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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Striking While the Iron is Hot

Nobody wants to find themselves in the situation that James McAdoo is in this year - passing up a spot in the NBA's lottery for a chance to come back and lead UNC - only to see his stock plummet it the process. McAdoo's story is a bit dramatic as he could have been a lottery pick, but there are many other more common cases of guys that stay a year too late and go from a fringe first rounder to undrafted. Instead of looking at guys who most likely will declare this year, I'll look at 6 guys who are firmly sitting on the fence and could go either way. For these 6 players, McAdoo's story could lend be a cautionary tale that they should take into consideration when deciding whether to come back to school. Their stocks are looking good after strong seasons, but another season in college could exposure more of their weaknesses or just cool off the intrigue of their upside.

These guys may not be NBA ready, but they are NBA Draft ready. They can get paid and then spent a season in the D-League working on their games as opposed to a college setting where their practice time would be more limited.

Shane Larkin - Larkin surprised many this season by coming out of nowhere to lead Miami to an outright ACC Championship. His game is still at the point where scouts are looking at what he can do and falling in love, as opposed to picking apart what he can't. If he comes back another year, there will be newfound expectations and plenty of room for scouts to dissect his game more closely. His teammates will all have graduated and the load will be on him to carry them to the tournament, but its very likely they revert back to an average ACC team. A year like that for a point guard that doesnt do anything great will take him out of the spotlight and rid him of any chance of going in the first round. Larkin isn't ready for the NBA yet, but this may be his best chance of getting drafted and even potentially going in the first round.

Glenn Robinson III - Robinson III has had a pretty solid tournament run after going through conference play very quietly. The slowed down, gritty defenses of the Big Ten took away a lot of the open jumpers and looks at the basket he is now getting during this run to the Final Four. Without Burke and possibly Hardaway, Robinson III will become a focal point on offense and thats just not something he is suited to doing. Robinson III isn't a playmaker or assertive enough for the role and the mystique around his potential will take a hit. Robinson III can be a very solid pro and a 1st rounder either way, but he might as well leave now or he could be in for a long season next year.

Mitch McGary - Another Michigan player that has gained momentum in the last month, McGary is now a legitimate draft pick and could even go in the latter part of the first round. For a guy who has little upside and projects as a hustle player, there may be no better time than the present to bolt for the draft. McGary would be in the same situation as GRIII next year, but as a featured player, his strengths will be less apparent and his weaknesses will really show. For energy guys, exposure is a great thing and McGary has done a great job putting himself in position to get drafted.

Russ Smith - Russ Smith could come back next year to lead a younger, but top 5 talented Louisville team, but his best option may be to ride off into the sunset with Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva. The trio has been huge all season for them and Russ Smith could end up winning the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. Another year of playing Pitino's style won't alleviate any of the questions about him so if he has interest in the first round, he should follow his teammates out the door.

PJ Hairston - Chad Ford has him ranked in the top 40 on his board which I think is way too high, but Ford generally has a good feel for where players' stocks stand with his connections around the league. So if Hairston is indeed a lock to get drafted, then he should seriously consider leaving the Tar Heels. He has gone from a guy who had a hard time gaining Roy Williams trust to a savior because Williams had no other options but to decide the only way they would win is if they went small and tried to outscore everyone. And with ultra hot shooting, Williams was able to ride Hairston to a few wins, but Hairston ultimately still is just a shooter. Another year for scouts to critique the rest of his game will only do him harm.

CJ Fair - Fair will have an opportunity to come back to school and be "the man" his senior season, but with this final four run, his stock may be high enough already to get him into the early second./late first round territory. Fair has improved parts of his game dramatically from year to year and has gone to a guy that has just blended it to a true standout now, but will be asked to make another big leap next season. Fair has done good in his role of getting buckets when needed this season, but with an all new backcourt next season, his new role may ask him to start creating for others. And that could be tough for Fair, who isn't a great ball handler and isn't use to driving the ball with the intent of passing. 

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