The North Carolina Tar Heels fan base breathed a collective sigh of relief last Friday when junior forward Tyler Hansbrough announced his intentions to return to Chapel Hill for his senior year.
However, the exhale was short lived due to the announcement that sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington (I’m not even going to touch Danny Green) are leaving school early to test the tumultuous waters of the NBA draft.
Neither player signed with an agent, leaving the option to return for their junior years. This means the Carolina faithful will have to hold their breath until June 16—the last day that early entrants are allowed to pull their names out of the draft.
Tyler made an extremely wise decision. At 6'8" (and most scouts say that is generous), he must expand his game away from the basket to be effective in the NBA.
Yes, I saw the Elite Eight game against Louisville, but I think we can all agree, that was an anomaly rather than a consistent facet of Tyler's game.
If Tyler really does have this never-before-seen work ethic (and I really believe he does) then it will serve him well to focus a lot of that energy on expanding his game to better suit the next level.
In all honesty, I believe Lawson and Ellington are making a big mistake. I realize they might simply be testing the scouts, going to the pre-draft camps, etc. But if their decision leads them all the way to the draft, they will have made a mistake.
Ty Lawson's biggest asset is his floor speed and quickness. He is lighting quick with the ball and seems to have a non-stop motor, but the NBA requires far more out of its point guards.
Lawson is an average (at best) outside shooter, and for all of that speed he seems to be a below-average defender. Lawson is in the perfect system at Carolina to suit his game. As a result, he is able to put up decent scoring numbers.
This won't be the case in the NBA. Lawson will need to be a floor leader and a decision maker. Lawson's decision making must improve to be a consistent point guard at the next level.
Here's the deal. These are all things that can improve. Lawson's game (and draft stock) could really benefit from a year spent working on his perimeter shooting and decision making.
Wayne Ellington is a legitimate perimeter shooter. No doubt and no debate there.
However, I have real issues with the idea that he is NBA ready. He doesn't finish well enough around the rim. His ball handling ability is sketchy (at best). His defense is nothing to write home about.
He will not be able to create his shot against the longer, more athletic defenders that await him at the next level. Wayne, even more than the other two, would really benefit from another year under the tutelage of Roy Williams.
Listen, I am totally cognizant of the fact that these guys can flat out play at the college level. Their presence was obvious as they were the core one of the elite programs in college basketball.
I simply don't buy into any of them being ready to step into the NBA and make an immediate impact.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There's one more incentive to come back. Come April 6 of next year, Tyler will get to show off those hideous dance moves on center court, while the '09 version of "One Shinning Moment" blares in the background at Ford Field.