Freshmen have scouts excited but NBA drafts often defy projections
Posted November 13, 2013
Amid widespread agreement that current college freshmen will dominate the top of the 2014 NBA draft (June 26, Brooklyn), pro scouts flocked to Chicago’s United Center Tuesday to watch Kentucky face Michigan State and Duke against Kansas.
The popular assumption is that Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky’s Julius Randle will get selected 1-2-3 in some order with Kansas’ Joel Embiid, Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison not far behind.
But based on early on-court performances this season, the NBA draft can be just as much guesswork as a foolproof predictor of production.
The No. 1 pick in 2013 – UNLV forward Anthony Bennett – is struggling to make any sort of impact on a 3-5 Cleveland Cavalier team. He’s averaging less than one point even though he’s playing roughly 11 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, the No. 11 pick – Philadelphia 76er playmaker Michael Carter-Williams – is off to a super start, averaging 17.4 points.
As a freshman at Syracuse in 2011-12, Carter-Williams didn’t play a great deal at all, averaged less than three points pr game and was projected by some pundits as a late first-round pick when he declared after his second college season.
The No. 13 pick last June – center Kelly Olynyk of Boston – also put in two seasons of college ball at Gonzaga and averaged a modest 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman. But in his first season with the Celtics, Olynyk is averaging 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds through his first eight games.
If these early patterns hold, the most accurate pick of 2013 will turn out to be guard Victor Oladipo, who was selected No. 2 overall by Orlando after playing three college seasons at Indiana. Through his first eight pro games, Oladipo averaged more than 12 points and already has earned a reputation as a top-rate on-ball defensive player.
WEAK DRAFT, STRONG DRAFT
Throughout the 2012-13 college season, NBA experts from coast to coast sized up the talent pool as one of the weakest in years.
This year the forecast is for the one the most talented drafts in years – a calculation based entirely on the freshman class. Up to 10 college newcomers have been projected as future NBA all-stars.
In reality, most of that conjecture is overwhelmingly based on the players performances against each other in AAU summer camps and to a lesser extent in their play in high school games.
It’s interesting that the 1984 talent pool was predicted to be no better than average for that period but produced No. 3 pick Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins (No. 4), Charles Barkley (5), Hakeem Olajuwon (1) and John Stockton (16).
There was far more anticipation for the 1985 group – Patrick Ewing (1), Wayman Tisdale (2) and Benoit Benjamin (3). Ewing obviously had a very successful pro career but the second best pick turned out to No. 13 Karl Malone.
At the opposite extreme, there was the 1991 class that was projected to be perhaps the best ever at the time. Larry Johnson, Billy Owens, Kenny Anderson, Dale Davis and Dikembe Mutombo were seen as future superstars but no one really delivered to that extent.It’ll be years before the ’13 and ’14 groups can be accurately compared, but a good guess is that the ’13 class will turn out to be better than expected and ’14 draftees will fall short of their lofty expectations.