Sunday, May 08, 2011

In NBA Draft: Shelvin Mack, Brandon Knight, Alec Burks

Tonight is the final deadline for players that have declared for the NBA Draft to back out and return to college. Three of the players who have stated that they definitely will be staying in are Shelvin Mack, Brandon Knight and Alec Burks:

Shelvin Mack of Butler was considered a borderline NBA Draft call, and it's not a surprise that with this year's weak Draft class he decided to take the plunge. He's considered a borderline first round pick. He was going to be Butler's top returning player, so obviously his loss hurts. The graduation of Shawn Vanzant means that Butler loses two of their three backcourt players (Ronald Nored still has a year of eligibility left). Chase Stigall also returns, though, and the reality is that the team really played with three shooting guards all season long. Neither Mack, Vanzant or Nored is a real point guard, and a lot of the success or failure in 2011-12 was going to come down to the immediate play of 2011 recruit Jackson Aldridge anyway, who will likely start at the point. If he can immediately come in and be productive then Butler will still be a scary team to play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. I don't see any really plausible Horizon League contenders, and so Butler remains the favorite there. They'll drop from the 7 seed I've got them at now - probably to the 9 or 10 seed range.

Brandon Knight of Kentucky will be gone to the Draft, although Terrence Jones has announced he'll be back for another season. The team is still waiting to hear on DeAndre Liggins. When putting together my 2011-12 SEC preview last month I thought Knight and Jones would both be gone, and I assumed Liggins would return. It is surprising Jones is back, and I still don't understand why Liggins thinks he should declare for the Draft rather than taking another year to develop. But even if Liggins does go, the return of Jones more than makes up for that and I'm even more confident in picking Kentucky as the favorite to win the SEC and to earn a 1 seed in the Tournament.

That said, if Kentucky could have kept either of Jones or Knight, I don't think there's any question they'd have kept Knight. Knight isn't the all-around player that John Wall is, nor will he be the same level of NBA star, but Knight was a better pure point guard and did a great job running Kentucky's offense (Wall was a better defender and better scorer than Knight was in his year at Kentucky). With him gone, the point guard role falls to 2011 recruit Marcus Teague. Teague is a big time blue chip recruit, but there's never a guarantee with true freshmen.

Alec Burks of Colorado actually declared for the NBA a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't feel it deserved its own post at the time. The decision is no surprise because he's a likely lottery pick after absolutely blowing up this past season. Assuming Burks was gone I picked Colorado last month to finish in tenth place in the Pac-12, and I still think that's about right. I think they'll be a competitive team and wouldn't be shocked if they finish in the middle of the pack in their new conference, but I don't think they'll be quite as good without their superstar Alec Burks.

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