Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks come to town to face the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
No one can forget what happened the last time these two teams met. Jennings, in just his seventh game in the NBA, torched the Warriors for 55 points, including 29 in the third quarter, barely missing the rookie record for points in a game and beating Wilt Chamberlain’s record for fewest games into a career before scoring 50.
He was 21-of-34 from the field, including 7-of-8 on 3-pointers. It was Nov. 14 and he was all but handed the rookie of the year award.
Since then, however, Jennings has struggled. He’s averaged 16.2 points per game but is shooting just 35.7 percent from the field. In that same time, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry has steadily improved and surpassed Jennings in several online rookie rankings. (The Chronicle detailed their stats since the first meeting and how the Warriors are focused on stopping Jennings this time around.)
Previously, I offered my rookie rankings, which had Curry second and Jennings fourth. Now, as the season approaches the half-way point, I want to look back at the top 10 draft picks of 2009 and assess how the draft might be different if teams knew then what they know now.
First, the look back.
1. Clippers: Blake Griffin
2. Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet
3. Thunder: James Harden
4. Kings: Tyreke Evans
5. Wolves: Ricky Rubio
6. Wolves: Jonny Flynn
7. Warriors: Stephen Curry
8. Knicks: Jordan Hill
9. Raptors: DeMar DeRozan
10. Bucks: Brandon Jennings
Obviously, some teams would like their picks back. So here’s how I think the top 10 picks of the draft would go if it were done all over again.
1. Clippers: Blake Griffin. Even though he’s been injured and it was recently announced he would miss the entire season, I still think the Clippers would take the big man out of Oklahoma. He showed in the Summer League he’s legit and the Clippers don’t really need a guard, which is the strength of this draft. The one thing they would do differently is have him have surgery right after the injury. Maybe then, he really could come back late in the season.
2. Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans. Thabeet has proved just how raw he is and barely plays, averaging 2.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Evans, meanwhile, has developed into the clear favorite for rookie of the year as the Kings’ best player. Imagine the Grizzlies with Evans at the point, O.J. Mayo at 2, Rudy Gay at 3, Zach Randolph at 4 and Marc Gasol at 5. Mike Conley moves to a backup role and the Grizzlies are ready to roar.
3. Thunder: James Harden. He hasn’t started a game all year, but the Thunder like Harden and his potential to become an outstanding shooting guard while playing between point guard Russell Westbrook and small forward Kevin Durant. Harden averages almost 10 points per game and often plays in crunch time. It won’t be long before he starts for this potential playoff team.
4. Kings: Stephen Curry. I went to the Kings game on Tuesday and watched Evans dominant the ball and control the entire offense. I caught myself wondering what Curry could do if he wasn’t playing next to Monta Ellis, then quickly realized that’s not something I want to see and better wipe those thoughts out of my mind before I’m to blame for a season-ending injury to Ellis (what, you don’t think it could happen?). But given the freedom to be the man in the backcourt, I think Curry could put up numbers nearly equal to Evans. Plus, he would flourish with some big men who can finish and a true shooting guard (Kevin Martin, when healthy) as his sidekick. Curry would fit in well with the Kings.
5. Wolves: Not Ricky Rubio. They obviously want a point guard — they took two with back-to-back picks last year — so they get Jennings. The 55-point game blinds many people to the fact that he’s dropped off significantly but he’s still an exciting scorer and one of the best rookies out there. The Wolves definitely need excitement and scoring.
6. Wolves: Omri Casspi. Like I said, the Wolves need all the good players they can get and Casspi is emerging as one of the best of the class. He’s shown an all-around game with the Kings and would be a nice compliment on the front line with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. A perimeter shooter with size, Casspi would give the Wolves four nice pieces.
7. Warriors: This would be a tough spot. If they really want a point guard to play beside Ellis, they could go with Flynn, who I had ranked fifth, or Ty Lawson or maybe even Rubio, if they were convinced he wanted to play in the up-tempo style the Warriors prefer. Or they could go big and choose from Hill, whom many experts thought they would take last April, or DeJuan Blair or Jonas Jerebko. I think the Warriors still think their young bigs are going to come around so they go with a point guard. Rubio is very tantalizing, but probably too much of a risk — just ask the Wolves. So I’ll go with Flynn, who is averaging 14 points, 4 assists and 2.3 rebounds in just less than 30 minutes per game. He’s only 6-foot, so the problems with the small backcourt crop up again, but he’s strong, physical and a floor leader. It’s a tough call over Lawson.
8. Knicks: Ty Lawson. Although they have a very similar player in Nate Robinson already on their roster, Robinson has been in the doghouse most of the year and until recently was relegated to watching from the bench — right next to Hill, who has played in only 12 games this year. The Knicks want to run and Lawson is clearly an upgrade over Chris Duhon.
9. Raptors: They need a shooting guard and there just weren’t many in this year’s draft. They think DeRozan fits in so they might stick with that pick. But they might like Wesley Matthews, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jazz, a little bit better. He’s shooting 48 percent from the field and 35 percent on 3s while averaging 8.4 points per game in limited minutes. It would be interesting to see what he could do with more playing time. Let’s say they stick with DeRozan and take Matthews in the second round.
10. Bucks: Jonas Jerebko. It’s clearly not as sexy a pick as Jennings, but Jerebko is a 6-10 forward from Sweden who is proving he can play in the NBA. He’s averaging 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 27 minutes per game as a starter for the Pistons. The Bucks could give the point guard job back to Luke Ridnour and would have two solid big men up front with Jerebko and Andrew Bogut.
So in the new draft, Thabeet and Rubio, two guys taken in the fop five, don’t get picked in the top 10 and Hill is still available as the second third of the draft begins. The Warriors lose out on Curry, but maybe they’re willing to package Flynn with a few others and pull off that trade for Amare Stoudemire.