Are these NBA draft prospects taking a plunge?
Not every NBA draft prospect is thrilled about getting to
participate in the NCAA tournament. Some wish they were playing in a
far-off and ignored basketball universe, such as Guam. Or the
That’s because a poor performance or two in the
NCAAs can dramatically worsen your stock — much in the same way it can
help to improve it (as we saw in
Part I of our series).
Now, declining draft
status isn’t always the fault of the prospect, as you can hardly
measure someone’s value based on a couple of tournament games. But too
often, that’s how it works.
Basically, the NCAA
tourney is college basketball’s biggest stage. If you flop, you’re doing
it in front of a group of NBA scouts that suddenly seems to evaluate
players based on what they cannot do, as opposed to what they
And when you can’t lead your team to the tourney
at all (read: Baylor’s Perry Jones), you may even take a bigger
Of course, that mindset goes a long way in
explaining how and why so many unknown international players
continuously climb the draft boards — especially while the tourney is
going on. But that type of thinking also gave the world Darko Milicic
and, even worse, Nikoloz Tskitishvili. It is also why top American
college products such as David West and Tayshaun Prince are drafted No.
18 and No. 23, respectively.
But regardless of
reasons, the bottom line is March Madness often hurts at least as much
as it helps when the idea is improving your draft status. It doesn’t
mean prospects can’t improve their rankings during pre-draft workouts,
and it doesn’t mean they won’t turn out to be good
All it means is they have plunged for the time
being. For some, those nose-dives have been more obvious than
In a draft that is expected to be
significantly shaped by what happens in the tournament (even more so
than it has in other years), that’s never a good
And so we look at those whose status may have
hit the skids.
Perry Jones, 6-foot-11,
Earlier in the season, Jones
drew comparisons to one-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. So already, he
had one strike against him.
That’s a joke, as the
McGrady similarities were considered a positive, with the long and
athletic Jones displaying the ability to free himself for shots and
score effortlessly, much like a younger T-Mac. Speaking of effort, that
seemed to be the thing about Jones that scouts have questioned
Jones missed the final game of the season (a
Big Eight tournament loss to Oklahoma) after an NCAA suspension for
receiving improper benefits. Should he return to Baylor, the suspension
would continue for the first five games next
None of that concerns the NBA types, of course.
They are more troubled by the fact Jones’ teams often underachieve.
Baylor was expected to be a national title contender — but couldn’t
even get an at-large bid to the NCAAs. He also failed to lead his high
school squad to anything meaningful. So Jones’ status was hurt before
the NCAAs even began.
Again, there are no doubts
about his ability, or whether he has the type of game that will
translate well to the pros. But if he wants to be a star, scouts believe
he needs to be more focused, and perhaps much more
All of that said, Jones is still a likely
top-five pick. It’s just not as good as the top-two pick he once was
projected to be.
6-foot-7, F, Texas
No doubt, the kid
can shoot. He possesses a lanky frame, a quick release and, as the
scouts like to say, “strong scoring instincts.”
Hamilton and the Longhorns bombed in an opening-round tourney loss to
Arizona — although the final deficit was just one point (70-69) and
Hamilton scored a solid 18 points. Problem is, Hamilton looked like
little more than a jump-shooter in that game.
book on Hamilton is that he struggles to beat his man off the dribble,
or shoot off the dribble, and that he has some work to do when it comes
to creating his own looks at the basket. Nor does he appear like he’ll
be much of an inside threat in the NBA. Defensively, he’s so-so at
Bottom line: Hamilton was once considered a
late lottery pick, and strong individual workouts could return him to
that status. But after his tourney showing, he’s more likely to fall
somewhere in the late teens or early
John Henson, 6-foot-10, PF, North
Henson never was considered a
finished product, and even on his best days, he’s mostly just a big guy
with big potential.
On the plus side, he runs the
floor extremely well, often using his energy to find ways to put the
ball in the hole.
On the downside, he lacks the
physical strength to be a great rebounder or inside scoring threat, or
the perimeter skills to make up for those
He managed just four shots, and scored a
mere four points, in the Tar Heels’ loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight
— mostly because he was overpowered underneath. Of course, Henson also
plays for a college team that is loaded at every spot, meaning shots
could be understandably scarce from time to time.
he’ll face a similar dilemma in the NBA, where even the worst players
on the worst teams are ex-college standouts. If and when Henson’s body
matures, he shouldn’t have any issues. Until then, however, he is likely
to be drafted in the middle of the first round (if even that high) and
make scouts wonder whether he’s anything more than The Next Brandan
Kyle Singler, 6-foot-8, F,
Singler is a very good college
player but has never been looked at as a sure-fire NBA prospect. And
after Duke’s collapse against Arizona in the Sweet 16, he may have
played himself out of the draft’s first
Singler can shoot from anywhere, and he did a
fairly decent job of mixing it up underneath during his time with the
Blue Devils. But even in college, he was mostly a player without a
position, hovering somewhere between small and power
Also, his lack of explosiveness was exposed
in the Arizona loss, as was his sometimes shaky ball handling. There
were also questions about his shot selection all
Singler did a lot of things well this past
season, but nothing that made scouts jump up and insist their team
cannot afford to pass on the guy. Quite the opposite,
That’s a pretty big contrast to his junior
season, when he likely would have been drafted in the top 18 or 20. But
he didn’t really improve, and his team fared
In other words, Singler is the epitome of a
guy who can plan on taking a big draft plunge.