Only three years after the 2010 NBA Draft, the careers of the players selected are already diverging rapidly. Over the next few months, most will focus on the seven players from that draft class -- John Wall, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Larry Sanders, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward -- invited to this year’s Team USA minicamp. They’re all eligible for their first big contract this summer, with Wall already agreeing to a max deal with the Washington Wizards.
However, while they start the process of moving up the NBA hierarchy, many of their peers are fighting to stay in the league. There are seven first-round picks from 2010 not currently on an NBA roster. At this point in free agency, all would be happy to play for the minimum. Before they slip through the cracks completely, it’s worth seeing to see what lessons can be gleaned from their careers. The draft is an inexact science; the misses can be as informative as the hits.
Cole Aldrich (No. 10):
It’s been a swift fall from grace for Aldrich, a former lottery pick from Kansas. After spending his first two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder shuttling back and forth to the D-League, Aldrich didn’t have his option picked up and was traded twice in less than six months. A defensively-minded center without a ton of skill, he never received consistent playing time in any of his three NBA stops. As a result, he’s played only 703 total minutes, a really low number for such a high pick.
Interior defense is one of the toughest things to master in the NBA, which is why shot-blocking centers are such gambles in the draft. Right now, Aldrich isn’t good enough on defense to make up for his lack of offense. Many teams would rather go small with their second unit than play a limited center. Aldrich has the size (6’11 245 with a 7’5 wingspan) to find a job as a third center, but he’s running out of time to prove that he’s anything more than a career journeyman.
Xavier Henry (No. 11):
There might need to be a warning sign for NBA scouts at Allen Fieldhouse: Kansas players are not what they appear. In the last few years, the Jayhawks have had six different Top 15 picks -- Henry, Aldrich, Julian Wright, the Morris Twins and Thomas Robinson -- underperform in the NBA. Of those six, only Henry and Wright were Top 25 recruits coming out of high school. Bill Self’s teams are usually greater than the sum of their individual parts.
An elite athlete with great size (6’6 210), Henry seemed like a safe pick. After shooting 42 percent from three on 4.6 attempts per game as a freshman, he projected as a high-level 3-and-D player, at worst. However, once he got to the NBA, he stopped shooting three-pointers. He took only 45 in three seasons with Memphis and New Orleans. Without a long-range shot, Henry hasn’t been an effective player. He’s still only 22, but a shooting guard with a career PER of 8.1 has his work cut out for him.
Luke Babbitt (No. 16):
In three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Babbitt did little besides shoot 3’s. At 6’9 225, he’s a prototype tweener forward: not quick enough to guard small forwards or big enough to defend power forwards. A mismatch nightmare in college, he is a man without a position in the NBA. Babbitt averaged 22 points and nine rebounds at Nevada, but the rebounding and shot-creating haven’t translated to the next level. If he can’t add more to his game, he may be headed overseas.
Craig Brackins (No. 21):
Brackins washed out of the league before ever really getting a chance. In two seasons with Philadelphia, he dominated D-League competition but barely played in the NBA. A 6’10 230 forward who was once projected as a lottery pick, he scored a lot at Iowa State but didn’t bring much else to the table. He isn’t athletic enough to be a defensive difference-maker and he’s not a three-point shooter. After spending time in Italy and Israel last season, his NBA career may be over.
Elliott Williams (No. 22):
Williams is a true hard-luck case. An athletic 6’5 190 combo guard, he seemed like a promising prospect coming out of Memphis. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, playing only 24 games in three seasons in the NBA. He’s had knee and shoulder surgeries and he missed all of last season with an Achilles injury. It’s a good thing he went pro after his sophomore season of college. With $4 million in the bank, he can always go back to school.
Damion James (No. 24):
As a 6’7 225 combo forward, the odds were always against James. He’s a classic tweener, not big enough to score in the paint or skilled enough to play on the perimeter. A broken foot ended his first two seasons in the NBA, putting him permanently behind the 8-ball with New Jersey/Brooklyn. As a result, he’s a 26-year-old who has played in only 34 career games. A D-League All-Star last season, James is waiting on another NBA chance that may not come.
Dominique Jones (No. 25):
Jones was the leading scorer in the Big East in his junior season at South Florida, but his game has not translated to the next level. An athletic 6’4 215 combo guard with surprisingly good passing ability, Jones has been undone by his inability to shoot from the perimeter or finish at the rim. In 80 career games with Dallas, he shot 37 percent from the field and 10 percent from three. He shot only 32 percent from 3 in college, so his shooting troubles shouldn’t have been totally unexpected.
Lazar Hayward (No. 30):
Hayward is one of several David Kahn picks out of the league before the end of their rookie contract. While he was a productive combo forward at Marquette, his lack of size for the position (6’6 225) knocked him down most pre-draft rankings. He did little to justify Kahn’s faith in three seasons in the NBA, posting a career PER of 9.0 in 72 games with Minnesota and Oklahoma City. Perhaps he can form a support group with Johnny Flynn overseas.