Many Schools Avoid Big NBA Draft Hits
Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah
Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted May 4, 2006


Florida, Duke, Kansas, Georgetown, Alabama and North Carolina proved to be the big "winners" when the NBA finally revealed its list of college underclassmen draft candidates. And that certainly bodes well for those programs' 2007 NCAA Final Four hopes.

The 2006 NBA Draft’s early-entry results are in, so here’s a closer look at the winners and (potential) losers among college programs:

 

BIG WINNERS

FLORIDA

April 3, when the Florida Gators beat the UCLA Bruins in the national championship game in Indianapolis, was the biggest night in the program’s history.

 

I’m not the one to put April 29 in any pecking order for those who hold Florida basketball near and dear to their hearts. But that day must rate way the heck up there.

 

That’s because the deadline for college underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft pool came and went without Joakim Noah, Al Horford or Corey Brewer sending paperwork to New York City.

 

Noah was a near-lock bet to be the No. 1 selection and fellow juniors-to-be Horford and Brewer were very safe choices to be nabbed in the first round as well.

 

It’s now official: North Carolina and Ohio State fans should be giddy about their favorite teams’ chances of earning trips to Atlanta for the 2007 Final Four.

 

But the Gators should be the overwhelming preseason choice for No. 1.

 

DUKE

Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s program has taken some very serious early-entry hits, most recently with the simultaneous defections of freshman forward Luol Deng and the best high school guard in his class, Shaun Livingston, in 2004.

 

But, as you read here last week, the decision of 6-foot-10 Josh McRoberts to bypass a spot in the lottery (for the second year in a row) and return for his sophomore season should keep the Blue Devils slipping anywhere close to “bubble status” for an NCAA tournament bid next March.

 

Even with Tyler Hansbrough returning at North Carolina, it wouldn’t be startling if McRoberts led the Atlantic Coast Conference in both scoring and rebounding next season.

 

KANSAS

At various times, NBA scouting personnel thought that Jayhawks Chester Giles, Brandon Rush, Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers were each considering dipping their toes into the NBA Draft waters.

 

But the sophomore post player (Giles), who has yet to tap his considerable potential, and his freshmen teammates bypassed the opportunity to do so and seem fully committed toward helping the program last beyond the first round of an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

 

Ouch!

 

The Jayhawks are being over-hyped if you find them ranked 1 or 2 next fall. But they will be worthy of solid 5-10 consideration, for sure, and could dominate the Big 12 Conference.

 

GEORGETOWN

There was never much buzz surrounding the potential early departures of sophomores Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert.

 

And return they will, giving Coach John Thompson III a 1-2 post punch that will be at least the equal of the majority of the others that will be on the floor next season.

 

The 6-8 Green, whose overall skills would have wowed NBA general managers and scouting directors in workouts, is the early choice here to be the 2006-07 Big East Conference Player of the Year.

 

ALABAMA

It’s difficult envisioning a scenario in which point guard Ronald Steele and post Jermareo Davidson wouldn’t have been first-round selections had they elected to turn pro.

 

With their return, along with the likes of Richard Hendrix, the Crimson Tide could flirt with preseason Top 10 status.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

Tyler Hansbrough didn’t wait for any buzz: He announced almost immediately following the conclusion of the season that he would be back in Chapel Hill as a sophomore.

 

His NBA stock wasn’t as pronounced last season as some would believe, based on his productivity, mostly down low, for the Tar Heels.

 

But, with the influx of inside strength (via Brandan Wright, Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson) Roy Williams has coming in, Hansbrough should have a better opportunity to demonstrate his perimeter skills, offensively and defensively, next season.

 

ABOUT AS EXPECTED

CONNECTICUT

There might have been a few Huskies’ fans overdosing on fantasy. But those more in touch with reality knew going into the season that they were almost assuredly watching the college swansongs of sophomore Rudy Gay and juniors Marcus Williams and Josh Boone.

 

KENTUCKY

We can debate Rajon Rondo’s strengths (long arms, quick hands and feet, as well as slick ball-handling ability) and weaknesses (he can’t jump shoot, over-penetrates and gambles defensively) all we want.

 

But Rondo was oh-so-headed for the 2006 NBA Draft long before he played his first game last season with the Wildcats.

 

ARKANSAS

He gave Hogs’ fans cause for optimism by waiting until so close to the deadline to announce that he was entering the draft pool (sans agent, of course).

 

But no one who evaluates NBA talent for a living ever thought that 6-6 Ronnie Brewer was going to be back in Fayetteville for a senior season with Coach Stan Heath’s program.

 

LSU

Barely a month into the season, the word was out that 6-8 freshman Tyrus Thomas was going to turn pro.

 

Glen Davisdisastrous performance against UCLA in the Final Four probably kept the Tigers from losing both of their post players to the NBA prematurely.

 

 

POTENTIAL LOSERS

VILLANOVA

With Kyle Lowry and fellow starter Mike Nardi back, the Wildcats would have one of the best backcourts in the country next season, even with the loss of seniors Randy Foye and Allan Ray.

 

And, with a (finally) healthy Curtis Sumpter back at forward and the return of several other key components from his Elite Eight team, Coach Jay Wright could have a 2006-07 squad capable of another deep NCAA Tournament run.

 

But Lowy’s decision to put his name into the draft pool and the likelihood (even with a jump shot that NBA scouts aren’t found of) that he will stay in the draft, the expectation level for Villanova will have to be docked a couple of notches.

 

TEXAS

It was apparent from early in the season that 6-10 LaMarcus Aldridge’s days in a Longhorns’ uniform were numbered.

 

But, unlike the slender Aldridge – a probable Top Five selection, regardless of the eventual selection order – the draft status of forward P.J. Tucker and Daniel Gibson isn’t nearly as clear cut.

 

Barring sensation workouts (in which they show things they didn’t demonstrate on a consistent basis with the Longhorns last season), it’s likely neither would be a first-round selection on June 28.

 

Their NBA stock would be better served by returning to Austin for another season. And, naturally, so would Coach Rick Barnes’ 2006-07 team’s NCAA Tournament seeding.

 

UCLA

The feeling in Westwood is that sophomore guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo need to get total assurance that they will be first-round choices in order to forfeit their final two seasons as Bruins.

 

If that in fact does prove the case, it’s much more likely that Afflalo will be back as a junior than it will be that Farmar will be doing anymore playmaking for Coach Ben Howland.

 

MEMPHIS

No matter what Tigers’ fans might believe, the talent pool in Coach John Calipari’s program doesn’t run quite so deep that the loss of either sophomore guard Darius Washington or freshman forward Shawne Williams wouldn’t be a major hit.

 

After all, they were the 30-3 team’s second and third leading scorers, and No. 2 rebounder (Williams) and leading playmaker (Washington).

 

And the loss of both to the NBA would drop the Tigers to near the bottom of most preseason Top 25s, and pull them back to the rest of the Conference USA pack.

 

PITTSBURGH

With Aaron Gray back at center, the Panthers will challenge Georgetown and Syracuse to be the best in the Big East.

 

With Gray in an NBA uniform, that isn’t very likely to happen.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.frankhoops.com



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