The NCAA Men's basketball season has officially ended, and it certainly went out with a bang. The Louisville Cardinals came out on top in what turned out to be an excellent game against a very well-matched Michigan Wolverine club. It was a fitting end to what I thought (though many experts disagree with me) was a very exciting season. Now that it's over, we, being the loyal ESPN watchers that we are, will be bombarded with players declaring (including possibly as many as six from this game) their intent to forgo the rest of their eligibility and enter the NBA draft. Many of them are ready and will become very good players, but for many others, it may end up to be the poorest decision of their lives.
For players like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glen Robinson III, the decision to jump to the NBA is a solid one. Trey Burke was the national P.O.Y. and will almost certainly be a top three pick. He has an NBA ready game, and I will never fault a kid for choosing not to risk injury when they already have complete, all-around game. College is something that you can always go back to, but if you suffer a career-ending injury in college, that's it. Tim Hardaway Jr. is another player who is a sure-fire lottery pick with a pretty complete game. There are a few things that he could work on, but his game is solid enough that I don't hesitate to say that he is making a good decision. The same can be said for Glen Robinson III, though he's likely to be taken in the bottom part of the first round or possibly the top of the second. Gorgui Dieng, though he hasn't declared yet, should also be a first round pick. He has a top-flight defensive game and has made serious strides on the offensive end. A team will definitely take a flyer on him and will probably end up with a guy who will be one of the top centers in the NBA in three or four years.
For players like Russ Smith and Mitch McGary, on the other hand, the decision to leave their schools and go to the NBA is going to end up being one of the worst choices they have ever made. Russ Smith is a wonderful college player, but his game is not one that translates well to the NBA. He is only projected as a mid to late second round pick (keep in mind that there are only two rounds in the draft). Not only is he rated poorly, he is coming off of a horrible performance in the biggest game of his life. His team won the title, but it was done in spite of him, not because of his contributions. Mitch McGary has not declared yet, but it's thought that he will. His decision, should he make it, would be even worse than Smith. McGary is absolutely not ready for the NBA and would likely go undrafted were he to declare. If Smith is drafted, he will likely be a deep bench player and one that we will hardly hear from ever again. If McGary is drafted, and that is a big "if" for him, it's likely that he won't even be a bench warmer, but rather will be stuck in the D-League for whatever franchise takes their chances on him. Were he to stay in school and further develop his game, he would have a chance to improve his stock and possibly make more of a name for himself.
The NBA game is a man's game. It's so far beyond the college game in speed, intensity, and physicality. It takes a special kind of player to make a name for themselves in the NBA and many players just don't have what it takes to make it. If Smith and McGary want to know what it's like to make the leap and fail, they should talk to players like Jerryd Bayless, Tyrus Thomas, Trevor Ariza, and Omar Cook. If any of these players were asked, I'm sure that they would say that they made the worst decision of their lives and would absolutely advise these kids against making such a poor decision.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.