Photo: Phoenix draft picks TJ Warren of NC State and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse
The NBA All-Star game is less than two weeks away. That means it’s time to look at the deluded players who declared early for the NBA draft only to find a seat on the bench or a ticket to the D League.
With the exception of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, they are all busts or on their way to becoming busts. Wiggins, who left Kansas after his freshman year, is averaging 18.2 points a game with Minnesota, but he didn’t make the All-Star Game roster.
There was a time when rookies brought new blood to competitive All-Star games but no more. No wonder it has been reduced to exhibition not worth watching.
The two youngest players in the All-Star Game are New Orleans third-year pro Anthony Davis (Kentucky) and Cleveland fourth-year pro Kyrie Irving (Duke). Davis turns 22 in March and should be a senior at Kentucky Irving turns 23 in March and should be a rookie. Davis is in his second All-Star Game and Irving his third.
Of the 18 underclassmen drafted in the 2014 first round, only Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker with Milwaukee and Louisiana Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton with Philadelphia have been regular starters. Parker’s season, though, ended after only 25 games with a knee injury.
Players such as North Carolina State’s T.J. Warren (Phoenix), Syracuse's Tyler Ennis (Phoenix), UCLA’s Jordan Adams (Memphis) and UCLA’s Kyle Anderson (San Antonio) have bounced around between the D-League.
Hmm, D-League or facing Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina in the Dean Dome and establishing a Wolfpack legacy at PNC Arena that lasts decades?
As a one-hit wonder that left after his sensational sophomore year, Warren will soon be forgotten in NC State's lore.
If you’re Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (Sacramento), you’re on your way to becoming the next Adam Morrison – a three-point shooter who can’t get his shot off against NBA defenders.
Of those 18 underclassmen drafted in the first round, those with zero starts halfway through the season are Stauskas, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh (Charlotte), Kentucky’s James Young (Boston), Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis (Phoenix), Michigan State’s Gary Harris (Denver), Adams and Anderson.
If you're Vonleh, you have the added curse of having been drafted by Michael Jordan, a poor talent judge who once took Kwami Brown No. 1 overall with the Washington Wizards. Jordan also drafted Adam Morrison as Charlotte's owner.
Harris was smart enough to listen to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's message when he returned for his sophomore year. Izzo stresses it's not making the NBA, it's staying in the NBA. Harris had Izzo's blessing after his sophomore year, but it's clear he needed another year in college to develop his game for the jump to the NBA. He is sitting on a Denver bench instead of finishing a legacy that could have resulted in having his number retired. The legacy will mean more to him when his hair turns gray.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried also gave Warren his blessing to turn pro. There was a time when Duke Mike Kryzyzewski criticized Cory Maggette for declaring early for the draft in 1999. Eventually, coaches realized it will hurt recruiting to appear to stand in the way of players declaring early.
Only a couple of the 2014 underclassmen will work diligently enough on their game to eventually emerge as an NBA All-Star. Some won't recover from the loss of confidence. Some just weren't good enough.
NBA 2014 first-round underclassmen
|1||Minnesota||Andrew Wiggins||Kansas |
|2||Milwaukee||Jabari Parker||Duke |
|*suffered season-ending injury|
|3||Philadelphia||Joel Embiid||Kansas |
|*injured and has not played this season|
|4||Orlando||Aaron Gordon||Arizona |
|*limited playing time due to foot fracture and surgery|
|6||Boston||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State |
|7||Los Angeles Lakers||Julius Randle||Kentucky |
|*injured in season opener and out for season|
|8||Sacramento||Nik Stauskas||Michigan |
|9||Charlotte||Noah Vonleh||Indiana |
|*season limited by sports hernia and surgery|
|10||Philadelphia||Elfrid Payton||Louisiana Lafayette |
|*traded to Orlando|
|13||Minnesota||Zach LaVine||UCLA |
|14||Phoenix||T.J. Warren||North Carolina State |
|*sent down to D League|
|17||Boston||James Young||Kentucky |
|18||Phoenix||Tyler Ennis||Syracuse |
|19||Chicago||Gary Harris||Michigan State |
|*traded to Denver|
|21||Oklahoma City||Mitch McGary||Michigan |
|22||Memphis||Jordan Adams||UCLA |
|*he has been back and forth between the D-League and Grizzlies|
|23||Utah||Rodney Hood||Duke |
|30||San Antonio||Kyle Anderson||UCLA |
|*he has been back and forth between the D League and Spurs.|