Yes, They Passed on Steph Curry

Steph Curry was the 7th pick in the 2009 NBA draft. The #1 pick that year was Blake Griffin. The #3 pick was James Harden. Picks #2, #4,  and #6? They never were All-Stars. They played in 4 playoff games, 0 playoff wins. One was Rookie of the Year. Two are no longer in the league. Two of the teams that passed on Curry, Sacramento and Minnesota, have never been to the playoffs. If they could only take it back.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Memphis Grizzlies had the number two pick in the 2009 draft. They could have drafted Steph Curry. But they didn’t need a point guard, they had Mike Conley.

Hasheem Thabeet was a forward/center out of Connecticut, a three year player who had an underwhelming, if not straight out bust of a NBA career after Memphis drafted him number two. Thabeet hasn’t been in the league, D-league or anything else in two years.

Memphis figured out pretty quickly he couldn’t score or defend and they passed him on to the Rockets, who passed him on to the Blazers, who passed him on to the Thunder, who gave him away for free to the 76ers ,and Thabeet was waived by the Pistons. How bad was he? It took Thabeet three years to record a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds).

Thabeet’s scouting report was a cautionary tale that Memphis disregarded. “There are a number of reasons to be skeptical about Thabeet’s ability to score on the NBA level. First, he got only 11.8 possessions per game on the offensive end. Nearly all of Thabeet’s touches came within 5 feet of the rim. He only took 14 jumpers all season. He was essentially a giant in a land of midgets. He won’t have anywhere near as big a physical advantage in the NBA as he did in college, which will make things even more difficult on him moving forward.” (Draft Express)

Thabeet played in 224 NBA games, averaged 10.5 minutes, 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds. His two years in Memphis, Thabeet played in 113 games and averaged 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.

Memphis could have been inventive or creative, even as they had Mike Conley. They could have slid Curry in as a shooting guard and gone with a two combo guard offense and nixed second year player O.J. Mayo. While Mayo got worse in his NBA career, (he is currently suspended by the NBA for violating anti-drug policy), he never posted a 20 point season, Curry has had four 20+ seasons and one 30.1 season.

2009-10 Points FG% 3-Point% Assist PER
Steph Curry (R) 17.5 46.2% 43.7% 5.9 16.3
O.J. Mayo 17.5 45.8% 38.3% 3.0 14.6

Sacramento Kings: The Kings had the 4th pick in the draft and they needed a guard. They compared Tyreke Evans to Steph Curry. Evans had the bigger body. He looked more durable. He wasn’t the perimeter scorer of Curry’s talent but he had tremendous speed and he could take his man off the dribble and finish. He could post up at the rim and his defense was projected to be at a higher level because he could shut defenders down with his quick hands and/or quick feet and bruising body. Because of Evans size, he could grab rebounds and dish it out to the perimeter. He was a more complete player than Curry coming into the NBA. It made sense.

Tyreke Evans had a sensational rookie year. He was Western Conference Rookie of the Month. He won the MVP of the Rookie/Sophomore game. He became the fourth player along with Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James to have a 20 point, 5 rebound and 5 assist rookie year. He was awarded Rookie of the Year.

2009-10 Rookie Year Points FG% 3-Point% Assists PER
Tyreke Evans 20.1 45.8% 25.5% 5.8 18.2
Steph Curry 17.5 45.8% 38.3% 5.9 14.6

However, injuries and an inability to score from the perimeter interrupted the great career of Tyreke Evans. Knee injuries have plagued him in Sacramento and in New Orleans. He has missed 25% of his career. The league, because of Curry, changed on him as well. Guards have to score from the perimeter, a particular weakness of his. Evans is a good NBA player. He performed well for the Kings, interjecting his quickness and athleticism. He was just not a great NBA player like Curry.

Minnesota Timberwolves: David Khan was a horrific GM. In 2009 there was a legitimate argument for Hasheem Thabeet. You go big over small. There was a legitimate argument for Tyreke Evans too. He was a big guard with athleticism and speed. That made sense. But Johnny Flynn? He was small. He couldn’t shoot. He had one good game at Syracuse in the Big East tournament that sent his stock trending up. But comparing him to Curry was no comparison. The only knock on Curry coming into the draft was his slight frame. Could he withstand the NBA physicality.

College Career Points FG% 3-Point% Assists
Steph Curry (Davidson) 25.3 46.7% 41.2% 3.7
Jonny Flynn (Syracuse) 16.6 46.0% 33.3% 6.0

The Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn #6, one slot ahead of Steph Curry. Flynn has not played a NBA game in four years. His Timberwolves stint was troubled- he had a bad attitude- and they traded him to the Rockets who then passed him off to the Blazers. (Notice the same teams get the same rejects.)

It wasnt all sorrow for Flynn his rookie year. He scored 29 points in a January game, a few months post-draft. He had hip surgery between his first and second years and he never recovered any semblance of NBA consistency. He was a 5 point a game player his sophomore season and his career went downhill from there.

Jonny Flynn played in 163 NBA games. He averaged 9.2 points on 40% shooting and 33.8% from three. He averaged 4 assists.


photo via llananba