Frequently, at this time of year, rumors start to stir about which players may or may not jump early to the NBA. And this year is no different. For several days now whether Kentucky players Kelenna Azubuike and Randolph Morris might declare for the NBA has been discussed around office water coolers, over coffee at the local White Castles, on WLAP's radio call in shows and on KSR's internet message boards, just to name a few places.
Though I have no idea whether or not either player ‘will' inevitably make the jump, I did speak to an NBA draft authority on the subject of whether or not either player ‘should' make that jump.
Chris Monter is an NBA Draft Analyst for Scout.com whose passion is analyzing and understanding players' gifts and talents and comparing and contrasting those talents to the rest of the NBA hopefuls. So, I asked him about Kelenna and Randolph and how they might fit into an NBA picture.
"Kelenna is a solid prospect," Monter said, "he has a very athletic body, he's strong, can jump and finish strong and has turned into a pretty good shooter. But frankly, players his size with his skill sets are fairly common and I am not sure Kelenna is clearly differentiated from many others out there. He has some areas he needs to work on, like his ability to handle the ball. I think NBA scouts would question his consistency. He looks spectacular at times and at other times looks pretty average. He is really good, but I am not sure if he'd be viewed as really great."
But would he get drafted?
"Hard to really tell," Monter said, "He has a lot of upside. But there is a risk. The biggest risk is that most players think they are better than they are. He may be comparing himself to players that ‘are known' to be in the draft. The risk is that he might speculate that he is a, say, late first round pick, so he declares. But then in the next three months, six to seven new players declare and all of a sudden the draft order changes. For a player to come out early and get drafted in the second round carries potentially devastating ramifications. There is no guaranteed money or contract for a second round pick. So if you declare early you should ‘know' that you will be drafted in round one. Marvin Williams, as an example, does not have to sweat that part of the decision. If he comes out, it's a matter of where in the first round he goes."
So should Kelenna attend the Chicago NBA camp?
"There is no way that Kelenna is a slam dunk first round choice without a terrific showing in an NBA camp. And the way I feel about it, if an underclassman needs to attend camp to assure a draft position, he should not come out, period," Monter said, "Kelenna still has a few areas where he needs to improve. The landscape of the draft is not yet formed. I think there is far more upside to playing his senior year. Of course there are always chances for injuries or come other unlikely catastrophic event, but for the most part, there is almost no chance he will have a worse season than this year, and a high chance he will have a better season next year. I think the odds are stacked that his best shot is to stay in school and finish out his career at Kentucky."
Chris Monter's thoughts on Randolph Morris were interestingly different than his thoughts on Kelenna. Check back this weekend to see what Chris had to say about Randolph's NBA prospects.