Youth has reigned in the one-and-done era.
Tim Duncan and other former collegiate veterans were praised as mature prospects when they turned pro nearly 20 years ago.
In the 2012 NBA draft, however, five of the first 10 picks were selected following their first and only season of NCAA basketball.
That’s not surprising given the value NBA execs have placed on potential in the one-and-done era. But it has also spawned myths about the benefits of college experience.
The latter seems to do more harm for future pros today. We can go down the list of players who were better prospects as freshmen and sophomores than they were as juniors and seniors.
For NBA scouts, those extra seasons can become additional time for scrutiny. The kid with the smooth jump shot in Year 1 might be the second-year man who’s not as athletic as he appeared to be a year ago.
By the time they’re juniors and seniors, they’ve lost the NBA value they’d appeared to possess earlier in their careers -- even if they improved over time.
But there’s still a place for guys who decide to stay in college for three or four years.
Proof? The NBA playoffs.
This year’s opening round has been nothing short of sports theatre.
And some of the performances of young athletes who’ve played pivotal roles on playoff rosters have countered misperceptions about upperclassmen.
Kenneth Faried (four years at Morehead State) is a critical player for the Denver Nuggets. Young star Stephen Curry played for three years at Davidson.
Chandler Parsons, who’s averaging 16.8 PPG in the playoffs for the Houston Rockets, played for four seasons at Florida.
Jeff Green, a three-year competitor at Georgetown, is one of the key reasons that the Boston Celtics are still alive against the New York Knicks.
Ty Lawson was overlooked by many teams following three seasons and a national title run at North Carolina. But he’s leading the Nuggets in scoring in the postseason (22.2 PPG).
Even former All-American Draymond Green has found a spot in Mark Jackson’s rotation with the Warriors.
From the Lansing State Journal:
Green figures to play a key role as the Warriors try to close out the series. Forward David Lee’s hip injury has given Green more minutes and he has capitalized. He had a career-high 13 points to go with six rebounds and four assists, playing in crunch time during Golden State’s 115-101 win in Game 4.
“You have to really pay attention and know the game to appreciate what (Green) does on the floor," Jackson told the San Jose Mercury News afterward. "It was funny to me that people would ask why he was in the game in Game 1. The guy is a winner, he's a competitor, he cares, he works his tail off, and he's going to be a coach in this league or somewhere. The guy was a coach when we drafted him. He could do that today if he wanted to. That's how good he is and how smart he is."
A few years ago, former NBA coach Flip Saunders told me that Green was the most intelligent college basketball player he’d ever encountered.
He was a second round pick. But his time at Michigan State gave him the tools he needed to make an impact in the most critical moment of his team’s season.
The aforementioned players didn’t have some of the flash of their younger peers, many of whom were selected earlier in their respective drafts. But they’ve endured the grind of the NBA. And they’ve utilized their maturity and basketball IQs to find spots in the league.
That’s not easy to do. But their trajectories prove that it’s possible.
I think Green and Co. should make other young players think twice about leaving college early.
Their time in college is certainly paying off right now.