Five 2014 NBA prospects off to disappointing starts
A lot of time, ink and web space have been devoted to pumping up next summer's NBA draft class, and with good reason: From a pure talent level, it's as good as any in the last decade. From Andrew Wiggins to Julius Randle to Jabari Parker, the 2014 draft is loaded with potential franchise players, many of whom have showcased that potential during the first month of the college season.
But not everyone is off to such a fast start. Based on interviews with NBA executives and college scouts -- not to mention a whole lot of games watched on the DVR -- here are five of the most disappointing prospects:
Flash back to November 2012. Austin, an impossibly long 7-foot-1 freshman center with range that extended beyond the three-point line, was considered a strong candidate to be drafted in the top 10, with an outside chance of landing in the top-five. But Austin could never equal the sum of his parts; too often Austin was outmuscled in the paint and finished his first season averaging just 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Austin stayed in school, but his sophomore year hasn't been much better. Austin still shows flashes of his enormous potential -- he put a couple of dazzling moves on Randle on his way to a 13-point, six-rebound effort in Baylor's win over Kentucky last week -- but he showed he could still be pushed around by bigger players like UK's Willie Cauley-Stein. There is just too much inconsistency in Austin's game and with his numbers taking a dip (10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds) Austin has gone from a sure-fire lottery pick to one that may not even get selected in the first round.
Remember McGary? That whirling dervish of a forward who averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the NCAA tourney last year? Yeah, the Wolverines are still waiting for that guy to show up. To be fair, a lingering back injury cost McGary three months of workouts and slowed him in the first few weeks of the season. And in Michigan's last two games against Duke and Houston Baptist, McGary has played well, totaling 27 points and 23 rebounds while showing the hustle and offensive rebounding skills that scouts fell in love with during the tournament.
But under the NBA microscope, McGary's weaknesses come up often. He doesn't have much of a post game. He's not consistent from the outside. Life was undoubtedly easier for McGary last season, with first-round picks Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. absorbing much of the scoring load, and his Tyler Hansbrough-like game will likely never make him a go-to-option. NBA executives are keeping an open mind about McGary because of the back injury, but they are hoping to see more, beginning on Saturday, when Aaron Gordon and No. 1 Arizona come to Ann Arbor.
No, I'm not trying to pile on Michigan. But any text message sent to a scout or league executive asking about disappointing prospects almost always is returned with Robinson's name in it. In what was supposed to be a breakout season, Robinson's most significant numbers are down almost across the board. His minutes (29.9), field goal percentage (44.0) and three-point percentage (28.1) have all dropped. His scoring is up (12.1 points per game), but only marginally. Without Burke and Hardaway, Robinson has looked tentative, almost unwilling to assert himself.
NBA executives still love Robinson's athleticism and his pedigree -- his father, of course, is former No. 1 overall pick Glenn Robinson -- but unless those numbers improve (and 17 points in a 50-plus point win over Houston Baptist doesn't count), Robinson's stock will begin to free fall.
I can't tell you how many times I heard over the summer that Harrison, not Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, would emerge as the first point guard to come off the board in next June's draft. That could still happen, of course. But today, Smart has put Harrison in his rearview mirror. Harrison's shooting has been uneven -- in a nationally televised game against Baylor, Harrison shot just 2-of-9 from the field and is connecting on just 41.7 percent of his shots this season -- and he doesn't look totally comfortable in John Calipari's dribble-drive offense, an offense that was supposed to be an ideal fit for him.
Harrison's stock isn't plummeting; if the draft were held today, he would likely still be a top-10 pick. But NBA executives' love affair with the 6-foot-6, 215-pound playmaker has cooled down. Fortunately, Harrison plays for a coach that has been highly successful developing point guards (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, among others) and Calipari-coached teams have a history of improving as the season goes on. If Harrison's jump shot improves, he could be back challenging Smart for the nation's top playmaker by the end of the season.
I'll admit, when McAdoo put up a 21-point (on 9-of-13 shooting), nine-rebound effort in 28 minutes against Oakland in North Carolina's season opener, I thought he might have turned the corner after a subpar sophomore season. But since posting 27 points in a loss to Belmont in mid-November, McAdoo has been (again) mediocre. He had nine points and two rebounds in a win over Louisville. He had eight points and four rebounds in a win over Michigan State. Combined, McAdoo shot 6 of 22 in the Tar Heels' two biggest games of the season. It hasn't helped that UNC has played McAdoo out of position at times, at small forward. Still, those are abysmal performances.
The reality for McAdoo, from an NBA perspective, is this: He was most appealing as a freshman, when he played with future first-round picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller. He never developed into a consistent offensive threat, despite possessing superior athleticism to most big men trying to defend him. With North Carolina discovering other offensive options this season, McAdoo is in danger of falling off of the NBA radar altogether.