NBA Draft Declaration Decisions: Breaking Down the Right and Wrong Choices
CBSSports.com lists the 40 college underclassmen basketball players who have declared for the 2013 NBA draft. Many of these players won conference or national awards. They are legitimately ready to take their game to the next level. Now they can begin to live their lifelong dreams.
Some of the other players on this list left without coming close to realizing their potential at the collegiate level. And yet, they still made the determination to move on and take their chances.
The following is a list of 10 players who made either the right or wrong choices in terms of entering this year’s draft. Players are paired to contrast a questionable (wrong) decision with a quality (right) decision.
Wrong Choice to Go: Grant Jerrett (Arizona)
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There was no more confusing early entry announcement than the one made by Arizona’s Grant Jerrett. Coming out of high school, Jerrett was recognized as a one-and-done candidate. His size (6’10” 235 pounds) and multidimensional skills put him into the “star-in-the-making” category.
But, Jerrett’s single season under Wildcats coach Sean Miller was less than stellar. Jerrett ended up being a lightly used (17 minutes per game) reserve who averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. While he showed flashes of promise and potential, Jerrett couldn’t sustain any level of on-court success.
Unless Jerrett has a phenomenal string of flawless workouts in front of NBA scouts, it is very likely that he will start his professional career overseas or in the NBDL. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman expressed that “This is a baffling decision because multiple NBA executives told CBSSports.com that Jerrett is likely a second-rounder and could go undrafted.”
Right Decision to Go: Anthony Bennett (UNLV)
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Anthony Bennett had an impressive single season for the Runnin’ Rebels, leading the team in both scoring (16.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.1). From the onset of last season, it was obvious that Bennett was going to excel at the collegiate level.
While Bennett is somewhat of a SF/PF tweener, he has the size (6’8” 240 pounds) and skills to do damage in the post or on the perimeter. While he is an imposing physical specimen, Bennett has an abundance of surprising skills that make him a matchup nightmare. When guarded by smaller defenders, he overpowers them. When guarded by a bigger opponent, Bennett can consistently out-quick and out-maneuver them.
Bennett = Beast.
Wrong Choice to Go: Adonis Thomas (Memphis)
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When Adonis Thomas arrived on campus at Memphis, Tigers faithful were hopeful that the local hoops star would lead their team to the Promised Land. Instead, Thomas has battled injuries and inconsistency over his two collegiate seasons. Rather than great accomplishments, Thomas leaves behind considerable disappointments.
At 6’7” and 240 pounds, Thomas has the sturdy frame that will help him take the quintessential pounding of pro ball. But, his skill set is more of an interior power player, which puts him into a shaky position in terms of where NBA scouts are evaluating him.
Another season with Tigers head coach Josh Pastner could have helped Thomas further develop his handle and sharpen up his beyond-the-arc shooting touch. Now, he may have to do that overseas or in the NBDL.
Right Decision to Go: Otto Porter (Georgetown)
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Otto Porter is one of the most fundamentally sound prospects in this year’s NBA draft. He has an incredibly high hoops IQ, helping him consistently make first rate on-court decisions.
Porter has nice size (6’8” and 205 pounds) for a wing and leverages his length to gain an advantage over his opponents on both ends of the court. He made notable improvements from his freshman to sophomore seasons in his free-throw (77 percent) and three-point (42 percent) shooting.
Though Porter is a highly athletic and distinctly talented player, he also brings such intangibles as work ethic, unselfishness and astuteness that are the qualities that will help him to be a team leader at the next level.
Wrong Choice to Go: Dewayne Dedmon (USC)
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USC’s Dewayne Dedmon could be described with many adjectives, but the one that comes to mind first is “raw.” After two seasons playing for the Trojans, the 7’0” 255-pound center still lacks some of the basic skills to make him successful among the collegiate ranks let alone at the next level.
As a junior, Dedmon averaged 6.7 points, 7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. With his massive frame and surprising athleticism, he has the potential of transforming into a serviceable post player. Staying around ‘SC might have given him a better environment to develop his game and prepare himself for a possible professional career.
Unless something substantial happens between now and the NBA draft, Dedmon will not be selected in either of the first or second rounds, and will start the next phase of his basketball journey overseas or in the NBDL.
Right Decision to Go: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)
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Nerlens Noel was just turning the corner in terms of his freshman performance at Kentucky when he tore his ACL three-fourths the way through his single season in Lexington. Noel is an absolute freak when it comes to athleticism and he has intuitive defensive abilities that can’t be taught.
While he still has much to learn and a great deal to improve, Noel’s development trajectory matches that of a young Dikembe Mutombo. His ability to anticipate what is happening on the court helps him to slyly nab steals and viciously block shots. His freshman stats (10.5 ppg; 9.5 rpg; 4.4 bpg; 2.1 spg) provide a preview of what is yet to come.
Noel’s recovery is going well. In a recent interview, the 6’10” post player said that he expects to “return to the court by Christmas.” This has not changed his draft status one bit. CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman still has Noel as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Wrong Choice to Go: Archie Goodwin (Kentucky)
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Archie Goodwin was supposed to be another fab freshman player who helped carry on Kentucky's string of successes led by first year players.
Instead, the Wildcats struggled for most of the year and ended up the 2012-13 season with an embarrassing first-round exit from the NIT.
While Goodwin was the Wildcats' leading scorer (14.1 ppg), his game is far from polished.
NBADraft.net’s evaluation of Goodwin's game doesn't pull any punches:
Extremely raw ... Doesn't seem to fully understand how to utilize his physical gifts yet, which is why him leaving after one season is a definite head-scratcher ... Jumpshot is flat, low trajectory, and lacks a fluid release ... His shooting motion is in need of reconstruction as he sort of slings the ball with a release that lacks touch or consistency ... Inability to shoot is a major concern, making Goodwin a likely long term project as a NBA contributor ... Defenders will be able to sag off him and dare him to shoot, thus neutralizing his driving ability until he resolves his shooting issues
Goodwin definitely would have benefited from another year of development at the collegiate level.
Opinions vary significantly about where Goodwin might be drafted this year. While CBSSports' Jeff Goodwin has the 6'4" SG going No. 17, NBADraft.net has him going as the seventh pick in the second round.
Right Decision to Go: Ben McLemore (Kansas)
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Ben McLemore had an exceptional redshirt freshman season at KU, leading the Jayhawks in scoring (15.9 ppg) and demonstrating why he is one of this season's top prospects.
McLemore is a tremendous shooter from all over the court. His range extends well beyond the NBA three-point line. He is an elite-level athlete with a prototypical SG build (6’5” 195 pounds). When opponents lose track of McLemore, he will back-door them and throw down a thunderous alley-oop jam.
More than once, Kansas head coach Bill Self has said that McLemore is “the most talented kid I've ever worked with.” That’s no small statement when you think of all of the gifted players that the Jayhawks’ coach has developed.
Don't be surprised when McLemore is one of the top two or three players selected in this year’s NBA draft.
Wrong Choice to Go: Ray McCallum (Detroit)
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Ray McCallum has had a productive three-years at Detroit.
Last year as a junior, he was named the 2013 Horizon League player of the year, while leading the Titans in scoring (18.7 ppg), assists (4.5 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). At 6'3 and 190 pounds, he has the size that NBA scouts like for a PG.
McCallum entered college as one of the top players (No. 17) in the Class of 2010. And now, after three years of playing for his dad at Detroit, his standing among the eligible floor leaders is not quite as high.
He is the No. 38 ranked player in ESPN's Chad Ford's Top 100, which likely puts him into the second round of this year's NBA draft.
If McCallum would have stayed for his senior season and repeated as Horizon League POY, it is more than possible that he could have vaulted into the first round. Becoming a lottery pick in 2014 was definitely not out of the question.
Right Decision to Move On: Trey Burke (Michigan)
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Just outside of Motown in Ann Arbor, Trey Burke had a fantastic sophomore season.
The 6'0" 190-pound PG won just about every national player of the year award out there. Wooden. Naismith. AP. Robertson. He was named the Bob Cousy Award winner (Top PG in the nation) and the Big Ten Player of the Year.
With Burke running the show, the Wolverines caught fire in the 2013 NCAA tournament and made it all the way to the national championship game before losing to Louisville in Atlanta.
Other than coming back to compete for all the marbles in 2014 in North Texas, Burke had nothing left to accomplish in college hoops.
Even his projected place in this year's draft screams, "It's time to go." In NBADraft.net's 2013 mock draft, Burke is slotted as the No. 5 overall pick.
Right Decision to Stay in College for Another Year: Anyone Who Makes That Choice
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I am a firm supporter of athletes who want to return to campus (for whatever their reasons) to play additional years at the college level.
Yes, the arguments for moving on to pro sports as soon as possible are many.
I understand the financial ramifications of delaying significant income. I acknowledge the possible risk of career-ending or career-impacting injuries. I also appreciate people who believe that they have nothing else to accomplish at the current level.
But, it's hard for me to stomach all of the ranting and raving about the one-and-done culture that turns into criticism if someone actually returns to school if they could be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is the most recent whipping boy.
Smart, the Big 12 player of the year and the national freshman of the year, decided “after consulting with his family and praying on it” to return to Stillwater for his sophomore season. After announcing his decision, he was blasted from every possible angle.
When a player like Smart makes a decision to return, there is no secret source of higher motivation or a magical formula that guarantees future success. He just wanted to go back for another season.
And I say, “Good for him. Good for OSU. Good for college basketball.”