Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gordon Hayward, Armon Bassett Staying In Draft

Reports now have both Butler's Gordon Hayward and Ohio's Armon Bassett staying in the NBA Draft for good. Both are similar Draft prospects: both are not likely to be very productive in the NBA next season if they even play in the NBA next season, but it makes some sense for both of them to leave now. Bassett was accused of assaulting somebody at a bar over the weekend and was suspended indefinitely by the university, meaning there's a chance he might not have even be allowed to play for the team next season. It makes sense not to risk that possibility. In Hayward's case, it makes sense that his stock might not ever get any higher after that run to the NCAA Championship game.

That said, Hayward should consider not just where he gets drafted, but how good of an NBA player he'll be, and in my opinion he's just not ready for the NBA. He's got NBA height, but he's got to add weight, and he's got to improve his shooting. Despite the impression that a lot of casual college basketball fans got during the NCAA Tournament, Hayward actually isn't a very good outside shooter. For the season he hit only 29.4% behind the arc. In the NBA, if you can't hit outside shots then you've either got to be lightning quick and able to beat your man off the dribble repeatedly, or you've got to be able to play the post. Hayward's obviously not that quick, and he's not big enough to play in the post. He needs another year or two to be ready. If he's lucky he'll get drafted and then stashed in either the D-League or in a high European league for a couple of seasons so he can get bigger and so he can work on his shot. It won't be good for him to get stuck on an NBA bench right away, because he's not going to play.

Armon Bassett likely won't be drafted at all, but I don't think another year in college is going to change that much. He is who he is. He might eventually become a decent NBA bench player, but most likely his future will be in Europe. With the risk of not being able to play at all next season, he might as well get to go through the NBA Draft process and get paid, wherever he ends up.

The loss of Hayward will have national implications, as Butler is projected by many to be a Final Four contender for next season. I had projected them as the final two seed in my preseason 2010-11 BP65. Losing their best player and only legitimate national star is going to have many implications. There's now going to be a ton of pressure on Matt Howard to stop his foul troubles which have severely limited his minutes his entire career, because if he's out then Butler is going to get very small very quickly. Avery Jukes graduates, meaning that Howard is the only returner over 6'3" that earned more than six minutes per game last season. 6'11" Andrew Smith will likely get a big increase in playing time next season, and he did show some good potential in the Butler games that I watched, and they'll also look to Garrett Butcher and Khyle Marshall to eat up a lot of minutes. Butler's top Horizon League rivals will still be a ways back. Cleveland State and Wright State are the top contenders, and both could potentially end up in the RPI Top 100. Detroit is the best of the rest, with UW-Milwaukee something of a sleeper. But I don't think any of those teams will seriously challenge Butler, even without Hayward. But their seed will dramatically drop. They're probably looking at something like a 5-9 seed in the NCAA Tournament now.

As for Ohio, I had picked them as the favorites to win the MAC in 2010-11, but that's likely going to change now as Bassett was the offensive spark that led the team to the 2010 NCAA Tournament after transferring in from Indiana. D.J. Cooper was electric as a freshman, and if Ohio does manage to repeat as MAC champion then it's going to be because he took a leap and became one of the stars of the MAC. The conference is going to be wide open next season now, with Akron and Miami of Ohio looking to be among the favorites. Kent State is a sleeper after losing five of their top seven players from the team that won the MAC regular season title in 2010, but with a very good and very deep recruiting class coming in to replace them. Right now I'm leaning toward Akron as the new favorite, but I'll have to put more thought into it. The MAC will certainly be one of the most wide open conferences in the nation in 2010-11.

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