So no, it's not all bad news for the Pac-12 now that we've reached the first NBA draft entry deadline. But it's not all good news either. Prior to the end of the season I would have guessed that Ross and Wroten were the only two players I would have considered likely to enter the draft. Neither surprised us by staying. Cunningham isn't a shocker, but I think the smart money was on him staying in Corvallis and waiting for a less stacked draft and another year of development. But that's not happening.
Unfortunately, the three for-sure departures are collectively a pretty big blow to the Pac-12. With Washington losing Wroten and Ross . . . how is UW going to score next year? True, Scott Suggs is back and the Huskies will have plenty of experience. But Romar is at his best when he has individual talents that can create off the dribble or in the post. Players like Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, Jon Brockman, Brandon Roy. Nearly 70% of Suggs' shots in his first two years have been three pointers and he never gets to the line. He'll be joining players like C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy, who already are prone to settling for low-percentage jumpers too frequently.
Unless Aziz N'Diaye makes a big developmental leap on offense or Romar finds a recruit that can penetrate easily, I'm not seeing a player that can easily create points in isolation. Can UW maintain their usual level of offensive success with a bunch of gunners and unrefined post players? It says here that Washington will go 5-7 in the non-conference and 12-6 in conference play just to mess with us.
Still, it could be argued that Jared Cunningham alone is a bigger loss for Oregon State than UW's two losses combined. Cunningham was the main (only?) reason that OSU was occasionally frisky in Pac-12 play last year, and even with him the Beavers only finished 8th. He was their main scorer on offense, the guy that could get opponents into foul trouble all by himself. And on defense he was a spectacular thief . . . which was pretty much the only postive thing OSU's porous defense did.
The cupboard is hardly empty for Craig Robinson, but Cunningham was one of the few prospects that had legitimately developed into a consistently positive contributor under his watch. Without Cunningham, expect OSU to slip back into the bottom 3rd of the conference and start losing non-conference games to teams like Texas Southern, Sacramento State and Illinois Chicago again.
Fixing The One And Done Problem
While we're on the topic of early draft declarations - amidst all the hand-wringing over John Calipari's inevitable title with Kentucky and how it was so very bad for college basketball, I began to get annoyed. I expect the NCAA to hand out haphazard punishments to people and institutions attempting to navigate a byzantine mess of bureacracy rather than fix the actual structure of the game. But I thought that most national writers and commentators might be better at blaming the stupid system rather than those who exploit the stupid system.
The one-and-done rule is stupid. It denies legal adults from earning money from their talent and effort, while forcing college basketball programs to deal with the reality that these players have to play somewhere. I can easily see why the NBA likes the rule - "Hey, a free year to scout players against similarly talented opponents . . . FOR FREE!" But what exactly does the NCAA get out of it? As best I can tell, not much. But what's the solution?
Brian at MGoBlog offered his own solution, and I'm struggling to find flaws in his plan, other than the usual 'This will never happen because AMATEURISM!"
All players are automatically draft eligible coming out of high school. Euros might still have to apply, but I don't think anyone has a huge problem with the way Europeans get drafted. Players who are passed over out of high school remain eligible for drafts after their freshmen and sophomore years.
This is the main idea, but the actual article (which you should read) contains a number of specifics about how it might work. And why do this?
This Benefits Everyone
The NBA gets more time to make decisions on who to offer contracts to. They get the same publicity benefits for their players, if not more since a cottage industry that tracks draft picks will crop up. Trades will be less focused on cap numbers since each team will have a bunch of chips to send back and forth that do not exist now.
College players leaving school are doing so for guaranteed money and not the D-League. College teams keep players around longer and can plan for the future better by keeping in contact with the teams that have drafted their players.
Speaking from the pure selfish interest of a fan, I also like baseball's structure in which players must decide out of high school if they want to sign a pro contract or sign a letter of intent, which binds them to three years of college ball. Brian's plan is certainly more athlete-friendly and thus is probably the right choice. The key concept: Players can get drafted and they aren't immediately ineligible. Why is it that baseball can do this but football and basketball can't? Dear NCAA - grow a spine . . . well, grow a spine over the right issues. Not over text messages and three extra phone calls.