blair evans

Dear Rookies

Editor’s Note: The NBA rookie class of 2009-10 has surprised quite a few people. Clint Peterson, who writes on the Utah Jazz, admits himself as one of those people. Anyone else want to put their hand up?

Dear Rookies,

I owe you an apology. And I’m not the only one.

All one has to do is Google “nba weak draft class 2009” and you’ll get over 200,000 results on the subject in milliseconds. There were plenty of detractors, myself included. You’ll find such gems as:

“Just took a look at the 2009 NBA Draft Class and it looks weak…arguably as bad as the 2006 one or worse…”

“In a terribly weak draft class, we should trade the pick to get either more picks

“Muddled class of prospects marks this year’s Draft.”

“While the experts don’t believe the 2009 NBA Draft class is up to the quality of past ‘We all feel it is a weak draft,’ Fraschilla says.

“First off, the 2009 draft class is weak. Very weak. In fact, many analysts are calling this the worst NBA draft class in the last 25 years,

Brandon JenningsSure, a few had it at least partially right, maybe most notably thehoopsreport.com who said on May 23, 2009, “Many observers believe the 2009 NBA Draft is a weak one, but that’s not true at all,” and a handful of other experts who felt there was some potential from the depth of the point guards available, but I don’t think anyone expected quite so many to have shown so much in such a short time. Did they realize that so many had them pegged as mediocre at best? Maybe, but this crop of young men have been more mature than some veterans, never complaining, just patiently playing while awaiting their time to shine.

The idea that I’d wronged the ’09ers took root a few weeks back, culminating in this apology after the Rookies/Sophmores All-Star game in Dallas, where the rooks busted a 7-year losing streak to the sophs. I toyed with the idea that the youngsters might break through, but in the end decided that the sophs had too much talent on the big end of the floor. Read that last line again, because that in a nutshell is why this class was believed to be weak in the first place –too many guards, no bigs. But the Rooks/Sophs game showed us that that’s simply not true, that with the right leader controlling the pace, directing traffic, the guy touching the ball first, and most often, is really the one who determines the outcome of a game. The Sophs got an outstanding performance from Russell Westbrook, but the Rooks’ plethora of guards and wings easily overcame all the stout paint players, slashing through the lane repeatedly, while a single standout big for the rooks ate glass all night long.

BlairDeJuan Blair is that rarity among athletes. That player that defies odds and laughs in the face of his detractors, though not with any contempt. He does it the right way, through his actions. Who needs knees? How many GM’s are now kicking themselves for passing on him in retrospect? It was heartwarming to see Tyreke Evans recognize that by sharing the presentation with him, holding the trophy up together like a scene from a movie. That trophy belongs on Blair’s mantle, right between two jars with ACL’s in ‘em.

Evans is mature beyond his years as well, and in my opinion will lead a team to great heights one day with his calm demeanor and freakish size for the one-spot. Many believe he’s cut out of the shooting guard template, but his ability to see the floor and lead makes him a perfect candidate to be a floor general. Who wouldn’t want to see the two team up together one day? They’d surely go far as a team with the right swingman to keep defenses honest.

Blair isn’t the only one to sneak up on us. Keep a peeper on Houston’s Chase Budinger, too. He’s a hustler who finds the seams and slips down the baseline before you even know he’s there. he may be shooting only 40% from the floor, but he’s also putting up a respectable 8.2 points a game, while rarely turning it over in under 20 minutes a night.

The RoY race was pretty close for while there, but Evans looks to be running away with it at this point. We all took notice when Bucks point Brandon Jennings dropped his double-nickel, and were pleasantly surprised that such a thing could come from this class, but no one really noticed anything else, even as Evans was quietly leading a Kings charge that found them ripping off a 9-4 run, something extraordinary from a team that was widely considered to be at the bottom of the cellar steps. I know I took notice when he calmly destroyed the Utah Jazz at home with 32 points and 7 assists, but I still wasn’t sold on the class of ’09 as whole.

That would begin to change shortly.

Jonny FlynnFirst, Jonny Flynn gives the Utah Jazz fits up Minny way. “Merely a fluke” I think to myself. But he follows that up with a week later, in Utah, with a game-winning layup that had Jazz fans calling for heads to roll. I suppose I should have noticed him a bit earlier when he orchestrated that win in the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Next came Ty Lawson. I took notice in the season opener, although wasn’t convinced until he just kept on torching the Utah Jazz, setting a new career high in the final meeting. Unfortunately for the Nuggets that came in their sole loss to Utah this season, but Lawson gave ‘em fits every single game. With Chauncey Billups sidelined on a bum ankle, Lawson would step in seamlessly to put up a team high 25, which was even more than Billups had been dropping in Carmelo Anthony’s absence.

That was it for me. I knew I’d been wrong all along about this class. And I didn’t even mention Stephen Curry, who has been coming on strong, or Eric Maynor who is a perfect fit for OKC Thunder’s athleticism, with his amazing ball control, or Sundiata Gaines who learned a Utah Jazz offense in an afternoon in a pinch. All in all there are 4 rookie PG’s among the top 12 in scoring, with ‘Reke wreaking havoc in essentially every matchup he’s in with a Magic Johnson-esque size advantage. Evans leads all PG’s in scoring, even showing up on the overall scoring leaderboard at 14th.

There’s sure to be even more from the class of ’09 that are yet to make us eat our words, once their time comes and they see some quality PT. There always is.

Dear Rookies,

We were wrong about you. Let me be the first to say sorry, we will never doubt you again.

*
Clint Peterson is a contributor to saltcityhoops.com and hosts chats for the Utah Jazz on ESPN’s Daily Dime Live. You can follow him on Twitter
@clintonite33

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