By Matt Norlander
Plenty of players, even if they can't admit it to themselves, have them today. There's inevitable, predictable rhetoric about eventually proving people wrong, when in reality, the guys who declared early yet weren't chosen proved themselves wrong. A horde of college players could have returned for another year of school, another year of basketball in the second-most public American hoops landscape, and improved their skill and draft stock. But they didn't.
Now the price will be paid. Team tryouts for the first time, perhaps ever, in their basketball lives, no guaranteed money and the likelihood that an overlooked overseas career is coming pretty fast down the pike. The fact the NBA doesn't have a summer league this year is also a huge hindrance.
Let's get into who made the wrong decisions. But before I get into the dress-down, I preface the remainder of this post by saying: I don't get joy out of this. I'm not happy a cluster of college ballers inflated their egos and blew up the rest of their undergraduate careers. Us college hoops writers and fans suffer, too. Teams usually aren't as good because unfinished-yet-talented specimens pull the trigger a year or two early, and the college landscape has a little less glaze to it.
-- We begin with Jereme Richmond. This is what you get. He didn't jibe with Bruce Weber. Many players don't. Instead of seeking a transfer, Richmond got the wrong information in his ear and chased NBA dollars. Those who saw Richmond's May workout in Chicago said he was barely there.
-- The flip side to the former two would be the Vols' Scotty Hopson. He doesn't have the potential or the body or the length of former teammate Tobias Harris (selected 19th by Milwaukee), but he had flashes of really solid play the past two seasons. Good attitude, just a bad barometer. Maybe he didn't want to play one year under Cuonzo Martin? Fringe players bolt more often than not.
-- Stanford's Jeremy Green is a poster kid for how easily an NBA contract can never materialize for a player. I don't want to bury the guy before he gets his chance in the coming months, but Green was nowhere close to being ready for the NBA. His name probably didn't come up once in most teams' war rooms last night.
-- Terrence Jennings left Louisville because he didn't fit in the offense. But he is too raw. I know Rick Pitino produces a lot of pros, but he also coaches up a lot of guys to successful, memorable college careers. Jennings was a squeeze between both of those. Wanted too much of the former before benefiting from the latter.
-- An under-the-radar dumb decision was Fresno State's Greg Smith. The ordinary name had a game that wasn't so run-of-the-mill in college. But at the next level? Just another Greg Smith. Like Hopson, Smith was likely most dissuaded from coming back to school because his team brings in a new coach. Some believed Smith would have been the best player in the WAC next season. Now he'll look for overseas work, wondering if another year would've meant hearing his name in the second round of the 2012 Draft.
Drafted, but significant slippage:
-- Josh Selby (above) is the other easy target. Sometimes -- most times, in fact -- you can't outrun or outplay your attitude and the reputation that's attached to it. Selby wasn't a difference-maker at Kansas. He wasn't the top-ranked player Rivals.com pegged him to be coming out of Baltimore. He frustrated Bill Self to no end, though Self won't publicly admit that. He had to leave Kansas; it was never the right fit. So Selby ditched on school in April, meaning transferring to another team was never in the cards. His first-round talent couldn't overcome all the other question marks on his profile. He fell all the way to Memphis at No. 49.
-- Darius Morris left Michigan, and when it happened, most seemed to lament, "Why, Darius?" Morris would have been a First Team Big Ten player next year, I think with ease. For the betterment of his game, he should have stayed and ensured himself of a guaranteed contract in the first round. College basketball was cheated from seeing a player truly develop his game and make Michigan a bit more relavent, an uphill battle the school's been diligently working through for a decade. Morris was taken 41st by the Lakers. If he makes the roster, it will be the greatest accomplishment of his career.
-- Jeremy Tyler. Don't know the name? The kid never went to college, opting instead to take the Brandon Jennings route and do one year overseas. He played in Japan and went to the Bobcats 39th last night. That's decent, yes? Well, he was an elite, top-of-the-crop player in the 2010 class. Like Selby, his stock was attached to a stone in the sea.
-- Tyler Honeycutt (left). I can't hear the name and not think soft. He believed he was a first-round guy. He was taken 35th by the Kings -- and even that was too high for my tastes. Honeycutt couldn't cut it under Ben Howland. Didn't like the system, and I think he wanted the ball a lot more. I have to include this anecdote from Newark last night, by the way. So Honeycutt's name gets called, and as you can see, he was on hand to step up to the stage and shake Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver's hand. Honeycutt was about 10 rows up in the stands and just strolled out of his seat onto the stage like he was the next contestant on the "Price is Right." Hilarious moment.
-- Malcolm Lee getting picked is one of the top five mysteries of this year's Draft to me. He's another UCLA player that got out when he could. He was taken 43rd overall. Hey, you know what? I'm going to turn heel on this, actually. Kudos to Lee for getting his while he could. He's probably not going to make an NBA roster, but I can't see how he would've done any better next year, when the Draft will be stockpiled.
-- We finish up emptying out the toy chest with a pair of Georgia Bulldogs who will remain teammates next year, provided they make the squad. Trey Thompkins (37th) and Travis Leslie were chosen because of God-given athletic ability. Had Thompkins displayed any type of work ethic, he would have been a no-brainer first-rounder. And if he had true drive, he was a shoo-in for the lottery. But he squeaks into getting picked on potential and body type alone. And Leslie's just a freak athlete. He can't shoot and is overmatched on a lot of levels in the pro game. Both could have honed their craft and made Georgia a threat in the SEC next season. Instead, hello, Clippers. It's poetic in that way.
The misfit toys of the 2011 NBA Draft
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:39 pm