By David Kay
Now that the free-agency period is starting to sort itself out, we have a better grasp on what roles the class of 2009 will be playing on the teams that drafted them. Here is a very early look at my prediction for how the Rookie of the Year race might shake down.
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers (1st overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 17 ppg, 9 rpg
Now that the Clips have rid themselves of Zach Randolph, Griffin will have every opportunity to play 36 minutes a night at power forward. He was the obvious choice to be the No. 1 pick, and is also the obvious choice for rookie of the year. That is assuming his banged-up shoulder recovers rather than hinders his first season as a cursed Clipper.
2. Tyreke Evans, Kings (4th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 20 ppg, 5 rpg, 6 apg, 2 spg
This is about the 1,263,914th time I’ve said this; Evans is going to be an absolute stud. He is playing for one of the worst teams in the league and will have every chance to chuck up at least 20 shots a night. His size allows him to crash boards. His handles and slashing abilities will give him plenty of assist opportunities. His length and quickness will get him a good amount of steals. If Evans can develop a consistent jumper, he will eventually hover around the 30-point-per-game mark in the NBA. Yup, I just said that.
3. Jonny Flynn, Timberwolves (6th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 15 ppg, 7 apg, 1.75 spg
Assuming Ricky Rubio is not playing in the NBA next season, Flynn will be running the show for the T-Wolves. As proven by his 67-minute performance against UConn, Flynn is capable of playing heavy minutes on a nightly basis and will be asked to do so in Minnesota, since they don’t have a lot of depth in their backcourt. I also think he will be able to contribute right away to a young T-Wolves team that wants to run more this season.
4. James Harden, Thunder (3rd overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 12 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg
Oklahoma City will be the most intriguing young team to follow for the next couple years. Harden should benefit playing alongside an offensive threat like Kevin Durant and in the same backcourt as the speedy Russell Westbrook. He should start right away as the Thunder try to build chemistry among their future stars.
5. Brandon Jennings, Bucks (10th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 10 ppg, 7 apg, 2 spg
With Ramon Sessions unlikely to return to Milwaukee this season, it appears Jennings will get every opportunity to run the point. Add in the fact that the Bucks might have the least amount of talent in the league, and Jennings’ play-making abilities should net him some solid stats.
6. Stephen Curry, Warriors (7th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 11 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg
Curry is not shy about pulling the trigger on any shot within 30 feet of the basket, which fits Golden State’s style of play perfectly. He will be gunning whenever he is on the floor. Question is, how are the Warriors going to spread the ball around with a group of players who need to get their shots to be happy?
7. Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers (13th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 10 ppg, 7 rpg
I’ve always thought Hansbrough would have a steady, but not spectacular NBA career. He should be able to provide some toughness and energy off the bench for the Pacers who don’t have a lot of depth up front.
8. DeJuan Blair, Spurs (37th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 9 ppg, 7 rpg
Factor in the massive chip on his shoulder for falling into the second round with the fact that the Spurs are thin up front with aging players Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff on the roster, and Blair should see plenty of time coming off the bench for the Spurs. I could see him having a Kevin Love-type rookie impact in San Antonio.
9. Terrence Williams, Nets (11th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg
The trade of Vince Carter opens up some playing time for the versatile Terrence Williams. His ability to do a lot of different things on the floor should log him decent playing time and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the starting small forward alongside the backcourt of Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. Like Evans, if Williams can improve his jumper, he could be a very good pro.
10. Jordan Hill, Knicks (8th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 9 ppg, 6 rpg
Depending on what New York does with David Lee, Hill could potentially be a starter for the Knicks this season. If Lee is retained, the former Wildcat probably comes off the bench and drops out of the top 10. Still, with his size and athleticism, he should get a chance to flourish in Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense.
Honorable Mentions: Earl Clark, Suns (14th overall), Demar DeRozan (9th overall), Wayne Ellington (28th overall)
The Wild Card:
Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves (5th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 9 ppg, 6 apg, 3 rpg
It is extremely unlikely that Rubio will be playing in the NBA this season. But if he somehow ends up in a T-Wolves uniform, he should be able to make an immediate impact having been playing professionally in Europe since he was 14. However, being in the same backcourt as Flynn, another point guard, will likely effect Rubio’s assist total and drop Flynn’s numbers as well.
Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies (2nd overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 5 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.5 bpg
I like Thabeet and can in no way deny the defensive impact he made at UConn. With that said, I still think he is a couple years away from being an effective NBA player. He will obviously get his share of rebounds and blocks when he is in the game, but I don’t see him cracking more than 12-15 minutes a game in his first season.
DaJuan Summers, Pistons (35th overall)
’09-’10 Prediction: 8 ppg, 4 rpg
I can’t really call Blair a sleeper since (even though he was picked in the second round) everyone will be giving him that title. Summers should make more of an immediate impact with the Pistons than first-round pick Austin Daye, since Daye needs to get stronger and Detroit doesn’t have a lot of depth at forward. Minnesota’s Wayne Ellington and Toney Douglas of the Knicks could also be sleepers, especially if Rubio doesn’t play for the T-Wolves this year and if Nate Robinson leaves the Knicks.Follow paulmbanks