It’s that time of the year again for college players who left school. At this time, they’ll put their NBA dreams on the line at the NBA Draft Combine, which will take place this month, giving players the chance to workout and put their talent on full display in front of scouts and GMs. It’s also that time of the year where college players get serious about making decisions to turn pro or not. As of recent, we saw UCLA’s Jordan Adams change his mind from saying he would return to school only to do a 180 on UCLA, leaving for good.
But with decisions to leave school come decisions for NBA GMs. Are good college players who thought they did enough in school even worthy enough of a draft pick versus drafting an international player in the second round who won’t count against a team’s cap? Believe it or not, this happens more often than expected in the second round, where nothing is really guaranteed to second-round draft picks.
That being said, I broke down my list of ten good college players who performed in school, but may still go undrafted next month. Despite having stellar senior years, some of these players may still not have done enough. Or maybe, some of these guys should have stayed in school and attempted to build their stock for the remaining time they had. Of these ten college players, you be the judge and tell me if you believe these guys get drafted or not.
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1. Russ Smith, Louisville
“Russdiculous” is what the senior guard goes by in Louisville. If you come to think of it, his toughness, defense and ability to create in transition for his size is what makes him a ridiculous guard to match up against in college. If you’ve ever watched Louisville and seen the full-court press they play for nearly each entire game, you can see how Russdiculous truly bothers opposing players with his tenacious defense. But the question is, will his wild style of play translate to the NBA, where a team full-court pressing is barely an option? Will his defense and transition play translate against the bigger and stronger players?
For these reasons, despite having a national title under his belt, Smith is looking like a late second-round pick to possibly even going undrafted. He may have to prove himself this summer to stay on an NBA roster.
2. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
If there’s any big man on this list that would get drafted in the second round, I’d bet on Jarnell Stokes out of Tennessee to be taken before both Cory Jefferson and Patric Young. Ditching school now and forgoing his senior season is probably the highest his draft stock will ever be. With his 6-8, 260-pound frame, Stokes already has an NBA body for just a 20-year-old. Leaving his final season after averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 53 percent from the field seems to be a solid case to leave school and declare. He even improved his free throw shooting immensely this season compared to his first two seasons.
But with the depth and talent at the forward position in this draft, Stokes is still expected to be a second-round pick to even being undrafted. At least in my eyes, Stokes definitely did enough in his junior season to get drafted.
3. Jabari Brown, Missouri
He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school. His decision to leave Oregon after just two games for Missouri was a bit strange, but Brown ended up proving himself anyways at a school that no one saw him transferring to. He has the ability to score the ball, create offense for himself and is a great catch-and-shoot player. If you watch him play, he has a little O.J. Mayo in his game, being a great spot-up shooter in college and not afraid at all to attack the rim.
Although he’s projected as a second-round pick to being undrafted, Brown’s ability to shoot outside can serve an NBA team well. Although he’s flying under the radar a bit at the guard position, Brown’s draft stock is higher than ever. He’s worthy of a look for any team that needs a scorer off the bench.
4. Deonte Burton, Nevada
Burton is projected as an early second-round pick, but it’s a possibility he could still go undrafted. He didn’t play on a very good team, but perhaps that’s what helped him showcase his talent, having the ability to handle the ball and take any shot he wanted. There’s no denying that he can play above the rim as the Mountain West Conference believes he had the dunk of the year. Burton is explosive and isn’t afraid at all to attack the paint for a point guard. He just lacks pure point guard skills as he was known to be a score-first point guard in college who takes questionable shots. Despite averaging 20 points per game, I’m not sure if his shot selection and ability to attack the paint would fly in the NBA.
5. Xavier Thames, San Diego State
Although he had a breakout senior year while leading San Diego State to a 31-5 record that no one saw coming, unfortunately, the x-factor for the Aztecs will probably be flying under the radar on NBA Draft day.
This season, Thames took home the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors in addition to leading SDSU to a regular season conference title and a trip to the Sweet 16. But despite being a senior who averaged 17 points per game with four assists, his statistics don’t sound too mind-blowing coming from a mid-major conference. He had some big games against powerhouse programs this season, leading the Aztecs to a win against Kansas on the road, and even out-played Arizona’s Nick Johnson in the Sweet 16. His defense is quite underrated coming from a program ranked second in the nation in points allowed.
To say the least, Thames has proved he’s a sleeper worthy of a second-round pick, but may still go undrafted. David Aldridge can agree with that.
6. Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Jahii Carson’s draft stock may not get any higher than it is right now. Coming off a season of averaging 18 points and four assists, leaving school early as an underclassman doesn’t really come to a surprise. Teams would probably pick up on Carson’s game the longer he stays as he would likely be on more scouting reports as a 5-10 guard who had a breakout year. By leaving now, Carson won’t make the mistake that James Michael McAdoo did this season by staying another year without improving his game.
Although Carson is quick and has the ability to create offense and find ways to score, his size makes him a defensive liability. I don’t see much bounce in his game, and he isn’t a good enough outside shooter when compared to former PAC-12 players Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson.
He proved himself to be a good college player, but more than likely I think he’ll go undrafted, having to prove himself in the NBA summer league. As an undersized guard without strong shooting ability, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see Carson take his game overseas.
7. Khem Birch, UNLV
Khem Birch had a strange college career, leaving Pittsburgh after his freshman season for personal reasons and ending up at UNLV. But with the disappointing season that UNLV had, it isn’t too surprising that Birch wanted out if you come to think of how he would have to deal with a scattered team his senior season. His own teammate Roscoe Smith, who left school early as well, will be competing with him to get drafted, and leading scorer Bryce Dejean-Jones has transferred, leaving Birch all alone.
He’s actually coming out after a decent season of averaging 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds while averaging nearly four blocks per game. He’s a proven shotblocker and rebounder, which could serve an NBA team coming off the bench. Birch wouldn’t be a bad second-round pick at all, but is still projected to go undrafted.
8. Patric Young, Florida
Much like Cory Jefferson, Patric Young is another big man projected to go in the middle of the second round, but I just don’t see it happening for many reasons. He was a great college player, and did everything right for coach Billy Donovan at Florida. He had a pretty consistent college career, averaging 10-11 points, along with six rebounds per game for three seasons. He’s a pretty good defensive player and plays very efficiently for his position. His free throw shooting is poor, but that’s to be expected with most centers.
As much of a team player as Young is, he eventually needs to display his pure talent at the NBA Draft Combine. If he indeed does get drafted, the ceiling I see in him is a Kendrick Perkins type at best.
9. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Cory Jefferson almost left Baylor after his junior season, but ultimately in the end decided to stay. He didn’t improve much this year as a senior, but still does a little of everything that you want from a big man. He has the ability to score, rebound, clean up and block shots.
The sad thing on Jefferson is that he’s getting overlooked by his teammate Isaiah Austin, a 7-1 sophomore center who averaged double-figures in scoring and three blocks per game. When comparing the two, Jefferson actually had a better season scoring and rebounding-wise than Austin. It must be tough being Jefferson in this draft, having to compete against his own teammate to get drafted.
10. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
He had a pretty decent college career being a four-year player. His draft stock was probably at it’s highest in his junior season. As a 6-8 small forward, Fair needs to bulk up a bit and get consistent with his three-point shooting after shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc this season, where in his junior year he shot 46 percent from deep. He has the skills and ability to get crafty around the rim, finding ways to score. His midrange jumper looks decent while he’s a pretty good perimeter defender.
Although he had a solid college career, Fair may still go undrafted due to his atypical strengths for his position. I like his game a lot, and he’s worthy of a second-round pick, but he just didn’t improve a whole lot from his junior to senior season, which may be hurting his chances of getting drafted.
Who do you think will go undrafted?
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