7 Players Who Made a Terrible Mistake Declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft
For a lot of these prospects, knowing when to declare for the NBA draft can play a major role in their development and determining the value of their first pro paycheck.
Of course, some guys might have different incentives or hidden motivation to declare that the media doesn't know about.
But if we're talking about maximizing draft stock and entering as fully prepared as possible, there's a right time to declare and a wrong time. These are the guys who could have benefited from returning to school for another year.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore
It's never a good idea to enter a draft without an identity.
What is Jerami Grant at this point, other than a spectacular athlete?
At 210 pounds, having averaged just 6.8 boards and 0.6 blocks per game, Grant lacks the strength and post game of an NBA power forward.
And without much of a handle or range on his jumper—he didn't make one three-pointer as a sophomore—Grant doesn't exactly have the skill set to play small forward. You just won't find too many successful wings who can't play behind the arc, which can ultimately kill offensive spacing.
If you ask me, Grant is entering the draft as your textbook tweener without a position. He could have used another year to fine-tune his game and establish an identity for himself.
“We have no idea,” his father, Harvey Grant, told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel when asked where Jerami could go in the draft. “You know how this goes.”
Well that's assuring.
Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", PG/SG, Freshman
You have to wonder if the early buzz got to him.
Zach LaVine, who turned heads the first half of the year with his showtime athleticism and perimeter-scoring ability, has decided to enter the draft and sell himself based on potential.
He sure isn't basing his sales pitch around production. LaVine only averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 assists, and he scored just 11 total points over his final five games.
Part of this had to do with LaVine's minimal role in the offense—he was used in only 20.1 percent of the plays UCLA ran this year while he was on the floor.
But it's not just a lack of opportunity. At 180 pounds, LaVine doesn't play through contact, having made just 17 shots at the rim (on a poor 45 percent shooting mark) in the half court all season long, per DraftExpress.
He's a weak defender, and despite his potent offensive attack, he doesn't create well for teammates or himself.
Because of LaVine's high-end athleticism, handle and shot-making ability, he's got big-time upside. And if he were to improve as a sophomore in the areas he struggled in as a freshman, we could be talking about a potential top-five pick in 2015.
Instead, LaVine will enter a deeper 2014 draft as a probable mid-first-rounder at best, and without an NBA-ready skill to offer, he's likely to spend most of next year in the D-League or on the bench.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6", SF, Sophomore
Glenn Robinson III declared with his stock on the decline, and it's going to cost him some draft-day dollars.
Robinson flashed lottery potential as a freshman at Michigan, leading to high expectations he was ultimately unable to meet as a sophomore.
His three-point percentage fell to 30.6 percent, a bad sign for a wing who mostly plays off the ball. Because on the ball, Robinson just isn't threatening enough as a one-on-one playmaker. He totaled just 44 assists in 33 games, and he only hit the 20-point mark four times all season.
The good news for Robinson is that his upside remains intact. Robinson has all the tools—above-the-rim athleticism, size for the wing, a spot-up and pull-up jumper, and an effective slash-and-drive game.
But he hasn't been able to put it all together in two years at Michigan, which has really hurt his consistency.
He'll have a shot at the first round this year based on potential, but another season in college would have allowed him to put together a more convincing sales pitch.
Isaiah Austin, Baylor, 7'1", PF/C, Sophomore
Isaiah Austin regressed in a number of different areas as a sophomore—a poor look for a guy whom many were expecting to improve.
Right now, the best thing going for him is his 7'1" size in a draft without much to go around.
But despite being the biggest dude on the floor 99 percent of the time, Austin only pulled in 5.5 rebounds a game this year, a reflection of his lack of strength and comfort level on the interior.
He also saw his scoring average fall from 13.0 points to 11.2. And again, even with his tremendous physical tools, Austin shot just 44.7 percent from the floor.
Austin also showed promise as a shooter his freshman season, having hit 30 three-pointers at a 33.3 percent clip. But this year, he made just 18 total threes at a 27.7 percent clip.
At this stage, Austin doesn't look strong enough to bang inside, accurate enough to hang on the perimeter, or nimble enough to play in between. He needed another year at school to figure out just what exactly he plans on bringing to an NBA table—other than height and length.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10", PG, Sophomore
Jahii Carson's journey to the pros was always going to be an uphill battle, given his label as a sub-6-footer. But he didn't do himself any favors by declaring for the draft following a season in which his production and efficiency both declined.
Carson, whose No. 1 priority heading into the 2013-14 season should have been improving as a floor leader and point guard, saw his field-goal percentage and assist rate fall, and that ugly 3.5 turnovers-per-game rate remain the same.
He also showed poor body language and decision-making at times throughout the year. When you're just 5'10", there isn't any room for error.
Carson is ridiculously talented—he's as quick as anyone with the ball in his hands, and he can get to any spot on the floor. Carson averaged over 18 points a game for two years in a row at Arizona State.
But the NBA won't be interested in a 5'10" scorer, which is essentially how Carson has presented himself.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State, 6'8", SF, Junior
LaQuinton Ross really needed one more year to put it all together and ultimately maximize his draft stock. Because as of today, he just hasn't given teams a good enough reason to hand him a guaranteed deal.
Ross' best asset is his jumper, only he converted on just 35.3 percent of three-point attempts—a fairly average number.
And that average 35.3 percent stroke, along with his size, athleticism and length for the position, is really the only thing going for him at this stage.
Ross isn't much of a one-on-one player or playmaker—he totaled 29 assists in 35 games, and he only took 4.8 free throws a night.
Defensively, he averaged less than a steal per game on the year, a potential red flag for a small forward.
He would have had the opportunity to boost his stock next year into the first-round conversation, but Ross has decided to jump the gun and declare with an incomplete pitch. He's a mid-second-rounder.
Jordan Adams, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Sophomore
Jordan Adams originally hinted he'd be staying at UCLA for his junior year, which made sense, considering Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine, two fellow guards in the lineup, were both leaving early for the draft. This would have given Adams the chance to see a whole lot of touches as the go-to guy in the Bruins offense.
But Adams has decided to declare for the 2014 draft, where he'll be competing in a deeper, more talented field than the one projected to be there in 2015.
And regardless of how well he played this season, Adams will still likely be considered a fringe first-rounder until draft day, as he just doesn't have that athleticism or can't-miss strength to draw teams to reach.
Had Adams returned, we could have been talking about a 20-point-per-game scorer, given he dropped over 17 a game this season, and a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate. And after shooting 35.6 percent from downtown, he had room to improve his shooting stroke.
I like Adams, and I think he makes it in the pros, but instead of challenging for the 2015 lottery, he'll be hoping for a first-round bid in 2014.