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What Happened To The 6 Players Who Were Drafted Before Stephen Curry

What Happened To The 6 Players Who Were Drafted Before Stephen Curry

The 2009 NBA Draft was one epic draft. DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, and Patrick Beverley were just a handful of NBA contributors from the draft and they were not even in the top-7 draft selections. The No. 7 overall pick in Stephen Curry could very well be the No. 1 pick if we were to redraft this draft, especially after leading the Warriors to their fourth championship and his first Finals MVP.

Looking back, one has to wonder how Curry dropped to No. 7 overall. There were six players drafted ahead of him and none of those players own a championship ring. Only three players remain in the NBA, and one of them is regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history. Meanwhile, Curry is a two-time MVP, four-time champion, and the all-time leader in three-point field goals.

While Curry is looking like a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, what happened to the six players drafted before Curry?

No. 1 Overall Pick

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

Career Stats: 19.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Total NBA Games: 724

Awards And Achievement: 6x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, Rookie Of The Year, All-Rookie First Team, Slam Dunk Contest Champion

The Clippers had a solid pick at No. 1 with Griffin. After waiting a year for Griffin to play, due to injuries, Griffin had one of the best rookie seasons ever. He averaged 22.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He won the Slam Dunk Contest the same season. After that, once Chris Paul joined the team, the combination of Paul, Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan formed “Lob City,” which was an exciting plethora of highlight dunking.

Griffin was a prime reason that Clippers basketball has turned into what it is today. Without the formation of that big three, the Clippers would have remained a bottom-feeder team. After the Clippers, Griffin made one All-Star appearance with the Pistons but battled injuries during this tenure. Last year, he played the whole season with the Nets, averaging a career-low in points at 6.4. Looking ahead, Griffin is likely a veteran’s minimum player with a reduced role if he wants to win his first ring.

No. 2 Overall Pick

Hasheem Thabeet (Memphis Grizzlies)

Hasheem Thabeet (Memphis Grizzlies)

Career Stats: 2.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Total NBA Games: 224

Awards And Achievement: None

Imagine a world where Mike Conley Jr, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Stephen Curry played together. In this scenario, James Harden would have been more likely since he was one pick behind Thabeet, but you get the picture. The Grizzlies struck out on Thabeet and made one of the worst draft mistakes ever. Thabeet’s best season came during his rookie year, where he played 68 games and averaged a career-high 3.1 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Thabeet has not played in an NBA game since 2014 when he was with the OKC but continued to play professional basketball. He made the NBA D-League All-Defensive Third Team with the Grand Rapids Drive. After that, he spent time with the Yokohama B-Corsairs and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. In 2020, he joined the Hsinchu JKO Lioneers of the Taiwanese pro league, where he was the P.League+ Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in rebounds and blocks.

No. 3 Overall Pick

James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder)

James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Career Stats: 24.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Total NBA Games: 942

Awards And Achievement: 1x MVP, 10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA First Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x Sixth Man of the Year, 3x Scoring Champion, 1x Assists Leader, 3x Three-Point Field Goal Leader, All-Rookie Second Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Out of all of the players selected before Curry, the most successful has been Harden despite not winning a championship. While Curry has won seven three-point field goal titles, Harden has won the other three in the last 10 years. Harden played in the NBA Finals before Curry, in 2012 with the Thunder, but has not made it back primarily because of Curry and the Warriors. The Warriors eliminated Harden and the Rockets in the Conference Finals two times.

Harden had a standout career with the Rockets, where he ranks second to Hakeem Olajuwon in all-time points. Harden owns records for three-point field goals, free throws, assists, triple-doubles, player efficiency rating, and points per game at 29.6. Harden will likely be in the Hall of Fame with Curry one day, but the question will be if Harden will have a ring to wear.

No. 4 Overall Pick

Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)

Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)

Career Stats: 15.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Total NBA Games: 594

Awards And Achievement: Rookie Of The Year, All-Rookie First Team

The best season from Evans came from his rookie season; hence why he won Rookie of the Year. Evans averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.5 steals during the 2009-10 season. After that, Evans didn’t average less than 15.2 points per game for the next three seasons with the Kings. He was traded to the Pelicans in 2013, where he spent four seasons before being shipped back to the Kings in 2017.

Evans averaged 19.4 points per game during the 2017-18 season with the Grizzlies before playing one last season in the NBA with the Pacers. He has not played in the NBA since 2019 because he was dismissed and disqualified from the NBA for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug program. He was recently reinstated to the NBA in February 2022.

No. 5 Overall Pick

Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Career Stats: 11.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Total NBA Games: 665

Awards And Achievement: All-Rookie First Team

Rubio has played professional basketball for almost half of his life. He made his EuroLeague debut at the age of 16 and he is set to turn 32 years old this October. The Timberwolves had to wait two seasons for Rubio to make his NBA debut and he spent six seasons with the team before being traded to the Jazz in 2017. The year before being traded, he nearly averaged a double-double for the T-Wolves with 11.1 points and 9.1 assists.

Rubio then spent two seasons with the Jazz before playing for three different teams the last three seasons. In 2019, he joined the Suns and averaged 13.0 points and 8.8 assists. He returned to the Timberwolves for one season before playing for the Cavaliers last year. Rubio was having a great season as a reserve before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in December, which could delay his start to the 2022-23 season.

No. 6 Overall Pick

Jonny Flynn (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Jonny Flynn (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Career Stats: 9.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Total NBA Games: 163

Awards And Achievement: All-Rookie Second Team

The Timberwolves had a plethora of draft capital this draft. The team made six picks, including back-to-back. The team had Kevin Love coming off a strong rookie season. Love was looking to be the new face of the franchise with Kevin Garnett gone. With rumors circulating about Rubio's debut with the league, the team chose two point guards in a row.

Instead of a duo of Curry and Love, the team got two years of Flynn. His best season came during his rookie season, where he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists. He then underwent hip surgery in the summer of 2010, which hampered his play the following year, dropping his points per game total to 5.3. In 2011, he was traded to the Rockets and then was traded to the Trail Blazers. Altogether, Flynn’s NBA career lasted only three seasons. He has not been seen playing in a professional league since 2014.

No. 7 Overall Pick

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Career Stats: 24.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Total NBA Games: 826

Awards And Achievement: 4x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 4x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 1x Western Conference Finals MVP, 2x Three-Point Contest Champion, 2x Scoring Champion, 1x Steals Leader, 7x Three-Point Field Goals Leader, 1x 50-40-90 Club, All-Rookie First Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team

The crown jewel of the 2009 draft was Curry. It took Curry some time before making his first All-Star appearance in 2014, but he has turned into a top-10 player in NBA history. Since the 2014-15 season, Curry has helped the Warriors make the NBA Finals six times with four championships. He became the first unanimous MVP in 2016 after the Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games. On top of that, he was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

Curry has been the glue of the Warriors. While the team was built through the draft with picks such as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Poole playing a huge role, it’s always been Curry in the center of it all. Curry helped transform the game into the shooting spectacle it is today. His long-range and perfection for shooting the three has this era featuring players playing positionless basketball. With the three-point field goal record in his pocket, it’s another reason why he is the greatest shooter we have ever seen.

Which Team Missed Stephe Curry The Most?

The Clippers were not going to pick Curry with the No. 1 pick, so we can’t say the Clippers are the team for this category. Nobody can fault their pick of Griffin. He was the consensus No. 1 pick. Outlets across the world knew this was going to happen. Plus, the team was lacking a true power forward. The team already had Eric Gordon, who was seen as an equivalent player as Curry back in that time, so they weren’t going to pass up a chance for an All-Star forward in Griffin, which was what he eventually became anyways.

The Grizzlies had their point guard for the future in Mike Conley Jr. Then, the team traded the draft rights to Kevin Love, along with Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins, to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to O.J. Mayo, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, and Greg Buckner. The year before the 2009 draft, Mayo averaged 18.5 points as a rookie, so you have to get why the Grizzlies wanted to go with size in this draft. While their pick for Thabeet was nonsense, not selecting Curry would make sense despite how epic that lineup of Conley, Curry, Mayo, Randolph, and Gasol could have been.

The Thunder were in a similar situation. The team didn’t need a point guard because they had drafted Russell Westbrook in the draft before. The team had their point guard and small forward in Kevin Durant for the future, so the team looked to continue to build their core by adding a shooting guard. In the end, this plan worked because this group made the NBA Finals in 2012 before Curry made an All-Star appearance.

That leaves the Kings and the Timberwolves. Let’s start with Sacramento. Evans looked like the best pick in the draft in 2009 after he averaged over 20 points per game and won Rookie of the Year. Then, the team drafted DeMarcus Cousins the following season. The idea of Curry and Cousins sounds appealing because you would have had one of the best inside-outside games in the entire league when both were in their prime.

As for the Timberwolves, the team took Rubio and knew they would have to wait for his debut. They chose Flynn, who averaged 17.4 points and 6.7 assists while playing at Syracuse. The Big East Conference was one of the best conferences in the nation at the time. At the time, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Villanova, Syracuse, and Marquette were all ranked in the NCAA Top 25. Syracuse won 28 games that season with Flynn leading the way. The competition was a lot more challenging than the teams Davidson played. In the end, Syracuse made the Big East Tournament Championship and the Sweet 16 playing tough competition all season. There is plenty of rationale for drafting Flynn, especially since Davidson was a Cinderella team.

Now, to answer the question at hand, the team that should miss Curry the most is the Grizzlies. Curry would have made an instant impact with the Grizzlies instead of Thabeet. The Kings were a lottery team even with Evans winning Rookie of the Year. The Timberwolves would have been in a similar situation with a Love and Curry pairing. The Thunder made the NBA Finals without Curry, while the Clippers would never have been Lob City with Curry in the fold.

The Grizzlies had an exciting young core of 22-year-old Conley and Mayo, 23-year-old Rudy Gay, 25-year-old Marc Gasol, and 28-year-old Zach Randolph. That team won 40 games and Thabeet was a non-factor. With Curry, he would have risen as a sixth-man option. The team made the Conference Finals in 2013 and Curry’s role would have been being the team’s top outside shooter. This Grizzlies team would have been complete. The team owned the best defense in the league during the 2012-13 season. If we are assuming that Curry’s development would have continued as it did with the Warriors, which included scoring 22.9 points per game that same year, the Grizzlies might have been able to beat the Spurs and make the Finals. Moving forward, the Grizzlies could have been a dynasty. 

Credit for an idea: JimmerRange/Youtube


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