Predicting 2014 College Basketball Studs Who Will Be NBA Duds
Not every college basketball star is destined to flourish in the NBA.
That's the harsh truth for several 2014 draft prospects who lead their programs, as they'll end up serving small roles in the Association.
To prosper in the league, you must display the exceptional versatility and size coaches look for. Sometimes collegiate stars can't score as easily against NBA defense, or they have trouble keeping up with the athleticism and speed of the pro game.
A few of the NCAA's most potent stars are projected to struggle at the next level. Who are these draftees and why won't they stand out?
Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, accurate as of Jan. 15, 2014.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee PF (6'8" Junior)
2013-14 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 46% FG
With a bruising physique and a post game to complement it, Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes is a force in the paint in the SEC.
If only he could jump a little higher and move a little faster.
Stokes widely projects to land in the second round of the draft because his power forward style of play lacks an element of explosiveness. He'll have difficulty finishing and defending against the hyper-athletic forwards of the NBA.
Earlier this season, an NBA scout told Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun "in three years I haven't seen him get any better."
Even if he has improved a little, Stokes is still going to struggle separating and elevating for shots in the pro ranks. His strength will buy him some rebounds and close-range attempts, but he'll have an uphill battle against taller, springier adversaries.
James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina F (6'9" Junior)
2013-14 Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 47% FG
A couple years ago, James Michael McAdoo was viewed as an exciting young prospect loaded with potential. Today, his NBA value is drastically lower, as he's been far from dynamic for North Carolina.
His strength, athleticism and quickness allow him to score in transition and rebound, but he doesn't possess the repertoire and assertiveness required to produce as a pro.
McAdoo's shooting is shaky beyond 12-15 feet, and his post moves are mostly rudimentary. Scouts would like to see him take advantage of more opportunities, especially in a season when UNC needs him to step up.
During his nine-point outing against Louisville, ESPN's Jeff Goodman noted the forward's lack of impact, saying McAdoo "has been basically invisible. Needs to be more active."
The NBA club that picks him will be getting a peripheral role player, not someone who they count on for low-block production or mid-range creativity. He simply didn't develop into the can't-miss star many hoped he would become.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State PG (6'2" Senior)
2013-14 Stats: 9.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 2.4 SPG, 47% FG, 28% 3-PT
It's tough to call someone who plays as hard as Aaron Craft does an NBA "dud." But he will likely have a minimal impact on the league, especially on the offensive end.
Ohio State's leader is an exemplary defender, and he's one of the most alert and energetic point guards we've ever witnessed. However, fortitude and hustle don't help much when it comes to shooting. Craft is a career 34 percent from the college arc, and his efficiency didn't improve at all during his time in Columbus.
An NBA scout gave his take on Craft's NBA role when he spoke with Dan Kelly of Zagsblog:
Solid, tough, leader, defender who is a really good college player. Cannot shoot and is not an athlete. At best a third point guard on an NBA roster.
Given the opportunity, Craft would be a solid on-ball defender in the NBA, as he is an absolute pest. The problem is, he would be too much of a liability offensively.
Opponents will dare him to shoot, and he doesn't have enough in his playmaking arsenal to overcome that.
C.J. Fair, Syracuse F (6'8" Senior)
2013-14 Stats: 17.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 45% FG, 27% 3-PT
During his four years at Syracuse, C.J. Fair has become a dependable leader and put together a robust resume. He's got great instincts and has improved tremendously in every phase.
Unfortunately, his collegiate exploits won't translate to professional success.
He's not long or strong enough to play extensively at the 4 in the NBA, and he's not quite skilled enough to thrive as a swingman. Fair's ball skills won't enable him to create his own shot at the next level, and he hasn't proved that he'll be able to drill NBA-range triples.
One NBA scout recently told Brent Axe of Syracuse.com that Fair will struggle to find a regular role:
...I don't see what position he would play at the next level. That's a puzzle that is going to have to be solved.
If Fair's dribbling was a little more polished, his draft stock and NBA value might be a bit different. As he finishes up his NCAA career, pro GMs and coaches don't know exactly what they'll get from him.
Khem Birch, UNLV PF (6'9" Junior)
2013-14 Stats: 11.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.5 BPG, 50% FG
It's hard not to be impressed with UNLV's Khem Birch, whose explosiveness has led to a hatful of double-doubles this season. He can physically take over some stretches of games.
Don't expect him to stand out in the NBA like he does in the Mountain West Conference.
His skills have improved and he owns pro-ready athleticism, but he won't be able to overwhelm opponents like he does in college. The level of competition is entirely different, and he'll need more advanced footwork and better awareness.
Draft Express scout Jonathan Givony has more than a couple questions about Birch's transition to the Association, as he indicates skills issues as well as the intangibles department:
...He really doesn't really have the type of offensive skill-set or feel for the game you typically see at that position (power forward), and he does most of his best work around the basket using his superior physical tools.
Birch's awareness appears to be just average at this stage. He's not a great passer, and he tends to fall asleep at times defensively, giving up deep post position and not always bringing the same consistent intensity level on every possession. Additionally, he's very poor on the defensive glass...
Birch is fun to watch for the Runnin' Rebels, and he could earn a reserve power forward role in the NBA. Anything more is unrealistic.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State F (6'8" Junior)
2013-14 Stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 45% FG, 40% 3-PT
Don't worry, I don't think LaQuinton Ross will be a complete failure in the NBA.
He's just not going to come close to the production he enjoys at Ohio State. Ross is leading the Buckeyes in scoring in 2013-14, but he'll be far from a go-to option as a pro.
As a spot-up shooter and a straight-line driver, he will get some buckets in a reserve capacity. His ball-handling isn't quite fluid or rapid enough for him to initiate offense against high-level defenders, and he has trouble scoring in traffic.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports highlights Ross' chief deficiencies:
His ceiling is likely as a top-end 3s-and-D player...The issue is that he struggles around the rim in finishing. He definitely projects as a specialist, spreading the floor, at least right now...The problem with that formula is the "D." Ross often loses focus not only off-ball but in on-ball situations. He simply doesn't commit himself...
He just doesn't pass the eye test when it comes to scoring ability. Yes, he'll drain his share of triples using his skills and length, but I'm not convinced he can do much beyond than that.
Dan O'Brien Covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR