Looking at the 2009 NBA Draft on paper, few imagined it would yield the crop of talent it did, and that even included the first pick overall spending the year in crutches and the second pick being demoted to the D-League for a period of time.
But even more than the fact that the draft impressed, was the fact that it was one of the deepest at in point guard position, possibly ever. Tyreke Evans, playing point for Sacramento, became only the fifth player ever to average 20 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg as a rookie. Stephen Curry blossomed into one of the best gunners from the arc and one of the best swipers as well, averaging 1.9 steals. His total stats were 17.5 ppg, 5.9 apg, 4.5 rpg, and 43.7% from three. Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee further into the playoffs than anyone expected, taking Atlanta to seven games. And that’s not to mention the fact he dropped a double nickel, 55 points, on Golden State, in only his seventh game as a pro. Darren Collison stepped in during the absence of Chris Paul, and did a Chris Paul-like job, averaging 20 and 10. Johnny Flynn put together a nice first season and showed he definitely has a future in the league (whether that will be as a starter or not is a matter of debate and speculation). Jrue Holiday showed signs of promise at the end, possibly foreshadowing a breakout season in 2010-2011. And Roddy Beaubois and Toney Douglas proved to be interesting prospects, each showing flashes of brilliance at times. The jury is still out on Jeff Teague and Eric Maynor, but I doubt that either one is a complete bust.
This article will rank the rookie point guards and take a brief look at the contributions of each in their first seasons.
1. Tyreke Evans
The reigning rookie of the year entered rare territory this year, putting together one of the best all around rookie seasons ever seen. One thing that strikes me as possible, is that this ROY fails to improve much upon this year. While I agree his potential is great, I’m not sure we’ll see him ever step into elite territory. The absolute best case scenario is a better passing version of Carmelo Anthony, while the worst case scenario would be that he declines and ends up more like John Salmons. Either way, he is the cream of this class, and may eventually move over to the shooting guard position, so he can focus more on scoring, not to mention the fact that he is 6′6.” He has the agility and speed of a much smaller player, but the strength of someone as well built as he is. He’s definitely got a future, but it’s hard to discern just exactly how bright it will be. Only time will tell.
2. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is who I feel is the most talented in the rookie class. He barely fell short of Evans in many areas, and was even better in some. His perimeter shooting is just like his fathers (Dell Curry) and the rest of his game is even better. He looks to be a true point guard and will be a perennial all star. I see his ceiling as higher than Evans, and I think he could maybe eventually average 22 ppg and 8 apg. Last year, he had 22 games with 25 points or greater. Granted, part of this is a product of the Golden State high octane offense, but I feel his skills are definitely legit and that he would put up great numbers on any team.
3. Darren Collison
Darren Collison, despite being the 21st overall pick, ended up outplaying so many in his draft class that he will eventually go down as one of the all-time draft steals. When Paul went down with his knee injury, Collison has put up All-Star numbers himself, averaging 18.3 ppg, 9.6 apg, and adding a steal and four boards. Clearly, he is too good to be backing up a player like Paul, where Collison will only see a max of 10 minutes a night. With rumors of Chris Paul being traded circulating already, it has become clear that New Orleans has no problem with turning the reigns over to Collison. Coupled with 45th overall pick Marcus Thornton, a specimen in his own right, and New Orleans has one of the best young backcourts in the league. Watching Collison and Thornton grow together should prove to be rewarding.
4. Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings has the distinction of being the only one in the top six who made a playoff appearance (Ty Lawson, the seventh, appeared in the playoffs with Denver, of course). Jennings is not only good, but also exciting, and I expect him to be the kind of players that fills seats. He showed he is capable of incredible nights, scoring 55 in a 129-125 win against Golden State in his seventh career game. His field goal percentage leaves much to be desired, being among the league worst for starters, but I expect that to steadily improve as his shot selection becomes more refined. No one knows whether he was smart to go overseas for his first season out of high school, but at this point, does it even matter? Jennings is a part of an up and coming team and will team up with Bogut to lead the Bucks to the playoffs on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.
5. Johnny Flynn
The only reason I give Johnny Flynn the nod over Holiday here is that he put together a more complete season. Holiday could eventually prove to be the better player (and by could, I mean probably will). But for the purpose of these rankings, I am trying to take mostly season performance into account, and Flynn put together a very solid rookie season. His scoring average of 13.5 a game is above the average for an NBA point guard, and he also chipped in 4.4 assists. I think a best case scenario for Flynn is to average 15-17 ppg and 5-6 apg, which makes him a valid NBA starter. The worst case scenario is he falls in love with his jump shot and becomes the next Troy Hudson (no bash on Hudson, he had a couple very solid seasons, but you catch my drift).
6. Jrue Holiday
Holiday has a great body with which he could use to be a top rate defender. Think almost as good as Gary Payton. On top of that, he has an effective three point shot (39%) and averaged 7.4 apg over the last ten games of the season. He looks to be a perfect fit as a starting point guard, and will go great along with Evan Turner, who the Sixers drafted on Thursday night. The Gary Payton comparison may be a bit much, but I do think Holiday has a real future in this league, and pairing him with Turner will give the Sixers one of the league’s best young backcourts. I think a realistic projection for Holiday next year could be 12-13 ppg, 6 apg, and 1.5 threes/game.
7. Ty Lawson
There were rumors that Ty Lawson may be traded to Indiana for the tenth overall selection in the draft. The Pacers would have been VERY WISE to do that move (if it was actually on the table), as I think Lawson has the speed and quickness to be one of the best “water bug” type point guards to play the game. He looks to know how to get to the hole, and is an excellent three point shooter as well (41%), which will make him a tough cover for all opposing guards. He looks to be a slightly better passing version of Jameer Nelson, which is a solid find for a 17th pick in the draft. If Ty Lawson can land in Indiana as a starter, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him average 12 ppg, 5.5 apg, and a three a game.
8. Rodrique Beaubois
Beaubois drew high praise from veterans Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. They spoke of how athletic he is and each agreed he has a lot of promise. He showed why on a few occasions, scoring 40 against the defense-less Golden State Warriors. Perhaps it would mean more if he did it to a better defensive team, but it does show he is capable of scoring in heaps. He had a six game stretch in March where he averaged 15 points a game, which probably speaks to his true potential. A problem for the immediate future for Beaubois is that he is stuck on a very talented Mavericks team, and to get significant minutes, either there will have to be an injury to a key player, or a trade to open up more playing time.
9. Toney Douglas
Toney Douglas is definitely in the mold of a shoot first point guard. Looking at his game log you see why. Of the nights when he scored 20 or more points, only two of the five games did he record more than 5 assists. Perhaps that isn’t what is important though. Douglas is playing for D’Antoni, and will get his looks in the fast paced offense of New York, and coupled with a play maker at the shooting guard position – say Joe Johnson for instance – a real possibility – and Douglas instantly becomes more valuable. That is the path his career will take, though, unless he learns to pass much better.
10. Eric Maynor
Maynor started the season as a member of the Utah Jazz, backing up who is arguably the best point guard in the league, Deron Williams. Somehow, he still managed 14 minutes a game and showed flashes of potential. He was dealt to Oklahoma City, to back up Russell Westbrook, so he didn’t see significantly more minutes after the deal (2:30 more per game, to be exact). In his limited time, however, he did well. Per-36, his stats work out to 10.8 ppg and 7.5 apg. While it is dubious as to whether Maynor will ever be a starter in this league, he will at minimum be one of the better backups on any given team.
11. Jeff Teague
The last point guard in question is one the Hawks have yet to commit to and show a real interest in developing. Because the Hawks were a contender (at least maybe in the eyes of some), they committed to giving veterans Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford the majority of the minutes at the point guard position. Crawford’s play, really, made Teague obsolete, because Crawford was able to take the minutes that Bibby left. One interesting thing about Teague though, is that in the last game of the season, he played all 48 minutes in a win over Cleveland, scoring 24 points and dishing out 15 assists. The game was utterly meaningless as both teams had already established their respective seedings, but it is an encouraging note on an otherwise forgettable rookie season.
Brett Roberts is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brett in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Nene.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!