It’s been four and a half seasons since the 2008 NBA Draft was conducted, and it seems like a good time to re-visit the selections and determine how the Draft would go if it were re-conducted today.
There’s no change in the number one selection, regardless of major injury, but the rest of the top-10 shake out intriguingly, as a number of players leaped a third of a round in value, including two big men who are being paid handsomely by their respective clubs.
1) Derrick Rose (1)
Derrick Rose is the only one in this class to win an MVP award, though at least two others in this class have the talent to do so. Rose led the Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference in consecutive seasons, and they had the best record in the entire NBA in 2010-11.
He’s a franchise talent, and though he is coming off of ACL surgery, many expect Rose to return to be as brilliant as he was pre-injury, if not more so. Rose is a hard worker and has recently been dunking in practice, which is a good sign we’ll see the real Rose after the All-Star break.
2) Kevin Love (5)
Kevin Love has become the league’s best power forward. He posts 20/20 games with regularity, and up until this season had been an accurate three-point marksman (even winning the three point contest over the All-Star weekend festivities).
Love is going to go down in the conversation with Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone and the likes, for the best power forward of All-Time, when it is said and done.
3) Russell Westbrook (4)
Russell Westbrook is the third franchise talent of this draft class. Though he plays with the league’s best scorer Kevin Durant, Westbrook is not shy about making himself the primary option when games call for it. He still averages 8.5 assists per game, proving that the selfish player labels are not so accurate, after all.
Westbrook is essentially a really good shooting guard in a point guard’s body, but at 6’3″ with a strong broad frame, Westbrook is able to post up of a lot of opposing point guard and take advantage of his physicality. He should prove to be one of the best point guards in the league for the next decade.
4) Brook Lopez (10)
Brook Lopez is a dynamic scorer, but not much of a true center. He doesn’t rebound the ball well enough, deferring to Kris Humphries to do most of the dirty work inside.
He’s returned more to the form he showed in his first seasons in the league now, though, and the Brooklyn Nets feature Lopez prominently in their well-rounded starting five. Lopez was taken No. 10 overall, but after receiving a max contract, he’s shown he is nearly a franchise talent. Just not quite.
5) Nicolas Batum (25)
Nicolas Batum is quickly becoming one of the league’s best swingmen. Batum is a premier defender and is scoring well this season, too (a career high 16.6 points per game). Batum is a career 37 percent three point shooter and helped France in the 2012 Olympics.
Will Batum enter the elite class of small forwards? It’s possible. He’s improved every season in his five-year NBA career and is seeing 38.7 minutes a night this year. The Portland Trail Blazers have been a surprisingly good 20-16 behind the strong play of rookie Damian Lillard and All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The future is bright in Portland and Batum is a big part of what they are building around.
6) Danilo Gallinari (6)
“The Rooster” has to be one of the more ridiculous nicknames in professional sports, but there is nothing ridiculous about Danilo Gallinari’s sweet jumper. He hasn’t been hitting it at a high clip this year (just 40 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three), but over his career he has proven to be an effective scorer (just not the most efficient).
Gallo (much better nickname) has the potential to be a big scorer on a high scoring team, but would need to hit a much better percentage from the floor to move up much higher than the No. 6 overall selection in this draft, which incoincidentally was where he was selected in 2008.
7) JaVale McGee (18)
JaVale McGee lost his starting spot in Denver, but it stems primarily from the fact his asthmatic condition limits the amount of minutes he can play. But when he does play, he’s been very good, and a number of Nuggets fans are calling for McGee to start once again.
McGee is extremely coordinated and put time in with the “Hoops Whisperer” Hakeem Olajuwon this summer. It’s seemingly paid dividends, as his post repertoire looks much improved. He already had the coordination and athleticism, but with some more big man coaching he could be an elite center.
8) Roy Hibbert (17)
Roy Hibbert is another player in this draft who received a max-contract due to position scarcity. With all due respect to Hibbert (and to a lesser extent Lopez), I don’t feel he could have started back in the center rich talent pool of the 90s. Hibbert is immobile, soft and doesn’t have particularly great timing, which results in a lot of reach-in fouls.
He’s still the third best center in this draft class, and he’s better than the No. 17 overall at which he was picked, but the Pacers are going to live to regret that max-contract, and likely already are with Ian Mahinmi playing so well off the bench.
9) Eric Gordon (7)
If I were re-ordering this draft two seasons ago, Eric Gordon would have been No. 4. He’s more talented than everyone in this draft outside of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook (Yes, more talented than Love, but Love’s work ethic puts him over the top), and if not for the knee injuries he would unequivocally be a perennial All-Star.
Instead, he’s seldom been on the court. Gordon drew vast interest at the end of last season, but the Hornets retained his services as a restricted free agent.
10) O.J. Mayo (3)
O.J. Mayo looked as though he might contend for Rookie of the Year early in the 2008-09 season. For a season and a half in Memphis, Mayo looked as though he could be a 20-plus point per game scorer. In his rookie season, he averaged 18.5 points per game.
In time, the Grizzlies seemingly outgrew their need for Mayo, as other scorers stepped up and Tony Allen’s defensive skills were far more need-appropriate than Mayo’s shooting. Moreover, his shooting had become less accurate as time wore on.
It turned out, all Mayo needed was a change in scenery. This season in Dallas, Mayo has returned to the brilliance he displayed as a rookie—plus some. He’s averaging over 18 points per game again, but shooting a career high 46 percent from the floor, including a blistering 42.6 percent from three-point range.
Topics: 2008 NBA Draft, Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Indiana Pacers, JaVale McGee, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Nicolas Batum, O.J. Mayo, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Roy Hibbert, Russell Westbrook