Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Big East EditionPosted by mlemaire on May 3rd, 2013
The deadline to declare early entry for the NBA Draft has passed and as is apt to be the case with a league as good as the Big East, there were a number of teams in the conference that were waiting down to the wire to see who they would lose to the professional ranks and who they would get to keep on campus for one more season. 45 players officially announced they were declaring for the NBA Draft and six of those players came from the Big East. Here is some brief on analysis on which teams are feeling good about who they got back, and which teams were left wishing for just one more year. And yes, we do realize some of these teams won’t be in the Big East next season, but we are nostalgic and are looking into the past for as long as we can.
Gorgui Dieng knew his stock wasn’t going to get any higher and so he headed off to the NBA, but Louisville expected that. What they likely didn’t expect was that All-Big East guard Russ Smith would announce his return to school, especially after his father was quoted as saying his son was as good as gone. Smith immediately becomes an early favorite for Big East Player of the Year honors and his play-making and shot-creating ability will be even more important to the Cardinals’ success now that Peyton Siva has graduated. The Cardinals defense will undoubtedly take a step back without Dieng, but Montrezl Harrell is ready to be a starter and don’t sleep on Stephan Van Treese, who showed signs in the NCAA Tournament of becoming more than just a serviceable backup.
There is no doubt that Ricardo Ledo could help the Friars next season and you could easily make the argument Ledo would be the most talented player on the team from the first day of practice but it is still good news that Ledo declared for the NBA Draft and is leaving the program without having played a single minute. It’s nothing against Ledo, who was only forced on to a college campus because the NBA barred their gates and has clearly had the NBA on his mind since he graduated high school, but in order to rebuild Providence for the long haul, coach Ed Cooley needs to build a foundation and one-and-done players like Ledo don’t help. The Friars have a chance to plant their flag near the top of the new Big East, and if Ledo came back, he would absolutely make the Friars better, but there is no guarantee there would be enough shots to go around with chucker Bryce Cotton as his backcourt mate. There is also no chance that Ledo would be back for his junior season, which means a year of development for Ledo would be a wasted opportunity to get valuable experience for another guard. Ledo has always had his eye on the NBA and good for him, he shouldn’t have been dropped onto a college campus in the first place, now the program and fans can let him go and focus on the improvement of his classmates who will be back — Joshua Fortune or Kris Dunn.
UConn and Cincinnati
The situations with Sean Kilpatrick at Cincinnati and Shabazz Napier at UConn were really too similar not to lump into one blurb. Both players were productive enough scorers in one of the country’s best conferences to warrant a look from NBA scouts, but both also lacked the requisite athleticism to help them stand out from the crowd. Also, when both players announced their return to school for their senior seasons, their teams instantly became top contenders in the new American Athletic Conference. Louisville is still the cream of the crop, but with Kilpatrick back, the Bearcats will at least have someone who can score the basketball. And with Napier back in the fold, the Huskies will have the conference’s best pure point guard and one of conference’s better scorers as well. The Huskies would probably have an easier time replacing Napier’s production than the Bearcats would have replacing Kilpatrick’s production, but both players significantly boost their team’s chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament, so in the end, both programs are winners.
A lot of fuss is made over players making a leap in the NCAA Tournament but if there was one example from the 2012-13 tournament where a lot that fuss and buzz seemed to be aptly earned, it was with Vander Blue. No, Blue didn’t dominate all four games the Golden Eagles played in March, but he finally seemed to attack the basket more often and use his size and athleticism to pester the opposing team on defense. He dumped 29 points on Butler in the Round of 32 and was an efficient 7-of-12 from the field for 14 points in the team’s Sweet 16 win over Miami. You got the feeling watching him play that he was going to be a star next season in the new Big East. Then he surprised everyone by turning down the opportunity to play on a loaded Marquette team poised to make Final Four noise so he could get drafted in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If he can improve his outside shooting, there is little doubt that he can become a good NBA player, and Marquette will find a way to win without him. But when you are watching the Golden Eagles scrap and claw their way to a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament next season, it will be too easy to wonder what the Golden Eagles’ ceiling would have been with Blue in the lineup.
Coach Jamie Dixon just can’t seem to keep his prized freshmen big men on campus these days. In the 2011-12 season, it was five-star freshman Khem Birch who arrived amid plenty of hype only to leave before the season was even half over. This season it was gifted 7-foot New Zealander Steven Adams who was supposed to be the big star, except he really never became more than a competent center for the Panthers this season and now he is headed to the NBA Draft. It is hard to find fault in Adams’ decision as his athleticism and upside will almost assuredly make him a first-round draft pick despite his unrefined game. But if he had come back to campus for another year of seasoning, he could have developed into one of the better pivots in the ACC and could have had a chance to refine his offensive game in the post. Pittsburgh would have loved to see him do that too, as he would have been a terrific defensive anchor for the middle of that defense and the Panthers will be stretched thin across the front line without him.
It’s hard to put Georgetown in this category because everyone who thought they knew something about college basketball knew that Otto Porter Jr. was going to forego his final two season of college basketball for the NBA Draft and for good reason. Already a player blessed with tons of skill and athleticism, after the season that Porter Jr. had, it will be truly shocking if Porter doesn’t land with some team with a lottery pick. It is dangerous to doubt John Thompson III who has proven year-after-year that he can take his team to the NCAA Tournament no matter how many star players are on the roster, but without Otto Porter this season, the Hoyas would have been a rudderless ship nearly incapable of scoring any points at all. They do have UCLA transfer Josh Smith eligible but who knows how that experiment will work out, and Greg Whittington will be back with the team, but he is certainly not a talent on par with Porter Jr. Incoming freshman forward Reggie Cameron will also get a chance at replacing some of the production left behind but any school in the country would have a tough time finding a way to replicate the impact that Porter Jr. had in nearly every facet of the game.