I just read Bill Simmons’ article about how badly the Minnesota Timberwolves messed up their 2009 draft. They did.
However, there’s another team that botched the 2009 draft–and you will be floored. The Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, my Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Wait. What?!?! The Thunder took James freaking Harden with the 3rd overall pick in 2009. He’s a superstar!” you say. Well, ok, no you probably don’t. You probably don’t like or follow the NBA and have no idea who OKC took in 2009 or when Harden was even drafted. Now, I admit there is a little hindsight 20/20 2nd-guessing of the Thunder pick, but hang with me. You’ll understand.
It’s common knowledge (ok, it’s not) that Minnesota took three point guards in the 2009 draft and took two more after drafting the young phenom Ricky Rubio. The T-Wolves’ worst pick was that they choice of Johnny Flynn over Stephen Curry. That’s not a hindsight 20/20 mistake. That was dumb from the start.
Check out Bill Simmons’s comments on the Flynn and Curry picks during his draft diary from 2009.
“5:10: So much for Minnesota doing the right thing. The Wolves just took Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn … whom I really like … but … well … he’s a point guard. Didn’t they just take Rubio? Did I black out? You’re going to have two young ball handlers playing together — one who’s 5-foot-11, the other who’s 18 years old and weighs 180 pounds (and 30 of that is his hair), and that’s your plan? Who’s guarding the Kobes and Vinces out of those two? Why didn’t they just take Curry? And why aren’t the ESPN guys wondering about a trade here or, at the very least, murdering this pick? THEY JUST TOOK TWO STRAIGHT POINT GUARDS!!!!!!!!!!
5:15: A disappointed Stern announces that the Warriors picked Curry — really, it was like the opposite of the Rubio announcement — followed by New York’s crowd reacting like offices in Wall Street after the O.J. verdict. Too bad. “D’Antoni Ball + Curry = magic.” We’ll never know.
(Important Note: There is no bigger Curry fan than I am. He’s going to be a star. I have no doubt. But Curry and Monta Ellis playing together? Two undersized shooting guards? What the hell’s going on there? Why isn’t anyone wondering whether that pick was made for Phoenix as part of an Amare Stoudemire deal? Rattled. I’m rattled right now. This has been a rattling day.)”
And although that’s pretty prophetic, those were the thoughts of most NBA’ers.
So, why do I say OKC messed their draft up just as much? Well, for starters, the Thunder needed a point guard. “But wait. The Thunder had Russell Westbrook has their point guard and he was beginning to come into his own,” you might say. Yes. The Thunder had Westbrook. I love Westbrook. Bad decisions/shots and all. Let’s make that clear. These mostly Westbrook-less playoffs have shown that the Thunder’s offense can be without RW. Even Westbrook’s crazy drives and bad shots free up space for Durant and Ibaka. But, Russell is not a point guard. He’s a shooting guard playing point guard.
Who did I want the Thunder to take back in 2009? Ricky Rubio. I still wish that they had. Rubio is as pure as a point guard can be. James Harden is a shooting guard who can bring the ball up sometimes. Harden is not a table setter or a distributer. Harden is a no-doubt superstar… but not for the Thunder. Harden demanded a max contract (rightfully so) and is now leading the Houston Rockets. Harden deserved a max deal, but the Thunder could not place that type of monetary drain on their franchise. They don’t get TV money like big market teams. They don’t have merchandise money like big market teams. They have to be much smarter than big market teams with their money. OKC had already locked up Durant and Westbrook to max deals. They could not do so with Harden.
Rubio is on the books for $4.0 million this year and another $11.7 million through 2015 when he becomes a restricted free agent. Contrast that with Kevin Martin, the player OKC replaced Harden with, who will make $12.4 million this year. James Harden is/was a max contract type player and will be on Houston books’ for around $17 million a year until 2017 when he becomes a unrestricted free agent. Rubio will probably not be a max contract type player. Will he command big money? Of course, but probably not max money. Comparisons for him are tough. Even he answered on draft night about who he would he would compare himself to in the NBA:
“I’m Ricky Rubio, I’m not like anyone else.”
Cocky as heck, but true. Hia best numerical comparable would be Jose Calderon, who makes around $9 million a year and is a top true point guard. Would Rubio command more just on his name? Yes. Probably. But again, OKC is paying Martin $12 million.
You might wonder, “But Rubio didn’t even come to the NBA for a year and a half! OKC would have had to wait on him!” I don’t think so. Rubio was highly disappointed when Minnesota drafted him. He wanted no part of that place and remember, this was before we realized Kevin Love was going to be, well, big bad Kevin Love. You don’t think Ricky would have been salivating at the thought of running and gunning with Durant and Westbrook?
There it is. Another team who screwed up the 2009 draft. Oklahoma City should have taken the phenomenal point guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio would be creating for Durant and Westbrook even today and who knows what type of ceiling that team would have. *sigh*
 Ricky Rubio with the 4th overall pick, Johnny Flynn with the 5th overall pick and Ty Lawson with the 18th overall pick. Minnesota then immediately traded Lawson to Denver where he has thrived and led the star-less Nuggets to the 4th best record this year. Flynn played two years with Minnesota. He’s currently one of the best PG’s… in Australia.