Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. recently grabbed national headlines by becoming the latest non-senior to forego the rest of his college basketball career and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft. Every year, college basketball fans read the newspaper with unease, hoping that their school’s superstar doesn’t jump ship early at the prospect of getting a nice payday in the pros.
However, now that players are required to log at least one season in the college ranks, more and more underclassmen are jumping into the draft. Let’s take a look at some of those players and decide if they are truly NBA-ready.
Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)
The big freshman missed the last portion of the season due to an ACL tear. Some wondered if he would return to Kentucky for another year to get his knee back in working order. Instead, he is going to the NBA. Noel is projected by some to be the top pick, but it’s tough to say how he will survive in the pros until he proves the knee is all better.
Trey Burke (Michigan)
The Naismith College Player of the Year honoree has seemingly accomplished almost everything he would want in college — all before his junior year. Burke showed during the tournament that he can create his own shot and is outstanding on the dribble drive. He should have no problem contributing in the NBA.
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
This is not a shock. The freshman never showed that he cared much for his team or teammates at UCLA and he’s moving on to the land of bloated paychecks. Muhammad (6-6, 225 lbs.) is certainly built for the NBA, he just didn’t show a lot of work ethic during his college tenure.
Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse)
Outside of Burke, this sophomore is arguably the best guard in the draft. He carried Syracuse to a Final Four appearance and has the raw skill to thrive in the NBA.
Cody Zellar (Indiana)
Analysts have long raved about the sophomore’s draft stock and project him as a lottery pick. The 7-footer certainly has an NBA frame, but I am just not convinced at his skill after seeing him go against fellow big men of the Big Ten (i.e. Mitch McGary, Adreian Payne, etc.) Teams were too easily able to shut him down. A big man that finds success in the NBA has to be dominant at the college level.
Otto Porter (Georgetown)
Another member of an all-star cast of sophomores in the NCAA this year, Porter recently announced his intentions to move on to the NBA and is expected to go as a top 5 pick. His solid, albeit brief, body of work in college hoops certainly merits that, especially because of the lack of talented wing players in this year’s draft.
Ben McLemore (Kansas)
The long, 6-5 freshman simply has NBA skills — an ability to handle the ball and shoot it. This year, McLemore was the Big 12’s top 3-point shooter. There was little doubt on whether McLemore was going to declare for the draft this year and that he will be a top five pick.
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
The freshman shocked the world when he announced he was staying at Oklahoma State instead of becoming a potential top 5 draft pick. Not only does this show Smart’s devotion to his school, but he certainly plans on getting better. Smart will be arguably the best player on the floor next year, boosting his draft stock even further (if that’s possible).