2014 NBA Draft Preview

Shabazz Napier

Potential or production? It all depends on the prospect in question

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The NBA Draft process is one where questions remain even after teams make their selections, because even in the case of the best players available there’s no such thing as a sure thing. One dilemma franchises have to address during the pre-draft process is how much they value “upside” as opposed to actual production at the college level. Optimally a player will have both aspects working to his advantage, having been a productive player at his position while also displaying the traits needed to become an even better player once in the NBA.

However that isn’t always the case, and as a result the process of projecting what a player could potentially be as a pro gets tougher. One issue that can lead to this struggle is the player not seeing as much time at the position in question as a collegian, and one example of this could be former UCLA guard Zach LaVine.

The 6-foot-6 LaVine had plenty of chances to serve as his team’s primary ball-handler at the high school level, but that wasn’t the case in his lone season at UCLA. The Bruins had one of the 2014 NBA Draft’s most intriguing prospects in 6-foot-9 Kyle Anderson to rely on for that job, with fellow freshman Bryce Alford joining LaVine as a valuable perimeter reserve. LaVine put together a solid freshman campaign, posting averages of 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, but the question of where he’ll best fit as a professional remains.

While LaVine has the size and athleticism needed to be a factor at shooting guard, there’s also the desire to spend time as primary ball-handler. When it was first reported by the LA Daily News that LaVine would be leaving school, one reason cited was the lack of time spent at the point. So with that being the case, the question to be asked is how NBA teams go about evaluating a player looking to play a position different from the one he played at the college level.

MORE: Underrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

“I guess it’s something we had to do with Victor Oladipo last year. It’s not as much taking the position away as it is taking whatever skills he has at one [position] and seeing how they translate at another,” Ed Isaacson of NBA Draft Blog told NBC Sports. “For just about every player you can end up with multiple possibilities, so you try to include as much [information] as possible when evaluating the player.”

While it can be difficult to evaluate a player at one position when he played another in college, it isn’t an “impossible” thing to do. With film study and individual/group pre-draft workouts, teams have the tools needed to get a better feel (by their standards) of where a prospect can be most successful. However the intangibles are just as important as the tangible, especially for a point guard, and getting an accurate read on those can be tougher when dealing with a prospect who hasn’t spent a lot of time at the position.

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Those factors can make the difference between winning and losing, and as noted by many involved with the draft process, can do wonders for a player’s status as a draft prospect. A prime example of this is former UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, who over the course of four years has improved greatly as a leader and won two national titles.

A number of factors, from his skill set to those improved leadership abilities, have combined to make Napier a respected prospect whose name is expected to be called during the first round of Thursday’s draft.

“I think it’s a combination of the whole package,” Jonathan Givony of Draft Express told NBC Sports. “The fact that he’s won as much as he did will certainly be taken into consideration. You’re not going to see too many guys drafted in the first round who played for bad college programs. It just doesn’t bode well for them, because everyone in the NBA’s trying to win, too.

“Every year you see guys who were in the tournament and played well rise in the draft, because people value winning.”

RELATED: Elfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

Team success can be one of the biggest selling points for a point guard prospect and it only makes sense, as one of the main responsibilities of the position is to put his teammates in the best possible position for success. Napier had four years to play the position and hone his craft, making significant strides throughout the course of his career in regards to his stats and his maturity. Most importantly he learned how to lead, a valuable lesson that resulted in his school winning its fourth national title in April.

That particular lesson can be invaluable to a prospect, and it can be argued that LaVine didn’t have the opportunity of making similar progress due to the amount of time spent in college and the role he played while there. But with LaVine being projected to be a first-round selection, who can blame him for leaving school after just one season?

The draft process will be a difficult one regardless of the experience level of the player in question, meaning that the debate of “potential vs. production” will continue to rage on. Is there a right answer? Probably not, even with the argument being made by some pundits that more time in college automatically results in a better player. If anything more time in college gives NBA franchises more opportunities to observe the player in question, and that can prove beneficial to the decision-makers entrusted with the task of building a championship contender.

But the question of “potential vs. production” is one best answered on a case-by-case basis. The only difference is that in the instance of a player being valued more for what he could do than what he has, there’s more of the “unknown” to deal with.

Returning to school is costly financially, but money isn’t always the motivation

James Michael McAdoo
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James Michael McAdoo will find himself in an awkward position during Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

He’ll spend the night waiting for his phone to ring, hoping that he did enough over the course of his three years at North Carolina to convince an NBA team to use a second round pick on him.

That’s no guarantee, however. McAdoo is currently projected as the No. 50 pick in Chad Ford’s most recent mock draft. Draft Express has McAdoo going undrafted.

Two years ago, it would have been inconceivable to think that McAdoo could eventually end up as an undrafted free agent. As a freshman with the Tar Heels, McAdoo spent much of the season buried on the bench before an injury to John Henson late in the year opened up playing time for him. And while he wasn’t overly dominant — he averaged 10.6 points and 4.6 boards in seven postseason games as the Tar Heels were one Kendall Marshall injury away from being a real threat to win the 2012 national title — his athleticism and promising performance was enough to vault him into the lottery consideration.

Two years ago, had McAdoo gone pro, he very well could have spent the 2012 NBA Draft sitting in the Green Room.

That’s a long way to fall.

MORE: Underrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

“Not at all,” McAdoo told NBCSports.com when asked whether or not he regrets his decision to return to school. “It’s something that people ask me all the time. At the end of the day, I enjoyed my time at UNC.”

A number of factors played a role in that decision: McAdoo wanted a chance to win a national title, and coming so close while having an injury to one player cost them that chance left a bitter taste in his mouth. He also wanted a chance to be a leader at the collegiate level, to play major minutes every night in front of a raucous Dean Dome crowd. He knew that his family wasn’t in dire need of the money that he would make, he knew that he needed to grow as a person and, frankly, he liked being a college kid.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the decision he made has already cost him millions. Let’s say that McAdoo would have ended up being the 14th pick in the 2012 draft. He would have been guaranteed $3.107 million over the first two years of that contract, and if the team that picked him would have exercised their option for years three and four, and he accepted a qualifying option for year five, that contract would have been worth a total of $10.628 million. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ there, I know, but that’s a lot of potential income that vanished.

“I’m not going to be able to change it,” McAdoo said. “Obviously, I could have came out and got picked high, but I know God’s got my back. I’m just going to do whatever it takes.

“I know the circumstances are a lot different than they would have been freshman year.”

McAdoo isn’t the only player that has cost themselves quite a bit of money in recent years by deciding to return to school. The most notable player in that group is probably Marcus Smart, the former Oklahoma State point guard. Smart could have ended up being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft had he left school as a freshman, but he opted to return to Stillwater for a sophomore season that saw him fail to show an improvement in his jumper, struggle to control his emotions on the court and get suspended for three games for pushing a fan during a game at Texas Tech.

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Most importantly, Smart’s return made Oklahoma State a preseason top ten team and a favorite to win the Big 12. They lost seven straight leagues games and Smart left school without a single NCAA tournament win.

“Everything that happened this season, I wouldn’t change it for a thing,” Smart said in April at the NBA draft combine. “It helped me. It got me ready for the NBA and things that come in the NBA.”

“I never regretted coming back,” he said after the Pokes were eliminated from the NCAA tournament. “It was my decision, and it’s what I really wanted. So I’m very happy with the decision I made.”

Recent years have been littered with players who plummeted in the draft after returning to school. Michigan’s Mitch McGary was projected as a lottery pick as tearing up the 2013 NCAA tournament and leading the Wolverines to a national title game. A back injury ended his sophomore season and a positive test for marijuana forced him to turn pro this year, where he’s a borderline first round pick. Perry Jones III and Jared Sullinger were all projected top five picks in the 2011 NBA Draft and returned to school. Sullinger went 21st in 2012. Jones went 28th.

But does that mean it was the wrong decision?

It depends on what that player values.

Returning to school will provide NBA front office types with more time to refine their scouting reports on a prospect. Instead of harping on potential, embracing the positives of what a player is able to do, they can nitpick at what he can’t do, what he wasn’t able to actually improve on in his extra year on campus. It creates the opportunity for injuries to ruin a season or for an off-the-court incident to tarnish an image, a brand. That extra year can expose a player’s faults, provide proof that he’s not as good as his reputation.

RELATED: Elfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

All of that is a risk to the amount of guaranteed money that can be made from a first contract, saying nothing about the fact that it’s one less year that a player will be able to receive a salary beyond a scholarship.

If money is your motivation, returning to school is rarely your best bet.

But not every athlete is simply motivated by the number of zeroes on his paycheck.

Some guys need that extra year in school to mature, to learn how to handle media criticism or manage their money or simply grow out of the mindset of being a college kid and into one of being a professional basketball player.

That’s why Smart returned to school. He wanted another year before basketball became his job. He wanted another year to spend time with his friends on the Oklahoma State team. He even admitted to knowing the financial implications of his decision, saying at the time “I am aware of how much money I am giving up.”

And that’s why McAdoo says he would never counsel a player to go pro simply because of the paycheck that he would stand to cash.

“I think that at the end of the day it just comes down to what your personal goals are,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys kill to get into the spot I’m in right. It’s not stressful for me.

“But it’s tough going up against other guys that are in a similar predicament where they are not guaranteed come June 26th that their name called.”

Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie went pro to get better treatment for torn ACL

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Colorado’s hot start was one of the best storylines of the early college basketball regular season. The Buffaloes had lost the Pac-12’s leading rebounder in forward Andre Roberson to the 2013 NBA Draft, but Tad Boyle’s bunch still started the season 14-2, including a statement win against Kansas.

But much of that momentum was derailed on January 12th, as star junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie was diagnosed with a torn ACL and was ruled out for the rest of the season. The Buffaloes still limped into the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but they slowed down to a 9-9 finish without Dinwiddie, as Colorado was blown out in the Round of 64 by Pitt.

MORE: Underrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

With Dinwiddie going down with a season-ending injury, some expected the junior to come back for his senior season and try to help Colorado make one more run. But the 6-foot-6 guard made the decision to enter the 2014 NBA Draft despite not being able to fully work out for the NBA teams that would potentially draft him.

For Dinwiddie, the decision came down to the healing of his knee and the junior believed going pro allowed him the best chance to recover from his torn ACL.

“The deciding factor was that I get to pour all that I have into my knee,” Dinwiddie said to NBCSports.com about his NBA Draft decision. “I get to have professional-level rehab and attack it as hard as I want. There’s no summer school or anything else that’s taking away from that. Professional-level rehab, pour everything I have into it and let’s get ready [for the draft].”

Had Dinwiddie played the entire 2013-14 season, and remained healthy, there’s a realistic chance he could have been a first-round draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The California native can play both guard spots and had tremendous shooting splits (46% FG, 41% 3PT, 86% FT) during his junior year to go along with his strong natural leadership abilities.

Even though Colorado did everything Dinwiddie asked of them while he rehabbed his torn ACL, when speaking things over with his family, they came to the decision that rehabbing at the pro level would be more beneficial than staying in school. The Buffaloes helped Dinwiddie with new-age methods of attacking knee rehab like platelet-rich plasma injections and use of a hyperbaric chamber, but he still felt like professional rehab had more to offer.

“Within my family, my core unit, I [talked it over],” Dinwiddie said of his rehab. “I mean, it’s no secret: college has limitations that professional doesn’t. Just because of just the sheer dollars a pro team can spend. It’s not any knock on Colorado. They did everything possible that they could for me. They got me PRP injections at my request, they helped me get to a hyperbaric chamber when I asked, so they did everything they could. It’s just there’s a different level you can go to [with rehab].”

RELATED: Elfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

The pro-level rehab has helped Dinwiddie get back on track from the knee injury as he looks to get drafted on Thursday. Dinwiddie was initially limited in his workouts for pro teams, but he’s still confident about making a full comeback as he begins his professional career.

“I started running at 11 weeks. I started shooting shortly thereafter. I’ve been doing a lot. I’ve been in the gym working hard,” Dinwiddie said. “So I hit the agility drills, the ladder. Everything is controlled. Jumping up on boxes, controlling the landing, making sure everything is safe. Whatever the [physical trainer] asks me to do. The bounce is going to be real when I get back. I’m talking about 40 [inches].”

The rehabilitation was a crucial component of Dinwiddie’s decision, but he also had a very tough choice in leaving behind a Colorado team that still has a lot of talented pieces in place for next season. The Buffaloes currently sit at No. 5 in College Basketball Talk’s preseason Pac-12 rankings.

“That was the biggest consideration and this decision is always tough because part of the reason my school loves me is because I played an unselfish brand of basketball. And a lot of times [entering the draft] is considered a selfish decision,” Dinwiddie said. “But it is my life and I have to do what is best for me. And I understand that if I go back and I raise my stock a little bit, I can make a million dollars on the front-end but at the same time, if my career goes longer on the back-end I can make that million dollars back. So give-or-take that million or two million dollars — or whatever it is — I felt like this was best for the longevity of my career and really being able to focus on my body and knee and pour everything I have into it.”

Based on that response, it’s clear that Dinwiddie is focused on the long-term aspirations of his professional basketball career. After a solid sophomore season, he also toyed with entering the NBA Draft early, but he was dissuaded in part by his parents, who didn’t believe he was mature enough to make the leap to the pros.

“I felt like I was ready — and I got the co-sign from my parents — which is something I didn’t have last year,” Dinwiddie said. “My parents felt that I had more growth to do as a man. So when my parents say, ‘do whatever makes you happy,’ and [our communication is] really kind of open, and they said [in the past], ‘we feel like you need another year of maturation,’ then that kind of opened it up for me to go. And seeing that confidence in my knee and knowing I was going to be back before the season opened it up for me to go.”

Although Dinwiddie is leaving Colorado a year early, he was still very positive about Boyle’s guidance throughout his career and the guard had nothing but positive things to say about the Buffaloes.

“I think the biggest thing Coach Boyle instilled in me was how to be a more complete leader. Not just on the court but off the court — and that’s my biggest takeaway from Coach,” Dinwiddie said. “Other than that, they just gave me guidance on what I should improve. After my freshman year, they told me to work on my body; I did that. After my sophomore year, my shooting numbers dipped. They told me that wanted me to continue to push them back up to where they were my freshman year and I did that. They were great for guidance and it takes hard work but that’s the biggest thing that Coach Boyle did for me.”

2014 NBA Draft Preview: The five safest picks in the draft

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than a week until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we take a look at the five safest projected first round picks:

One name you won’t see on this list: Andrew Wiggins.

There’s a reason for that.

I would take Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick. A lot of people would, and I can’t think of a situation where a team would be better off with Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid in the long run. That said, I understand that there are inherent risks with picking Wiggins. Does he have that killer instinct, that ability to take over when he needs to take over, that the greats have? Will he get to the point that he is strong enough to finish around the rim? Will he ever develop confidence in his ability to put the ball on the floor?

Wiggins has the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft, a healthy Embiid included. But he could also become the next Rudy Gay — or Gerald Green — if he doesn’t develop. He’s the smart pick, the right pick, at No. 1 overall, but that doesn’t make him a safe pick.

MOREUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

1. Jabari Parker, Duke

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 2), Chad Ford (No. 1)
  • Scott Phillips: “The favorite for 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, Parker will be ready to score with advanced moves from his very first game. Parker will also rebound well from his position and showed in high school that he can be a better passer than he might have shown at times at Duke. Defense will be the big question mark for Parker, but he’s going to score and score frequently.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft. He’ll be able to score the minute he arrives in training, and he should have a long and productive career averaging somewhere around 20 points. He won’t be a franchise-changing talent if he doesn’t work on his conditioning and defense, but he should develop into a perennial all-star.”
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2. Doug McDermott, Creighton

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 9), Chad Ford (No. 9)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Best pure scorer in the Draft, but he needs to land in the right spot. While he won’t be a league scoring champ he’ll be a mainstay.”
  • RD: “McDermott’s upside is limited given his tweener status. Is he quick enough to defend on the perimeter? Is he big enough to defend in the post? What there are no questions about is his ability to shoot the ball, and while he may end up being a just spot-up shooter for his career, shooting is always a skill in demand. That’s why guys like Ray Allen and Mike Miller will get contracts until they can’t walk.”

RELATEDElfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 10)
  • SP: “The NBA always needs shooters and always needs players that can operate a pick-and-roll and Stauskas does both things very well. He has a confidence to him that you want in a high-level shooter and he’s gotten much better each of the last two summers heading into the season.”
  • RD: “His rep is as a shooter, and while he does that as an elite level, he’s a much more well-rounded player than people realize: he’s really athletic, he can make plays off the bounce, he can pass, he’s got a swagger to him that will help at the next level. Like McDermott, at minimum his ability to shoot will keep him around.

4. Shabazz Napier, UConn

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 21), Chad Ford (No. 15)
  • RD: “Shabazz isn’t the quickest guy in the draft and he doesn’t have the size or athleticism of guys like Damian Lillard or Russ Westbrook, but he understands how to play and how to run a team. His change-of-pace makes him quicker than he is — he gets defenders off-balance — and he can really shoot the ball. Getting him in the 20s means a playoff team will be adding a quality back up point guard.”

5. Kyle Anderson, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 25), Chad Ford (No. 21)
  • RD: “The kid just flat out understands how to play. There are always going to be questions about his athleticism, but he’s such a unique talent. Keep in mind: Boris Diaw is unathletic and slow by NBA standards and he has been a very effective player in two different systems. Anderson needs the right fit, but he’s an NBA player.”

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Six first round prospects that will be busts

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than a week until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we take a look at six first round prospects from this draft will think will be busts in the NBA:

MOREUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years

1. Zach LaVine, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 13), Chad Ford (No. 18)
  • Scott Phillips: “LaVine was head-and-shoulders above every other prospect participating in the NBA DraftCombine, but not many potential lottery picks were going through the drills. He’s a ridiculous vertical athlete with a good one-dribble pull-up, but he has no clue how to play the game of basketball. LaVine looked lost in half-court settings and has a step learning curve ahead of him if he wants a long NBA career.”
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Excellent athlete, but I’m not sold on his ability to run a team at this point in time. Maybe he’ll be best as a combo, but we’ll see.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Zach LaVine will win any dunk contest that he enters. He’s got three-point range, too. But beyond that, LaVine’s essentially a blank canvas when it comes to basketball. On the one hand, that means that whoever drafts him can mold him into the player they want. It also means it’s up to LaVine to put in the work to reach his admittedly high ceiling. Drafting him is essentially betting on his work ethic.”

2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 19), Chad Ford (No. 20)
  • RD: “Ennis is dropping on draft boards as we get closer to the big day, and it makes sense. The NBA is trending towards big, elite level athletes at the point, and for all Ennis does well, he’s not on that level athletically. He knows how to play, so I think he’ll be able to hang around for a few years, but I don’t know what he does at an NBA level.”
  • SP: “Tyler Ennis had a wonderful freshman year at Syracuse, but I don’t think he’s a big-time NBADraft prospect. He’s an average athlete with average shooting percentages (41% FG, 35% 3PT) and that doesn’t even factor the giant question mark he is on the defensive end. With so many elite NBA point guards, I don’t see how Ennis makes a big impact in the league without a good first step or an ability to finish at the rim.”

RELATEDElfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

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3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 6), Chad Ford (No. 8)
  • RJ: “What happens when teams force him to hit perimeter shots? That’s the big question.”
  • SP: “For being such a highly-touted player and floor leader, Smart never got better at Oklahoma State and never won a NCAA Tournament game in two seasons. His power game won’t translate nearly as well in the NBA and his jump shot needs to improve a lot for him to be a complete weapon on offense.”

4. Mitch McGary, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 30), Chad Ford (No. 26)
  • Terrence Payne: “Six NCAA tournament games in 2013 launched him into the lottery, but he has played eight games in the last 15 months.”
  • RD: “The offensive skill set at this time is a concern. But he works hard, so maybe strides can be made in that area.”

RELATED2014 NBA Draft Preview

5. Jerami Grant, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 27), Chad Ford (No. 40)
  • RD: “Grant is an elite-level athlete, but he’s stuck in that spot where he’s not really a small forward but not big enough to play along the front line. Does he have a post move? Can he play on the perimeter? What position does he guard?”

6. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/D-League

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 23), Chad Ford (No. 24)
  • SP: “Besides the off-the-court questions that Hairston will face from every team, he’s a bonafide shot-jacker that rarely passes — Hairston averaged less than an assist a game in over 32 minutes a game in the D-League — and is prone to mental lapses on the defensive end. The D-League is filled with professional players, but the structure of the league, especially defensively, leaves a lot to be desired and his scoring numbers could end up being inflated because of this.”

How do coaches balance the allure of the NBA with running their program?

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In the aftermath of a team’s final game of the season, one of the most important tasks for a head coach is to figure out what his players entertaining thoughts of leaving school early to enter the NBA Draft will do. There’s the solicitation of information from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee, conversations with family members and the player himself as he debates what will, to this point, be the most important decision of his life. In the best situation no stone is left unturned, thus ensuring that the player will have all the accurate information he needs to make a sound decision.

For those who return to school there are a number of possible reasons, from deciding that they aren’t ready for the professional ranks to the desire to help their program win a national title. That was the case for the Arizona’s Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski, who announced their decisions to return to Tucson on the same day teammates Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson declared their intentions to leave school early.

RELATED: Elfrid Payton, the NBA Draft’s biggest sleeper

“The one reason we’re all coming back here is we have sort of unfinished business here at U of A,” Tarczewski said during their press conference, and it should be noted that none of the three sought feedback from the Advisory Committee before making their decisions. “There’s no question that all three of us could say we’ve had a great career no matter how long it’s been.

“When we signed on here our goal was to make it to a Final Four, to be able to play for a national championship and next year that’s our goal. We’re all grateful to say we have another year and hopefully we’ll get it done.”

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One aspect of the return to school that some players may struggle with is the balance between doing what would best enhance their prospects of making the move to the next level and doing what their college team needs in order to be successful. While the feedback received from professional scouts and executives can certainly be beneficial as a player looks to become the best pro possible, it’s the college coach who has the spent the greatest amount of time working with the player.

“We do, but nobody knows the player better than the college coach,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller told NBC Sports when asked how much professional feedback he and his staff utilizes when working with their players. “Because not only are we around them on a daily basis working with them on all types of different scenarios, for the most part we’ve recruited them. I think we have a great barometer and feel for our own players.

“And no question, if we can get some additional feedback to help us better coach [our players] then certainly we’ll use that. But for the most part, our barometer is our staff.”

The best situation for the coach and the returning player is when the area (or areas) where a player needs to improve to become a more attractive professional prospect falls in line with what the team will need in order to put forth a better effort the following season. That’s the case for Utah rising senior guard Delon Wright, who enjoyed a very productive debut season in Salt Lake City. Wright was one of the Pac-12’s most versatile players in 2013-14, leading the Utes in scoring, assists and steals and ranking second on the team in rebounds.

MORE: Underrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years

But there was also the need to improve his perimeter shot, with Wright making just 22.2% of his shots from beyond the arc. Improvement in that aspect of his game would not only make Wright a tougher player to defend, thus improving his individual standing as a pro prospect, but it also stands to make Utah a better team offensively. And it helps Wright that he can receive assessments of his game from multiple people with experience at the NBA level, including Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak and his older brother Dorell who just completed his tenth season in the NBA.

“I do think it’s an aid over the course of a season, just to know that I’ve been there and understand the way things work,” Krystkowiak told NBC Sports. “So I think it adds some validity when discussing what it takes to play at the next level.”

Having coaches and former players — and in the case of Wright, a family member — who have gone through the NBA evaluation process as either a player or coach can prove beneficial for prospects facing the task of sifting through the many sources of information. Because while the goal is to gather as much information as possible before making an educated decision, not all available information is accurate or honest.

And if the player and coach aren’t on the same page, that could result in the process becoming more complicated than it needs to be.

“Everybody at Arizona is treated the same way with that in mind,” noted Miller. “We try to give [the player] and their family the best and the most feedback that we can, so that when they make their decision they have the best and most accurate information possible. That may seem simple but there’s a lot going on, and once in a while the information that they receive isn’t accurate.”

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Certainly there can be concerns about how players will handle a return to school after flirting with the idea of entering the NBA Draft. But the task of handling those issues is a lengthy process, something that isn’t taken care of in a single conversation. There will be ups and downs, and for some there will be moments in which they wonder “what could have been.”

The combination of managing those thoughts and making sure the quest to improve one’s standing in the eyes of NBA types doesn’t come at the expense of team goals ultimately determines how successful the return to school will be. While the statistics and measurements are certainly important to professional franchises, the ability to help your team achieve success is as well.

“Anytime you have success as a team, that’s going to enhance your chances of potentially going on to play at the next level,” noted Krystkowiak.