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This week in the Pac-12: Grading the early entrants

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Trying to keep track of the comings and goings of every player on a Pac-12 basketball roster is a thankless task

You won't see any of these guys in baby blue next year
You won't see any of these guys in baby blue next year
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When I started writing this article, the purpose was to collect the various names that have departed Pac-12 schools after the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. It's an annual exercise to catalog the impressive attrition that strikes each year. Usually, it's a fun speculative exercise.

And then that thing up in Oregon happened.

In case you missed it, Daymeon Dotson, Brandon Austin and Dominic Artis were all dismissed from Oregon because of alleged misconducted a week prior to the Pac-12 tournament. I'm not touching that topic with a 10 foot pole. Instead, let's focus just on the players that have declared themselves eligible for the 2014 NBA draft on June 26th. There have been a number of key transfers as well (happy trails, Byron Wesley) but a full account of the crazy large amount of transfers is also a separate post in itself. Why does it have to be so hard to keep track of this sport?

According to Wikipedia, 44 players have declared early for the NBA draft. Of those 44 players, eight are from the Pac-12, more than any other conference in the nation. Hooray? Here's a rundown of the 8 players that will be leaving early, and how those departures impact the five teams that lost an underclassman.


Nick Johnson

Did he make the right decision?

Generally speaking, the conference player of the year should declare for the draft, particularly if he's a junior that doesn't stand to gain much developmentally from another year in college. So yes.

Aaron Gordon

Did he make the right decision?

He's a likely lottery pick, so I'm going to go ahead and say yes.

How screwed is Arizona?

Not screwed at all, because recruiting. Arizona has another stacked class coming in, and bringing back Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson represents a better core than probably any other team in the conference anyway. Don't waste your tears on the Wildcats.


Kyle Anderson

Did he make the right decision?

For sure. Anderson brings a wholly unique skill set that will surely find a home in the NBA. Whatever development he could make with one more year is easily offset by another year of pay and avoiding injury. This one's a no brainer.

Jordan Adams

Did he make the right decision?

Debatable. When Adams declared, he already knew that Kyle Anderson was leaving for the NBA. Adam's stock isn't sky high, and he's passing up the opportunity to be the 100% go-to-guy for UCLA next year.

Zach LaVine

Did he make the right decision?

I don't think so. LaVine certainly flashed his impressive talent at times, and it's obvious that he will get a chance in the league eventually. But he's declaring after one inconsistent season, in a deep draft? And, similar to Adams, LaVine is passing up the opportunity to run the show in Westwood next year. The opportunity to raise his stock in a shallower draft seems like the right move.

How screwed is UCLA?

How do you feel about Bryce Alford? UCLA is losing their point forward and an actual point guard, plus their best wing. Thus, Bryce Alford is essentially the only point guard on the roster. UCLA is bringing in a four player recruiting class full of highly rated prospects . . . who are all post players. If you think that Bryce Alford can be a capable starting point guard in the Pac-12, the UCLA will probably be fine. If you don't, there's plenty of reason for skepticism. For what it's worth, Alford was a better passer and jump shooter than LaVine, so I wouldn't dismiss him out of hand.

Still, even IF Alford is an above-average Pac-12 guard, UCLA will only have three players returning from last year's rotation. Norman Powell was great as a 3rd option scorer, but it's not clear that he's the type of player that can score when he's the focus of the defense. UCLA's freshmen will need to be very good, very quickly.


Spencer Dinwiddie

Did he make the right decision?

If NBA talent evaluators are convinced that he is fully healed, then it's hard to blame him. Dinwiddie is just another example of how close any particular college player is to losing significant earning potential thanks to the vagaries of fate.

That said, there's obviously something to gain by returning to school and proving to the scouts that you're capable of doing everything you did prior to blowing out your knee.

How screwed is Colorado?

I'm sure they would have loved to get Dinwiddie back, but Buffs did get half a season to learn how to play without him. On the other hand, it's true that things didn't go particularly well in that half season (9-10) without him. Colorado managed just a 2-7 record against tournament teams without their best player. Somebody needs to step up at guard alongside an overwhelmed Askia Booker for Colorado to take a step forward.

Arizona State

Jahii Carson

Did he make the right decision?

Probably. If anything, he might have been better off declaring a year ago in one of the weakest drafts in recent history. But Carson used his sophomore year to burnish his credentials as a scorer and distributor and to perhaps answer questions about his maturity. One more year in Tempe isn't going to help him grow 7 inches, so he may as well get paid now.

How screwed is Arizona State?

Pretty screwed. Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall are all gone. ASU has lost the player that made everything go on offense, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, and their best secondary scorer.

On the bright side, Herb Sendek is bringing in a 4 star point guard and center, plus a couple JC recruits. The cupboard isn't completely bare. But 2014-15 looks like it will be a transition/rebuilding year in Tempe.

Oregon State

Eric Moreland

Did he make the right decision?

Probably not, but with a caveat: After getting suspended 14 games to start the season and getting inconsistent playing time despite elite rebounding and shot blocking skills, this strikes me as an "I'm done with Oregon State and college basketball in general" move rather than a naïve leap of faith. In any case, Moreland is kind of a less polished Richard Solomon, so just getting drafted would be a success.

How screwed is Oregon State?

Super duper screwed. They're already losing (to either graduation or transfer) Hallice Cooke, Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, Angus Brandt and Challe Barton. Olaf Schaftenaar might be their best returning player. If Ernie Kent and Andy Enfield can get Wazzu and USC to respectability, Oregon State could very easily be the worst team in the conference next year by a wide margin, even if they hire the right guy to replace Craig Robinson, who was probably let go too late in the year for a new coach to have a chance to bring in some of his own players.

What does this mean for the Pac-12?

Oddly, it could have been worse. There were a number of other players scattered around the conference who were rumored to be considering the draft, so it's not like the Pac-12 lost everybody that had to make a tough decision.

That said, there weren't any players who made a surprise decision to stay, and there were a few players who made surprise decisions to leave. The talent drain is meaningful, and other than Arizona and perhaps UCLA, recruiting might not immediately fill the gaps. Worse, program instability has struck both Oregon schools. Thanks to draft declarations, coaching changes, transfers and/or dismissals, there are serious question marks surrounding nearly every school in the conference.

Unless you're a fan of Utah or Arizona, you probably have some serious reservations about some aspect of the team you root for in 2014-15. After a return to national prominence, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pac-12 take a significant step backwards next year.