By Joe Manganiello
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They are not going in the lottery, but they still should go:
*NOTE: This category of players is motivated differently than the athletes above. These players aren’t getting drafted in the lottery this year or next year (or even the next year). In affect, draft position isn’t even a part of their process; they could go anywhere. The key for these players is that their individual draft stock has peaked and/or the situation with their respective college team makes it undesirable to stay in school.
Allen Crabbe (JR, SG)
Crabbe, for instance, is a junior. In today’s basketball world, where it is taboo for a player to be both good enough for the pros AND stay in school all four years, being a junior is the new senior. Crabbe scored more points in his career at Cal (1537) than Shabazz had minutes played at UCLA (987); his 2012-13 shooting splits (.459/.348/.813) are quite favorable; and his measurables (6-foot-6, 210 lbs) make it possible to guard NBA 2-guards.
So does it matter that he is projected to get drafted at the bottom of the first round or early in the second? No. His game is ready for the pros now, and while making a run at school records and going down in Cal history as a four-year player would hit on a sentimental note, he would be one year older and nearly undraftable in 2014.
Crabbe effectively chose between millions of dollars or the concluding season of his college career. The choice was pretty simple.
A final point. Being selected at the bottom of the first round is not a terrible thing. What a player loses in dollars on their rookie contract they get back in playing for a contender and for a franchise that is accustomed to winning, in the short term at the very least. If you’re Allen Crabbe, you want to get drafted by a franchise that knows how to win and manage itself.
An example of what I’m talking about: Taj Gibson was drafted at #26 by the Chicago Bulls in 2009 after his junior year at USC. The Bulls had just selected Derrick Rose the year before, and were a year away from firing Vinny Del Negro and adding Tom Thibodeau as head coach. Gibson found a role on a upswing team, executed, bought into the new system, continued to execute, and earned a contract extension that could be worth upward of $38 million with incentives. Just four years into Gibson’s career, he is a well-respected NBA forward with conference finals experience, coached up defensive prowess and the potential to become as great a role player as there is in the league.
Crabbe could be a playoff contender’s sharp shooter off the bench in the same amount of time.
Archie Goodwin (FM, SG)
I’ve gone back and forth on this one. It wasn’t an easy decision for the freshman guard: on the one hand, he led the Wildcats in scoring and showed flashes of NBA potential; on the other hand, the Wildcats fell wildly short of their incredible expectations and lost in the first round of the NIT.
Goodwin could have really grown up in the college game, improving his shooting (2012-13 shooting splits: .440/.266/.637) and correcting his negative assist/turnover ratio. But when you play basketball at Kentucky, you don’t get more than one year to establish yourself before your replacement shows up.
Playing lead guard at Kentucky is like having to pay the month’s rent by the end of the first week: if you don’t have it, you’re out and your replacement is already in the building. A monster recruiting class is coming to Lexington in 2013, which includes 5-star twin guards out of Texas who both figure to challenge for All-American consideration. That doesn’t leave any room for Goodwin, who would totally lose his starting job and have a fraction of the role he did in 2012-13.
So Goodwin had to go pro now. Not because he was a finished product or because his NBA draft stock peaked, but because there wasn’t any room for him to stay next year.
Tony Mitchell (SO, PF)
Far from a household name and out of North Texas, Mitchell really only started garnishing NBA draft hype in the second half of the season. The forward has game, pulling down double-digit rebounds in a dozen games this season. Mitchell is only ranked No. 24 on NBA Draft express as of Wednesday, but that number would only go down a year from now as a junior. Mitchell has an opportunity to impress scouts the next two months, take advantage of a weak draft class and climb into the Top 20 discussion. That’s about as a good a deal as it gets for a 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward out of North Texas.
They should have stayed:
Otto Porter Jr. (SO, SF)
This is the one that I’m going to get a lot of heat over.
Look, I hear your arguments already. There is a 95 percent chance that he goes in the Top 10, 90 percent that he goes in the Top 8 and very few basketball fans would bat an eye if he was taken Top 5. He’ll be a millionaire in two months. He can totally match up physically at the next level and has skills that make it very possible for him to succeed as a starting NBA forward.
But I can’t be the only one that looks at how Porter Jr.’s collegiate career wrapped up thinking, “Man, he doesn’t know how to take over a game against college kids. How’s he going to do it in the pros?”
Otto Porter Jr.’s final two games at Georgetown: 9 for 30 from the field (30 percent); 2 for 8 from three-point land; 5 for 9 at the foul line (56 percent); 12.5 ppg (down 3.7); and two losses, including the largest upset in NCAA tournament history.
He is an excellent defensive player and rebounder, with the ability to score points at the next level. But going pro now is admitting that he will never be the best player on a good NBA team. Was he ever going to be more than that? Maybe, maybe not. But he needed one more year to figure it out. I’m really unsure what NBA teams are supposed to think about him.
Cody Zeller (SO, C)
I know, I know. Zeller is ranked No. 5 on NBA Draft express’s big board and doesn’t figure to move much between now and June.
But damn it, he didn’t get any better as a sophomore. I can’t be the only one that thinks that is an issue.
What do you mean he didn’t get better as a sophomore?
I mean that his scoring per game (15.6 to 16.5), blocks per game (1.2 to 1.3) and assists per game (1.3 to 1.3) all stayed the same, his steals per game dropped (1.4 to 1.0), and his field-goal percentage (.623 to .564) fell off. While his rebounding per game (6.6 to 8.0) and foul shots per game (4.5 to 5.4) rose, all someone has to do is look at what Zeller did in the season’s biggest games to notice he wasn’t taking his game up a notch.
Zeller’s final four games at Indiana: 11 for 35 from the field (31.4 percent); 3.25 turnovers per game against 1.50 assists per game; just 12.25 points per game; and a 2-2 record.
Is Zeller the most accomplished center in the draft? Sure. Does he have NBA game? Yeah, most likely. Would he go as high next year as he would this year? Tough to say, but probably not.
But he is going to get beat up in the pros by players so much stronger and faster than Big Ten competition, Temple and Syracuse. One more year at Indiana – playing for a national title and national Player of the Year honors, mind you – and Zeller would have put himself in a position to be ready for it. Right now, it’s a toss up whether or not he will even see a second NBA contract.
Final thought on Zeller: if Mitch McGary can look like Magic Johnson playing forward against the Syracuse 2-3 zone, then why did Zeller play like crud? Please, someone explain why he didn’t take over every facet of that game out from the high post against the Orange.
Maybe because he didn’t know how to play against forwards who are the same size and speed as him. I hear there a lot of those in the NBA.
Steven Adams (FM, C)
If you average 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a night for a team that doesn’t even make it to the NCAA tournament, you aren’t good enough to play NBA basketball.
Yeah, I’m done.
Now I am done.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SO, SG)
This one confused me. It wasn’t inconceivable that Pope would take off for the draft after a very strong sophomore year, but he might end up going dozens of picks lower than he might have in 2014.
Hyperbole? Maybe. Pope averaged 18.5 points per game as a sophomore on a bad Georgia team, and dominated his final collegiate game (32 points, 13 rebounds, six 3-pointers). NBA Draft express has Pope as just the No. 29 prospect this year, but how much of that is because he was completely off the radar most of the season?
Hypothetically, Pope would be a Player of the Year candidate in the SEC and nationally, as well as a pre-season All-American in 2013-14. While Georgia would still be very bad, his role would remain the same. And with an offseason to work on improving his below-average shooting splits (.433/.373/.799), Pope could average well over 20 points a night.
Pope would be a 21-year-old junior with 1700 career points to his name, who stands 6-foot-6 and can play some defense (tricky stat, but his 2.4 defensive win shares was 4th in the SEC). That resume screams middle first-round, unlike his current draft position, which won’t see him go any higher than the mid-20s. Instead of possibly getting selected after Allen Crabbe and Archie Goodwin in 2013, Pope could have been a late-lottery pick in 2014.
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