Evaluating early-entry decisions
The NBA released its official early entry list for the 2011 NBA draft on Thursday. DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony analyzes each player's decision to toss his name into the hat.
Bell, one of the
The top-rated shooting guard on most NBA teams' draft boards, Burks is a likely lottery pick who could be picked extremely high due to the lack of depth in this draft, particularly at his position.
A likely top-20 pick, Hamilton is coming off a strong season, making it understandable that he would elect to strike while the iron is hot.
A surefire top-three pick and the front-runner to be taken first overall, Irving had very little to accomplish by coming back for his sophomore year, especially considering he already suffered one somewhat-serious injury.
A likely lottery pick despite seeing a sharp decline in production over the second half of the season, Jones' decision became easier with each projected lottery pick that elected to return to school leading up to his announcement.
Kanter never played a game for the Wildcats, as he was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving more than $33,000 in impermissible benefits while playing for a Turkish club team. But he's still one of the best bigs in the draft and a projected top-10 pick.
Potentially a top-five pick after a strong NCAA tournament run, Knight had a lot more to lose than gain by returning for his sophomore season.
Leonard would have had a tough time helping San Diego State replicate the season they just had, making it more than understandable that he would decide to cash in now. He's a likely candidate to be invited to the green room for draft night.
The leading half of the strongest and most productive frontcourt in college basketball, Marcus Morris will enter the NBA ready to produce, and will almost certainly be sitting in the green room in New Jersey.
Markieff Morris saw his stock rise as dramatically as virtually any player in the NCAA in the second half of the season. He is firmly in the first round at this stage, and could be picked as high as the late lottery depending on workouts and positional needs.
Caught in a
Slowed somewhat by injuries as the season progressed, Singleton's physical attributes and defensive prowess still make him a popular name among NBA scouts, making him a near-certainty to be picked up somewhere in the first round.
It's tough to fault Thompson for electing to cash in coming off a very productive season, as he is rated by most teams as the second-best wing player in a very shallow draft (particularly at his position).
Thompson is a 20-year old freshman with a limited skill-set, but he has many fans around the NBA. He risked setting the bar a little too high for himself had he elected to return for a sophomore year. And the 2012 draft will be extremely strong, particularly at the power forward position.
Vucevic has the unique option of playing (and continuing to develop) at the top level of European basketball next season thanks to his versatile skill-set and Montenegrin passport, and thus could be a very good option for teams trying to plan ahead in advance of an NBA lockout.
As a potential top-five pick coming off an NCAA title and having graduated in three years, Walker has accomplished everything there is to accomplish at the college level.
A surefire top-three pick and potentially the No. 1 overall selection depending on how the ping-pong balls drop, Williams went out in style after carrying Arizona on his back for a deep NCAA tournament run.
Casto dropped out of school to pursue playing professional basketball next season in order to support his family. The drug charges against him were
Coming off an extremely efficient season as
Gillenwater was again one of the
Harris was one of the most consistent freshmen in college basketball, playing in a turbulent environment that will now feature a new head coach next season. Likely a first-round pick, but with the potential to move up (or down) next season depending on how he performs, the 18-year old Harris has a difficult decision ahead of him.
The Atlantic 10 player of the year was as productive a college player as they come, seeing nearly 39 minutes per game, but remains a borderline prospect due to his average physical tools. Does he try and up his professional standing next season with a deep NCAA tournament run?
Honeycutt was under heavy pressure to return after an up-and-down sophomore season, but ultimately decided fairly early on to enter the draft and hire an agent. His stock varies dramatically from team to team, making his performance in private workouts and the NBA combine crucial.
Hopson has been an enigma since he stepped foot on campus in Knoxville, and this season was no different. NBA teams have to like his physical tools and overall talent, but many questions remain about his intangibles and the likelihood of him reaching his potential.
Jackson started off the season as an afterthought, but quickly emerged as one of the most productive guards in the NCAA. His ascension caught many NBA teams off guard, though, and it might be tough to say on May 8th whether he was seen enough by key decision-makers to guarantee himself a spot in the first round. Jackson's talent is obvious, and the fact that Boston College is losing so much talent might ultimately convince him to stay in and work his way up draft boards.
One of the
NBA teams have been waiting for some time for the former McDonald's All-American to take the next step in his development, something that has been slow to happen, partially due to the constraints of UCLA's rigid offense. Lee decided to take advantage of the shallow draft class and hope that the considerable pro success enjoyed by many fellow Bruin alum will convince an NBA team that he has more to offer than he was able to show under Ben Howland.
Arguably the most explosive player in this draft class, Leslie did not progress quite as much as some NBA teams may have hoped this season, particularly as a perimeter shooter and ballhandler. Nevertheless, he decided to enter the draft and hire an agent, and is projected as a borderline first-round pick at this stage.
A top-rated high school recruit who took a little longer than expected to make the transition -- partially due to coaching changes -- Liggins blossomed late in the season and is known as one of the best perimeter defenders in this group. He may not have shown quite enough to secure himself a spot in the first round, though, which could force him to return to Kentucky for his senior season.
A huge part of Butler's two straight runs to the national title game, Shelvin Mack has quite a few fans among NBA teams, but he may have difficulty being guaranteed a spot in the first round by May 8th.
One of the most improved players in college basketball this season, Morris ranks as the
Selby came into college as a
A former McDonald's All-American, Shumpert had somewhat of a breakout year in his junior season, but did so playing for one of the worst teams in the ACC. Always considered an NBA-level athlete and defender, Shumpert's slow development as a perimeter shooter and decision-maker has tempered some of the enthusiasm around his professional prospects. Now projected as a borderline first-rounder -- and likely on the outside looking in -- Shumpert will need to decide whether to stay in the draft and try to up his stock through private workouts or return to school and play for a brand new head coach.
A big, burly center with NBA-caliber size, strength and sometimes talent, Smith regressed at Fresno State this season after a very promising freshman campaign. The poor environment he was in probably had something to do with that, but he needed to show more aggressiveness and internal motivation to overcome his situation and help his team win more games. Smith didn't wait long to enter the draft and hire an agent, and he'll be a hot name on the individual workout scene.
Thomas had a memorable junior season, putting up some eye-popping numbers in the Pac-10 conference after backcourtmate Abdul Gaddy went down with injury. Thomas elected to take advantage of a weak draft class and has announced he will not be returning to school next year, even though he's yet to hire an agent. Considering his age (22), the season he's coming off and the fact that his biggest limitation (his height) is unlikely to change, it's difficult to criticize his decision.
Thompkins was expected to have a breakout junior season but instead stagnated somewhat, looking out of shape and not overly motivated for long stretches. He didn't take long to announce he'd enter the draft and hire an agent, and now he finds himself firmly on the first-round bubble, thanks to his obvious talent level and a weakened draft pool (particularly at his position).
Williams put up
A McDonald's All-American in 2010, Joseph had a solid but not overwhelming freshman season and was widely expected to return to Texas for his sophomore year. Not possessing great physical attributes for an NBA point guard, and seeing heavy minutes playing off the ball, Joseph is the type of prospect who will wow scouts with his production in the short-term more-so than with his long-term potential. Alas, when best buddy and fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson went back on his word and decided to enter the draft, Joseph decided he wanted in, too. But this could put him in a fairly complicated situation down the road, since he's using up his lone "test the waters" card.
A McDonald's All-American in 2010 and a key piece on the USA Basketball team that won the Under-18 FIBA Americas championship in San Antonio last summer, expectations were very high for Richmond going into his freshman year. He struggled to fulfill them this past season, coming off the bench and seeing heavy minutes at the power forward position, playing for a dysfunctional team that underachieved badly and clearly struggled with internal issues. Richmond played a part in that, leaving the team at one point and being unable to play in the NCAA tournament due to suspension following a locker room altercation with teammate Brandon Paul. Richmond elected to leave the team and enter the draft, and now he finds himself firmly on the first-round bubble. He has plenty of time to work his way up draft boards, and will surely be someone every team wants to take a look at.
Thompson is a talented prospect, but few expected him to enter the draft following his sophomore year. His breakout season would likely come next season, but Thompson is reportedly unhappy at Georgetown and is considering transferring, according to reports I've received.
Every year of group of juniors enter the draft solely because they have nothing to lose. Under NCAA rules, student-athletes are allowed to "test the waters" once without jeopardizing their eligibility. While it's debatable how much these players will actually accomplish due to the shortened window legislated by the NCAA -- they must withdraw by May 8th at the latest -- the following players will almost certainly return to school when the smoke ultimately clears.
Olu Ashaolu, SF/PF, Junior, Louisiana Tech*
Can't say I'm too aware of any of the following individuals' pro prospects (or lack thereof).
Jacob Blankenship, C, Junior, Southeastern (FL)
Players who became automatically eligible for the NBA draft by virtue of leaving high school or college for professional basketball.
Kyle Austin, SF/PF, Faymasa Palencia (Spain) [Formerly UC-Riverside]