The Sports Scoop

My View on the World of Sports

The Randolph Morris Effect

Think about this question carefully…morris.jpg

Who is the most influential player to enter the NBA Draft in the past twenty years?

Kobe? LeBron? Renaldo Balkman?

No, no, no – you have to think less talented than that. I know what you are asking, and my answer is: yes… even less talented than Balkman.

Future NBA journeyman and recent New York Knicks newbie Randolph Morris is the solution.

Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane to rekindle Morris’s story. Back in 2005, the highly-touted 6’11” freshman posted modest stats, averaging 9 points and 4 boards on a very good Kentucky team. Falsely believing that NBA teams would consider selecting him for his potential and large stature, Morris succumbed to the lure of a professional basketball player lifestyle by entering that year’s draft.

Big mistake. Or was it?

Of all the names called out that day, Randolph Morris was not one of them. It definitely seemed like Morris, a former McDonald’s High School All-American, had overplayed his hand and would be forced overseas to begin his career. However, the most infamous of draft loopholes allowed Morris to return to school because he had not signed with an agent. Granted, he was no longer draft-eligible, but he could continue playing at Kentucky while becoming an NBA free agent.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

After serving a minor suspension, Morris went on to play two additional seasons at Kentucky before becoming the first player to complete a college season then sign with an NBA team and finish their season with them. That’s where Morris’s journey ends – at least for now – but it was only the beginning of what I like to call the Randolph Morris effect.

The college basketball nation took notice, resulting in ever increasing numbers of underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft without bringing an agent on board. The players love their newfound flexibility – without an agent, they can declare for the draft and withdraw prior to it if their status isn’t to their liking; or they can “pull a Morris” – take their chances, hope the hype is legitimate and their name will be called, all the while knowing their college eligibility is still intact.

Often times borderline players having trouble sifting through all of the pros and cons of entering the draft will have multiple sources telling them that their status is higher than it really is. That motivates the impressionable underclassmen to throw their name into the bidding, knowing full well they’re not committed to anything other than exposure if they don’t hire an agent.

Early-entry draft aspirants travel around showcasing their skills at pre-draft camps, attempting to kindle positive recognition from potential employers. And while this experience can provide valuable – though potentially inaccurate – feedback for the players on the likelihood they will be selected and where, it also creates complications.

Universities commit vast amounts of money and support to their student-athletes, but that commitment isn’t always reciprocated. College coaches especially are put in a highly undesirable situation when their athletes use the Randolph Morris effect to their benefit. Simple questions like who will be on the roster for the following season become complex. Recruiting grows even more difficult.

Not only do coaches have to convince potential team members that their school is the perfect fit for them, but now they have to try and anticipate what moves might be made by players teetering on the brink of an NBA career. Broken promises and uncertainty on scholarship availability becomes inevitable. It used to be cut and dry – if they were in the draft, they were there to stay.

The basic idea of loyalty is also challenged. Many schools might hold a grudge against players like Morris and not welcome them back to their program at all. Their move could be taken as a slap in the face. While the benefits of not hiring an agent are obvious, it can also mean hard times for athletic programs attempting to make strides.

I don’t like calling the influx of underclassmen declaring for the draft a trend, because trends fade out – I see this as more of a permanent fixture of the NCAA-to-NBA transition. As long as players have the elasticity they currently enjoy, agent signings will be postponed later and later. And this fact can be attributed to one source – the Randolph Morris effect.

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Picture Courtesy of Rivals.com

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, NBA, NBA Draft, Randolph Morris, Sports | Leave a comment

Welcome to the NBA Draft…one year too late

nbadraft3.gifNow that the college basketball season is complete, it is time to look ahead to the NBA draft. 

While many players used this season as an opportunity to improve their game and raise their draft stock, there were a few players who hurt their draft value by coming back for another year.

This is due, in part, to the fact that the 2006 draft was pretty weak.  Some decent players have emerged, Brandon Roy and the Raptors pair of guys come to mind, but overall, it’s not hard to argue that it was sub-par.  That, in itself, would have been a good reason for the soon to be mentioned players to test the draft waters.

However, the main reason these players should have left early is because they didn’t perform this season like they were expected to.

So without further ado, here are the five players who have most hurt their draft stock by staying in school.

1.  Joakim Noah, Florida – This is an easy one, and I love putting him at the top of the list because I cannot express how little I like this player.  Last year, Noah would have been a number one pick candidate.  This year, he’ll likely fall somewhere in the middle-late top 10, which is still to high in my opinion.  He has the energy and athleticism, there is no question about that, but he just doesn’t have basketball skills.  He makes horrible decisions (on and off the court, as is evident by his SEC Championship “dance” and NCAA Championship post-game comments) and sometimes forgets that the only thing he does well is hustle.  Most of his stats are down from a year ago, but they don’t do justice to how average he looked at times.

2.  Glen “Big Baby” Davis, LSU – Davis would have been perfectly suited to come out last season after LSU made their tournament run and Davis/Tyrus Thomas was the duo to be reckoned with.   Instead, he comes back a pre-season All American and went on to severely disappoint.  LSU had a horrible season when they should have ran away with the SEC West, and Davis never stepped into the dominant leadership role he needed to.  He was the talk of the town last year, but now, he’s almost an afterthought.

3.  Josh McRoberts, Duke – It is basically the worst case scenario for McRoberts to enter the draft this season, but he’s going for it.  Last year, he was just a freshman who was getting used to the game.  He didn’t try to do too much, showed some good passing skills, and made a few plays here and there.  More importantly, his lack of aggressiveness and assertiveness could have been pinned on his inexperience.  He would have gotten drafted high because of his potential.  However, this year he proved that is just how he plays.  He also didn’t step up on a young team that needed a leader.  He would be better off staying in school and learning under Coach K.

4.  Ronald Steele, Alabama – He hasn’t declared yet, I know, and actually probably won’t.  Yet, I still think he’s worthy of a spot on this list because what the heck happened to this guy?  He had some injuries, but that doesn’t explain going from a pre-season All American to averaging 8.6 points per game.  Like Big Baby, Steele’s stock was on the rise at the end of last year and could have used that to his advantage.  Now, he has to either put up some big numbers next year or hope some NBA team will forget this season ever happened.

5.  Arron Afflalo, UCLA – This was the hardest one for me to put on the list, mainly because I don’t think that he would have been a very high pick last year.  However, he definitely didn’t do what he needed to at the end of the season to prove that he could step up when it was needed.  Almost his whole NCAA Tournament was bad, with the exception being the Kansas game, after he basically sat back and watched his team implode to finish the Pac-10 season.  I don’t really see the potential to get much better in Afflalo, either.  I’m still not convinced he hurt his draft stock by returning to school, but he definitely did not help it. 

April 4, 2007 Posted by | Basketball, College Basketball, NBA Draft, Sports | 2 Comments