By Justin Cherot
Hard to believe it’s been a year already. Where has the time gone?
We can trace the birth of Pick and Pop to June 26th, 2009, when I wrote about cherries popping, and more importantly how the 2009 draft class would be remembered five years later. Thanks to some alterations in the space-time continuim, we know that some of the stuff I wrote (cough, 95.6% of it) is no longer going to be valid. Tyreke Evans had one of the most productive rookie seasons ever and will probably not be a bust; Stephen Curry will never mentor under Steve Nash unless Golden State makes the type of ridiculous trade that will cause riots, and Roddy “Buckets” Beaubois ended up being signed and averaged the most exciting seven points per game in NBA history:
(For the record, as a fan, still upset that somehow this guy was BURIED at the end of the rotation…until he almost single-handedly led the Mavs back against the Spurs in Game 6).
Therefore, I must preface this entry with a warning: though I will try to channel my inner Cleo, take every creative point I write with a grain of salt.
The Sacramento Kings, 2015-2016 NBA Champions. The preceding sentence seemed impossible years ago, but what we’ve learned over the years is to never doubt Tyreke Evans. Some pundits said he’d shoot himself out of the league, but he and 2010 draft pick DeMarcus Cousins shot the Kings to a riveting 4-3 series win against the LeBron James, Chris Bosh and 6th Man of the Year Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat, in the process also denying that team their fourth straight championship. To say this was one of the biggest upsets in finals’ history is an understatement.
The Kings were ecstatic when Cousins fell to them all those years ago. Of course, something tells me that if we were to do the draft all over again five years later, the chips wouldn’t have fallen in the same place. Let’s do some hindsight analysis that will make former Washington Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld check into a psychiatric ward.
1. Washington Wizards
Who they took: John Wall, PG
Who they should’ve taken: DeMarcus Cousins, C
First of all, you can’t really fault Grunfeld for making this pick. Most of the talent evaluators at the time felt that Wall had a chance to be one of the most trascendent point guards in recent memory due to his speed and athleticism. While it’s still true that Wall is impossible to guard off the dribble and his jumper has now made him almost illegal, it took him a couple of years to get acclimated to the NBA game. If you remember, Wall didn’t really take off until the Wizards were FINALLY able to dump Gilbert Arenas and his contract, and while that take-off has definitely occurred and shows no sign of a landing, Cousins has been a 20 and 10 machine from jump street, peaking last season at 25 and 13 boards per game en route to the Kings first title. Evans is still the man in Sactown, but without Cousins, this team isn’t poppin’ champagne like it was 2008. Actually, that’s inaccurate, since Cousins swore off drinking and partying during the season back in his second year. Reports are that the night they won the championship, Cousins was in bed by 12.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Who they took: Evan Turner, SG/SF
Who they should have taken: Wall
Turner has been a model of consistency in Philadelphia, turning into a better version of Brandon Roy and a solid locker room guy. However, as it seems to be the case with Roy, Turner is probably better served as a second banana, whereas John Wall could have lifted the franchise to new heights if he were allowed the freedom he now possesses in DC from Day One. The funny thing is that Cousins was also available here at the time, and Sixers brass is still vilified today to some extent for not taking DC after trading Samuel Dalembert a week prior to the draft.
3. Brooklyn Beats
Who they took: Derrick Favors, PF
Who they should have taken: Turner
Remember what I wrote about Turner possibly being a better sidekick than a feature guy? Can you imagine how he and current Beats’ star Carmelo Anthony would have looked together? Instead, four years later ‘Melo is still looking for that guy who can help get the Beats over the hump and out of the second round. Favors was a calculated roll of the dice, and so far it hasn’t paid off. Favors has never averaged more than 13 a game, and we almost shouldn’t count that considering that total came in his rookie year for a team that was just awful after Brooklyn failed to convince any free agents to play in Newark for two years. Thankfully the Russian regime is over.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Who they took: Wesley Johnson, SF
Who they should have taken: Xavier Henry, SG
It’s no secret: this wasn’t the most talent heavy draft ever, especially at the guard position, but fortunately for the Grizzlies they got a steal in Henry and ended up with a solid starting point guard in Greivis Vasquez. The T’Wolves took Johnson, who has been a solid starter thus far in his NBA career, but Henry stepped in for Rudy Gay right away and put up good numbers, leading the Grizz back into the playoffs. I’m not trying to make Minnesota fans drool, but could you imagine what a Henry/Rubio backcourt would have been like?
5. Sacramento Kings
Who they took: Cousins
Who they should have taken if GMs were actually smart: Greg Monroe, F/C
Monroe has been very good in his own right, stuffing the stat sheet in Motown for the last half decade even when there’s still no one there who can get him the ball. However, the Kings are still jumping for joy that four NBA GMs passed on the draft’s best player.
6. Golden State Warriors
Who they took: Ekpe Udoh, F
Who they should have taken: Craig Brackins, F
At the time we didn’t know that Anthony Randolph–or as we call him now “Mr. Quadruple Double”–would find his calling at the three spot, but if the Warriors had known, Brackins would have been their guy. CB has been a consistent scorer down low for the Hornets and immediately made David West expendable way back when. He would have made it much easier for perennial all-star Stephen Curry to operate… not that he needs much help, but still…
7. Detroit Pistons
Who they took: Monroe
Who they should have taken: Willie Warren, PG/SG
Injuries and a me-first attitude almost caused Warren not to be drafted, but ever since Baron Davis retired Warren has been unstoppable as a combo guard for the Clippers, who came within a Blake Griffin injury of making the finals last season. The pick wouldn’t have made sense at the time since, well, the Pistons were STACKED with smallish combo guards, but considering his 26 points per game this season, Warren was definitely one of the ten best players in this draft.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
Who they took: Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF
Who they should have taken: Damion James, SF/PF
To this day I can’t figure out how an athletic banger with perimeter skills slipped to the end of the first round in this draft, but it happened. The Clippers felt like they drafted someone who fit that bill in Aminu, but just like every single fairly high draft pick in Clipper history, injuries robbed him of some of his abilities. Maybe scouts felt that James lacked the upside of an Aminu or a Wesley Johnson, but he’s been great wing for the Hawks. Pun intended.
9. Utah Jazz
Who they took: Gordon Hayward, SF
Who they should have taken: Wesley Johnson, SF
In this re-work of a draft, Johnson would still be on the board and the Jazz, looking for quality depth at the wing spot, would have gladly taken Johnson. He hasn’t wowed people during the first few years of his career (scouts over-estimated his ability to create for himself), but he’s been a solid contributor in Minnesota, and at this point in the draft he’s probably the best player left. At the very least, he’s better than Hayward, who has carved out a nice career for himself for Real Madrid.
10. Indiana Pacers
Who they took: Paul George, SF
Who they should have taken: Dominique Jones, SG/PG
That Beaubois/Jones backcourt in Dallas has become a potent combo, and since the Pacers at the time were in the market for just about everything that draft, Jones would have been a good look at ten. George has shown flashes of ability at times for three teams in five years, but I always thought that pick was redundant, especially since their best player, Danny Granger, plays the same position. Jones, meanwhile, cracked the 20 points per game level for the first time this past season in leading the Mavs to the second round of the playoffs.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (since New Orleans would have probably still traded their pick)
Who they took: Cole Aldrich, F/C
Who they should have taken: James Anderson, SG
Considering that he’s only averaged more than 10 points per game once, you’re probably wondering why I’d go from one reach to another in this version of the draft. Easy: Anderson fills a need that Oklahoma City still hasn’t been able to fill. Anderson has been a lights-out spot-up shooter in the league, and if you think about the Thunder’s inability to advance further than the second round of the playoffs, that’s really been their only weakness. When the Thunder get bogged down in the half-court, there’s no one to kick out to for an open “J”. Anderson would have at least been able to do that. Aldrich, meanwhile, has been GLUED to the bench throughout his career.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
Who they took: Henry
Who they should have taken: Luke Babbitt, SF
Scouts were mixed on Babbitt prior to the 2010 draft, but he’s turned out to be a very good starter in the NBA. After sitting for his first two years in Portland, the Trailblazers gave up on him and shipped him to Cleveland, and while he hasn’t exactly made people forget about #23 (it’s been five years: GET OVER IT!!!!), Babbitt led the league in three-point percentage this past season.
13. Toronto Raptors
Who they took: Ed Davis, F
Who they should have taken: Davis
The Raptors patience with Davis looks to finally be paying off. After sitting on a horrific Raptors’ team for two years, Davis finally became a starter in year three and averaged the first double-double of his career this season. Good for him.
14. Houston Rockets
Who they took: Patrick Patterson, F
Who they should have taken: Patterson
Solid rotation and character guy for the Rockets. Funny how the guys at the bottom of the lottery ended up getting it right.
On another note… JULY 1ST!!!!!!!!!!! HERE WE COME!!!!!!!!!!!