Taking stock of the country’s power teams in 2014-15, talent logjams at schools such as Kentucky likely have decelerated the commitment timeline for some top seniors.
First, let’s examine the numbers. At this writing only 20 of the top 100 prospects have not chosen a college, but a whopping eight of those two reside among the top 11 overall prospects.
Without knowing exactly why that delay among the elite has occurred, clearly something has compelled them to be more methodical than their peers outside that top end range.
If you accept the premise that a potential one and done candidate wants to enter into a situation with a clear starting position available — a very reasonable position, in my view — then waiting for the spring and getting more information about likely NBA draft entrants makes sense.
Now, consider the aforementioned logjams. Kentucky is fielding a frontcourt with multiple potential pros. Chances are, not all of them will make the jump to the NBA following this season. Thus, a player stepping into the scene in Lexington has to weigh his opportunity to star for a squad that may be loaded at his position.
Then, you have the crew of big men thinking spring like Diamond Stone, Ivan Rabb (pictured above), Cheick Diallo, Caleb Swanigan and Stephen Zimmerman. Interestingly, and almost definitely not coincidentally, four of those five big men list Kentucky seriously among their favorites. Think they might be taking their time to assess next season’s potential roster?
|Given his strength, Swanigan is physically ready for an immediate starting role|
And this hardly is a Kentucky-only phenomenon. Kansas, which features a couple of likely — but not absolutely definite — one and dones in Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, also is closely linked to several key prospects who appear destined for a spring decision.
Arizona, which also boasts a very talented (albeit more experienced) frontline, holds some NBA intrigue as well. The Wildcats already possess a big-time class but remain close to Rabb, Zimmerman and Swanigan.
The draft projections are extremely volatile given that so few experienced college players rate highly. At DraftExpress, the top nine projected 2015 picks are either freshmen or overseas prospects. But clearly no one can predict with any degree of certainty this far out, given that the college season has yet to even tip off. We certainly take pride in our rankings, but they likely aren’t going to be so accurate that they align perfectly with the draft board next spring.
And that’s just the senior class. What about the juniors? While it would be foolish to suggest that any college player this season will affect a top 2016 recruit, certainly some of the late deciding seniors will and, more to the point, the 2015s who already have signed will influence choices made by juniors — and especially those outside that top 10 range.
Someone such as Jayson Tatum or Harry Giles probably doesn’t care what senior signs where, provided that he views some path to starting at whichever program he chooses. And in their cases, where wouldn’t they start?
But it becomes more interesting after that top junior tier. Just today, we saw Perry Dozier choose South Carolina over more glamorous programs such as Louisville and North Carolina because he’ll enjoy a greater opportunity to play point guard. As a top 40, rather than a top 10 prospect, he had to pay even closer attention to the roster dynamics at his finalists.
That brings us back to 2016. None of the top dozen juniors has committed, not that unusual but still worth noting. That class appears very strong at point guard, but could a 2015 point guard winner such as Arizona (which signed Justin Simon) or Villanova (Jalen Brunson) face a handicap with blue-chip junior floor generals?
Simon easily possesses the height to play off the ball, but is there a chance top-10 floor general Derryck Thornton views Arizona slightly more skeptically due to Simon’s (not a likely one and done) presence? Perhaps not, but it’s worth asking the question.
These situations won’t flesh out until later, but going forward it’s worth remembering to connect the dots as one decision affects the next, whether that’s a current college player making his choice about the NBA or a senior finalizing his recruitment.