I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: In just about every sport, you can’t accurately judge a draft class for at least three years after the fact (and longer than that in baseball).
Going into the ’09 NBA Draft, everybody decided early that the class was weak, but look around the League now. Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry look like certified future superstars, while Brandon Jennings isn’t far behind. Then you’ve got Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton, Jonny Flynn, Taj Gibson, Omri Casspi, Jonas Jerebko, DeJuan Blair and Chase Budinger making immediate impacts as starters or sixth men in Year One. And this is all without the one “sure thing” from that draft, Blake Griffin, having seen an NBA minute yet.
The ’08 Draft was initially viewed as a strong one, and in that case, it seems the experts were on-point. Coming down the home stretch in their second season, Derrick Rose and Brook Lopez are already in place as the centerpieces of their franchises. Russell Westbrook is a future All-Star. Then there’s Michael Beasley, Kevin Love O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Danilo Gallinari, Jason Thompson, Roy Hibbert, J.J. Hickson, Robin Lopez, Courtney Lee, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Mario Chalmers among those running the gamut from being on the cusp of stardom to progressing nicely as solid starters or key reserves.
Over the weekend the DimeMag.com reader poll asked, “Who is the Sophomore of the Year?” Westbrook got an overwhelming 44% of the vote, with D-Rose behind him with 25%. Lopez and Marc Gasol (drafted in ’07) also got more than 10% of the vote, while Beasley, Mayo and Love brought up the rear. You could make a solid case for Rose or Lopez having been better than Westbrook this year, but Westbrook’s OKC Thunder are in position to make the playoffs, unlike his aforementioned sophomore counterparts.
We’re still a season away from being able to accurately judge the ’08 draftees, and two seasons away for the ’09 class. And hopefully we all realize the All-Star Weekend Rookie Challenge means nothing. But from the early returns, which class looks like it will be the strongest years down the line?