NBA Draft could be significant lift for Gottfried, Pack
Posted June 26, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Mark Gottfried didn’t find, woo or sign Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie and Scott Wood to play college basketball. But when the 66th NBA Draft begins Thursday night (7 p.m. ESPN and 99.9 FM The Fan) in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gottfried and his fledgling N.C. State program could be significantly affected by the fates of those four players.
It’s an unusual dynamic for a coach about to begin only his third season in a program that arguably failed to meet expectations in 2012-13 and will likely be picked to finish no higher than eighth or ninth in a 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013-14.
Rarely are college coaches exceedingly concerned about the pro fortunes of inherited players – from Sidney Lowe in this case.
Gottfried and State’s program are a prominent exception to that general rule in this draft, primarily because he was smart enough to wholly invest himself in the destinies of the foursome, especially Howell and Leslie.
Both forwards were high-profile renovation projects from the start for Gottfried. In Howell’s case, there was sweeping success, an obvious example of improvement and career enhancement through physical conditioning.
With Leslie, it was more of a mental mission with Gottfried getting uneven results. There were times when Leslie’s attitude adjustment seemed stunning. There were other times when the talented player obviously tuned out. But there’s no question that overall, he benefited from the new coach’s constant prodding.
At no time during the process was Gottfried passive. He didn’t just inherit the four players, he adopted them as his own and treated them as such. He will – and should – realize short- and long-range recruiting benefits if just one or two of the group emerges as a consistent NBA contributor.
There’s not a substantial downside for Gottfried and the Wolfpack since draft expectations are modest. Most of the talent judges rate Brown, Howell and Leslie as late first-rounders at best. Wood may not get selected at all, but will get offers to sign as a free agent.
What Thursday amounts to for State and Gottfried is a golden bonus opportunity to turn high school heads and forge recruiting short cuts.
For Wolfpack fans, it’s no longer pertinent whether Brown and Leslie were wise to leave school after their junior seasons.
Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Connecticut, even Florida, automatically start the recruiting procedure several steps ahead of the Pack because of their NBA resume. Because high school prospects place undue emphasis on a college program’s pro yield, it’s important for this group of players simply to expand State’s NBA presence.
In this draft, which is generally deemed to be among the least impressive in ages, there’s a chance for college programs outside the inner circle to find elbow room.
A big splash isn’t likely, but the Pack has a rare chance to go 4-for-4 on NBA roster spots.
Other ACC hopefuls
Devin Booker, Clemson: Roughly the same size as his brother Trevor of the Washington Wizards, the 6-8, 250-pound Devin is equally physical and fast.
Reggie Bullock, UNC: Like the Wolfpack trio of Brown, Howell and Leslie, the wing guard from Kinston could go late in the first round or fall to the second. Danny Green’s impact on the NBA finals for San Antonio likely helps Bullock’s profile.
Seth Curry, Duke: At 6-2 and 185, he’s extremely small by wing/guard standards but has deep shooting range and should attract some second-round or free-agent interest.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech: The 6-3 guard wasn’t even on anyone’s top 75 list last June but had one of the best senior seasons in the nation.
C.J. Harris, Wake Forest: A versatile guard who is generally under the radar, Harris is unlikely to get selected but has the assets to help the right team.
Kenny Kadji, Miami: A 6-10 forward with 3-point range, Kadji’s primary liability is his age: 26.
Shane Larkin, Miami: At 5-11, the ACC player of the year could use more size, but there are few quicker point guards in the draft or in the NBA for that matter.
Alex Len, Maryland: With only two years of college ball and a severely limited talent toolbox at this point, the 7-foot center will be the only ACC player in the NBA Green Room, meaning he’s a near lock to be among the first 10 players drafted.
Mason Plumlee, Duke: After a solid fourth season with the Blue Devils, the 7-footer all but wrapped up a first-round slot. For purposes of sheer athleticism, Plumlee is well ahead of Len but the pro scouts apparently prefer Len’s long-range potential.
Glen Rice Jr., Georgia Tech: The son of a former NBA standout, the 6-7 wing man has an impressive pedigree but has never been an aggressive defender and is no speed demon. He spent most of last season in the pro minor leagues.
Michael Snaer, Florida State: A great clutch player in college, the 6-5 guard’s defensive tenacity will earn him a roster spot somewhere.