As college hoops analysts fawn all over this season's freshmen and NBA general managers do everything in their power to lose enough games to get one in next June's draft, one lone dissenter apparently wonders what all the fuss is about.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told SNY.tv he doesn't believe freshman phenoms Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid or Aaron Gordon are worth tanking the season for a top draft pick.
"There’s no player that’s out there on the horizon that’s a Tim Duncan or a LeBron James," the Syracuse coach told the site.
"I’ve seen all these guys play. I think they’re very talented players. They’re not that kind of player. They’re not transcendent players that are gonna make your franchise into a 10-12-15-year winning franchise because you’re there. I don’t see that."
Some have said that Boeheim's comments echo those of USA Basketball cohort Mike Krzyzewski, but there's a fundamental difference. Whereas Krzyzewski said he had an ethical problem with NBA teams trying to lose on purpose, Boeheim went a step farther by saying he doesn't believe any of the heralded freshmen are worth employing that tactic.
It's certainly possible Boeheim turns out to be right that none of this year's freshmen turn out to be a future Duncan or LeBron – after all those are two once-in-a-generation talents who are already two of the greatest to play the game. But even if Wiggins, Randle, Parker, Embiid and Gordon turn out to be very good players rather than 15-year superstars, they still may be worth shedding talent to get into the lottery for.
In 2012, Golden State all but admitted to sitting its top players down the stretch in an effort to prevent its lottery pick in a weaker draft from going to Utah.
The Warriors selected Harrison Barnes seventh overall. He's now one of the cornerstones of their turnaround.
Add Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, Australian point guard Dante Exum and a handful of other prospects, and there's probably 10 to 12 players in next year's draft with at least as much upside as Barnes. Boeheim may be right that there's not another Duncan or LeBron, but that doesn't mean the NBA general managers are wrong in their tactics either.