Time will reveal whether McAdoo's decision is right
Posted April 4, 2014
Two years ago, James Michael McAdoo was thought to be a sure-fire NBA Draft lottery pick. Coming off the bench for a North Carolina team with Final Four aspirations, McAdoo averaged roughly six points and four rebounds per game on a team with Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall, all first-round draft picks after that season.
At 6-foot-9 and a chiseled 220 pounds, the highly-touted prospect from Norfolk was a smooth offensive player around the basket, showed a developed mid-range jump shot, was an effective rebounder and – thanks to his quickness – was also a capable defender.
Most mock drafts that were spit out after the Heels' NCAA Tournament came to an end listed McAdoo in the top 10 despite the fact that he played less than 16 minutes per game.
Considering that Zeller was a senior coupled with the expectation that Barnes and Henson would each give up their remaining eligibility to enter the draft, McAdoo's decision to return to North Carolina for his sophomore season was met with about a million huzzahs.
No one would have been shocked had he opted to leave, even with such modest statistical production, because most fans understand that it's hard for players to pass up high, first-round money and the financial security – at least in the short term – that it provides. However, McAdoo had just seemingly scratched the proverbial surface of his ability and seemed destined to be one of the very best players in the ACC and the nation.
Man, that seems like a lot longer than two years ago!
Today, McAdoo's stock is a lot more Blackberry than Apple. The three major entities that predict NBA Draft positioning have James Michael anywhere from the middle of the second to almost out of the 60-player draft entirely. That's not to say that he's useless as a player. I know several people who still view their Blackberry fondly. However, over time, Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy have eclipsed it in market share and gadgetry.
That's probably the best way to view McAdoo as an NBA prospect. While initially thought to have a very high ceiling, time has shown that his overall game – while still very solid – has some limitations. Such is the danger in allowing the professionals three full seasons of evaluation. All of this calls into question the decision to return for his sophomore season in the spring of 2012.
While I would caution you to understand that mock drafts differ from actual drafts, mostly because teams will not draft anyone in the upper reaches of the first round without first seeing them up close and personal.
Players are brought in for individual and group workouts with similar types of players. Each is judged on a variety of skills, ranging from one-on-one ability to competitiveness, and those sessions can have a drastic impact on draft position. However, with such a limited sample of game-action from which to study McAdoo's pros and cons, the NBA might have been more inclined to guess at his potential.
Seventy games later, a lot has changed.
McAdoo has given scouts about 2,100 minutes of additional game tape to study. And while most of the positive reviews of his game remain, i.e. the mid-range offense, rebounding and defensive ability, the more they've seen, the more they feel that McAdoo is a "tweener."
In other words, he's too small to be a power forward and not skilled enough with the ball to play on the wing. In short, after three years of study, the scouts have determined that he's a player without a real position. If McAdoo had shooting range out to the 3-point line it would be a different story, but he's never even converted a long-range jump shot at the college distance, let alone drift back a few more feet to the NBA line.
Therein lies the dilemma for many of today's basketball stars. Leave before you're ready to play with grown men and risk finding yourself lost on the bench and potentially out of the league without ever earning the much larger, second contract. Or, stick around in school and watch other prospects – many of whom are in exactly the same position as you were 24 months ago – pass you on "big boards" across the league.
While this all sounds as though I'm making the argument that McAdoo should have entered the draft two years ago, I'm merely pointing out the facts behind what has happened to him – and others over the years since the NBA instituted the rookie wage scale in 1994. Considering his status today, I'd actually argue that James Michael would be better off playing his senior year at North Carolina since he has everything to gain and nearly nothing to lose. The reality is that it would be nearly impossible to do any further damage to his draft "stock."
With all of that said, once you're in the league it's impossible to hide what you really are as a player, and the more mature you are when you arrive the better off you'll be in the long run. I've always viewed this as the difference between having a career as opposed to having a contract.
If you're good enough, the goal should be a long stay in the NBA. If you're not, then go and get paid before they figure it all out.
Maybe McAdoo should have made the move two years ago. Maybe he should have stuck it out one more season. Maybe he's making the right decision because this is who he is as a player and that isn't ever going to change.
Either way, McAdoo's future is ahead of him and the good thing about it is that if he's good enough to stick in the league that's where he'll be. If not, there are a lot of places to play ball and earn a living.
I know enough people who love their Blackberry to understand that much.