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Syracuse Basketball: In Defense of Jonny Flynn

Was Jonny Flynn an NBA Draft bust or was he simply a victim of misfortune?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Playoffs in full swing and the Golden State Warriors cruising like they've been all season, the Minnesota Timberwolves' front office are constantly being reminded of and berated for drafting Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry with the 6th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft (Curry went 7th). With Curry as the league's premiere scorer on a team that had the best regular season in NBA history and is trying to win a second NBA Championship, Flynn's reputation as a bust only grows.

Yes, Steph Curry has obviously panned out much better than Jonny Flynn in the NBA (and frankly, better than anyone could've ever dreamed of). Yes, Flynn is no longer in the league while Curry has the first of his many presumptive MVP awards under his belt. Hindsight is 20/20.

With some media types dubbing Flynn as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, I feel the need to take you back to his days in an Orange uniform to give perspective on what Minnesota executives saw in him, and that his short-lived NBA career had a hint of bad luck involved with it.

The College Days

While his days in an Orange uniform aren't something Syracuse fans need reminding of, they seem lost on the rest of the country. Jonny Flynn was a McDonald's All-American at Niagara Falls High School prior to coming to Syracuse, and lived up to every bit of hype he came to Central New York with. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.3 assists a game in a season where he was Co-Big East Rookie of the Year in 2008. Combine that personal success with an unsuccessful NIT season for the Orange, and Flynn had an enormous amount of pressure to lead the Orange the following season.

And he didn't disappoint.

In 2009 in the best basketball conference in America, Flynn made Madison Square Garden his personal playground, leading his team to a Big East Tournament runner-up finish in a week that saw phenomenal play from him including the historic six overtime game against Connecticut. Jonny was named the Big East Tournament's Most Valuable Player despite losing in the championship game, one of only four players to do so in Big East history. In the NCAA Tournament, Flynn led the Orange to the sweet sixteen before eventually bowing out to Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Flynn had shown both fans and scouts that he could play with the best talent in the country at the collegiate level. NBA Draft websites such as Draft Express praised Jonny's leadership while calling him "one of the most explosive point guards in the draft". He drew comparisons to players like Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson, with his main critique being his lack of size.

But what he lacked in size, he made up for in heart and tenacity. Not only did fans recognize this following a season where he brought Syracuse back from back to back NIT seasons, but draft experts saw it as well. He went to the the Wolves, and had a solid rookie season, averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists in 81 games. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team, and seemed poise for great things in the future ahead of him.

This is where the bad luck comes in to play.

Flynn injured his hip following that solid rookie season, and was never the same again. That quickness and explosiveness he used to overcome his lack of size was gone with the hip injury, and he never fully recovered from it. Flynn bounced around to Houston and Detroit before finally settling overseas playing in Italy. Steph Curry went on to become superman, and the rest is history.

So was Jonny Flynn a draft bust? It depends on your perspective. From a standpoint of comparing wins of careers, maybe. But Jonny's situation was a lot different than just getting drafted and under-performing. He had an unbelievable two seasons at Syracuse, and followed it up with a strong rookie season in the NBA before he got bit by the injury bug. No one can say one way or the other where his career would've taken him had he not gotten injured, but from a statistical standpoint I believe it points to better things that what eventually happened for him.

And while we eviscerate the Timberwolves for not taking Steph Curry, should we do the same for every single Division 1 basketball program due to the fact that he received zero scholarship offers out of high school? How about the Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder, and Kings? While their draft picks were good selections, none of them are the best player in the world in 2016.

The Steph Curry story should be a praise of Steph Curry, and not a condemnation of those who were in the same draft class. Curry was considered a risky pick from the Warriors and what we got for that gamble was a brand of basketball that we've never seen in the history of the game. Unfortunately Jonny bears the brunt of that history.