Saturday, May 15, 2004

Looking to the NBA draft has a story detailing all the early entrants into this June's NBA draft and what their professional futures may hold. What's interesting is that of the 94 early entrants, 56 are college and high school players.

Given that second round contracts aren't guaranteed that means that only 30 of the 94 players will have guaranteed contracts. There is some wiggle-room however. First, college early entrants who have yet to sign with an agent have until June 17 to withdraw their name. Also, high school early entrants who have yet to sign with an agent (and fail to do so through draft day) can opt to still go to school if they aren't first round picks.

These last two rules certainly favor the players and it's a good way to minimize the downside of being an early entrant -- namely not getting drafted and automatically losing your eligibility. Still, there will be some players who insist on chasing their dream now rather than in a few years, even when the prospects of immediate success in the NBA are slim at best.

An example of one such player is Donta Smith, who up until last week was headed to Louisville. Apparently, he had second thoughts and has made himself NBA draft eligible. To say this didn't sit well with head coach Rick Pitino would be an understatement:
""This was very poor judgment," Pitino said. "He never called and discussed it with me. I couldn't be more upset with the player, and I'm very, very disappointed with the (junior-college) coach. That's as poor a leadership from the coach as I've ever seen."
Andy Katz has scouting reports on most of the high school and college early entrants. Here's a look at his take on Duke and UNC early entrants, and for good measure, his opinion of Donta Smith's chances.
J.R. Smith
Smith is considered to be a great talent. He could go as high as in the later half of the lottery. He'll likely impress scouts when he does individual workouts this month and in June. Scouts love his big-time range as a shooter and his athleticism. Some team will likely bite and take him in the late lottery or mid-teens at the latest. That's probably high enough to keep him in the draft and out of Tar Heel blue.

Luol Deng
Deng's decision is a tough one. He knows he needs another year to be a better player. He could use the year to become more selective in his shooting, improve his ballhandling and become a more effective wing. But there is incredible financial family pressure. Deng could go as high as the third pick overall, likely to Chicago, if he were to stay in the draft. It's a hard call, but Deng will likely stay in the draft because the opportunity is too good to pass up.

Shaun Livingston
Livingston had to declare. He's simply going too high in the draft to turn down the opportunity. NBA scouts know that he could use one to two years of college to toughen and strengthen himself. But they're still willing to take him high in the lottery, as high as No. 4 to Charlotte. That's too good to pass up. He likely won't ever play for Duke.

Donta Smith
This one shocked the Louisville coaching staff. They never figured the JUCO small forward would declare for the draft. They shouldn't be worried. He'll likely get humbled fast and realize he's not close to being in the first round, let alone the second right now, and go back to school. But the fact that he thinks he's ready is still remarkable.