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The Morning Dish – Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

This past season was a return to the dominance of freshmen on the college landscape and subsequently the NBA Draft. Far from a year ago, which was widely hailed as the Year of the Senior, it was all about those one year out of high school at a time where NBA commissioner Adam Silver has openly said it may be high time they change the rule for eligibility for the draft.

And boy, was it ever.

The first 11 players selected on Thursday night were either freshmen in college this past season or an international player. We finally had someone more experienced when Luke Kennard – a sophomore – went to Detroit with the 12th pick, then Donovan Mitchell right behind him. In all, a record 16 players who had completed just their freshman year of college were drafted in the first round on Thursday night. Add in seven sophomores, plus Terrance Ferguson, who would have been a college freshman this year but chose to play overseas instead, and the NBA Draft being about potential was very much reinforced on Thursday night.

On the other end of the scale, only two seniors were selected in the first round, and the were the last two picks. Colorado guard Derrick White went to San Antonio, then Villanova guard Josh Hart went to Utah. With Hart being selected, the Villanova team that won the 2016 national championship ends up having a future NBA first round draft pick after all, something that seemed like a long shot.

We had an idea this might happen long before Thursday night, though. This year’s freshman class was on another level from that of a year ago, and even that group of freshmen still produced ten first round picks last year. The season played out as expected in that respect, with many freshmen playing key roles for their teams, and with the NBA Draft being much more about potential than production, what happened on Thursday night surprises no one.

With that established, some other notes come to mind on the evening.

Big drop for Giles. At one time, Harry Giles was thought to be the odds-on-favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick. This was in spite of past knee injuries, which are always a concern. But when he needed surgery before the season and then often looked ordinary for Duke, questions abounded. Reports suggest nothing scary was found in his medical records, but Giles was the 20th player selected and is off to Sacramento. At that point, swinging for the fences makes sense, and there is more to gain than to lose by selecting him.

They sure got this one wrong. One freshman who was thought to be a first rounder was UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu. Very much an upside pick as he is raw and played limited minutes off the bench in his one season, some thought Anigbogu would go around the middle of the first round. They were off by a round entirely, as the Indiana Pacers took him just past the midway point of the second round, 47th overall.

They left school early for this? A lot of considerations go into a player staying in school or leaving. Some won’t see their stock get much, if any, higher by returning, while others are ready to go on with life past playing in college. In some situations, you can’t really knock the decision even if the player is a lock to go undrafted. But you have to wonder if that is what players like Antonio Blakeney (LSU), P.J. Dozier (South Carolina), Erik Mika (BYU), Cameron Oliver (Nevada), Kobi Simmons (Arizona) and Melo Trimble (Maryland) had in mind when they declared for the draft and then stayed in.

Last, but not least. The NFL’s last player drafted has long been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant.” There has been no similar designation with the NBA Draft, perhaps in part because it’s only two rounds and it’s not a big production the way the NFL Draft is, but the last player selected on Thursday night is perhaps fitting. Alpha Kaba, a 6’10” stretch 4 from France, went 60th overall and was the last of six international player selected in the second round. Compared to many other recent drafts, it was a bit of a ho-hum night for international selections, as there were just eight in all; for comparison, seven international players were taken in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft.

That wraps up our special edition of the Morning Dish for the NBA Draft. The Morning Dish will return on a daily basis in about four months for the 2017-18 college basketball season.

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College Basketball Tonight

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