Stephen Curry is already a lock for the Hall of Fame. Just over a decade into his NBA career, the former Davidson standout has two MVP awards, three NBA titles, six All-NBA selections, six All-Star Game appearances, and a scoring title. He’ll also likely end his career with the most three-pointers in NBA history.
As a first-team All-American in his final year at Davidson, it was clear that Stephen Curry was ready for the NBA. The son of a former NBA sharpshooter, everyone knew that Steph could shoot like his dad, even better actually. But he was a very skinny kid and some weren’t sure if he could physically handle the NBA. Curry has obviously proved all of his doubters wrong.
His three championships are three more than the combined total of six players taken ahead of him in the 2009 NBA draft. Yes, there is a fellow MVP in the group but just two of the six have been to the All-Star Game and three aren’t even in the NBA anymore. It’s crazy to think that the Minnesota Timberwolves had two consecutive picks at No. 5 and No. 6 and they used both selections on point guards, neither of which was Stephen Curry.
So let’s take a look at how the six players selected ahead of Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA draft panned out.
6. Hasheem Thabeet
It’s crazy to think that someone who didn’t start playing basketball until the age of 15 could be the second overall selection in the NBA draft just a few years later, but that was the case with UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet. The Tanzania native was the Big East co-player of the year in 2009 and skipped his senior season to enter the NBA and was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 2.
Thabeet struggled to adapt to the pro game, averaging just 3.1 points per game in his rookie season. The big man was even sent down to the D-League at one point and was then traded to Houston in his second year. Back and forth he went from the D-League and the NBA and Thabeet hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2014. He spent some time in Japan and most recently played in the G-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He was cut in January 2020. In 224 NBA games, with only 20 starts, Hasheem Thabeet averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds and is considered one of the biggest draft busts in the last decade.
5. Jonny Flynn
Taken just ahead of Stephen Curry by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the sixth pick, Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn spent even less time in the NBA than did Thabeet, although he produced a little better in his short stay. His career actually got off to a decent start. In his rookie season, Flynn averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists, starting all 81 games he played. However, that would be the best year of his career.
With an offseason hip surgery and the arrival of Ricky Rubio the following year, Flynn played in just 53 games during the 2010-2011 season, starting just eight of them. His scoring average dipped to 5.3 points per game and he was traded to the Houston Rockets ahead of the 2011-2012 campaign and then was shipped, along with Hasheem Thabeet, to the Portland Trailblazers midway through the season. Once the season was over, Jonny Flynn never played another NBA game. Over the next few years, he played in Australia, China, and Italy. Flynn appeared in 163 NBA games, averaging 9.2 points and 3.9 assists.
4. Ricky Rubio
It took a year for Ricky Rubio to make his NBA debut after being selected by the Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, but the Spaniard found success early, making the All-Rookie first team in 2012 with 10.8 points and 8.2 assists per night.
Rubio has always been an excellent passer but he’s never been the best shooter. In nine seasons split between the Wolves, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns, he’s made just 39.1% of his shots and shoots just 32.6% from beyond the arc, which really isn’t great in today’s NBA. Rubio has, for the most part, maintained his rookie average in assists throughout his career, dishing out 7.8 per night since arriving in the NBA. He hasn’t quite made the splash that some thought he might but he’s had a decent career thus far, but certainly nothing like that of Stephen Curry.
3. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans was chosen with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. Evans declared for the draft after just one season at Memphis under John Calipari and had a very good first year in the NBA, winning the Rookie of the Year with 20.1 points and 5.8 assists in 72 games, all of which were starts. His averages dipped in each of the next three seasons but he was still producing at a solid level.
He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013 and was still scoring the basketball at a decent pace, putting up 14.8 points per night during his tenure in New Orleans before being shipped back to Sacramento in 2017. He finished the season with the Kings and then moved to Memphis to Indiana and is now out of the NBA for the time being. In May 2019, Tyreke Evans was banned from the NBA for violating the drug policy. He can apply for reinstatement in 2021. He’s a very talented player that probably should have made an All-Star team or two. Somebody is bound to take a chance on him when he returns.
2. Blake Griffin
It’s not often that one draft produces two Rookie of the Year winners but that’s what happened with the 2009 class. Blake Griffin of Oklahoma, the top overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the ’09 draft, sat out that first season with a knee injury. However, he returned for the 2010-2011 season and made an immediate impact, averaging 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds in one of the great rookie years in NBA history.
Griffin made his first All-Star team as a rookie and continued to be a selection for five consecutive years. However, injuries began to plague Griffin once again and he played just 35 games in 2015-2016. He missed 21 games the following season and 24 the year after that, the same season he was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Griffin has continued to produce when he’s healthy and got back to the All-Star Game in 2019. In 622 career games, Griffin has averaged 21.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.
1. James Harden
Was there any doubt who would be at the top of this list? James Harden, chosen third by the Oklahoma City Thunder, has become a star in his own right, just without the NBA titles that Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have been hogging.
Harden was playing third fiddle behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the Thunder and finally got the chance to shine on his own when he signed with the Houston Rockets in 2012. Since joining the Rockets, he’s made eight consecutive All-Star Game appearances, has five All-NBA First Team selections and won the NBA MVP in 2018. He led the league in assists with 11.2 per game in the 2016-2017 season and has led the league in scoring twice and was in line for a third when the league was shut down due to the coronavirus, averaging 34.4 points per game.
Over the course of his career, Harden has averaged 25.1 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds.