DimeMag

10 NBA Draft Prospects That Need To Return To School

Zach LaVine (Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports)

One and done. Make money now. Too good for school. Whatever you want to call it, this is the mindset of every college basketball star who believes they’re wasting time and their talents for nothing but a college experience and scholarship. Often, college standouts feel they could be out starting their professional careers already rather than obtaining a college education.

But let’s face it: we all know that since the NBA adopted their age 19 rule, it has immensely hurt the game of college basketball not only for fans, but potentially hinders the development of college players and team chemistry. You have teammates who are pro-ready as freshmen who are just looking for a place to play for a year until finally turning 19 and NBA eligible. Just look at what high school stud Myles Turner recently said to us about making his college decision: “A good education is gonna come with any school you go to. They’re obviously Division-I colleges, and just a good coaching staff, just knowing you can be comfortable around them, one, and two, just get what you need to get to the next level.”

Come to think about it, after an NBA rookie season of averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, could you really imagine LeBron James going to college? If this rule applied and forced him to wait a year on the NBA after high school, looking at the way the college game is played–being defense, pass-first and team-oriented–the entire country would have had to wait a year to see LeBron’s talent on full display.

However, with the NBA Draft rules in place, don’t let the misconception of college basketball fool you, particularly for those athletes looking to leave school early to start their pro careers as soon as possible. One and done or not, there are still benefits of staying in school, like having the ability to develop your game and understanding against higher competition.

As SI.com’s Pete Thamel is reporting, Syracuse’s Jerami Grant is the latest to declare for the draft. On top of that, I’ve compiled a list of players who need to reconsider their decision of leaving school before it’s too late. The NCAA early entry “withdrawal” deadline is tomorrow.

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10. James Michael McAdoo (junior, North Carolina)
McAdoo didn’t improve very much from his sophomore season to now. He nearly had an identical sophomore and junior season. His draft stock was much higher after last season, making the sophomore leap, than it is now. He actually scored less points this season and rebounded less. He’s still only projected as a second-round pick, but can still improve his draft stock than what it is now if he had a better season statistically.

After three seasons, finally deciding to leave UNC now is hurting his draft stock more than just staying for a fourth year. With no improvement from his sophomore year, he needs to pull his name back out before it’s too late as he’s better returning for his senior year.

9. Noah Vonleh (freshman, Indiana)
As a one-and-done, Vonleh is projected as high as a lottery pick, but he may actually be better off staying in school to simply just develop his skills for the NBA. If he has a better season then his 11 points and nine rebounds per game as a freshman, I can see him as a guaranteed lock as a lottery pick next year. His 6-10, 240-pound frame is intriguing to many NBA scouts. He looked just like Ekpe Udoh at Baylor, which is scary because Udoh’s game didn’t translate well to the NBA. It isn’t the worst thing for Vonleh to come out now, but I’d still advise him to return to school just to work on skills in order to raise his draft stock as a lottery lock, and possible top-five pick, next season.

8. Eric Moreland (junior, Oregon State)
Moreland isn’t intriguing to anyone. As a junior averaging just 8.9 points and 10.3 rebounds, Moreland isn’t on very many mock draft boards. He shouldn’t be, standing at 6-10 and 218 pounds. Think Anthony Randolph when he was drafted… without his scoring ability. Moreland may be a good rebounder, but I don’t see that translating right away to the NBA game. He needs to prove his ability to score the ball consistently with his size. Again, Moreland is another prospect who should definitely stay in school for his final season to maximize his NBA Draft stock potential.

7. Johnny O’Bryant III (junior, LSU)
O’Bryant isn’t an intriguing prospect; he’s just your average NBA prospect. If he were to leave school now, he would most likely go undrafted. Don’t let the numbers fool you, although he’s improved every year and is coming off a career-best season of averaging 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. But his play is very inconsistent, defining the type of season LSU had this year. O’Bryant’s rebounding and scoring seems to be inconsistent practically every other game. He’s projected as a late second-round pick to being undrafted as well.

Despite improving your numbers each year, there’s absolutely no reason for O’Bryant to forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA Draft. A way he could raise his draft stock is by simply staying in school for his final season and bringing LSU to the NCAA tournament.

6. Jakarr Sampson (sophomore, St. John’s)
Sampson looked like a promising player as a freshman, averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds, but his numbers have slightly dropped this season to 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. I simply don’t get it, if your numbers are down from a promising season, why leave school early and declare? As of now, Sampson is in the same boat as Alex Kirk, being a big man willing to gamble his remaining time of college eligibility for the NBA. Sampson needs to simply reconsider his decision and stay in school because his game actually digressed this year.

5. Semaj Christon (sophomore, Xavier)
According to a few NBA mock drafts, Christon is projected as late first-round pick to even being undrafted. I understand he’s made the sophomore leap by improving his scoring and three-point shooting. However, it would still scare me just a bit to see mock drafts of being a late first-round pick to being undrafted, depending on team needs. If Christon even stayed just one more year in school to improve his scoring or assists numbers by just a little bit, I could easily see him being a first-round pick lock next season, which is why I’d still advise him to withdraw his name and return to school. He still has two years of eligibility left.

4. Alex Kirk (junior, New Mexico)
New Mexico always underachieves in the NCAA tournament. They’ve never advanced past the round of 32 in school history. Maybe this is why Alex Kirk is frustrated, deciding to forgo his senior season to enter the NBA Draft. He’s far from a lock to even be drafted as his name doesn’t appear on many mock drafts. He was never the star of the Lobos, and was overlooked by his frontcourt mate Cameron Bairstow, who had an outstanding senior season for the Lobos.

Kirk has a decent jump shot for a 7-footer, but isn’t good enough to stretch the floor for an NBA team. In order for Kirk to get drafted, he would have to seriously impress and surprise scouts by displaying his skills during workouts. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see his teammate Cameron Bairstow get drafted before he does.

3. Roscoe Smith (junior, UNLV)
I can understand Smith’s frustration. He was a starter on UConn’s 2011 national championship team as a freshman, then played less his sophomore year before deciding to redshirt and transfer to UNLV. However, Smith played on a dysfunctional UNLV team that didn’t reach season expectations. Although he averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds per game this season (the best of his career), he needs to use his final year of eligibility to build his draft stock. Right now, Smith is projected as a late second-round pick to being undrafted. Having one double-double season on an underachieving team wouldn’t fool me, it’s simply not enough. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Smith go undrafted.

2. Jahii Carson (sophomore, Arizona State)
Sure, he’s had a very solid two years for the Sun Devils, but Carson is projected as a second-round pick to being undrafted. His two seasons spent at ASU were nearly identical. As a freshman, he averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists, and this season, he averaged 18.4 points and 4.6 assists. Carson’s statistics are down a bit this season from his freshman year where as he scored slightly less points, on top of his field goal shooting and free throw percentage being slightly down this season. For these reasons, perhaps maybe this is why he chose to leave early, fearing his draft stock wouldn’t get any higher than what it is now.

Standing at just 5-10, I don’t see Carson ever being better than Isaiah Thomas, who was the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. If I were Carson, I wouldn’t settle for being a second-round pick to being undrafted. He still has two more years of eligibility, and could certainly use another year or two to grow his NBA Draft stock.

1. Zach LaVine (freshman, UCLA)
He’s only a freshman who declared the very next day after UCLA’s season ended. He averaged just 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game this season, which makes LaVine, despite the potential, a very dodgy NBA prospect. What’s even more scary is that LaVine failed to reach double-figures in scoring in 14 of his final 18 regular season games, in addition to scoring a total of just eight points in UCLA’s three NCAA tournament games.

Standing at 6-5 and weighing 180 pounds, LaVine sees himself as a point guard or shooting guard at the next level and is projected from a late lottery pick to mid-first rounder, according to some NBA mock drafts. He is the ultimate gamble for an NBA team, being a prospect who may never pan out or receive a fair chance. Take Jeremy Tyler as an example of this type of gamble. Regardless of which NBA team selects LaVine, he will not play right away at the next level and will most likely see a lot of time in the D-League. In my mind, this is a poor decision by him to leave school this early.

Who do you think needs to go back to school?

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