carolina
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Danny Green was arguably the fourth-best player to come out of North Carolina this year, he has the ability to stick in the league. He’s an athletic defender with good size and length and is an underrated shooter on the wing. While he may never be a full-time starter, he’ll likely be a solid bench player for the next decade. He’ll be playing behind Anthony Parker early on, but should be a part of the core group in Cleveland moving forward. The fact that Cleveland grabbed him in the second round means be could be a steal down the road.

geraldhenderson4_191501#14] GERALD HENDERSON – cha
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
Position: SG
Size: 6-5 210
Age: 21
College: Duke
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Henderson is likely to be a solid player, but probably won’t be a great player. Part of it has to do with the situation he’s in under Larry Brown in Charlotte. That’s not necessarily conducive for developing young talent. But he has a high basketball IQ, an NBA-ready body and the versatility to contribute immediately at the next level. He’s also a solid defender and has improved his ability as a scorer during the second half of the season. So he has a lot to work with and could have some decent long-term potential in the right situation.

85052554#15] JEFF TEAGUE – atl
ATLANTA HAWKS
Position: CG
Size: 6-2 180
Age: 20
College: Wake Forest
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: After essentially giving up on Acie Law, the Hawks selected Teague, who is another small combo guard in a similar mold. Teague is a super-athletic scoring guard, but because he isn’t a great ball handler and decision maker, scouts question whether he’s ready to be a full-time lead guard in the NBA. It’s doubtful that he’ll ever be a full-time point guard, but fortunately, in a backcourt with Joe Johnson and/or Jamal Crawford, he may not have to be. He’s a good, but not great prospect who’ll have some decent success in the NBA.

081217-VCU-vs-Akron-MBB-0352-sm #16] ERIC MAYNOR – uth
UTAH JAZZ
Position: PG
Size: 6-3 175
Age: 22
College: Virginia Commonwealth
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Maynor found himself in a near-perfect situation backing up Deron Williams and playing for Jerry Sloan in Utah. Williams is a terrific point guard and learning from him should help Maynor become a better player. Point guards have excelled in Sloan’s system (just look at the likes of Howard Eisley and Keith McLeod) and Maynor has the talent and maturity to be the next. Down the road, it’s possible to even see Maynor as a starter somewhere, which isn’t necessarily something that can be said about some of the players drafted ahead of him.

earlclark8_191502#17] EARL CLARK – pho
PHOENIX SUNS
Position: SF
Size: 6-10 225
Age: 21
College: Louisville
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Clark is an intriguing player. On talent, he’s among the top player in the class. But concerns about his character, work ethic and motivation to become a better player have given us second thoughts about his long-term potential in the NBA. He has tremendous size and skill and for his position at the next level. And if he can put it all together, he’s the prototypical small forward in the NBA. But the red flags mean that he could end up like so many other players who have the talent to succeed, but lack the will and determination.

2_jordan_hill1#18] JORDAN HILL – nyk
NEW YORK KNICKS
Position: PF
Size: 6-9 225
Age: 21
College: Arizona
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Hill emerged as a lottery prospect this year, largely due to a lack of elite big men in the draft class. And while he quietly put together a very strong individual season at Arizona, and has the size and athleticism to succeed in the NBA, he doesn’t have the long-term potential we’ve come to expect from a top ten pick. One would think he’d be a perfect fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system as a scorer and rebounder, but he’s still a bit raw offensively and he isn’t a good ball handler or passer, which is somewhat essential to thrive in D’Antoni’s offense.

ncb_u_williams_5761#19] TERRENCE WILLIAMS – njn
NEW JERSEY NETS
Position: G-F
Size: 6-6 220
Age: 21
College: Louisville
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Williams is a whacky personality with an all-around game reminiscent of Ron Artest. He isn’t nearly as unpredictable or unbalanced as the Lakers forward, but he’s of that mold. He’ll certainly be fun to watch, but will probably never be a star in the NBA. He can do everything on the court, except his scoring efficiency is fairly suspect. But he has the talent and athleticism to be the one of the top players in the class. It will be interesting to see how he utilizes that talent and if he can ever become a consistent scorer.

brandonjennings5_2915021-20-12-47 #20] BRANDON JENNINGS – mil
MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Position: PG
Size: 6-2 165
Age: 19
High School: Oak Hill Academy
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Jennings is an extraordinary talent: a pure point guard who can score. He has the potential and upside to be one of the top three or four players in this class, but has a long ways to go before he can reach that potential. He didn’t have a great year playing professionally with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian league, and his immaturity and sometimes-erratic behavior on the court is reminiscent of a young Stephon Marbury. Some question how that will fly with infamously disciplined coach Scott Skiles.

jrueholiday7_25150-10-01-50 #21] JRUE HOLIDAY – phi
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Position: CG
Size: 6-4 205
Age: 19
College: UCLA
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Holiday has about as much upside as anyone in the class, though he may be a few years away from reaching his potential. He’s a long, athletic, competitive player with a constant motor, a quick first step, and a ball-hawking defensive mentality. He’ll be able to come off the bench at both backcourt positions early on, which gives him added value. It’s tough to tell whether he’ll ever reach his potential, but in our opinion, he has a lot of ground to make up on some of the other players in this class.

#22] TONEY DOUGLAS – nyk
NEW YORK KNICKS
Position: CG
Size: 6-2 185
Age: 23
College: Florida State
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Douglas is a perfect fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system as a third guard who can add instant offense off the bench. He’ll probably never be a full-time starter, but he’ll likely be a solid player for the next decade. He also plays defense, and though he’s more of a two-guard, he’ll be an effective player at either guard position. Like Gordon, he’s a big-time shooter who’s capable of scoring a lot of points in the right situation. There are players in the league that aren’t stars, but keep getting paid like one. Douglas fits that mold.

843765283 #23] DEMAR DeROZAN – tor
TORONTO RAPTORS
Position: SG
Size: 6-6 210
Age: 19
College: Southern Cal
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: DeRozan is the high risk / high reward player in the class. Coming out of high school, he was billed as the best wing prospect to come out of the Los Angeles area since Paul Pierce. He’s a freak of an athlete and an excellent finisher in the open court. But he has no range on his jump shot, has a negative pure point rating, and has a questionable motor and is a poor free throw shooter. Though Hollinger conveniently removed his comments about DeRozan from his Draft Rater story, here is the full clip.

84053195 #24] B.J. MULLENS – okc
OKLAHOM CITY THUNDER
Position: C
Size: 7-1 260
Age: 20
College: Ohio State
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Last summer, Chad Ford wrote that Mullens, based on potential, could challenge Blake Griffin for the top overall selection in this year’s draft. Obviously that’s laughable now. Mullens debuted at No. 16 on our initial Top 25 in June 2008, and he’s been sliding down ever since. He has the size and athleticism to be a dominant player, but based on production, he’s clearly not ready for the NBA. He lacks aggressiveness, maturity and a high basketball IQ. That being said, taking a chance on him in the late first round wasn’t a bad idea, and time will tell if he ever pans out as a player.

ncb_g_young_400
#25] SAM YOUNG – mem
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Position: SF
Size: 6-6 230
Age: 24
College: Pittsburgh
NBA Comparison:

Analysis: Young doesn’t have the long-term potential of the rest of the players on this list, but he’ll be able to make an immediate impact in Memphis. He’s one of the elite athletes in this class and is a tough, physical presence out on the wing. Once he improves his ball handling and passing, he’ll have the complete package on offense. I wonder if he’ll get trapped in a situation where the culture of losing causes him to lose his edge. If he were on a playoff team instead, I’d like his chances for success much, much more.

  • Email Andrew at ajohn135@gmail.com
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