Early Entry And On The Fence
Should I stay or should I go?
The NBA officially declared the start of draft season with the release of the early entry candidate list on Thursday afternoon. The 103 names present were the typical combination of college hoops stars coupled with plenty of names that will leave even the most die hard fan scratching his or her head.
It’s inevitable that every year plenty of players with absolutely no chance of being selected in June submit their names to the powers above that be (the League offices) to announce their intention of going for the gold. This year is no exception with the likes of Kevin Harris from Northwest Mississippi Community College and Junior Salters of Wofford throwing their hats in the ring. Sometimes it can even make for a fun team building activity. Such is the case for Texas A&M who essentially has their entire roster listed as early entry candidates, all of whom have the same shot that I have of playing in the League next year.
But, this isn’t about the guys with no shot. This certainly isn’t about the guys who are locks. This is about the question marks, those handful of players who feel the need to test the NBA waters before deciding what everyone wants to know: stay or go? Here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting cases of college players looking to get feedback on their stock before choosing to remain in past the June 15 withdrawal deadline or jump ship for another year of higher hoops learning. (Note: Players who have already signed with agents and must remain in the Draft will not be discussed.)
There are few players in the draft discussion right now that spark as much intrigue as Gonzaga’s sophomore forward. At 6-10 with a skill set that screams small forward in the future, Daye has as much upside as anyone else in this year’s draft class. There are certainly questions about his maturity, his grasp of the game and his rail thin frame, factors that are enough to convince many pundits that Daye should return to school for another year of seasoning. Let’s not forget that many are calling this a down year for the draft though and with the NBA Draft focusing so much on selecting based on potential these days, Daye will likely hear his name somewhere in the first round if he is able to impress in individual workouts.
It seems the better that Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez gets on the court, the more of a lightning rod for controversy he becomes off it. No one can deny the tremendous talent the junior guard shows, particularly as a playmaker when the ball is in his hands. At 6-6, Vasquez has outstanding size for a point guard and is a tremendous passer both in half court and open floor situations. He can get to the basket and a regular basis and has shown improvements with his shot selection on the perimeter. Still, it will be his PG skills that will be his ticket to a steady paycheck. What’s the problem then? His mouth! Vasquez has seemingly talked himself off many draft boards despite his potential. Whether it be getting into it with fans and opposing coaches, or the infamous comments he made about Memphis prior to the Terps meeting with the Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Several scouts and GM’s have said that the attitude alone is enough to scare them away from spending a pick on the Terps enigmatic floor general. If he is smart, Vasquez will return for his senior year and keep his mouth shut.
James has had the attention of pro scouts for a couple of years thanks to his impressive physical attributes and gaudy numbers. The junior power forward is certainly undersized at 6-7, but his tremendous wingspan and solid athleticism seem to indicate that down the road he could be mentioned in the same breath as a Jason Maxiell, as a hard working role player who provides quality minutes inside. In most years it would probably be necessary for James to go back to Texas for his senior year, but with a weak crop of big men (which is why Jordan Hill will go top 10) it would be smart for him to capitalize on this opportunity as next year might be tougher for him to crack the second round.
Villanova’s scoring machine would be wise to return to school for a few reasons. First off, with one of the top recruiting classes in the nation set to arrive on campus in the fall, the Wildcats will be in prime position to get back to the Final Four next season. More importantly though, this draft class is very strong at the point guard position. Reynolds is a combo guard right now, but given his size and an average perimeter shot, he will almost certainly have to be true point guard at the next level. Not that he isn’t capable of being a pass first player, but last season Reynolds attempted nearly four shots for every assist he dished out, a statistic that says very directly: scoring guard. This class is so loaded with not only good point guards, but good combo guards as well, that Reynolds likely doesn’t even crack the top ten at his position.
After being hailed as potentially the top incoming guard in this year’s freshman class, Holiday’s first season with the Bruins was an underwhelming one. Certainly this wasn’t entirely his fault by any stretch of the imagination. After it looked like Darren Collison was going to bolt for the NBA, Holiday was forced to play off the ball with the return of the star senior. In addition, the UCLA system was ultra restrictive to a player like Holiday who is exceptionally talented at improvising with a basketball in his hands. This is the type of player who is really going to stand out during individual workouts where he’ll have the ability to show off his strong point guard skill set. Scouts have been and are still high on Holiday, so he will be a first round pick and depending on his workouts could land in the top 15 spots.
How much fun was Kentucky to watch this season thanks to Meeks and his ever impressive scoring feats? It would seem that a player who scorches Tennessee for 54 and regularly drops 30+ on the rest of the SEC would be an automatic to leave after his junior season. That’s the hard concept for many to understand, that success in college doesn’t always equal success in the NBA, even when the numbers are this good. At 6-4 Meeks is a bit undersized for a pro shooting guard and more importantly he is a volume shooter. This is a guy who needs the ball in his hands a majority of the time in order to get his points and is also the focal point of his offense. In the League Meeks is not going to get as many opportunities for shots and will have to be more able to create for himself rather than having the offense geared towards getting him the ball. At this point he looks very much like a mid second round selection, so why not go back for another year of tearing up the SEC and trying to improve his stock?
This is a name that many college basketball fans may not be as familiar with as some of the others on the list, but it could be come June. Brown doesn’t jump off the page at all statistically, mainly due to the balance that Xavier featured this year, but physically he presents plenty to like. A long 6-8 frame, combined with good athleticism allows Brown to play the four spot in college, but gives him the potential to make the transition out to the wing as well. Brown plays bigger than he is, a major plus for a hybrid power forward, but he has also shown an improving perimeter game, to the point where he is a legitimate threat to can an open three. This is another example of a player who will benefit from a weaker class of big men and needs to strike while opportunity is knocking. In other years Brown might go undrafted, but if he impresses enough in workouts he should keep his name in past the deadline as he’ll land in the upper half of the second round.
When it comes to Luke Harangody, there may not be a tougher situation to read in this draft. As far as individual accomplishments are concerned, Notre Dame’s burly forward has done just about all there is to do. He’s been an All-American and he’s averaged 20 and 10 for two straight years in arguably the toughest conference in the country. It rarely is pretty when it comes to Harangody, but he always finds a way to get the job done and there is a lot to be said for that. With that said though he is severely undersized for the post in the NBA at a generous 6-8, and unlike other smaller big men, he doesn’t have much athleticism to speak of. The general comparisons to Tyler Hansbrough are only natural, but Psycho T is a better athlete and shows the ability to step away from the basket on a consistent basis when necessary. Going back and having another big year in South Bend won’t do much to change the opinions of NBA scouts at this point, so Harangody might as well try to take advantage of a draft that is lacking in quality big men. Still, the odds seem to be pretty long for the Irish star to hear his name called on draft night.
The Mississippi State big man had a very solid junior campaign, reaching career highs in scoring and rebounding. Despite nearly doubling the number of shots he took, Varnado still managed to shoot almost 55 percent from the floor. As much talk as there has been about big men taking advantage of this draft, Varnado is a guy who would benefit tremendously from another year in the college ranks. His offensive game has very much been a work in progress since his freshman season and the work is paying dividends. He may have the most upside of any post player in the SEC right now (that includes Patrick Patterson, crazy I know) but there is no denying the defensive impact he has, averaging 4.6 bpg. If Varnado can improve his offensive game and numbers even further next year we’re talking about not just a guy who will be drafted, but as a borderline first round pick.
In a draft that is chock full of talented point guards, Calathes possesses one ever important characteristic many of the other don’t have: above average size. At 6-6 the Florida Gator floor general has excellent size for the next level and an equally as impressive game to go along with it. There isn’t too much to not like about Calathes’s game; he is an efficient scorer, rebounds well for a guard, distributes the ball very well and shows good defensive instincts. If Florida looked poised to make a deep run into March there might be more incentive for him to return, but even with there being so much talent at his position in this draft class, Calathes is still going to likely land in the first round.