With the deadline for college players to enter their name into the draft approaching, I thought it would be interesting to look at the NBA players who could still be in college, if they had not declared early. It’s easy to forget how young some of the players in the league are - freshmen drafted in 2011 would have been college seniors this season. You have to judge young players against guys their age not against the guys in their draft class.
Class of 2014 (Seniors)
PG: Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph, Kendall Marshall, Ray McCallum, Phil Pressey
SG: Dion Waiters, Terrence Ross, Jeremy Lamb, Will Barton, Doron Lamb, Victor Oladipo, Tony Snell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Allen Crabbe, Jamaal Franklin
SF: Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Andre Roberson
PF: Tristan Thompson, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, Tony Mitchell, Kelly Olynyk
C: Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard, Fab Melo, Gorgui Dieng
There are a lot of interesting guards, but none has clearly established who they will be in the NBA with the exception of Kyrie Irving. There are more question marks upfront, but even a guy like Enes Kanter, who has been in the league three seasons, is still incredibly young. He’s two years younger than Michigan State senior Adreian Payne.
If these players were in college this season, the balloting for the major awards would look a lot different. That’s something to keep in mind about Doug McDermott, who was Player of the Year as a senior. His real peers have been in the NBA for a hot minute. He’s like the old guy in gym class, beating up on younger and less experienced players. If Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris were coming off their senior seasons in college, how would we view them?
Class of 2015 (Juniors)
PG: Tony Wroten, Marquis Teague, Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, Shane Larkin
SG: Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Mo Harkless, Quincy Miller, Otto Porter,
PF: Anthony Davis, Cody Zeller
C: Andre Drummond, Alex Len
There was a lot of talent coming out of high school in 2011, which is why the 2012 Draft was so strong. The one-and-done rule delays the effects of a strong or a weak high school class for a year. This year’s high school isn’t considered to be nearly as good as last year’s, so the 2015 Draft probably won’t be as strong as the one in 2014.
Anthony Davis would be a senior in college next season, which is so crazy I don’t even know where to begin. He clearly needed only one season of college, but I wonder if Marquis Teague could have used more seasoning at Kentucky. Teague could be seen as one of the top senior PG’s in the country instead of a guy who is halfway out of the league right now.
Otto Porter (June 1993) and MKG (September 1993) are both significantly younger than Shabazz Muhammad (November 1992). They were young for their high school class and have been playing up for most of their lives - they could easily be college juniors next season. They are both younger than Michigan “sophomore” Mitch McGary (June 1992).
Class of 2016 (Sophomores)
SG: Ben McLemore, Archie Goodwin, Ricky Ledo
SF: Shabazz Muhammad
PF: Anthony Bennett
C: Nerlens Noel, Steven Adams
One year into their NBA careers, this class doesn’t inspire much confidence. Nevertheless, you can’t give up guys who would still be underclassmen in college. When players enter the NBA after only one season in college, you have to be patient.
In a different universe, Anthony Bennett is the MWC POY, Shabazz Muhammad is the Pac-12 POY, Ben McLemore is the Big 12 POY, Ricky Ledo is the Big East POY and Archie Goodwin is the SEC POY. Don’t write them off because they played against tougher competition in the NBA as 19 and 20-year olds.