Despite achieving numerous honors in the Big 12 conference and leading West Virginia to a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA tournament, Juwan Staten's NBA hopes balance on a narrow edge. Projected by most hoops analysts to be a free agent (although a couple have him going in the second round), Staten will have a battle to make an NBA roster. It's not impossible, but in a system that offers guaranteed contracts only to first round picks and weights raw athletic ability over accomplished college production, Staten will be in the same pool as other recent Mountaineers who did great things on the college court, only to be bypassed by some with more enticing physical attributes.
The biggest negative working against Staten is his height. Many of the point guards in the draft have measured in at six feet, five inches or taller, and the "smaller" group stands mostly 6-2. At six feet, Staten is on the low end of that scale, along with guys like Ryan Boatright of UConn and Keifer Sykes of Wisconsin-Green Bay. While there are players of that height that currently excel in the NBA, they are, to pardon the pun, a shrinking breed.
A second measurable that works against Staten is his age. At 23 years old, he's on the high end of the rookie scale, and with underclassmen and foreign players also lowering the scale, he has less perceived time for development than most of his competitors.
Those twin factors might be enough to knock him from consideration by many teams, but as West Virginia fans remember from the NFL draft experience of Bruce Irvin, it only takes one team to like a player. Staten has worked out for at least a dozen NBA squads during the run-up to the draft, and it stands to reason that at least a couple would be impressed with his combination of quickness, ballhandling, passing and leadership. That last isn't an item to be dismissed, even though NBA teams will overlook a variety of sins to grab a 6-10 player who can shoot the three and bring the ball upcourt. Staten figures to have interviewed well with NBA teams, and hopefully his off-court maturity and skills in the locker room and as a teammate will have presented themselves to NBA general managers.
Another plus factor for Staten, if he goes undrafted, is that he would then have the ability to match up with a team that is looking for point guards as a free agent. Granted, he'd then have a tougher battle to prove himself, as first round picks aren't going to be cut, and most second rounders are going to get every chance to make the squad. Still, the chance to weigh multiple free agent offers and pick the team that has the most opportunities for making the squad is a valuable option, and could be one that he rides to a path in the NBA.
Finally, there's one negative listed about Staten that might actually be a strength. As a four-year college player, most evaluators view him as a player that has already reached his "ceiling" -- that is, that he doesn't have a lot of room to improve. While that might be true from a height and weight standpoint, those that watched Staten during his college career would beg to disagree. Over each offseason at West Virginia, Staten improved dramatically in different areas, including mid-range and outside shooting as well as ball-handling and decision-making. There's no reason those improvements have to stop just because his college career is over, and NBA front office personnel would be wise to note his work ethic and desire to keep growing.
Wherever he lands, Staten will likely play in the NBA summer league, and get the chance to show what he can do against others competing for the same roster spots. From there, it comes down to the competition he'll face on the team he signs with as well as their style of play and needs, but he's shown enough to this point in his career to merit a legitimate chance at making an NBA squad.