Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are a handful of college
basketball's stars facing a very tough decision as the deadline for
underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft rapidly approaches.
This year's draft class is going to make it difficult on NBA general managers.
Although there are plenty of prospects with potential, none of them stands out
as a can't-miss pick the same way Tim Duncan and LeBron James did in their
respective draft years. The majority of the players selected in the NBA Lottery
will most likely be underclassmen and there are a few more marquee names still
unsure whether they will enter the draft or return to school just days before
the April 28 NBA deadline.
The following players will have their Twitter accounts monitored more than
regularly until they announce whether they are staying or going:
Doug McDermott - Creighton had another tremendous campaign thanks to its 6-
foot-8 junior forward. McDermott was named a First Team All-American for the
second straight year after guiding the Blue Jays to the Missouri Valley
Conference regular season and conference tournament championships. If McDermott
remains with Creighton, he will lead the program as it enters the new look Big
East in the 2013-14 season.
A chance to shine on a bigger stage for an entire season could help propel
McDermott's draft stock. He has shown great court instincts and a deadly
accurate jump shot through the first three years of his college career.
However, because of his lack of defining size or quickness, he is expected to
struggle finding a position at the next level. Another year in Omaha, Neb., may
be what McDermott needs to develop into a prototypical NBA small forward.
He is projected to be selected in the middle of the first round in this year's
class and although another season at Creighton may propel him into the 2014
lottery, that may not be the best course of action.
McDermott is better suited to be a role player on a good team than a go-to-guy
in a struggling offense. Falling to Oklahoma City, Boston or Chicago, who will
all own a pick in the middle portion of the first round, would be beneficial
for McDermott. Instead of having to carry a team on his back, he could focus on
spotting up for open jumpers to reward Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo or
Derrick Rose with assists.
The decision to jump now will most likely lessen McDermott's financial gains
for his first professional contract as he is not equipped to defend top-caliber
scorers, but the long term benefits of landing with a viable franchise will pay
Ray McCallum - Like McDermott, McCallum also elected to play at a mid-major
school under his father's watch rather than test his abilities in a premier
conference. McCallum was named the Horizon League Player of the Year in
2012-13 after guiding Detroit to the regular season crown. The 6-1 point guard
has exhibited the ability to fill it up and contribute in other ways during
his time as a Titan.
Due to the lack of superstars in this draft class, McCallum could play his way
into the first round if he impresses enough during the preparatory phases of
the process. He would have a tough time surpassing Trey Burke, Michael Carter-
Williams and C.J. McCollum on most teams' draft boards, but Marcus Smart's
decision to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season could make
McCallum the fourth-most coveted point guard in the class should he decide to
forego his final year of eligibility.
While there is little left for McCallum to accomplish at the collegiate level,
another season in the Motor City may be beneficial. His shoot-first mentality
is not going to yield the same type of results against elite defenders and
there are better scorers currently on every NBA roster.
McCallum is an average playmaker, which is holding him back from being labeled
as a complete player. Willie Green is the only player from Detroit since 2000
to have an extended stay in the NBA.
While McCallum has the potential to run a second unit the same way Eric Maynor
has during his brief career, a victory lap is McCallum's best option if he
hopes to have the same professional success.
Russ Smith - Most dream scenarios for aspiring basketball stars have winning
an NCAA championship on the to-do list. Smith checked that chore off while
serving as Louisville's most dangerous offensive player throughout its
dominant march to Atlanta's net-cutting ceremonies. The undersized junior
guard averaged 8.2 more points per game than anyone else on the squad, but had
a forgettable 3-of-16 showing from the floor against Michigan in the title
Smith's poor performance against the Wolverines and their NBA-bound backcourt
would have been easily overlooked if it was an isolated incident, but he was
bottled up on multiple occasions during his junior year.
The lightning-quick scoring guard can be described as perseverant on the court.
After going a combined 6-of-27 from the floor in his first two games against
Notre Dame in 2012-13, Smith knocked down eight of his 14 field goal attempts
against the Fighting Irish in the Big East Tournament.
Smith was nearly unstoppable on both ends of the court in Rick Pitino's
up-tempo style of play due to his speed and anticipation. He is an effective
slasher and thrives in the fast break on the collegiate level, but he has a
long way to go to measure up to the NBA's current list of undersized off-
guards such as Jason Terry and Lou Williams.
Smith is estimated to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted by most
experts. Although he would most likely be given a spot to compete for a roster
spot during an NBA training camp, it is in his best interest to return to
Louisville to learn from one of the game's top coaches.
A return to Louisville also would give Smith the opportunity to gain valuable
point guard experience with Peyton Siva no longer in the picture. Either way,
Smith will have a noticeable chip on his shoulder the next time he steps onto
Isaiah Austin - Baylor ended its season on a positive note as it hoisted the
NIT trophy at Madison Square Garden in early April. The moment may have been
the last for Austin in a Bears uniform after one up-and-down season.
Basketball has always been a big man's game and Portland's selections of Sam
Bowie and Greg Oden over Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, respectively,
indicates how much NBA scouts value size.
Austin produced 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest in the final two
rounds of the NIT to garner the interest of NBA teams. His consistently
accurate shooting on mid-range and long-range attempts is attractive as it
will make him a threat in most pick-and-roll offenses.
Austin shed the "one-dimensional" label as he developed a well-rounded
offensive skill set during his freshman season. He was not the first option for
the Bears last season due to senior point guard Pierre Jackson's presence in
the lineup. Another year playing for Scott Drew as the focal point of an
offense would force Austin to revamp his skills and play more aggressively,
which would really attract the attention of NBA executives.
The Bears center can make an impact defensively as a shot blocker also with
his seven-foot frame and length. He is only 19 years old, meaning he may not
have reached his physical potential. However, Austin will have trouble
inside against seasoned NBA post players.
His upgraded one-on-one moves on the offensive end are still not ready for the
pros. Austin is a work in progress with a very high ceiling. Austin has the
same frame as Anthony Davis and is more polished offensively than last year's
top overall pick. While he is not on par with the former Kentucky standout
defensively, Austin's rare combination of size, agility and court sense is very
rare. He needs more time to mature before he can shine on the NBA level.
Shane Larkin (Miami-Florida) and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) are both
flirting with the idea of making the jump as well. Larkin was the driving
force for the Hurricanes in their most successful season in school history and
Napier kept UConn relevant in its first year without Jim Calhoun. The timing
is not right for either floor general. The senior class was loaded with
decorated point guards such as Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Nate Wolters
(South Dakota State) and Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's).
The NBA has never had a higher population of superstar-caliber point guards.
Larkin and Napier would both benefit from another year before challenging the
best in the business. Larkin entered Coral Gables as a three-star recruit
before being named the ACC Player of the Year by the league's coaches at the
end of his sophomore season. Napier also had a great year in 2012-13 under
former NBA journeyman Kevin Ollie.
The risk of injury before the first NBA contract will always be there for
college hoops stars who are weighing out their options. The risk of taking the
next step prematurely has been just as devastating to many careers as well,
although it tends to be more easily overlooked.
The Sports Network