John Wall was the first player from the Class of 2009 drafted into the NBA. Would he still be the first pick if every 2009 player stayed in college four years?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kenyon Martin has played 13 NBA seasons. He has earned more than $111 million.
But this is the Number One item in The Kenyon Martin story: He was the last senior selected first in the NBA Draft.
It happened in 2000.
A senior will not be taken first in the 2013 NBA Draft Thursday in Brooklyn. The choice will likely be a freshman (Nerlens Noel of Kentucky) or sophomore (Alex Len of Maryland).
The first senior to be called figures to be C.J. McCollum, who played at Lehigh. He might crack the Top 10. Four seniors were selected in the first round last season. The first was Tyler Zeller of North Carolina. He went 17th.
What if all the seniors from the prep class of 2009 had followed the leads of Martin, Tim Duncan and Grant Hill and stayed in college basketball for four seasons? I'm talking about the class headlined by John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and others.
If those guys had stayed four years, who would be the Top 10 picks this week?
I'm glad you asked. I'll count them down, from 10-to1. (Here are the links to the 2009 prep ratings by Scout and by Rivals, just so you don't forget Wally Judge or Mouphtauo Yarou.
10. Xavier Henry, Kansas/New Orleans – Henry was a big deal around here after John Calipari took the Kentucky job. Then he committed to Kansas. You forgot about him.
I don't blame you. He's been forgettable. Basketball-Reference compares his numbers to Mike Price. I assume that was right after Price finished his career at Louisville and not today. Price is 64.
Scout liked him sixth in the 2009 Class, Rivals eighth. Memphis drafted him 12th in 2010 and then shipped him to New Orleans. He hasn't put the Hornets in the playoffs. In fact, he's getting less than 13 minutes per game for a bad team. I'm not sure why I have him 10th. Better double-check my list.
9. John Henson, North Carolina/Milwaukee. Eventually Henson will dominate. How many times has that sentence be written?
Ask Tar Heels' fans. He should block more shots and score more points. He should dominate – especially for a guy who was ranked fourth in his class by Scout and fifth by Rivals. Played three seasons at UNC but was never confused with a Wooden Award winner.
Milwaukee took him with the 14th pick last season. The Bucks don't regret it – yet. But don't you expect more than 6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game? I do.
8. Avery Bradley, Texas/Boston – Bradley is another guy with a chance to climb on this list. He was solid for the Celtics this season, just not solid enough to keep Doc Rivers from fleeing to the Clippers.
Scout liked him fifth, Rivals fourth. The Celtics took him with the 19th pick in 2010 – and they're still waiting for him to average in double figures. He's not a bad player. But he doesn't make you rush to StubHub.
7. Derrick Williams, Arizona/Minnesota – Two years ago Williams was the poster boy for why recruiting ratings don't matter. Now he's the poster boy for why the NBA Draft doesn't matter.
Scout ranked him 95th, behind Angus Brandt (Oregon State). Don't laugh. Rivals didn't even include him in its Top 150.
Two years later the Timberwolves took Williams with the second pick. Now the word is they wouldn't mind trading him, even though he averaged a dozen points per game last season.
6. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky/L.A. Clippers – If Chris Paul ever decides to join his twin brother Cliff as an insurance agent, Bledsoe could take over this team and become a star.
He's already outperformed his recruiting rankings (23rd Rivals, 37th Scout) as well as his draft slot (18th pick in 2010). Bledsoe can defend, handle, shoot and score. He just needs to play more than 20 minutes per game.
5. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky/Sacramento – His numbers scream that deserves a better ranking than this. His behavior screams that it's risky to give him too much praise.
Suspensions. Dust-ups with teammates and radio announcers (Sean Elliott, click here). Two guys who tried to coach him have already been fired. He puts up jumbo numbers, but the Kings haven't gotten much better. They were 25-57 before he arrived from UK. They were 28-54 three years later. At this rate, Cousins will get the Kings into the playoffs in 2027.
Maybe he finally figures the whole thing out. But for now John Calipari appears to be the only guy to get more production than nonsense from Cousins.
4. Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech/Utah – Another nice player, but is watching Derrick Favors on TNT appointment television for you?
New Jersey drafted him with the third pick in 2010 and shipped him to Utah after 56 games. He averaged 9 points and 7 boards for the Jazz this season. But unlike Cousins, he doesn't make headlines off the court.
3. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati/Indiana – Credit Larry Bird for believing Stephenson could change from Knucklehead for Very Nice Piece on a Winning Team.
The Pacers took him 10th pick in the second round three years ago, but Stephenson has turned out to be the player Scout ranked eighth and Rivals had 11th.
By the end of the 2013 he was playing big playoff minutes for Indiana, causing matchup problems for Miami Heat and showing real signs of being a force for the Pacers.
2. John Wall, Kentucky/Washington – Wall's numbers still justify his ranking as the first pick in the 2010 draft as well as his status as the top player by Rivals and second-best by Scout. He can definitely score, and Washington improved when Wall returned from an injury this season. I can see him making an All-Star game or two and the Wizards making the playoffs in 2015.
But he's a 44 percent shooter who can't make a three-point shot and makes too many turnovers. Ask Colin Cowherd.
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State/San Antonio – If you don't agree with this pick, you weren't paying attention during the NBA playoffs.
The Spurs didn't win the title, but it wasn't because Leonard failed. He's tough, physical and relentless. He defended LeBron James as well as James can be defended. He averaged 13.5 points and 9 rebounds during San Antonio's 21 playoff games. You knew Leonard was out there.
Leonard is a force on both ends of the court, a superb value for a guy chosen 15th in 2011 and was ranked 71st by Scout and 48th by Rivals as a high school senior. He's the only guy from the high school class of 2009 who has put his fingerprints on the NBA playoffs. He's made the Spurs better.