Commentary

Sorting through the draft decisions

Originally Published: April 27, 2009
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

If the NCAA has its way, this will be the last season of a two-month testing process for the NBA draft.

Next season the window will be down to around one week if the NCAA board of directors passes proposed legislation that would set the "stay in or get out" date at May 8 (it's currently June 15). So a workout or two might be able to be squeezed in, but for the most part, decisions to enter the draft almost certainly will need to be made before the player submits his name.

As for this year, the official list won't be out until later in the week. The deadline was Sunday night, however, and for the most part we know the decisions. Here is a breakdown of what has transpired so far (not every early-entry underclassman is included):

Best move

Blake Griffin, So., Oklahoma: He was projected as the top pick the entire season. He was the consensus national player of the year. He's physically and mentally mature enough to handle the NBA. He may be one of the more refined sophomores to make the jump in some time. It was a no-brainer.

Perfect timing

[+] EnlargeEllington/Lawson
Bob Donnan/US PresswireWayne Ellington (left) and Ty Lawson couldn't have gone out on a higher note.

Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, Jrs., North Carolina: Winning the title was the perfect gateway for Lawson and Ellington to move on to the NBA. This was the path taken by the underclassmen on the 2005 national champion Tar Heels. It once again proves just how unique the 2006-07 Florida Gators were as Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford decided to return for a run at a second straight title. The one major difference is that they won the first title as sophomores, returned as juniors and then left. Lawson and Ellington are juniors and already declared once.

Hard to argue

James Harden, So., Arizona State: He carried the Sun Devils to the NCAAs, was the best player in the Pac-10 and is a lottery pick.

Stephen Curry, Jr., Davidson: Curry was the face of Davidson for three years, had a magical Elite Eight run as a sophomore, led the country in scoring as a junior and was in a win-win situation with his decision. He's a lottery pick now and would be if he decided to return for his senior season.

Jonny Flynn, So., Syracuse: Flynn's stock was soaring after leading the Orange to the Big East tournament title game and a Sweet 16 berth. He could have turned into a first-team All-American and led Cuse to the Final Four, but he's hot and the timing was right.

Jordan Hill, Jr., Arizona: Of all the players in this draft, Hill may have improved the most in the last three seasons. He has made himself into a lottery pick while playing for three different coaches in three years. New coach Sean Miller could have helped him even more, but Hill didn't need to find out. He's ready to go and has probably had enough of the Arizona drama.

James Johnson, So., Wake Forest: Trying to find a body similar to Johnson in this year's draft is a chore. He's a man. He's ready to handle the physical play and poses potential mismatches. Johnson could have come back to polish his game, but he's clearly a favorite of the scouts and is a lock for the lottery.

Tyreke Evans, Fr., Memphis: Evans' play at the point was the reason the Tigers didn't lose from mid-December until the Sweet 16. He showed he's versatile, coachable and unselfish. A coaching change made it even easier to bolt.

[+] EnlargeDeMar DeRozan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDeMar DeRozan had his share of struggles at USC, but is a solid bet for the top 10.

DeMar DeRozan, Fr., USC: DeRozan's regular season wasn't dominant, but he turned on his game in the Pac-10 tournament and early in the NCAAs. He could use another season to be more of a special talent, but he's tantalized the NBA enough that he'll go in the lottery.

Hasheem Thabeet, Jr., Connecticut: Thabeet was the top defensive player in the country, dominated his position at the defensive end, continued to be a developing presence offensively and likely will go in the top three.

Gerald Henderson, Jr., Duke: Henderson technically declared without being locked in with an agent, but that likely will change. Henderson elevated his game this season, making himself NBA-ready with his ability to get to the basket. He's likely a backside lottery pick and that's a decent range for this developing talent.

Patty Mills, So., Saint Mary's: Mills' broken right hand was enough of a scare to send him into the draft. Mills has proved at the Olympic level that he can play with the elite players. He still could technically return, but no one would debate his readiness to play professionally.

Foolishness

Dwayne Collins, Jr., Miami: Collins should get back to campus and not waste anyone's time. He's not ready.

Bryan Davis, Donald Sloan and Chinemelu Elonu, Jrs., Texas A&M: OK, we get it. You all saw your names on the Bottom Line. That's nice. Now withdraw before anyone gets embarrassed.

Devan Downey and Dominique Archie, Jrs., South Carolina: All this does is put undo stress on coach Darrin Horn. They won't be selected if they stay in the draft.

Daniel Hackett, Jr., USC: If Hackett wants to play in Italy, can't he do that in 2010? It's hard to see the value in picking Hackett in the first round.

Gani Lawal, So., Georgia Tech: Lawal isn't going to gain confidence in his offensive game in the NBA. If he stays in school and plays with Derrick Favors and Iman Shumpert next season, he has a chance to be ready to contribute when he's drafted rather than declaring because he could be selected.

B.J. Mullens, Fr., Ohio State: Mullens will be taken high based on potential. But how high will he actually go? Did Mullens really wow the NBA scouts this past season?

DaJuan Summers, Jr., Georgetown: The Hoyas and Summers faded toward the second half of the season. He'd be better off staying put in D.C. and having a breakthrough season.

Ater Majok, Fr., Connecticut: How about playing a game first before you declare for the NBA draft? Majok shouldn't be testing the draft process. He needs to prove he can play to be worthy of the investment.

Questionable

[+] EnlargeAustin Daye
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMost observers believe Austin Daye needs to beef up and get more physical before banging around with NBA big men.

Austin Daye, So., Gonzaga: Don't believe the hype. Daye has yet to live up to his potential. If he struggles with the physicality of the WCC, how is it going to be for him in the NBA? He hasn't signed with an agent -- yet.

DeJuan Blair, So., Pitt: Blair will go in the first round, but the questions about how much he can play above the rim will dog him in the spring. If he can be like Glen "Big Baby" Davis, then he won't disappoint. But Davis went in the second round and had to prove his value. Blair probably won't drop that far, but he may be in a similar situation wherever he lands.

Nick Calathes, So., Florida: Calathes has the tools to play in the NBA, but it's unclear if he can go high enough in the first round to justify not going back to Florida. If he returns, the Gators could be a lock for the NCAAs with Vernon Macklin and Kenny Boynton joining the squad.

Jrue Holiday, Fr., UCLA: If Holiday is selected high, it will be on potential. He didn't show enough this season to differentiate himself. A return to UCLA will make him the focal point. He may need that to prove he's not a gamble.

Should go back

Luke Harangody, Jr., Notre Dame: Harangody is a terrific college player. But he's not going to be a first-round pick. He should continue to enjoy being a dominant player in the Big East for another season.

Jodie Meeks (Jr.) and Patrick Patterson (So.), Kentucky: If they both return to Kentucky, the Wildcats can be a real threat to go deep into March under John Calipari. If they stay in the draft, they are headed for an anxious draft night.

Scottie Reynolds, Jr., Villanova: Reynolds had the shot of the NCAA tournament, the game-winner against Pitt in the East Regional final. But he doesn't have enough in his game to warrant a high pick. If he goes back, he has a real shot to win the national title.

Tyler Smith, Jr., Tennessee: Smith didn't stand out enough this season to be a lock for the first round. He could be a lock next year if he returns to Knoxville.

Shawn Taggart, Jr., Memphis: Taggart should go back to play for Josh Pastner. He could be the dominant post player on a team that will need his leadership. He's not ready for the NBA, so why not improve his skills?

Jeff Teague, So., Wake Forest: In January, it seemed like Teague was a lock for a high pick. He was playing as well as any guard in the country. But he got off message a bit during the latter part of the season. If he comes back with Al-Farouq Aminu, Teague would be more prepared to contribute in the NBA the following season.

Nic Wise, Jr., Arizona: No one would question Hill or Chase Budinger for not wanting to play for their fourth coach in four seasons. And both will be first-round picks. But Wise won't be and may not go in the second. So why not play for the ultimate point guard coach in Sean Miller?

Greivis Vasquez, Jr., Maryland: Vasquez has had moments when he can play with anyone on the floor, but he also has an erratic side that needs to be calmed. He could use another season to refine his game.

Winners

Kansas: Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins stayed out of the draft, and the Jayhawks are easily the preseason No. 1.

Iowa State: Double-double machine Craig Brackins decided against going pro, meaning the Cyclones now at least have hope they will be competitive in 2009-10.

Clemson: The Tigers didn't lose Trevor Booker, which means at the very least they'll likely get off to a very fast start again. Can Clemson keep up the momentum this time?

[+] EnlargeJerome Jordan
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesWith the return of the 7-foot Jerome Jordan, TU will likely be the favorite to unseat Memphis as king of C-USA.

Tulsa: Jerome Jordan's decision to return to school and John Calipari's decision to leave Memphis mean the Golden Hurricane are the favorite in Conference USA. And oh, by the way, Tulsa hosts the league tournament next year.

California: Patrick Christopher said no to the NBA and yes to playing with Jerome Randle again in the backcourt, making the Bears the favorite in the Pac-10.

Michigan: Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims stayed in Ann Arbor, as the Wolverines project under John Beilein continues its upward climb with what almost certainly will be a second consecutive NCAA appearance.

West Virginia: Devin Ebanks would've been drafted in the first round on potential, but he didn't get enticed. He's back, and so are the Mountaineers. They will be one of the favorites to win the Big East title.

Georgetown: Greg Monroe turned down a likely top-five selection. That means the Hoyas have a chance to erase a disappointing NIT season with an NCAA berth.

Oklahoma: The Sooners knew they were losing Blake Griffin. But they were worried about Willie Warren. His return means OU can be picked safely as a top-three team in the Big 12.

Ohio State: Losing Mullens hurts, but it's not a crushing blow. But if Evan Turner had decided to bolt, the Buckeyes would have been bullied in the Big Ten. Instead, they'll be in the mix, as has become custom in recent years.

Duke: The Blue Devils will slip a tad without Gerald Henderson. But Kyle Singler's decision to stay means Duke still has an All-American and a chance to compete for the ACC title once again.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com