WALTHAM — Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins is watching from home. So too is Duke’s Jabari Parker. Their teams bolted the NCAA Tournament rather quickly, and neither highly touted freshman was dynamite in their squad’s respective postseason losses.
The question now is whether their early exits hurt their NBA draft stock, as the two are likely lottery picks this summer, should they each decide to leave school early.
But speaking generally, and not about any one college player specifically (as that would be against NBA rules), Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said postseason performances don’t really do much to sway NBA decision-makers’ opinions.
“The answer is no,” Ainge said in a telephone interview Monday. “I don’t think it hurts them at all.”
Ainge did say that he still puts stock into how players play in the tournament.
“I think that it varies. There’s a lot of guys that I like so much that I want them to play bad,” Ainge said with a laugh. “And there’s guys that a postseason performance might break some ties because there’s a lot of close calls.
“But, overall, there’s a whole basketball life and an off-the-court life of guys that we evaluate and then we try to anticipate who they can become. A bad postseason game probably doesn’t affect positively or negatively on players. That’s just because that’s what history has told us. A lot of guys that play great in a game, [but] . . . it doesn’t mean they’re all of the sudden great players. It just means they had a great night.”
Ainge added, “Even if a lot of players would think that they played bad, I think there are reasons why they didn’t perform as well. I think defenses and scouting reports and teammates — there’s a lot of different reasons why players might not have played as well.
“When freshmen in particular struggle in an NCAA Tournament game against really good teams and seniors and juniors that have been together, that rarely surprises me.”
There’s a continual debate about how good the 2014 draft class is or could be.
At the beginning of the season, it was hailed as potentially one of the most talented classes in recent memory, featuring players such as Wiggins, Parker, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, and Kentucky’s Julius Randle, among others.
As the college season has progressed, that opinion has started to fade somewhat, with more NBA types — including Ainge — saying this class has quality players, but overall isn’t nearly as good as it has been made out to be.
“I think that’s it’s realistically hyped now, because I thought — and I said — before the season even started that it was completely overhyped,” Ainge said. “It’s like, mock drafts are never accurate until about a week before the draft. They incrementally get a little bit more accurate. But really, until June, the history would say that you really don’t want to pay too much attention to it.”
Yet is this draft class realistically better, or is it just better than the 2013 class, which was one of the worst draft classes in a decade or so?
“I think it’s maybe a little bit better by comparison, but it’s not even close to one of the best draft classes in the last 10 years,” Ainge said.
Ainge has said before that he doesn’t believe there are any franchise-changing players in the upcoming draft, i.e. players such as LeBron James, Tim Duncan, or Kevin Durant.
Ainge reiterated Monday that he’d rather wait to predict what kinds of players are available until they even know which ones declare.
The NBA draft early entry eligibility deadline is 11:59 p.m. on April 27.Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.