Read through the rest of our Early Entry breakdowns here.
Anthony Davis, Kentucky: This one is obvious. Davis is a once-in-a-decade prospect, a game-changer on the defensive end of the floor with the skills and the coordination he had as a 6-foot-2 guard prior to a nine-inch growth spurt. Davis is a lock to go first overall in the draft whenever he decides to leave. Why return and risk an injury when you can start working towards that second (and much bigger) NBA contract a year earlier?
Andre Drummond, UConn: Drummond may have been the most frustrating player in the country to watch this past season. His talent and athleticism is tantalizing, but his effort level is inconsistent and he has a long way to develop into the kind of player that can fulfill his potential. But I think going pro was an easy decision for Drummond. He’s going to be taken in the top five, at worst. Returning to school wasn’t going to move him up in the draft. But it could have very well moved him down if, like Perry Jones III this season, he struggled to improve on his weaknesses. Why risk that — and risk injury — when the best that UConn will be able to accomplish next season is a championship in a preseason tournament and a strong regular season performance?
Cody Zeller, Indiana; James Michael McAdoo, UNC; Tony Mitchell, North Texas: All three of these kids opted to return to school despite being locks to get picked high. Zeller would have gone top ten. McAdoo had a shot at going in the lottery. Mitchell was a likely late-first round pick. So why was it a smart decision to return to school?
All three will be able to significantly improve their standing with strong seasons, and strong seasons from these three are quite likely. Zeller could end up being the No. 1 overall pick next season, and while going eighth and first doesn’t sound like a huge difference, the amount of money in the guaranteed contracts is. The same can be said for McAdoo, who might be able to climb into the top five. With Zeller graduating and John Henson heading to the NBA, he’ll be the focal point for Roy Williams up front.
Mitchell’s ceiling in the 2013 draft isn’t quite the same as Zeller or McAdoo, but what returning to school should be able to do is lock up a spot in the first round. And with North Texas returning quite a bit of talent, the Mean Green will have a chance to be one of the best mid-majors in the country.
Damian Lillard, Weber State: Lillard’s stock will never be higher than it was this past season, when he put together one of the most efficient seasons of anyone in the country. Combine that with his size and athleticism, Lillard looks like an ideal point guard prospect at the next level. In fact, the biggest criticism he had this year was that he was too unselfish. Imagine that. With the point guard class being down this year, Lillard had to strike while the iron was hot.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: Canaan, like Lillard, made a name for himself at a school on the beaten path this past season, but unlike Lillard, Canaan needed to return to school. Simply put, Canaan does not project well as an NBA player. He’s a scoring guard with the size of a point guard, and even then he is a bit on the small side. I love his game, I love the way Murray State plays and I think he was one of the brightest spots on one of 2012’s best storylines, but that doesn’t mean he’s headed for superstardom in the NBA.