Every year there are underclassmen who declare for the draft, and when their announcements scroll across ESPN’s Bottom Line, you think, “Really?” This year, I believe the thinking for some of the guys in that category would have been: this year’s draft class is weak, there is opportunity to go higher and thus make more money if I come out a year early.
Or it’s just: I’m tired of being broke.
Guys like Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, for example, wouldn’t fall into this category because it was more-or-less a given that those two were leaving early and going 1-2. In any case, here’s a look at some of the more, perhaps, interesting decisions to leave early and how they turned out after the fact.
Tristan Thompson, Texas, #4 to Cleveland
Thompson was always considered a pro prospect, but his numbers his only year at Texas weren’t at the level where you figured it was a given he would come out. But Thompson climbed up a lot of draft boards throughout the evaluation prospects, landing in Cleveland at #4, where in more than one mock draft had him on the edge of the lottery when he declared. Next season, there is no way Thompson goes this high–the 2012 class will more than likely be absolutely stacked at the power forward position.
Brandon Knight, Kentucky, #8 to Detroit
Yeah, yeah, yeah–Knight could have gone as high as #3 or #4 in this draft depending on how a few dominoes fell early on, but a) he stayed in the top ten, but also b) Knight has a serious question mark about whether he can play a true point guard in the NBA. I personally think he can, but I digress. Another year in school may have helped prove to NBA teams that he could play that position in the league, but it also could have damaged his draft stock if he didn’t ease the concerns for a second straight year. I think getting taken eighth overall was pretty much right on target for Knight, as he probably had more risk than reward if he came back for his sophomore season.
Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech, #17 to New York
Shumpert wasn’t as young as some of the other guys on this list–he finished his junior season at Georgia Tech this past year. Still, it was somewhat surprising that Shumpert declared, given a fairly underwhelming career at Georgia Tech where the team never really performed well enough to showcase his talent. Originally thought to be a fringe first rounder and more likely to be chosen in the second, Shumpert jumped up into the mid-first because of his length and athleticism at the point guard position. He’s certainly a project, but he really capitalized on the lack of great guards in this draft class. He maximized his stock going at #17 to the Knicks, and even though New York fans are groaning over the pick, I think they may be pleasantly surprised.
Tobias Harris, Tennessee, #19 to Charlotte
Harris’ decision to leave school after a year was a great one not only because he ended up being a top-20 pick–where, again, he may have been bumped down the board a couple spots if he came out a year later–but also because he was able to get out of a really tough situation at Tennessee. Beyond that, he enters a rebuilding situation where he should have plenty of opportunity to substantial minutes and grow with a young nucleus that includes fellow draft picks Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker.
Feeling Some Regret
Jordan Hamilton, Texas, #26 to Denver
It was puzzling to me why Hamilton, with the combination of size and talent that he possesses, slid so far in the draft. The likeliest reason is that teams were scared off a bit by Hamilton’s basketball maturity. He was always known for being a free shooter, and at times he took some shots that had you scratching your head.While he did stay in the first round, this guy has lottery talent, and a year of proving that he can play within an offense more and take good shots may have been all scouts needed to propel him into the lottery. Plus, he is now going to a situation in Denver where he may be buried behind two talented young players in Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler. Stay tuned on Hamilton…
Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA, #35 to Sacramento)/Jordan Williams (Maryland, # 36 to New Jersey)
I grouped these guys together not only because they were picked back-to-back in the early second round, but also because another year in college would have very likely propelled them into the first round. Both Honeycutt and Williams bring a lot to the table as basketball players, but their value wasn’t quite realized after a smaller sample size–each only spent two years in school. Now, both enter a situation where their contracts aren’t fully guaranteed as second round picks, when some patience could have had them in a better situation in next year’s draft.
Josh Selby, Kansas, #49 to Memphis
Selby was the top player in the freshman class entering this past season, according to more than one recruiting service. To come out after one forgettable year at Kansas and barely land in the top fifty has to be a bitter disappointment for the young guard. There were questions about the way he fit in at Kansas, so potentially the situation could have gotten worse there if he stayed another year, but it is hard to believe that if he had another year in school to get completely healthy and show what he had to offer, he wouldn’t have been picked significantly higher, and possibly in the lottery. Tough one to swallow for Selby.