Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NCAA Tourney Bump Won’t Impact Harrison Twins’ Draft Stock Much
Should I stay or should I go now?Should I stay or should I go now?If I go there will be troubleAnd if I stay it will be doubleSo come on and let me know
— The ClashARLINGTON, Texas — Andrew and Aaron Harrison and their Kentucky teammates are one win from an NCAA championship.
Sometime after Monday night’s title game with UConn at AT&T Stadium, they will face a fascinating choice.
Will they declare for the NBA Draft despite being projected as late-first or second round picks? Or will they return to campus for their sophomore seasons? And what advice will Kentucky coach John Calipari provide about the situation?
Through interviews with several NBA executives, scouts and draft experts, it becomes clear that the Harrisons will be viewed by their overall body of work this season — and that whatever “bump” they are receiving from Kentucky’s run to a potential NCAA championship will be limited.
“They’re both completely different players,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told SNY.tv. “They may wind up being more famous for winning an NCAA championship than what they accomplish in their NBA careers.”
Jonathan Givony, who runs DraftExpress.com, moved the twins from the 2014 Mock Draft to the 2015 draft earlier this season. Even after updating his mocks on Thursday, Givony still has Aaron at No. 25 and Andrew at No. 30 in 2015.
“What’s interesting is that if you look at years past, the ‘tournament bump’ wears off pretty quickly historically,” Givony told SNY.tv. “It doesn’t seem to mean much in June from the research I’ve done. Body of work is still key.”
Givony pointed to other recent NCAA champions whose stock wasn’t impact much by a tournament run, including Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva of Louisville in 2013 and Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb of Kentucky in 2012.
“The tournament didn’t do anything for them,” Givony said. “They went the same or lower on draft night as they were projected before the tournament.”
While fellow Wildcats Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young appear locks to go in the first round in June — with Randle and Cauley-Stein headed for the lottery — the consensus on both Harrisons is they could go anywhere from the late first round to the second round.
“They probably go 25-45,” one NBA executive told SNY.tv.
That is critical because only first-round NBA picks get guaranteed money. In the second round, contracts and guarantees are negotiable.
“Usually, the top 40 get some guarantees,” the NBA exec said.
Despite Aaron’s heroics in this tournament, which have included game-winning 3-pointers against Wisconsin and Michigan, the consensus on both twins is that they are not tremendously athletic and face questions about their body language and attitude.
“I don’t think it matters whether they win another game or not, they’re just not ready,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv.
“They both have so many holes in their game. Aaron’s made some shots so they may look at him as more of a shooter. They certainly can raise their stock but their stock’s not very high.”
Fraschilla tends to agree.
“If they’re able to win the national championship, they’ll be part of one of the great quasi-Cinderella stories of all time in the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “Having said that, the translation of this stretch of games to their NBA futures remains a major mystery because people are going to look at the entire body of work of their freshmen year and try to project what kind of NBA players they become.
“I personally think that they’re not lottery picks and that each could end up being solid, if unspectacular journeyman-type players over time.”
Said the NBA executive: “Both will have a chance as backups. If they are starting [for your team], you aren’t good enough.”
It remains unclear if the twins will come out this season.
Just as Marquis Teague capitalized on an NCAA championship in 2012 by getting picked 29th in the draft, the Harrisons could decide there is nothing more for them in college if they win on Monday.
There are rumors that Aaron Harrison Sr. would like his sons to enter the draft.
“I had heard that the father’s pushing them out,” a second NBA scout said. “He wants them to go. This was before the tournament started.”
But even the father admitted to having concerns about the NBA.
“The biggest worry about going,” Aaron Sr. told the New York Times, “is that my 19-year-old kids would suddenly be living with men that are 30, 35 years old, that have that kind of wisdom. And this world is not like home. This world is very treacherous. That’s my biggest worry.
“The other part is,” he continued, “for the first time in their life, they’ll most likely be apart.”
Would the twins benefit from another year on campus in which they work on their weaknesses and develop their games, or are they what they will be?
“It’s not like this run is going to propel both of them into the Top 10,” Fraschilla said. “That’s not going to happen. What could propel them higher up the draft board a year from now would be a 35-game sample instead of what we’ve seen over three weeks.”
“I think it will help their stock because it will give them a chance to improve over the course of an entire season that they can play like they did over six games,” Fraschilla said.
He added: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they come out and roll the dice but the more prudent way to look at this is they’re both still very young players who have to this point a limited opportunity to make a major impact on an NBA team next year. So they should think about coming back.”
Kentucky has McDonald’s All-American point guard Tyler Ulis and McDonald’s shooting guard Devin Booker coming in next year.
If the twins leave, Ulis and and Booker will step in and take over in the backcourt.
If the twins return, Kentucky will have a very deep backcourt for another deep run in 2015.
Sometime after Monday, the Harrisons will likely huddle with Calipari and their family about their futures.
“I say the same thing, Don’t plan on coming to school for one year,” Calipari said of his approach to recruiting. “You make a huge mistake. But if after one year you have options, that will be up to you and your family.”
And the Harrison family soon will have a fascinating decision to make.
Photo: NY Times