Future NBA Stars Who Need More Time in College Before Going Pro
Not every NBA star is a one-and-done prospect. Believe it or not, some can actually benefit by staying in school to develop.
Chasing first-round or lottery status can backfire if the chase is mistimed. Nobody wants to be the guy looking for work overseas after his rookie contract expires.
Whether it's to improve fundamentally, mentally or physically, these are the freshman who need another year of seasoning before making the jump.
Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5'', PG/SG, Freshman
Though Zach LaVine offers tremendous All-Star upside, he's just too far away from reaching it.
His scoring numbers early on might have falsely advertised what he's currently capable of—UCLA's schedule had been pretty easy up until recently.
So far this year, he's been hitting almost 42 percent of his threes, a rate that seems unsustainable from looking at his mechanics and current cold streak.
He's only made two of his last 12 from long range, and it's affecting his ability to contribute. LaVine isn't at the point yet where he can salvage a bad shooting day by getting buckets or free throws in the half court.
With his jumper off against Duke, LaVine just couldn't find other ways to put the ball in the hole.
He's going to need another year to improve his playmaking skills, as well as add to his ridiculously skinny 180-pound frame that resembles Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas.
LaVine might be one of the nation's most explosive athletes, but the doctor's order is one more season at UCLA to fine-tune the rest of his game.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2'', PG, Freshman
Unlike most first-round prospects, Tyler Ennis doesn't have any standout physical tools. At 6'2'', 180 pounds, he's not the biggest, fastest, longest or more explosive. He plays below the rim.
Right away, Ennis won't have the luxury of leaning on athleticism to pick up easy buckets and dimes.
If I were him, I'd want to absorb as much college playing time as possible before heading to the big leagues. He's going to want to build his confidence and his body, as well as figure out how to consistently gain an edge by the time he's a pro.
Where Ennis lacks physically he makes up for with basketball IQ, timing and leadership. It doesn't take long to recognize this kid's maturity and floor-general qualities.
But this isn't Michael Carter-Williams out there from a physical standpoint. He's not going to be able to come in and pose as an immediate mismatch.
Ennis will be better prepared for the NBA with another year of seasoning at Syracuse.
Jabari Bird, California, 6'5'', SG, Freshman
Jabari Bird has that always-coveted combination of 2-guard athleticism and a lethal outside stroke.
He's just still a bit one-dimensional. Bird's best scoring opportunities come as a spot-up shooter and finisher in the open floor—rarely anything in between.
With only 13 assists in 12 games, he's clearly not much of a threat off the dribble or as a passer.
Bird also just went down with a recent ankle injury, and according to Pac-12 Network's Michael Yam, coach Mike Montgomery said that Hood "will be out for a while."
Prior to going down, Bird had been dealing with some inconsistency, which you can credit to his reliance on outside shooting.
He'll need to come back to diversify his game and ultimately expand on his offensive creativity.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'5'', PG, Freshman
Andrew Harrison has had enough trouble trying to run Kentucky's offense for him to think about running one in the NBA.
He's averaging just 3.5 assists a game despite plenty of weapons around him. Harrison has been unimpressive offensively early on, shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from downtown.
But it hasn't just been uninspiring play. The Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker spoke with Harrison regarding his poor body language, something that's been criticized by scouts throughout the year.
“I think sometimes our enthusiasm isn’t there,” Harrison later told Tucker. “That’s another thing I could improve on.”
The eye-test results still show a kid out there, as opposed to an NBA-quality floor general. Harrison should end up needing another year to mature as a game manager, as well as improve his shooting consistency and half-court efficiency.
Wayne Selden, Kansas, 6'5'', SG, Freshman
Wayne Selden still appears to be figuring out his role and how to maximize it.
He's only taking 6.6 shots a game this year. Kenpom (subscription required) has his percentage of possessions used at just 19.4 percent, which equates to one of the smallest numbers of any first-round prospect.
It's not necessarily his fault, as Kansas shares the ball a ton. But it's not going to prepare Selden any quicker for the pros.
With a lane to attack, Selden can hit it and finish at the rim, where he sports terrific body control and poise in traffic. But he needs more time to expand his shot creativity and improve his shooting consistency. Selden is making less than one three-pointer a game, and is just 14 of 28 from the foul line.
With so much talent in this year's field, Selden might want to sit this one out and prepare for 2015. He's got a lot more work to do anyway.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6'7'', SF
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has the NBA-caliber physical tools and the intangibles—basketball IQ, motor and instincts. He's a sensational athlete who plays a hard, smart and efficient brand of ball.
But he's too much of a line-drive player at the moment. Take away his lane and I'm not sure he's got a move to counter with off the dribble.
Hollis-Jefferson will need another year to get some more touches and featured possessions in the offense. He's only getting 5.8 shots a game, and as an NBA wing, he'll have to extend that range. Though he's shown some touch within 15 feet, Hollis-Jefferson is only one of four from downtown on the year.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will tell you how tough it is to score when defenders can afford to sag off, knowing he's not going to beat them with a jumper.
Hollis-Jefferson has loads of potential—he'll just want to get a little closer to reaching it before entering his name in the draft.
Dakari Johnson, Kentucky, 6'10'', PF/C, Freshman
Returning to school is an obvious move for Dakari Johnson, who's playing less than 10 minutes a game as a freshman.
His talent, however, is first-round caliber. At roughly 6'10", 250 pounds, Johnson has a monstrous frame and hands softer than hotel pillows.
But he's going to need a year of steady play before declaring himself ready for the draft. Johnson has been pretty much limited to cleanup duties inside and finishing dump passes from penetrating guards.
His feet are also on the slow side, and learning to defend without fouling is likely to be a process.
Johnson should be a first-rounder by the time he's good and ready. That's just not going to be in 2014.
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