Last night, I wondered in the draft open thread whether or not Tyler Honeycutt would have gone pro if he knew … he wasn’t a Top 20 pick … he wasn’t a first round pick … knew he was going to be the 35th pick in the draft.
I honestly don’t have an answer. There’s too much I don’t know.
I don’t know whether or not Honeycutt liked or didn’t like school, whether or not he could afford another year without an NBA paycheck, whether or not he enjoyed playing basketball at UCLA. But I have to think that he was planning on being drafted higher than the 35th pick to Sacramento.
I never begrudge guys who want to get paid to play. A guy like Brian Price was so great for us for three years that I was nothing but happy for him when he got picked in the 2nd round by the Buccaneers.
But Honeycutt’s decision to go pro after his sophomore season just never added up for me. It just seemed like what he needed was one more good season playing for a potentially very good UCLA team to really cement him as an NBA prospect. His talent is obvious. He has the ability to become a very good professional player. But there always was a bit more to him than his talent. His effort, his demeanor … I dunno … his aura always seemed just a little bit off in an I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it sort of way.
Maybe it was the absence of what he didn’t do. He never managed to be the best player on a really good team. He was a pretty good player on two forgettable squads. First round picks are supposed to take their teams to the tournament, to be clutch down the stretch, to take over games in crunch time. Honeycutt was just inconsistent in those areas and for every plus on the talent side there was a minus in the intangibles.
The final equation was becoming the fifth pick in the second round and in what seems like a karmic joke he ends up on the dysfunctional and fiscally insolvent Sacramento Kings, joining the also talented-but-enigmatic DaMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Maybe it’s the Bruin in me, but something tells me that – all things considered – being the best player on a Final Four UCLA team seems like a better way to spend next season than waiting out a lockout during a summer without Summer League and spending what’s left of the season in Sacramento on a two-year deal with only the first year guaranteed.
The Chicago Bulls chose Malcolm Lee with the 43rd pick with the intention of sending him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves, the worst team in the NBA last year, just signed Rickey Rubio to a multi-year deal, which is going to seriously set a pick in Lee’s attempt to become an NBA point guard. Minnesota made so many deals I can’t figure out who they have left, but last year they needed a shooting guard who could shoot – too bad Malcolm can’t all that well.
The cautionary tale I want told to me about Lee is who advised him to go pro. Someone gave the kid some bad advice and we’ve heard some of the advice givers could possibly be "in the camps" of some former Bruins – both in and out of the league. I’d also like to know who on the staff presented Lee (and Honeycutt) with the "here are the benefits of staying" speech. Or who on the staff builds those close personal relations with the kids so that when they give those fatherly stay in school words of wisdom they know it comes sincerely from the heart. (Given the number of UCLA players who go pro early, I’ve got a fantasy that Coach McCray plays that part and plays it well.)
I can't conclude this post without saying something about the UCLA Factor that has been mentioned on the boards the last week or so. The Factor suggests that UCLA players play better in the pros than their college stats might otherwise suggest and that Ben Howland's defense and fundamentals approach was becoming a positive tangible/intangible that NBA scouts and GMS were starting to consider. I still believe that it is -- a positive. But it's just one positive on a list that must be weighed against a list of negatives. In the end, Honeycutt and Lee had a few too many negatives each to justify becoming a first round selection in a supposedly weak draft. In the end, I respect their decisions to go pro early, but simply can't agree with them.