NBA Draft 2012: Austin Rivers and More Underclassmen Who Will Regret Declaring

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after the Blue Devils lose to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 75-70 during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While it's a no-brainer for certain players to forgo their final years of college eligibility and enter the NBA Draft, there are others who seem to have gotten bad advice. In a way they're hedging their bets since they're going to get their money, but spurning important years of development could prove quite costly.

Entering the NBA without being sufficiently prepared can really put a player behind the eight ball and can even ruin their respective careers. There have been countless examples of players entering the league too early and fizzling in the past, and there figure to be several more such cases this year.

Here are three players who should have gone back to school rather than declaring for the NBA Draft.



Austin Rivers, G, Duke

Guard Austin Rivers entered his freshman season at Duke to much fanfare as the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, and he was immediately the Blue Devils' go-to player.

Rivers led Duke with over 15 points per game, but it was quite obvious that he could have used more seasoning before entering the NBA Draft. Rivers is very likely to be selected somewhere in the top 10, but with such a high draft stock, he may be expected to be a top-flight player right away.

Rivers isn't the greatest shooter as he hit just 43 percent of his field-goal attempts and 66 percent of his free throws this past season, which is obviously something he could have refined with another year at Duke. Also, Rivers enters the NBA on a very sour note as the Blue Devils were monumentally upset by 15th-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament's second round.

Rivers is ultimately going to get a nice payday, but he would have been far more prepared to make an instant impact had he spent another year at Duke.


Justin Hamilton, C, LSU

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 09:  Kyle Wiltjer #33 of the Kentucky Wildcats makes a shot over Justin Hamilton #41 of the LSU Tigers during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisi
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In one of the more surprising declarations, LSU junior center Justin Hamilton decided to declare early for the NBA Draft. In one respect, it was a decent move since teams are desperate to find a seven-footer with even a little bit of skill, but at the same time Hamilton doesn't seem ready.

He averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and over a block per game in the competitive SEC this past season, but Hamilton still has a lot of maturing to do in every facet of his game.

That is especially true on the defensive end as some of the NBA's stronger interior players will likely be able to have their way with him in the paint. LSU was on the ascent and looked to be a possible tournament team in 2013, so Hamilton would have been able to improve his all-around game while gaining some big-game experience in the process.

Without Hamilton, though, the Tigers will have a hard time getting to the next level. More importantly for Hamilton, he is going to be put in a position to fail and he may not even be taken in the first round.


Fab Melo, C, Syracuse

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Fab Melo #51 of the Syracuse Orange reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Ge
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Syracuse sophomore center Fab Melo was in a tough spot as academic eligibility issues prevented him from playing in the NCAA Tournament, so he decided to take the low road and enter the NBA Draft.

While that was the easiest and most lucrative way out, it wasn't the smartest. The big man has a ton of potential and was already one of the better defensive centers in the nation, but he is still very immature as a player and a person, and he simply isn't ready for the NBA.

Melo figures to be a late first-rounder, but he has Hasheem Thabeet written all over him. Thabeet was highly touted as a defender coming out of UConn, but his offensive game was still incredibly raw, so he never developed. The same can be said for Melo, although his defense isn't even as good as Thabeet's was.

Going back to Syracuse and regaining eligibility may have been tough, but it would have built character and he would have been a better player for it in the long run.