The draft busts of 2009

Depending on your opinion of Earl Clark, it can be said that the Rockets now employ the four biggest busts from the draft class of 2009.  Even Gerald Henderson and Tyler Hansbrough have produced more thus far in their careers than the local team’s quartet.

That Houston has compiled these players is not too great a surprise.  The acquisitions fit in line with management’s ideology of seeking out undervalued commodities.  Pay a little and hope for a lot; low risk, high reward.

trans The draft busts of 2009The question though is if any of the four will realize his immense potential.  If even a single one of the Rockets’ draft busts of 2009 comes of age, the payoff for the franchise could be huge.

Taken at #6, Jonny Flynn was the most physically enticing point guard prospect in his class.  Described by DraftExpress as a “natural leader” with the “ideal personality you look for at his position”, Flynn struggled in Minnesota with the ‘Triangle offense.’  Could a change of scenery be enough to get him on track? Unfortunately for Jonny, he’ll be fighting for minutes at the Rockets’ strongest position.  It’s also in question just how much the team likes him. While Morey had been in pursuit last winter, ESPN reported during the draft, just after the acquisition, that the team immediately made Flynn available to other teams. It was likely a case of the Rockets’ GM simply extracting full value from the deal rather than targeting the former Syracuse standout.

The irony is that while I think Flynn is the likeliest of the four to turn things around, I see him as the least likeliest to remain in Houston.  It’s much easier for a point guard to ‘get it’–especially when coming to a simpler offense–than for a big man to gain desire or for a headcase to gain maturity.  But Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic are both very, very good and fit this team perfectly.  Who knows though?  The Rockets have no set structure and are simply accumulating assets – maybe Flynn makes Lowry expendable for a true star?

We move on to Terrence Williams, taken at #11: the small forward can rebound, defend, and initiate offense with his jaw-dropping vision but his shooting leaves much to be desired.  What has held him back thus far is immaturity and a tendency to sulk oncourt when things don’t go his way; just meeting T-Will in person confirms the attitude concerns.

I always saw Williams as having the potential impact of a 2008 McGrady: a bad shooter but a potent playmaker. The question for Terrence is whether he can make amends with the franchise under a new coach.  The younger Kevin McHale might be more willing to tolerate Williams’ warts than the old-school-Adelman.  (Though if you can’t get along with Rick Adelman, there’s a good chance you’re the problem.)

I’m rooting for Williams.  Skilled playmakers are at a premium and for a team with no superstar, in a league in which the latter are almost impossible to acquire, it will be important to load up on as many multi-dimensional ‘weapons’ as possible.

Hill and Thabeet are interesting for a common reason.  Both players carry backgrounds in which the narrative included a strong work ethic in college and desire to improve yet both face a current perception of aloofness and lack of desire.

Both have shown flashes.  While it’s forgotten and seldom mentioned, Thabeet paid dividends for the Grizzlies after a stint in the D-League his rookie season.  Hill turned it on late his rookie year and had moments last season for the Rockets in bench duty, one night even keying a victory over the Lakers with his ‘D’ on Pau Gasol.

I don’t know if the reputations are fair.  I don’t think either player necessarily lacks desire but rather that they are both simply ‘lost.’  Hill plays hard but has trouble maintaining focus; Thabeet just does not know how to play basketball.  It’s unlikely that either player realizes his potential and that’s unfortunate – gaining an athletic, shot-blocking center would be a franchise game-changer.  Despite the odds, that’s why Morey took the risk.

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