10 College Basketball Players Who Declared for the NBA Draft Too Early

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIApril 21, 2013

10 College Basketball Players Who Declared for the NBA Draft Too Early

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    Let me first say that this is not a moral exercise.

    I'm not implying that these 10 college underclassmen should stay in school because it would benefit their development as human beings. Nor am I suggesting it will make them better basketball players in the long term.

    Instead, I'm saying that these 10 would be drafted higher—and thus make more money—if they stayed in school another year or two. That's all.

    Think of this as a cost-benefit analysis. The primary variable is NBA readiness, but it's far from the only one. Players also have to weigh the relative strength of their draft class, financial need, the possibility that they'll lose playing time to incoming freshmen and injury risk.

    Those considerations made, the draft-eligible player then asks himself:  "Am I worth more today to an NBA team than I will be next year?"

    In the case of the following 10 college standouts, I'd answer very simply, "No."

Grant Jerrett, Arizona

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    Class: Freshman

    Position: Forward

    2012-13 Stats: 5.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 17.8 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot*: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    I can see the logic behind Jerrett's decision.

    With blue-chip forward Aaron Gordon slated to attend Arizona next season and fellow bigs Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley returning for their sophomore years, Jerrett probably wasn't going to see a huge uptick in minutes. By getting out early, he avoided the oncoming statistical plateau and maintained whatever "high upside" intrigue he still holds in the eyes of NBA scouts.

    Fact is, though, Jerrett wasn't a productive post player during his lone college season. He flashed a nice jump shot and rebounded at a decent rate, but overall lacked the physical tools to earn regular playing time.

    Another year at Arizona might not help his stat line, but it could go a long way toward improving his upper-body strength and defensive acumen. And if Gordon's presence does limit Jerrett's exposure, the latter could always return for his junior season.

    It's also worth noting that the Wildcats are projected to be among the nation's best teams next season. If Arizona plays to those expectations, it should have a positive effect on Jerrett's stock. As recent Kentucky teams have proven, you don't need to start to get noticed—especially when your team dominates.


    *Projected draft slot according to ESPN's Chad Ford.

Vander Blue, Marquette

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    Class: Junior

    Position: Guard

    2012-13 Stats: 14.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 33.0 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Blue surged onto NBA draft boards after an excellent junior year and even better NCAA tournament, but there's reason to think he could have climbed even higher next season.

    The Golden Eagles return bigs Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner from a team that went 26-9 and finished tied atop the Big East standings. Add to that a top-tier recruiting class, and Marquette is primed for a conference championship.

    Blue could have been the standout player on a loaded team, which would have given him an opportunity to both boost his profile and work on his improving—but still limited—outside game.

Myck Kabongo, Texas

3 of 10

    Class: Sophomore

    Position: Point Guard

    2012-13 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 37.3 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Late First-Round Pick

    Kabongo missed most of his sophomore season due to suspension, which would have made returning to Austin a challenge. But that's precisely why the Canadian point should have stayed.

    Remaining in Texas would have given Kabongo a chance to rehab his image and prove his resilience. It also would have provided him an opportunity to resurrect a team that went 7-11 in Big 12 play.

    Kabongo has the athletic potential to be a lottery pick and could have played his way into that conversation with another season at UT.

Ricky Ledo, Providence

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    Class: N/A

    Position: Guard

    2012-13 Stats: N/A

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Ledo was deemed a partial qualifier by the NCAA, meaning he was able to practice with the Friars last season but wasn't permitted to play.

    The Providence native was an elite scoring prospect in high school who generated considerable next-level buzz. Without any college game tape, though, his draft status will be dictated almost entirely by the quality of his workouts.

    That's a tremendous risk to take and an unnecessary one. Ledo could have locked up first-round status with a solid freshman campaign. Now he'll have to blow folks away in the gym, and even then it's unclear how many teams would be willing to draft a player with so little documented experience against top-tier talent.

Steven Adams, Pittsburgh

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    Class: Freshman

    Position: Center

    2012-13 Stats: 7.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 23.4 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Late First Round

    Adams has all the obvious markings of an NBA big: size, defensive mobility and rebounding prowess. Even if he never develops into a scorer, the New Zealand native could still carve out a five-to-10-year career in the Association.

    But that's just the thing: Adams' offensive game is brutally underdeveloped. He's hesitant. His footwork needs improvement. The touch on his shot is almost nonexistent. During his one year at Pitt, Adams' primary offensive weapon was the put-back, and even that was an adventure.

    Had Adams shown even moderate improvement in those areas as a college sophomore, scouts would have gone gaga.

    Perhaps Adams fancied his chances in a relatively weak draft pool, but even that explanation feels unsatisfactory.

    Though thin overall, the 2013 draft class is surprisingly well-stocked at center. Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Cody Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Withey all project as first-round selections. Isaiah Austin and Rudy Gobert aren't far behind.

    By comparison, there are very few true centers among the current crop of high school seniors. Even in what figures to be a loaded 2014 draft, Adams had a chance to be the best 7-footer available.

Marshawn Powell, Arkansas

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    Class: Junior

    Position: Power Forward

    2012-13 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 25.6 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Powell's production has regressed since his breakout freshman campaign, and another year in Fayetteville probably wouldn't have changed the 6'7" forward's statistical trajectory.

    But there's something to be said for team success as it correlates to individual draft stock. And had Powell stayed, he could have been a major contributor on a very talented Arkansas team.

    With blue-chip freshman Bobby Portis as his frontcourt mate, Powell was positioned to lead the Razorbacks to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. Tack on a few March victories, and perhaps Powell sneaks into the second round. As it stands now, the Virginia native is unlikely to hear his name called on draft night.

    This is all a long-winded way of saying that the draft prospects were never good for a 6'7" forward who peaked three years ago. But given that predicament, it's better to leave after a breakthrough season as opposed to one where the team finishes 19-13.

C.J. Aiken, St. Joe's

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    Class: Junior

    Position: Small Forward

    2012-13 Season: 10.4 ppg, 2.6 bpg, 31.7 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Aiken's game plateaued last season when it quickly became apparent that his freakish athletic ability wasn't translating to the offensive end.

    Would another year in school have changed that equation? Probably not.

    But since Aiken isn't a likely draft pick right now, he wouldn't have risked much by returning to Hawk Hill. Europe can always wait.

Adonis Thomas, Memphis

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    Class: Sophomore

    Position: Small Forward

    2012-13 Stats: 11.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 29.3 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Thomas' next-level prospects have been in free fall ever since he left high school, and his decision to leave after an underwhelming sophomore campaign feels panicked. The Memphis native may also have been motivated by the talent coming in behind him, which includes 5-star power forward Austin Nichols.

    Again, though, I'm not sure why a player leaves school when he's likely to go undrafted. Even if there isn't much to gain by going back—and Thomas could certainly make that case—there's even less to lose.

    The addition of Nichols along with fellow blue-chippers Kuran Iverson and Nick King puts Memphis in the preseason Final Four conversation. Even if his role was reduced, Thomas could be a key player for an elite team. After two years of unfulfilled expectation, that's the kind of jolt his stock needs.

Phil Pressey, Missouri

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    Class: Junior

    Position: Point Guard

    2012-13 Season: 11.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 33.9 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Pressey developed a reputation last year for poor late-game play, and it's become a burden on his draft prospects. The Missouri standout could have assuaged those fears by returning for his senior year and assuming a leadership role on what should still be a fairly talented Tigers team.

Tony Snell, New Mexico

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    Class: Junior

    Position: Small Forward

    2012-13 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, 31.2 mpg

    Projected Draft Slot: Second-Round Pick/Undrafted

    Snell broke onto draft boards late with a fabulous performance in the Mountain West Conference tournament. There remain, however, some glaring holes in his game. The California native is thin for a shooting guard/small forward and his jump shot could use some extra work.

    As time passes and the memory of Snell's late-season excellence fades, those weaknesses will only grow more apparent. A full season of standout play would have gone a long way toward vaulting Snell into the first round. And with New Mexico retaining most of its rotation from last season, Snell would have been well positioned to make just such a leap.