2009 NBA Draft: Five College Players Who Should Stay in School
More this year than any other, it's tough to predict which men's college basketball players will do either one of two things: Enter the 2009 NBA Draft or stay an extra year to erase their scrutinized weaknesses.
This is especially because of the apparent lack of depth that this summer's draft appears to have. It's a factor that can prompt many freshman and other classmen, ones that are not NBA-ready just yet, to punch their ticket this summer rather than wait for 2010.
Along with the 2009 NBA Draft being much more weak than 2008 and (most likely) 2010, the money is another contributing factor that can get in the heads of college players.
The guaranteed money that comes with being a potential lottery pick, and even just a first-rounder, can prompt players to leave way too early for the draft than they really should. These kind of players, one's that are more raw than polished, are the players that made up the majority of my list.
Of the five players that are listed, only one is not a freshman. This should be no surprise, however, because there's been an obvious lack of freshman sensations this year as there were in 2008.
Yet there always seems to be a few newcomers, ones that are nowhere near fully developed, that enter the draft strictly for the cash.
Without further talk though, let's look at five pro-prospects that could use another year to not only improve their draft statuses, but polish their skills as well.
Jrue Holiday, Guard, UCLA
With a couple players being the exception, Jrue Holiday might as well be the face of the freshman class this year.
His recruiting hype coming out of Campbell Hall has seemed to produce too high of expectations for his first year at UCLA. Holiday has had, for the most part, a disappointing season. He's had games where he's shined, but he's just never been able to build off of them and get some consistency going.
On the bright side Holiday is, after all, a freshman.
No, he's not quite as good at the moment as so many people had expected, but his awareness on the defensive end is a strength that has been a nice addition for UCLA this season. In a game in February versus Arizona State, Holiday forced stud guard James Harden often into tough spots that resulted in eight turnovers. He's been able to use his defensive skill set to harass opponent's perimeter stars all year.
He's also putting up solid all around stats for a guard. Besides his mediocre eight or nine points per game, Holiday's averaging close to four rebounds and four assists per game and contributing about two steals a game as well.
Holiday could use an extra year to build on his point guard skills though. With Collison gone after this year, Holiday most likely will be the full-time point guard. Being the full-time point can help speed up the development on his decision making too. Against Villanova in second round, he looked lost as he committed four turnovers and took the kind of shots that make coaches cringe.
This brings us to another one of Holiday's significant weaknesses, his shooting.
Holiday's jump shot is another reason why his draft stock is falling from the lottery into the late first round. Some of that can contribute to his poor decision making at times, but the bottom line is, according to his player card on espn.com, he's only making 30 percent of his three's on about three attempts per game.
On the flip side, he's making over half of his shots inside the arc. What's concerning, however, is that he's rarely getting to the line. He shoots over 70 percent from the stripe, which is solid for a college guard, but he's averaging just two attempts per game. A fitness program that'll put on some muscle should help Holiday get into the lane and draw contact more often.
The bottom line for Holiday is that he needs to polish up a lot of his backcourt skills offensively to take away the speculation of being an undersized No. 2 guard.
Holiday should be a lock for the lottery in 2010 if things go as planned.
Tyreke Evans, Guard, Memphis
This pick might surprise a few fans.
Evans has climbed his way to a potential late lottery pick with his play as of late.
He's one of those guys that likely wouldn't drop his stock if he stays another year, even if 2010 is going to be a much stronger draft class. But Evans would be much more NBA-ready and contribute right away.
Memphis played significantly better this season when Calipari rotated Evans from a wing slot to point guard. Evans himself also took off. He increased his scoring, became a strong rebounder for a guard, and was a thief defensively.
For the season, he's averaged 17 points, six rebounds, and two steals along with nearly one block.
His frame is also advanced at the college level. Being 6'5" and close to 200 pounds as a point guard has allowed Evans to use that strength to get into the paint and either finish through contact or get to the line. Many college guards that are guarding him, especially in Conference USA, just can't match up to Evans with his height and strength.
That's the good. Now the bad.
Though Evans has rotated to the point guard position, his shot attempts are still up and his shot selections are still as questionable as they was to start the season. Does it make any sense to have a point guard that wants the ball at all times? His turnovers haven't seemed to decrease either as he's averaging nearly four per game.
That's nearly as many turnovers (3.6) as his assists (3.9).
His fundamentals on his jumpshot should raise eyebrows from NBA scouts also. Not only does Evans take questionable shots, but he fades away every time while doing so—even when he is wide open. With these kind of mechanics, he's only been able to convert 28 percent of his three-point attempts (and he takes three to four attempts per game). It also makes shots off the dribble awkward for Evans with the kind of shooting form he uses.
The shot mechanics for Evans will need to be completely reconstructed if he wants to ever be a great shooter in the NBA.
Now, after comparing the good and bad, another year for Evans could erase several weaknesses.
This is only assuming that Evans can trust the rest of his teammates and develop a team-first mentality.
With his height and handles, Evans' court vision and decision making can certainly be improved if he stays for the 2009-2010 season. Thanks to five incoming freshman next year, this shouldn't be too much of a problem as it might've been this year.
Memphis is bringing in an absolutely sick recruiting class next year. Along with bringing in three four-star recruits, according to rivals.com, the Tigers also bring in two McDonald's All-Americans. DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry, two potential one-and-dones, are players that have the fundamentals, strength, and athleticism to create high percentage shots.
They both will surely help scouts prove that Evans can be a team player as well as jack up his assists-to-turnover ratio also.
If Evans stays in school one more year, not only can he show scouts that he can be more of a team player and a smarter point guard, but he can also bring Memphis back to the Final Four and a great shot at an NCAA Title.
B.J. Mullens, Center, Ohio State
After Ohio State teammate David Lighty went down for the season, I'd expected Mullens' to get increased playing time. With the extra minutes, Mullens could find some consistency and show off his skills that made him rivals.com's No. 1 prospect.
Unfortunately, it still looks like he has a long way to go. With Mullens' size and mobility, he gets the majority of his points around the basket. Anything outside of the paint though, or close to the free throw line for Mullens, gives inconsistent results. Still, it looks like he knows his range as he's shooting an amazing 64 percent from the field.
However, opponents can play the infamous "Hack-a-Shaq" on Mullens as he shot only 56 percent from the free-throw line for the season. It's also odd that for an imposing figure like Mullens, he's only averaging three attempts from the free throw line per game.
When it comes to passing, his assist-to-turnover ratio is extremely low. His one assist for every five turnovers is among the worst in the league. Totaling 10 assists for the entire season, even for a center, is alarming. This can be for a variety of reasons, like a lack of awareness and experience for a young developing post, for example.
Defensively, Mullens is still a project. With the athleticism and size Mullens beholds, it's surprising that he averaged only about five boards a game, and only 1.1 blocks too. This can be contributed to a lack of fundamentals and reflexes, as he can get beat frequently to the basket despite his size and length.
With that size though, Mullens has the potential to be a very good shot blocker. He just needs to work on his timing and reflexes.
His 7'0", 260 pound frame, with the explosiveness Mullens possess in the paint, can make him a possible lottery pick for next year's draft. If he were to enter, it would seem like he would be content on just making the NBA based on his potential. This is where I see the resemblance of Mullens being a future Tyson Chandler.
It's clear though that Mullens needs an extra year to work on several aspects of his game, and this would be the more wise decision Mullens could make. Right now, Mullens is more raw than fundamentally sound. There's no doubt that he has the potential to be a great center. It's just more about when Mullens will blossom into one.
With an extra year at Ohio State, he would be more NBA ready for the 2010 draft. Not only though would he get more experience at the collegiate level, but he would also log more minutes in the NBA as a rookie because of a more advanced skill set he'll likely possess. This would only help his development at the professional level since the NBA needs more skillfull seven footers and Mullens has the mold to be one of them.
Assuming Mullens does come back, he and Evan Turner (assuming Turner doesn't punch his ticket to the draft) could provide a dangerous duo around the paint for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Add in John Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale, along with a few other key role players on the squad, and Ohio State is a Big Ten team that could make some noise in the 2009-2010 season.
DeMar DeRozan, Wing, USC
DeMar DeRozan wasn't the first freshman to not become a sensation as soon as he set foot on campus, but he started to find consistency as the year went on. It looked like he was just starting to get hot until his and USC's season came to an end at the NCAA Tournament.
At the moment, DeRozan is projected to be, or on the edge of being, in the lottery if he decides to enter the 2009 NBA Draft.
Given another year at college, however, DeRozan could climb into the top 5 in the draft class of 2010.
What makes DeRozan such a high pick, whether the pick this year or next, is his freak-like athleticism. It took him a while to make productive use of it, but his scoring and rebounding took a nice increase over his last five games of the year as he averaged 19.8 points and 8.2 boards. For the season, he's producing close to 14 points and 6 rebounds, solid stats for a freshman wing.
As well as learning how to make better use of his athleticism, DeRozan's offensive game has slowly expanded throughout the year as well. His mid-range game has been a go-to weapon and his mechanics, unlike prospects like Tyreke Evans, are very solid.
Overall, he's shooting 52 percent from the field.
Though he can make the mid-range jumpshot on a daily basis, his range is limited to just that. Another year to expand his range to beyond the arc would help a lot, considering DeRozan has only made 6 threes all year out of 36 attempts, good for only 17 percent.
His handles are also limited, which also takes away his explosiveness. This especially hurts him in USC's system where the slower tempo, halfcourt offense is preferred. It's also evident that it hurts his stats, mostly in the assists category where his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.0 assist for every 1.4 turnovers.
For a guard, this is quite a concern.
Defensively, DeRozan isn't in that bad of company. He's nothing special, and he doesn't get as many steals as an athletic wing like him should at 0.9 per, but the potential to be a pesky perimeter defender is there. This is especially because of his length, quickness, and athleticism. Many college freshman tend to lack the awareness on how to be a lockdown defender anyways. An extra year of coaching would definitely help DeRozan out on this side of the floor.
Given his limited range and handles, DeRozan would greatly benefit from an extra year at USC. If he were to leave for the draft this year, he would be drafted almost on potential alone and be a long-term project.
Like many players, however, the sign that 2009 can be a very weak draft can persuade DeRozan to use his draft card this year rather than next.
Wayne Ellington, Wing, North Carolina
Wayne Ellington is the first and only non-freshman to make this list.
It's going to be a tricky situation for Ellington this summer. After a poor performance in last year's workouts, and being overmatched by a ridiculously deep 2008 class, he dropped out of the draft and opted to stay at North Carolina.
Luckily or not for Ellington, every other player on the roster that played a huge role had opted to stay as well.
It's going to have to be a permenant decision for Ellington this time around about whether to enter the draft again, or stay for his senior year. He's already used his choice last year to enter the draft or opt out.
Now to analyze Ellington's game. He has one of the smoothest strokes in the league from anywhere on the court. Ellington also shoots near 80 percent from the free throw line, but he takes only three attempts per game.
Ellington can disappear from the spotlight numerous times each game too and can go without the ball for way too long of periods at a time. This is because the offense is more focused towards teammates Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson.
However, this shouldn't be the case. Ellington has the ability to go off for big performances, but he seems to be just fine being in the shadows of the rest of the squad. This can be especially frustrating for Tar Heel fans because he's shooting 40 percent from three and 55 percent inside the arc.
On one hand, this shows that Ellington is a team player, but on the other side there's the potential for him to be an explosive shooter. He boasts a 34-point game in a win over Maryland, 23 points against LSU, 23 versus Miami, and 25 points against Clemson; all quality teams.
This is what scouts would like to see more of.
Defense is what kills Ellington's draft stock the most though. His 1.1 steals per game in North Carolina's up-tempo, pressure-like scheme is a concern as he goes into the final days of the tournament. His biggest weakness on defense is when he gets isolated with another wing that often overmatches Ellington because of his slower quickness and footspeed.
If Ellington stays for his senior year, he will be the focal point of the offense while being surrounded by emerging posts Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, as well as a number of new faces. North Carolina has an extremely talented incoming draft class coming in next year. Still, Ellington would be the superstar of the team and be able to show what kind of scorer that many fans have hoped for.
Overall, it's not like if Ellington stays his senior year that he can propel himself up to a top 5 pick in the 2010 draft, but it's sure a lot better than his projection this year where he's likely to go in the early second round.
A successful 2009-2010 season at North Carolina could put him in the very back end of the 2010 lottery. Ellington's skill set will allow him to be a very solid role player at the next level.