Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 NBA Draft Early Entrants: So who came back?

The NBA Draft's Early Entry deadline came and went on Sunday. Today, we will provide you with a bit of fodder over how some of this year's decisions could sway the 2010-11 college basketball season. For a complete list of this year's crop of early entrants, click here.

You wouldn't be wrong if you said it seems like half of the college basketball ranks declared for the 2010 NBA Draft. Believe it or not, there were some NBA prospects -- fringe or otherwise -- that decided returning to school was their best option. Now this was nothing like last year, when guys like Cole Aldrich, Willie Warren, and Greg Monroe decided to go to school for another year. There really was only one surprise. But that doesn't mean there isn't some talent that will be hitting the books next season instead of cashing checks.

Keep in mind, this list will (hopefully) grow as players come to realize their true standing in regards to this year's draft class.

So as of today, who's coming back?

Kyle Singler, Duke, forward: Singler was the one surprise that I was referring too. After struggling to acclimate to a more perimeter-centric role with the Blue Devils early on, Singler went crazy over the last six weeks of the season. He capped his junior year off with a fantastic performance in the NCAA Tournament, culminating in the Final Four MOP award as Duke won their fourth national title under Coach K.

Can Kyle Singler win another one?
(photo credit: B/R)

Singler likely would have been a first round pick if he had gone pro. Instead, he decided to return to school to try and lead the Blue Devils to a second straight national title. While the decision was a great one from the perspective of a Duke fan (or a college basketball fan in general, regardless of your feelings about the Blue Devils), it probably won't hurt his potential NBA career all that much. While his stock may never be higher than it is right now, the thing about Singler is that he is a known commodity. Nothing he can do next season is going to hurt his draft stock, and likely won't improve it all that much. He's a combo-forward that is going to play hard and compete, can knock down a jumper, and may be big versatile enough to create mismatches is a team decides to go small and use him at the four.

Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt, sophomore: A lot of fans don't know who Jeff Taylor is, but it is a safe bet that NBA scouts do. Taylor has all the makings of a guy that can develop into an impact small forward in the NBA. He's an explosive athlete with good size (6'7") and length that can defend and rebound. His is still a bit raw on the offensive end, but a jump shot and ball handling can be developed. Tools cannot.

Taylor probably made a good decision to return to school With Jermaine Beal graduating and AJ Ogilvy entering the draft and hiring an agent, Taylor is going to be Vanderbilt's first option next season. If he puts in the work this off-season and can up his production, there is no reason he can't vault himself into the back end of next year's lottery.

Kemba Walker, UConn, sophomore: Walker plays a different position than Taylor -- he is a diminutive point guard as opposed to a "power wing" -- but he is facing a lot of the same problems that Taylor is. Simply put, Walker relies far too heavily on his absurd quickness and ball-handling ability but doesn't quite understand how to run a team. He can lead a fast break as well as anyone at the collegiate level, but can he get a team into an offense and run a system. Next season, Walker will have a chance to work on that as UConn will need to play as much more of a team with talents like Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson graduating.

The other thing Walker will have a chance to work on next year is learning his limitations. There are few players that can keep Walker out of the paint, but quite a few that can block his shot or force him into a tough layup at the rim. If Walker wants to be a successful NBA point, he is going to need to learn how to score in the mid-range; to learn when he should pull up for a 10 foot jumper or a short floater as opposed to trying to finish around the rim in traffic.

Elias Harris, Gonzaga, freshman: Harris wasn't considered an NBA prospect when he arrived in Spokane, but he certainly is now. He reminds me a lot of Josh Howard. What I mean is that he is a four at this level, but he has the athleticism and the ball skills to project as an effective three at the next level. Harris is explosive enough to dunk over you and strong enough to bully his way through you, but he also has a finesse game, showing an ability to weave his way through traffic, and can knock down a three.

Elias Harris surprised a lot of people this season.
(photo credit: ESPN)

Harris was a bit inconsistent this past season, which probably had more to do with the fact that he was the third or fourth option most of the season than any knock on his game. With Matt Bouldin gone, it is going to the Harris and Steven Gray show for Mark Few next season. Expect big numbers ffrom the 6'8" 20 year old, and if he can show some development in his ability to play on the perimeter, Harris could be a lottery pick next season.

Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, Michigan State, juniors: Both of these guys made the right decision to come back to school. Neither had a great junior year, and it wasn't just an issue of their basketball ability. Lucas was the 2009 Big Ten player of the year, but he dealt with leadership and injury issues throughout the season and is currently laid up with a torn achilles tendon. Lucas likely isn't going to be a lottery pick or a primetime player in the NBA, but if he can lead the Spartans to a third straight Final Four, you don't think NBA teams are going to take notice? He's a point guard that can create his own shot, can make a play for a teammate, and is a proven winner. Leadership aside, Lucas seems like he is going to be the kind of player than hangs around the league for 12-15 years as a solid back up point guard.

Summers has a much higher ceiling than Lucas, but it just seems like he doesn't want to tap into that potential. He looks almost apathetic on the court at times. He proved what kind of player he can be as he stepped his game up in the NCAA Tournament without Lucas, earning the Midwest Region's MOP, but one good month doesn't make up for a career's worth of inconsistency.

Other notable names back for another season:
  • Scotty Hopson, Tennessee, sophomore: A big time recruit coming out of high school, Hopson needs to prove that he is more than an athlete that can hit a jumper.
  • Chris Singleton, Florida State, sophomore: Singleton might have been able to sneak into the first round this season, but like Hopson, he still relies too heavily on being toolsy.
  • Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State, freshman(?): Sidney never saw the court this season due to issues with being an amateur. But a 6'11" big man with his talent will always be a prospect.
  • Aaric Murray, La Salle, freshman: Murray is a big man with a jump shot, but he needs to prove he can also play in the paint.
  • Malcolm Lee, UCLA, sophomore: The Bruins just didn't have a good enough season to warrant anyone going pro. Lee is a gym rat, however. I expect him to come back much better next year.
  • Trey Thompkins, Georgia, sophomore: I know I wasn't the only one that was impressed by the big man's play towards the end of the season.


Poor Man's Commish said...

Another one that would be below the radar is sophomore Iman Shumpert. Although he's vey unpolished and doesn't have the numbers this year, he ended 2009-10 with a decent showing for Georgia Tech, playing great defense while defeating sure-fire first-rounder James Anderson, and getting more exposure in the loss to Ohio State. He's got a great frame and nice handles at 6'5" for a point guard. But he's not ready yet, and I'm glad he knew that. I'll be watching him with great interest next season.

Rob Dauster said...

Very true. I also would add Jacob Pullen to the list if I could do it again.