2011/12, Another Down Year?

by: Griffin Bennett

With the May 8th deadline to pull out of the NBA draft having passed, the 2011/12 Pac-12 season became that much more clear. The landscape next year will look very different than it did last. To put it bluntly, the new Pac-12 looks destined to have another “down year” in the eyes on the East Coast with many talented underclassmen deciding to leave early, regardless of draft projections. To add some stats to the bad news, the top 7 scorers from last year have all left, and only 12 of the top 30 are returning. Ladies and gentlemen, based on scoring from last year here’s your starting 2011/12 returners:

  • Harper Kamp – Cal
  • Jorge Gutierrez – Cal
  • Jared Cunningham – Oregon State
  • Reeves Nelseon – UCLA
  • Trent Lockett – ASU

Oh man. I’m not sure I can cover an entire year filled with those guys. It’s going to be painful. How did it get this bad over just one year? Let’s take a look at the players who chose to leave in order of 2010/11 scoring average.

  • Klay Thompson – WSU - His decision might be the most highly debated of them all. The argument for him to leave was that he shouldn’t risk injury, he has already led the league in scoring for the last two years and he has nothing left to prove on a team that will still struggle to make the tournament again next year. The argument for him staying was that the NBA might have a lockout and he could lose months of playing and improving his game. It’s a hard choice, but I would have loved to see him come back last year, if not to just see him choke against UW one last time.
  • Derrick Williams – UA - A guaranteed top 5 pick. The kid had to go.
  • Nikola Vucevic – USC - His game and playing style is perfect for the NBA. He’s a large body that can shoot from range with a good array of post moves. Another year in the Pac-12 wouldn’t have done him any good. The logical move was for him to leave.
  • Isaiah Thomas – UW - With the addition of Wroten and Gaddy coming back, IT would have had to move to the 2-guard spot which would not have helped his draft stock. He proved this year that he can be a very effecting point guard and he will be a second round prospect regardless of the year he declares. I think it was the logical choice the more you look at it. If I’m being honest, I think it’s a better thing for UW too. Maybe I’ll expand on this in a later post.
  • Jeremy Green – Stanford – I don’t get this decision at all. I thought he was just getting a taste of the NBA process and would definitely be returning for his senior year, but he decided to go pro anyways. I have yet to see a mock draft with his name in it and I don’t know who he was listening to. I’m still shocked about this one.
  • Malcolm Lee – UCLA - Lee was supposed to be a one-and-done player but struggled and decided to stay until this year. I think he will sneak into the first round based purely on his “upside” which he has only shown in flashes in college. If you’re a Bruin fan, you should feel really disappointed that he decided to leave because UCLA is going to look really good next with the addition of the Wear twins on the block.
  • Tyler Honeycutt – UCLA - Here’s a guy who played out of position for almost his entire college career and still was a dynamic player. His shooting touch and size make him an ideal NBA 3. He should be a lottery pick and he had to leave.
  • DeAngelo Casto – WSU - This is a guy who has had a really troubled life and needed the money to help his family, including his young kid. This is difficult for Coug fans to take, but I think we all support Casto for making this tough decision. Good luck to him overseas.
  • Alec Burks – Colorado - A forgotten player in these conversations, but Burks was a first-team All Big-12 player last year who averaged 20.5 ppg last year. He would have been a serious player of the year candidate next year. He is a major prospect and is currently projected to go in the top 10 of the draft. Bullet dodged there.

It’s going to be a real youth movement next year. If there’s one good thing about young players leaving early, it’s that the top prospects get immediate playing time. While there might not be as much name recognition for the general public, there is some great young talent that is just waiting to be given a chance to shine. Here’s my first guess as to the 2011/12 All Pac-12 teams.

2011/12 All Pac-12 Team:

First Team:

Faisal Aden – WSU

Allen Crabbe – Cal

Jarred Cunningham – OSU

Jio Fontan – USC

Jorge Gutierrez – Cal

Solomon Hill – UA

Reeves Nelson – UCLA

Jesse Perry – UA

Terrence Ross – UW

Josh Smith – UCLA


Second Team:

Jabari Brown – UO

Kyle Fogg – UA

Josh Owens – Stanford

Andre Roberson – CU

Tony Wroten – UW

This is just a preliminary list that Craig and I threw together and they are organized alphabetically. A lot depends on playing time and position battles in during the Summer. There may not be a more wide open Player of the Year race then there will be this year. It’s going to be fun to watch it develop all year long. Bow Down.








  • jon

    several errors in this post. It’s trent lockett (not locker) derrick williams, honeycutt, and burks were all sophomores (not juniors). and Will Clyburn transferred out of Utah. He’s no longer in the pac12

  • http://www.montlakemadness.com Themod

    Sorry about that Jon. That article wasn’t supposed to be published yet as the site went kind of haywire for a few minutes. You got a good look into my writing process though.

  • RossB

    Yeah, the site is a bit haywire (or maybe you are in the process of revamping the layout). Good article anyway. Here is my opinion on the teams:

    1) WSU — I think they are hurt the most. It has been a while since they have made the tournament and I can’t see them making it next year. With the returning players, I think they could have been really good. They obviously played us tough. They just needed more consistency (and Thompson was no exception).

    2) UCLA — They will be hurt almost as much as WSU. They will be a bit better next year (especially if Smith loses weight) but I don’t think they will be a powerhouse. The bright spot for them is that they don’t lose anyone to graduation. Another nice thing for them is that it if they struggle, it will just be viewed as a down year, not a long term trend (unlike WSU).

    3) UW — Losing I. T. will hurt, but not as much as losing the seniors. I. T. was huge for us, but just like losing Gaddy, it is where we happen to be overloaded. Basically, next year will be a rebuilding year. Maybe we rebuild really quickly, and make a run (we certainly have the talent to do so) or maybe we don’t. Imagine Arizona last year without Williams. Even with the talented youngsters, do they go anywhere? I’m not so sure.

    4) Arizona — They will be hurt a lot, but this was expected. As you said, there aren’t many top five picks that will stay around for the joy of college basketball. If the NCAA allowed teams to buy insurance policies, I think you would see more players staying. Until then, guys like Locker (or his basketball equivalent) are rare. It will be an interesting year for Arizona (much like our year will be).

    5) Stanford — They were mediocre before, they will be mediocre again.

    6) USC — They will probably slip a notch, which will put them out of the tournament. They will lose talent to graduation as well (unlike almost everyone but us).

  • Evan

    No Wilcox on 1st or 2nd team??

  • chillinvillin

    Good point Evan. He is about the only guy that has earned his respect and still can’t get any.

  • Evan

    I’d choose Wilcox over Owens, Brown, or Perry, just for the second team. Probably Wroten too.

  • howitzer

    Wilcox would not surprise me as a first team All Pac-12. He had some very good games defensively and on the boards as well as some lights out shooting. Don’t forget that he was out midseason and slow to work his way back in the lineup.

  • http://www.huskydigest.com Jim Basnight

    Relax guys. the Pac-12 is going to be fine. UCLA is going to be the best team, but not by much. ‘Zona is getting all of the national press and they will be up near the top along with UW and Cal. All four of those teams have some great guys with NBA potential. For UCLA it is Smith, Nelson, the Wears and possibly Parker and Powell.

    For ‘Zona it is Turner, Nick Johnson, Chol, Sidiki Johnson, Hill and possibly Parrom, plus Fogg and Jones are vets and will be effective. For UW it is Wroten, Gaddy, Suggs, Ross and Wilcox, with both Aziz and Gant making statements and Simmons a lot better than people think. Kamp, Gutirrez and Crabbe is a great core and Allen is an NBA guy.

    There are a lot more guys in the league that are going to make NBA scouts take notice, like Aden, Capers, Cunningham, Jabari Brown, Emory (probably Ashaolu), Singler, Joseph, Powell, Randle, Anthony Brown, Carson, King, Fontan, Fuller, Dedmon and Dinwiddie.

    The Pac-12 is going to be as good or better than this past year, probably better.

  • ddogg

    You can talk about the potential all you want, but the fact remains that the Pac ten lost more underclassmen to the NBA this year than any other conference – and that is coming from an already weak perception.

    The fact that 80% of the top recruits are going to the ACC/SEC and Big East also does not help.

    ALL THE TEAMS in the Pac 12 have to take care of business during the non-confrence – no more losses to Montana or Oakland. What kills the league perception is when UCLA or USC go on a three game non-confrence losing streak.

    It would help if the UW won a non confrenence game away from home one of these years – we have not done this in 4-5 years.

    I see another tourney team this year – most importantly we need the bigs to step up and the PG’s to run the team like IT did most of last year. SG and SF we are all good!

    Mr Peters – we need you this year – Please!!

  • dawgiedaddy

    “I think it was the logical choice the more you look at it. If I’m being honest, I think it’s a better thing for UW too.”

    Wow, don’t know which comment I disagree w/ more, that one or Basnight’s. I’m not convinced that Isaiah made the right decision for himself (if he wants to play in the NBA), and I definitely can’t see how this benefits the UW program at all. Quite the opposite, I agree w/ RossB that the whole top half of the league is damaged by this, but it hurts UW as much as anyone, except for the teams that lost 2 players to early-entry (UCLA and WSU).

    This is bad news for the whole league, and especially the teams who lost star players to the draft. Remember this is a lockout draft, a draft that the star underclassmen were supposed to avoid like the proverbial plague. Really, as Isaiah Thomas and Percy Allen both pointed out here, the source of the problem is the NCAA moving the reurn-to-school date up to a point where it’s basically impossible now to declare, get a proper eval from NBA scouts, and come back to school. Apparently this was done to appease coaches who wanted the date pushed up to before the spring signing period; but obviously the harm outweighs the good on this one.

    Par for the course I guess. The NCAA is doing it’s damnedest to ruin it’s own game.

  • http://www.huskydigest.com Jim Basnight

    The NCAA is doing more good right now than ever. Don’y be so quick to judge. We’ll see what the final product is soon enough.

  • SammyB

    ddogg, one small correction: The Pac isn’t losing players to the NBA, just losing players. Many of them will never see an NBA floor under their Nike’s.

    I agree with the Griffin and Basnight, for what it’s worth. UW will be hurt with some leadership, but ball handling: better, shooting: better.

    Big IT fan, but Gaddy isn’t going to jack up a 3 from 26′ with 24 seconds on the shot clock in a 10 point game like IT did oh so many times. And because of that maybe the leadership thing isn’t so much a step backwards afterall.

  • Pound-it

    for a bit of optomism here, UW loses leadership, yes, but I feel that guys like Suggs, Gant, Gaddy, and maybe even Wroten will step up. UW wont be missing a beat. IT’s swagger could be contagious to the whole team.

  • http://www.huskydigest.com Jim Basnight

    Suggs and Gant are seniors and will probably have their best seasons. Gaddy and Aziz as juniors should have improved seasons. As sophomores, it’s hard to depend on big steps forward, but Ross and Wilcox are huge prospects and probably have the commitment to improve. Wroten and Simmons are going to produce if healthy.

    That’s an eight man rotation that is short one low post scorer/banger. If UW can find one this team is probably going to be as good or better than last year. If not they will be close to as good, but possibly a bit weaker, especially against bigger teams.

    They could be the worst UW team in the last 4 years, but somehow I doubt it and believe that they will come up with another big guy. This past year will renew Romar’s focus and drive to make this team very good more than likely.

  • RossB

    I’m not that concerned about low post scoring from our big men. I think we will have an extremely explosive offensive, led by one of the best back courts in the country. The big men will only need to get open and get ready for the pass. I also think that Gant has shown some improvement in his low post game and I expect both he and Aziz to continue to improve.

    Where I get worried is with the defense. Can we mark guys properly? If we let too many people into the paint, will that translate into foul trouble for our bigs? If that happens, we are pretty much stuck with going to a zone, just because (at this point) we don’t have a lot of depth there. Can we play a good zone, and still rebound?

    In my opinion, we just lost our four best defensive players Gant and Aziz are pretty good defenders, but the rest of the guys will need to improve. Some of them have gotten better and will continue to do so, but this is where I have the most fear.

  • RossB

    There should have been a period after players, in the first sentence of that last paragraph (… our four best defensive players. Gant and Aziz …). Sorry about that.