When you are a bigtime college athlete, there are a number of factors to consider when trying to decide if and when you will apply early for the NBA. These factors include a whole host of issues that are impossible to truly evaluate because they can only be decided by the athletes themselves. The number one most significant issue of course is where or if you will be drafted. Once you declare for the draft, there is no going back. You lose your college eligibility and if you are not drafted by an NBA team you are likely off to play in Europe. History shows that once players head overseas, they almost never are able to make it back to the NBA, even if those extra couple of years to develop their game has better prepared them for The League.
One reason is that the NBA drafts on potential and two years later, they are already looking at who is next coming down the pike. Even if you are assured of being drafted, where you are drafted is a huge deal. If you are projected to be a late 1st round pick, as Tony Wroten is, you may slip out of the first round and into the 2nd round. While 1st round picks get a 3-year guarunteed contract, 2nd round picks get nothing guarunteed. There are lots of 2nd round picks who are drafted, don’t make the team in training camp, and end up heading to Europe anyways. Even if you do get offered a contract, it will inevitibly worth less than the 1st round picks and shorter in length.Now, there are other factors other than money that need to be considered. How much do you enjoy the college life? How much do you enjoy the limelight and media attention in college versus being just another bench player in the NBA? How much could your game improve being a starter in college for another year versus sitting on an NBA bench? How much does your family need the money?
But, let’s just focus in on a couple of those for Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten in this post. Those are; what do they have to gain or lose by entering the NBA draft now financially and improving their game and thus their long-term potential in the NBA when they do get there. First, let’s look at what the analysts are saying about these two players in their mock drafts:
Draft Express has Terrance Ross going #18 and Tony Wroten at #21
NBADraft Net has Terrance Ross going #19 and Tony Wroten at #26
ESPN has Terrance Ross going #23 and Tony Wroten at #19
My NBA Draft has Terrance Ross going #19 and Tony Wroten at #25
This gives for an average of #19.75 for Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten #22.75
By the way, I am currently slated to go #21 to Houston. Cool, I haven’t played competitive hoops for years. Oh, that’s a different player?
Anyways, back to the subject at hand. Last year at this time, NBA Draft Express had Terrance Ross projected as the #6 pick for the 2012 draft. Perhaps that was unrealistic at the time, especially considering the influx of one-and-done freshmen across the country. But, clearly his standing has dropped this year. I suspect a lot of that has to do with his slow-starts this season that seemed to be an all-too-common occurrance. For most of the season, Ross just didn’t seem to have the drive to put the team on his back when they needed him. Often he was the most talented player on the floor, but just wasn’t showing it.But, he has exploded in the last few weeks and when you see his game, it is definitely NBA ready. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor, he is tremendously athletic, has the ability to take over games, and has showed a great increase in his defensive skills. Ross is a solid first round draft pick and there is no way he drops out of that 1st round. The only issue is whether he could climb up into the lottery. Ross has been with the program for two years, has won a conference tournament and a conference regular season title, been to the NCAA tournament, and might lead his team to an NIT title. Most people feel he should have won Pac-12 Player of the Year as well. There really isn’t a heck of a lot left to prove to NBA scouts or Husky fans and I think most people are content if he leaves for the money.
Tony Wroten is quite a different story. Current projections have him going in the late 1st round. While that would result in a guarunteed contract, many players draft in that area often spend their first few years sitting on the bench. If he were drop from the 1st round, it could cost him tremendously. Wroten is extremely dynamic and certainly has an NBA future. But, I think a strong case can be made that there isn’t quite the rush to do it this year. He has a lot of things he needs to work on with his game to be more NBA ready.
The thing that stands out to me the most is his lack of a long-distance shot. His 16.4% 3-point shooting average is among the worst I have seen from any starting guard in college basketball in years. Without the threat of the long distance shot, defensive players back off of him making his dynamic drives to the basket all the more difficult. Wroten will not be able to drive in effectively in the NBA against players of that size and talent if they do not feel he is a threat from long distance.
Secondly, Wroten needs to work on his free throw percentage. As often as he gets to the line through his drives and aggressive rebounding, he has to shoot better than 58% from the line. Late in games, opponents were trying to foul Wroten when he got the ball to get him to the line. While Wroten began to learn to get the ball off to Wilcox or Ross in the final minutes to give his team a better chance, that is not what you want from a leader. You want a player who wants and needs the ball in his hand, and the confidence to knock those shots down. Those four missed free throws against Oregon State that cost the Huskies a chance at the NCAA tournament should be a big lesson for him.
Wroten also needs to learn to make some better decisions on offense and not cause as many turnovers. Some will say that NBA level players will be able to catch his crazy bullet passes better than college players, and that is probably true. But, decision making is also important and knowing when and how to make his passes catchable no matter who he is sending it to will make him a better guard in the NBA as well. Wroten also needs to improve his off-the-ball defense. He’s great at stealing passes and stealing the ball from opposing point guards. But, off the ball, he is often out of position and beaten by opposing players to spots on the floor allowing them to get open shots or uncontested drives to the hoop.
Let me make this clear. I think Tony Wroten is an NBA level talent. But, I think his game would be improved tremendously and his draft status much improved if he returned for one more season to the Washington Huskies. He might also be able to finish what he started by getting the Huskies to the NCAA tournament and win Pac-12 Player of the Year next year! What do you think?