ATLANTA -- Mike Conley Jr. obviously has no idea. He has no clue how good he is, how coveted by NBA teams he will be, how little need he has for another year of education at the Ohio State University.
This I know, because this is pretty much what Conley said after the Buckeyes lost Monday night to Florida in the national championship game:
|Don't risk coming back Mike Conley, you have too much to lose. (Getty Images)|
"He" is Greg Oden, Ohio State's freshman center. If Oden tries to come back to school for his sophomore year, OSU coach Thad Matta should steal his sneakers, put a padlock on Oden's dorm room and pretend not to understand a single word Oden is trying to say. Oden is the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, and based on his 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots against Florida's future NBA frontcourt, he's a lot closer to being an NBA superstar than lots of people might think.
But Oden's not the issue here. Conley is, because Conley's the one talking about having Oden return to Ohio State to join him for another NCAA championship run -- which is ludicrous on two levels.
One, Oden has to turn pro.
Two, so does Mike Conley Jr.
Conley isn't as ready for the NBA as Oden, but that's not a standard Conley should consider. Nobody from the 2006-07 college season or even abroad is as ready for the NBA as Oden -- and no, I have no clue which international players will enter the 2007 draft. Nor do I care. If any international prospect was remotely on the level of Oden in terms of NBA readiness, I'd have heard of that guy by now. The 7-footer from China, (Yi Jianlian) the guy who told me he was 16 in 2002 and five years later is telling everyone he's only 19? Not him. The 7-footer from Brazil (Tiago Splitter), who has been hyped by the draft experts at ESPN.com for five years and finally will stay in the draft this year? Not him.
And not Conley, either. But that's not the point.
What is the point? The point is the point. Conley plays one of two premium positions, the other being center, and in the 2007 draft Conley would be the first point guard taken. That's not quite a priceless situation, but the price is somewhere in the eight-figure range.
Conley doesn't have Javaris Crittenton's length or D.J. Augustin's strength or Acie Law IV's shooting percentage. But he has T.J. Ford's quickness and Chris Paul's charisma and Deron Williams' leadership. He needs to get stronger, and he needs to work on his perimeter shooting, but he can work on those things this summer and then again next year in practice as an NBA rookie.
Right now, the world and almost every NBA scout in it loves Mike Conley Jr. He's Mike Conley Jr., the quick and explosive point guard without a ceiling. If he returns to school, that will change. He'll be Mike Conley Jr., the quick but skinny point guard without a jump shot. That's how the NBA is: Pop onto the radar quickly, and the league sees a player's beauty. Hang around the radar for too long, and the league starts looking for -- and finding -- the warts.
Ask Rajon Rondo. Or Josh McRoberts.