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Bank Shots: Underclassmen are very risky

11 April 2012 By Andrew Constant, Sports Editor No Comments

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft without the ability to withdraw their names and return to school has come and gone.

Now, if a player puts his name in the pool, he’s there to stay and there’s no chance of him returning to college for another season. And with that, the list of non-seniors to enter the draft pool is 26 deep.

Players like Austin Rivers and Moe Harkless probably could have used another season in college to prepare themselves for the NBA, but this is the culture that we live in now: the fastest route to the NBA is the right one.

North Carolina is losing four-fifths of their starting lineup, as underclassmen Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall have all declared for the June 28 draft, joining the graduated Tyler Zeller.

Mr. I Don’t Go To Class and Thus Can’t Play in the NCAA Tournament, Fab Melo, also threw his name into the hat. I mean, that one was as likely as Kim Kardashian’s divorce creating a spin-off series.

But the player that is the biggest question mark, in my opinion, is Baylor’s Perry Jones III. If there was no rule making him go to college, Jones would have spent his last two seasons rotting on the bench in an NBA arena near you. But he went to Baylor and averaged 14 points and seven rebounds in his freshman season.

Most predicted he’d go pro after that one season for the Bears, and he surprised everyone by returning to Waco. This year, he put up nearly identical numbers, though the Bears did make it to the South Regional Final last month. Jones’ draft stock remains high, because he’s 6-foot-11 and has a world of talent.

He can play any of the three forward spots, and if he could improve his jump shooting, Jones would be a solid member of an NBA team.

I’m just not sold on the kid. Someone with that kind of talent should not have had 11 games where he couldn’t put up 10 points. A kid like that should have been dominating the game every second he was on the floor. But Jones isn’t built that way.

He floated in and out of a lot of games this season and wasn’t a star by any means. Honestly, I don’t even think he was the best player on his own team this season.

But an NBA executive will pull the trigger on Jones in the top 10-12 picks in June because of all of his potential. If he goes to the right system with the right head coach, Jones could end up being a very good NBA player, maybe even a great one.

But if he ends up in a place like Charlotte or Toronto, where the team has no leadership– yes, I’m looking at you Michael Jordan– he is destined for “bust” status.

I hope for the league’s sake that Perry Jones becomes a great player. I really do. But from what I’ve seen, there doesn’t look to be much of a chance of that happening.

Of the other underclassmen that declared early for the draft, I would love for my team to be able to grab Thomas Robinson, Hollis Thompson or John Jenkins. Those guys all played more than two seasons in college and are NBA-ready. The same can’t be said about Barnes or Melo or even Jared Sullinger.

The Lottery is always worth watching simply for the drama that unfolds, and I have a feeling that the 2012 version isn’t going to be short on drama. When Kentucky stars Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones all formally apply for the draft, the pool will be even deeper, and some of these fringe-picks will get bumped to the latter part of round one, meaning the Celtics’ prospects become brighter.

But until then, it’s all speculation and rumors. Enjoy.


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