Updated Jan 15, 2014 - 9:57 am
ASU's Jahii Carson is ready, but he shouldn't be willing
Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson is making a mistake if he enters the 2014 NBA Draft.
So many times the problem for early entry candidates is maturity. Potential greatness in talent is wrapped in a package of physical and/or mental immaturity. It cannot be repeated enough: this is NOT the issue for Carson. From everyone close to the ASU program to NBA scouts, Carson is considered a high-character kid. Emotionally, Carson is more than ready for the NBA.
The problem here for Carson is bad timing. Any of us who bought a house in Maricopa County in 2007 know bad timing. Wasn't our fault. If you have a business degree, studied all available information from a market evaluation and opened a business 10 years ago, you did all the work right. It just either turned out poorly or you're still barely hanging on waiting for the payoff, not your fault. Jahii Carson is in the same boat.
Carson should have been playing for ASU in 2011-2012 but a calamity of issues led to him sitting out the year. If that would have been his freshman year, then making last year his sophomore year, Carson would have been a top-20 pick in last year's draft. Any first round draft pick receives a guaranteed contract. It's completely worth it to come out for the draft when you receive millions guaranteed.
A one year version of Carson (which is the reality of the situation) would have been drafted in the second round. It was an excellent and very humble decision to return to ASU for this season. It made perfect sense for him to stay one more year and enter this year's NBA Draft. It made sense until now.
Carson has the credentials. He hasn't been lying to himself or trusting some secret whisperers who only want to gravy train off of his career. He was the the star of an under-19 USA basketball team while he was the only high schooler on a team of college freshman. Last year in the USA basketball events in Las Vegas, he was a headline grabber. This year at UNLV, he earned two days of national attention among scouts. Carson might have been informed by intelligent people that he will have a long NBA career, but if it's not as a first round pick, he should return to Arizona State.
Carson's timing is not going to work out. The 2014 Draft will be historic. Carson just doesn't fit into the first round. The amount of talent available pick after pick is unprecedented. Players that were expected to be taken high have all performed. The biggest shock of the 2014 draft for any ASU fan might be when Jordan Bachynski gets drafted ahead of Jahii Carson. Surprisingly, there's plenty of other players who are exceeding expectations.
No one thought Joel Embiid of Kansas would crack the top five three months ago, now he might be number one. Doug McDermott of Creighton is easily a player who can help you win a championship. He'll still be on the board into the late teens. Few scouts respect a 240-pound center, but Adreian Payne of Michigan State will be a Joakim Noah-type of force on a playoff bench. Payne should be a first-round pick but there will be doubts. Wildcat fans will reject this opinion, but Aaron Gordon might still be available into the 20s.
Carson has been struggling on the court. He's had some great games but he's also had some clunkers. Carson is not keeping up with the competition to be one of the top 30 amateurs in the world. It's not something to be ashamed of, it's a compliment to this draft. A 5-foot-11 point guard must be excitingly special. The point guard position is not as strong as other positions, but it certainly isn't weak so Carson doesn't stand out like he needs to at his size.
Missouri's Jordan Clarkson has improved greatly between his sophomore and junior years. Boston College's Olivier Hanlan and Kendall Williams of New Mexico are almost as skilled as Carson, but they're both 6-foot-3, giving them the benefit of the doubt in the minds of most GMs. If a general manager is going to stick his neck out and draft an undersized point guard, they'll probably take UConn's Shabazz Napier ahead of Carson.
As so many Americans have felt over the last decade, it's just not the best of times. If Carson sticks to his plan, he will feel the same pain. He doesn't have to. Irrelevant of future success, the path to the NBA is made so much easier as a first-round pick. If basketball success doesn't come for a first-round pick, at least the guaranteed money is enough to live on for the rest of your life.
In my opinion, Carson will have a long NBA career as a solid backup point guard on a championship team or a starter on a weak team. He has a place in the game. It's easy to see why he's been planning for this moment and doesn't want to deviate from his plan. Athletes feel like everyone is against them. If anyone says "no" or "you won't be able to," is immediate grounds for the "hater" tag. This blog is not anti-hope, it's anti-hype.
Jahii Carson will be a mid-second round draft pick in the 2014 Draft and receive a non-guaranteed contract. He'd be close to a lottery pick in the 2015 draft and receive a guaranteed contract that will set up his family for the rest of his life. It's an easy choice for anyone not named Carson to come back to school. Very few people have fortitude to back off their dreams and accept the reality of bad timing, especially confident people. Let's hope we're seeing Carson next year in an ASU jersey, for everyone's sake.
Doug Franz, Co-host of Doug & Wolf
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