Whether you’re a fan of social media or not, you can’t deny some of its benefits in today’s world. For one, it gives a platform for people’s voices to be amplified, which could be for better or worse. Suddenly you can tweet something, it gets reposted by a relevant outlet, and sports writers, such as myself, go in-depth on the subject.
Which leads us to think, how can an entire draft class from 13 years ago be down to two players? Minded, George and Hayward were elite players at one point. They have made notable contributions to every franchise they served and are still considered stars in the league today. But happened to the rest?
A group of 60 players that entered the NBA one faithful night is nearing extinction not long after. This batch included names that blew up in the league before they faded into blackness. So let’s see what happened to the aces from this forgotten cohort.
John Wall, first pick, University of Kentucky
Being the first pick in any draft holds plenty of weight. We have seen some live up to the expectations while others crumbled under the pressure. John Wall was one of those who succeeded, at least for a while.
Upon his entry, Wall became the face of the Washington Wizards. With him and Bradley Beal at the forefront, the nation’s capital was rewarded with a team that was competitive, at the very least.
A five-time All-Star and Slam Dunk champion with All-NBA Third Team, All-Defensive Second Team, and All-Rookie First Team selections, Wall was well-decorated before he got plagued by injuries. Despite leading the Wizards to four playoff appearances and becoming the franchise’s fourth all-time leading scorer, Wall left DC in 2020 as a shell of himself.
Stints with the Houston Rockets and the LA Clippers showed that while the vehicle was still running, the engine was not operating quite as well. The Clippers traded Wall back to Houston in February. Three days later, he was waived, going from the first pick to having no takers.
DeMarcus Cousins, fifth pick, University of Kentucky
The 2010 NBA Draft was a good time to be a Wildcat. While Wall embodied the first selection, his Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins trailed closely as the fifth. After averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in his rookie season, Cousins became an anchor for the Sacramento Kings for the next seven years.
At his peak, he was arguably one of the best big men of this generation. Unfortunately, like Wall, he was a talented star that fell off due to injuries. In 2017, he headed to New Orleans to join forces with Anthony Davis, and it was the start of a series of short stints and unfortunate events for Boogie. From 2018 through 2022, Cousins suited up for five NBA teams. Four of those happened in the latter two.
Kentucky must have tied Wall and Cousins at the hip. They reunited in Houston on December 2020, but two months later, Cousins was waived by the Rockets, a feeling Wall would experience years later. Yikes.
Cousins now plays for Mets de Guaynabo in Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional.
Hassan Whiteside, 33rd pick, Marshall University
Hassan Whiteside was selected by Sacramento about halfway through the evening. The only stats he recorded in a Kings jersey were two fouls in two minutes in his rookie season opener. This was followed by a series of shuffles between teams in the NBA G League, NBL China, and the Lebanese Basketball League.
The basketball gods must have sprinkled knee injury dust on this draft class, as all three players mentioned have suffered them throughout their careers. But Whiteside’s adventures in development and overseas leagues planted a chip on his shoulder. In 2014, he signed with the Miami Heat and looked as promising as ever.
Whiteside spent five years in Florida as the Heat sought their identity post-LeBron James. He got an All-NBA Second-Team selection in 2016, led the league in blocks that same year, and rebounds the year after. A hip injury demoted him to a role-player before entering the team roulette once more. He led the league in blocks again in 2020 with Portland and had a redemption run with the Kings the following season. Consider that his swan song in the NBA. In 2023, Whiteside joined Cousins in Puerto Rico, playing for Piratas de Quebradillas.
Lance Stephenson, 40th pick, University of Cincinnati
You may know him for his blooper real, but there’s no denying how solid of a player Lance Stephenson was in the NBA. His antics may have defined him, but he was a reliable role player for the most part. In his fourth year with the Pacers, he averaged a consistent 14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game.
His first four seasons in the league with Indiana were the early peak of his career. But after switching teams in the NBA seven more times in the four years that followed, Stephenson opted out and found his way to China in 2019.
However, Stephenson clicked the undo button faster than expected. In 2021, he made pitstops with the Grand Rapids Gold and Atlanta Hawks before a farewell run with the Pacers. In 2023, Stephenson set out on a journey to–you guessed it– Puerto Rico where he is playing for Leones de Ponce.
So they got hurt, got waived, and moved to Puerto Rico. But how about everyone else?
If you look at the entire list of draft picks from 2010, you realize there was never much depth in it. Apart from the players who I mentioned in this write-up, some names would barely ring bells. Most of them did not do well enough to leave a dent in the league, let alone scratch the surface. If the best players from this class struggle to stay in the NBA, it comes as no surprise that others disappeared much sooner.
The misfortune of the 2010 class is unparalleled. Who would have that that just over a decade later, Wall is hoping for a call-back while Cousins, Whiteside, and Stephenson are enjoying tropical hoops? Paul and Hayward are the last of a dying breed and they too are visibly fading out of their stardoms.