While N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie still has five days to put his name into the draft, most of the big NBA decisions in the area have been made, with North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes announcing Monday his intention to stay, joining John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
What it means for the teams involved aside, for the players involved -- the three Tar Heels and Duke’s Kyrie Irving, who will jump to the NBA -- it means that everyone (so far, counting Leslie) has made what looks to be the right decision for their future.
Henson and Zeller were easy on that score. Henson would benefit from another year to work on his offensive skills, which showed improvement during his sophomore season, while Zeller has a chance to get bigger and stronger.
Barnes is a tougher case. He would have been a lottery pick had he decided to go pro, and that kind of guaranteed money is difficult for anyone to turn down. But there’s still one giant hole in Barnes’ NBA game, and that’s his ball-handling ability.
The rest of his game is still good enough that the NBA wouldn’t have complained, but to be a pro perimeter player, he has to get better with the ball. Another year of college won’t hurt him there, and the chance to win a national title with Henson and Zeller and everybody else doesn’t hurt either.
As for Irving, while there were a few parts of his game that could have used some polishing, he has an NBA-ready offensive game and an NBA-adequate defensive game. As good as Duke might have been with Irving this year, the Blue Devils needed Irving a lot more than he needed them.
For the moment, let’s assume Leslie stays at State, where he has plenty of maturing to do on and off the court. He has enough raw talent to be a first-round pick right now, but there’s some hard work to be done before he can make the most of it.
This is unusual. All too many times, college players who aren't ready for the NBA are lured by the riches on offer and jump too soon; this area alone has a long list of players who made the wrong choice. (Although some end up OK in the end: N.C. State's undrafted Josh Powell is a great example.)
It doesn’t often happen that everyone with the option to go pro makes the right decision, whether that’s staying or going. This time, it’s hard to argue with what anyone did.