NBA Draft Deadline: Losers
This is a lonely time for basketball fans. The NBA Finals have ended, the LeBron/Kobe puppet commercials are dwindling, and the rush of Draft hype is only about to begin. Thankfully, we had a little excitement with the “withdrawl deadline”, or there would have been no conceivable reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
But while the deadline brought hope for some teams (Maryland, Notre Dame), it also set an ominous tone for others (Wake Forest, USC). With the deadline now in the rearview mirror, here’s a look at the winners and losers.
Wake Forest. The Deacons looked to have a terrific future last season, entering February with a 17-2 record, owning wins over two top-ranked teams, and led by a nucleus of underclassmen. They ended the season with a humbling beatdown at the hands of Cleveland State, and now are looking to fill two major holes, as Jeff Teague and James Johnson will be wearing NBA uniforms next year. Without their two top scorers, the Deacons will turn to sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu, who suddenly becomes the go-to scorer on a team devoid of proven scorers. The Deacons could still make the NCAA, but they won’t be challenging for an ACC crown again this season.
North Carolina. It was considered a foregone conclusion that Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington would be gone after winning the title, but that still doesn’t mean the Heels won’t miss them. Lawson was a game changer in the NCAA tournament, using his speed and improved shooting to lead the Heels to blowouts in every round. Ellington’s shooting balanced out the Tar Heel attack, and both players provided veteran leadership, along with seniors Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough. The Heels have a great class coming in, and did retain freshman forward Ed Davis, but there’s no doubt there will be an adjustment without Ellington and Lawson.
Florida. It’s still unclear whether Nick Calathes will be playing in Greece or the NBA next season, but one thing is sure- he will not be back in Gainesville. That’s bad news for Gator fans, considering Calathes did a little of everything last year, He was a heady playmaker and a clutch scorer, although rumors abounded of his rocky relationship with his teammates. Without him, the Gators will lean heavily on freshman guard Kenny Boynton, and hope the rest of the team makes considerable steps in their game. Otherwise, it could be another NIT year for Florida.
Oklahoma. Once again, the fact that it was a foregone conclusion that Blake Griffin would declare doesn’t make it hurt the Sooners any less. Griffin was a one-man wrecking crew in the paint, and it goes without saying his production will be hard, if not impossible, to replace. The Sooner did get some good news when guard Willie Warren decided to return for his sophomore year, but you don’t lose a guy like Griffin and not feel it.
Gonzaga. The Zags knew they would lose Jeremy Pargo, Micah Downs and Josh Heytvelt. Now, they’ve added Austin Daye to that list as well, as the lanky forward with tantalizing potential will not be returning to Spokane next year. Blessed with a ton of talent, Daye never quite took over games like he could have, but he would have had a huge role in the offense next year, and could have seen his stats take a giant leap. Gonzaga will still be the team to beat in WCC, but another Sweet 16 run may be too much to ask.
USC. It’s hard to blame anyone for leaving the mess at USC right now. High-flying guard Demar DeRozan will be a lottery pick, so his decision was an easy one, despite an up-and-down season. But losing Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett means the Trojans will almost certainly struggle next year, especially as the threat of an NCAA investigation looms. With Coach Tim Floyd resigning, and the the Trojans losing three key players, look for a very rough season next year.
Syracuse. Outside of UNC, few teams will be plugging more holes then the Orange, who lost guards Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf, as well as forward Paul Harris. After a sensational sophomore year, Flynn is projected as a lottery pick, and it’s hard to fault him for taking the leap. However, Devendorf and Harris are projected as second-round picks at best, and both would have benefited from another year of expanding their games in college. Replacing their top three scorers, as well as their three best playmakers, won’t be easy. The Orange still have enough talent for an NCAA berth, but another Sweet 16 is asking too much.
Others: St. Mary’s (Patty Mills), Pittsburgh (DeJuan Blair), UCLA (Jrue Holiday), Louisville (Earl Clark), Duke (Gerald Henderson), Arizona (Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill), Arizona State (James Harden)