KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every year a handful of college basketball players make dumb decisions based off bad information when it comes to the NBA draft.
And if there's a whipping boy for those deeds of misinformation, college basketball coaches have chosen the folks who pen NBA mock drafts to unload their wrath upon.
Kansas coach Bill Self became the latest on Saturday—sparked by a question about KU freshman Kelly Oubre—and it's a tangent that just about any coach in America when teed up would go off on. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim voiced his displeasure recently as well.
"The mock drafts don't mean anything," Self said. "And I would tell the guy if he was here doing the mock drafts. They don't mean anything. They're ridiculous."
Self wasn't done yet, and we'll get to the rest of his rant momentarily (as well as a thoughtful response from DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony), but this is a rant that more coaches should go on.
Mock drafts, when taken as gospel by players and families, can be toxic.
Now I say this with some hesitation, because I do respect some of the people who do mock drafts. They have created jobs in media. That's a good thing. But mock drafts are for entertainment purposes, and when they're not taken that way, that's where the trouble begins.
"You really get saddened when you look at players who end up making decisions based on mock drafts," an NBA scout told Bleacher Report. "They go to their coaches or end up disrupting the team because they have certain expectations based on coming into this season or something they did in the offseason.
"They move up to a first-rounder, and they expect so many touches based on where they were in a mock draft."
The same scout called the mock drafts grossly irresponsible, because they are affecting families. Players and parents take them seriously, and that's one reason you see so many bad decisions made by underclassmen each year.
This past year 45 underclassmen declared for the draft, and only 28 of them were drafted. In 2013, there were 46 who declared and 28 were drafted.
"You can follow the mock drafts, and they will have 120 players that are going to go in the first round this year," Self said. "That is true. You can count them. That is going to be true. So obviously they don't know, and they're guessing. And some kids it takes more time in the system."
The 120 players may be a bit extreme, but Self has a point. A lot of players will slide in and out of the mock drafts because it's entirely way too early to be predicting these things.
That's what really troubles NBA people. The more time you get to see a prospect, the better evaluation you get. If they had to make their choices in December, they would make a lot more mistakes.
"It's kind of a joke," the scout said. "From an NBA perspective, you don't take them seriously at all."
The feedback that players should buy into is that of the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. At the end of the year, underclassmen have a chance to get an assessment of where they are likely to go in the draft from that committee and then make an informed decision.
The problem is that some players who will end up declaring do it because they've quit going to class and know they won't be eligible next season. And some of them have quit going to class because they're convinced by Christmas that they're ready to go pro.
That's why we need more coaches and NBA decision-makers speaking up, as both Self and Boeheim have. The more players and parents hear this message, the better.
When players get drafted in the NBA, the league holds a rookie transition program to help the young fellas prepare for how their lives are about to change. College basketball could use a similar program for players and their families, and No. 1 on the agenda should be how to block out the noise from the outside.
Mock drafts don't need to go away. They just need to be consumed with some perspective.
A Voice from the Other Side
The value in what Self said was starting the conversation, and it wouldn't be fair not to hear from someone on the other side. I went to Givony because he is respected in the basketball community and DraftExpress.com provides a lot of value outside of just the mock drafts.
The videos that his crew produces are really well done—check out this breakdown of Texas freshman Myles Turner against Kentucky as a great example—and Givony gets to a lot of events, covers the sport well and puts a lot of thought into his rankings.
So I gave Givony a chance to respond to what Self said and then followed up with him after he sent his answer.
Here's what he wrote over email in response to Self's rant:
"It's not really up to me to say what 'mock drafts' mean or don't mean. It's difficult to lump all 'mock drafts' into one mold, just like it's difficult to say that all college coaches are one thing or another.
"I would like to believe that the website I started 11 years ago is more than just a mock draft, but I can understand why Bill Self would be frustrated as it would be much easier to bring along a guy like Kelly Oubre if no one had heard about him prior to arriving at Kansas.
"That's just not the way things work these days anymore unfortunately, and that's why people like me watch guys like Oubre dozens of times before they enroll in college, because there is a great deal of interest in them, both from the public and from professional scouts who do this for a living.
"Thankfully for Oubre, the six or seven months he'll spend at Kansas are just one part of the evaluation NBA teams will make about his pro prospects, and they'll factor in whatever they learn from his time there with additional info from high school and the NBA predraft process leading up to June 25.
"My advice to the general public would be to do exactly what Coach Self says: follow the different mock drafts, see how they evolve throughout the year and over the course of a couple of years and see how ridiculous they are or aren't and then decide what they mean or don't mean to you. "
Here are the highlights of the rest of our Q&A:
Bleacher Report: I think Self's stance is a little extreme, but I do think it's good for players and families to hear important people in the game say these things because sometimes families put too much value in the mocks at this point in the season. I think decisions are made, or at least plans are made, before they should be, and it's not just the mock drafts that are responsible for this. It's a lot of others in their ear. But at this point, especially, mock drafts should be consumed for entertainment value. Would you agree with that?
Givony: I don't run an entertainment website. We're not TMZ. If it was an entertainment thing, then I would raise guys and drop them on a whim.
B/R: Would you tell any players or families to make a decision based off mock drafts?
Givony: No. Absolutely not. I think the NBA has an Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which can give them very valuable information, and they can unofficially talk to scouts, general managers, etc. The challenge in making the mock draft is there's 30 NBA teams. Every team has six or seven decision-makers, and things can vary very wildly, based on who you talk to.
I talk to NBA guys very frequently. I'm always at many of the same events as them, and one guy in an organization can say 'I think he's a top-five pick,' and another can say 'I'm not sure he's an NBA player. I'm not sure he gets drafted.' Things really vary wildly. That's why this is not an exact science, and there's a lot of variables that go into this.
... I think the most unfair thing is to lump everybody together. Bill Self is not the same as some D-3 coach, and I'm not the same as some guy who is 14 years old who started a website two weeks ago.
If you want to call out certain people, mention them by name. ... If he's mad at Chad Ford, then call him out. If he's mad at Jonathan Givony, that's a way to do this. Not just to hide behind this mock draft. I think that's a little bit cowardly to me.
Oubre Starting to Come Around
Now let's get back to Oubre...
He's the one who sparked this conversation, and his slow start has been a big topic of conversation in the sport. The light is just starting to glimmer for the Kansas freshman, although he's not exactly looking like a pro just yet.
After playing single-digit minutes in five of KU's first seven games, Oubre scored seven points in 16 minutes last Wednesday in a win at Georgetown and scored nine points in 17 minutes in the victory over Utah on Saturday.
Self even went as far as to say Oubre was one of KU's best two players on the floor against Utah. He made only two of five shots, but his defense was promising—he did as good a job as any Jayhawk on Utah star Delon Wright—and he looked more comfortable than he has all season.
"(He) never played guard," Self said. "(We're) asking him to do some things that he's never really done. ... I'm proud of Kelly, and he's hung in there. He's going to be really good. You can see it. It just hasn't quite gotten there yet. I think these last two games have done wonders for his confidence."
This is an example of the right way for a freshman to handle a slow start. Take your medicine, learn and improve.
The difficult transition makes sense when you step back and look at the big picture, but it has still been surprising to anyone who saw Oubre play before he got to Kansas. No one, and you can include NBA scouts in that group, anticipated that it would be a struggle for Oubre to get consistent minutes.
"Really, it's just kind of confusion," the scout said. "You're trying to figure out why are we seeing what we're seeing. Here's a guy who was able to do several different things when he didn't have to worry about a system, and he was just going up and down and playing and not thinking, and he was good.
"Maybe it's basketball IQ. Maybe he's struggling to handle some concepts as a freshman. That's not necessarily unusual. Maybe it's him learning to get adjusted to playing with teammates of equal caliber to himself."
The good news for Oubre is there's no rule against coming back for a sophomore year. At this point, it looks like that would be in his best interest, and there is no shame in being a two-and-done lottery pick.
Props to Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall for this quick-hitter to get star guard Ron Baker a three. Baker sets a ball screen for Fred VanVleet, which serves as distraction for his defender, and then Shaquille Morris sets a flare screen for Baker to get him wide-open.
Baker has taken well to being Wichita State's go-to scorer, and he's shooting a career-best 51.0 percent from deep even with the added defensive attention.
That means the Shockers have had to get creative to get him his looks, and obviously Marshall is doing a fine job. Baker has made at least three treys in each of the last six games.
Put the Kids to Bed or Set the DVR
It's finals week, so the pickings are a little slim. (All game times are in Eastern time.)
*Alabama at No. 11 Wichita State, Tuesday (9 p.m. on ESPN2): This is the final major-conference school on Wichita State's schedule. Plus, take any chance you can get to watch VanVleet, Baker and Tekele Cotton.
Prediction: Wichita State 71, Alabama 60
*Georgia State at Old Dominion, Wednesday (8 p.m. on American Sports Network): Not sure I'll be able to find this on the dial, but it's a game worth watching if you can. Old Dominion already has wins over LSU and VCU. Georgia State has one of the best guards in the country in R.J. Hunter. For more about how much of a stud Hunter is (shameless plug alert!), I have a profile coming out on the junior guard this Thursday.
Prediction: Georgia State 72, Old Dominion 71
*Connecticut vs. No. 2 Duke, Thursday (8 p.m. on ESPN): The Huskies are struggling, but this is a chance to see Duke freshman big man Jahlil Okafor with the rare opportunity to go up against a legit 7-foot shot-blocker in UConn's Amida Brimah.
Prediction: Duke 81, Connecticut 69
*Saint Mary's at No. 20 St. John's, Friday (7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1): The matchup of Saint Mary's big man Brad Waldow (21.1 ppg) against the defense of Mr. Short Shorts, Chris Obekpa, will be a fun matchup. The Gaels once again look to be Gonzaga's best competition in the WCC.
Prediction: St. John's 68, St. Mary's 61
*Eastern Washington at California, Friday (10 p.m. on Pac-12 Network): The winner could end up ranked next week. The Bears have only one loss (against currently 10th-ranked Texas), and new coach Cuonzo Martin has improved their D. The Eagles could ruin somebody's March. They've already won at Indiana and led by 13 on the road at Washington on Sunday.
Prediction: Cal 68, Eastern Washington 67
*No. 24 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Ohio State, Saturday (1 p.m. on CBS): Love these schools forming their own version of the Champions Classic. I'll be in attendance on Saturday, and this should be the best game of the two. Ohio State is better than last year thanks to the offensive production of freshman D'Angelo Russell, but UNC will finally get a signature win in the first game of the CBS Sports Classic.
Prediction: North Carolina 68, Ohio State 64
*No. 1 Kentucky vs. UCLA, Saturday (3:30 p.m. on CBS): Game 2 of the CBS Sports Classic would be a better contest most years, but UCLA just doesn't have enough horses to hang with the 'Cats.
Prediction: Kentucky 82, UCLA 60
*No. 15 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Washington, Saturday (9 p.m. on ESPNU): This is another good litmus test for the undefeated Huskies, and the Sooners have their best team since Blake Griffin was rim-hating in college.
Prediction: Oklahoma 76, Washington 71
This is where I empty the notebook with some good stuff that was left out of a feature or column.
In an October interview with VanVleet for a Baker profile (you can read that here), I asked VanVleet if he had any good stories about Baker that show his Western Kansas roots. He delivered.
This summer Baker and VanVleet were working a camp in Western Kansas. Baker would drive them in his Ford pickup truck, and one morning VanVleet beat Baker out to the truck. Between the hotel and Baker's truck sat a stray dog.
"And where I'm from, we run from dogs," VanVleet said. "You don't play around. You don't even get close to them."
VanVleet froze until Baker came out, and as soon as he unlocked the truck door, VanVleet booked it.
"I couldn't warn him that the dog is out there," VanVleet said. "I'm thinking, 'I hope he doesn't get bit.' So he walks out and the dog runs up to him. He doesn't flinch. He starts petting it. I'm like, 'What the hell?' Then he picks up the dog and puts him in the back of the truck and drives to the gym.
"I didn't even ask him. I just thought maybe that he knew this dog. Maybe it was his family's dog. The whole time I'm just sitting there quiet, and this dog is in the back of this pickup truck, and I don't say nothing. I'm just thinking, 'What is wrong with this dude?'"
Turns out, Baker had seen the stray dog the night before in the hotel lobby. He ended up calling the local cops when they got to the gym to come get the dog.
So there you have it. In addition to his fearlessness in big games, Ron Baker has no fear of canines.
"That just blew my mind," VanVleet said.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.
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