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May 6, 2008

Going pro isn't the right choice for everyone

VIDEO: Best and worst decisions to turn pro

Of the 69 players who are early entrants to the 2008 NBA draft, there were only a handful of easy decisions.

Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley and Memphis freshman Derrick Rose were in the minority. They are expected to be the first two picks, in some order.

But most of the early entrants had to weigh all sorts of factors, from where they will be drafted to which other players are entering the draft. They also had to consider if they could raise their stock by staying in school, and if so, by how much? That meant projecting what their teams will look like in 2008-09. Some had to think about supporting their families financially.

Then came the most important question of all: To sign or not to sign with an agent. Once a college athlete does sign with an agent he forfeits his eligibility.

After sorting through all those factors and more, we came up with the five best and worst decisions to enter the draft. We explain why each player fell into each category below.

FIVE BEST

G Mario Chalmers, Kansas
Stats: 12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.2-1 assist-turnover ratio, 2.5 spg

It would have been a mistake for this NCAA Tournament hero not to test the draft. Few players, if any, boosted their stock more in the postseason than Chalmers, the 6-foot-1 guard who hit a 3-pointer to force overtime in the title game. He scored in double figures in every NCAA Tournament game and had a career-high 30 in the Jayhawks' victory over Texas in the Big 12 title game. That all came after an impressive regular season, which included career-highs in virtually every statistic, including field-goal percentage (51.6 percent) and 3-point percentage (46.8 percent). Chalmers also was wise to not sign with an agent. The three-year starter is projected as a borderline first-round pick, but he has the opportunity to raise his stock significantly next season. Kansas will lose at least three starters, which undoubtedly would force Chalmers into a more prominent role.

F/G Lee Cummard, BYU
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 56.9% FG

The casual fan may not have heard of Cummard, but NBA scouts certainly have. Cummard can capitalize on a breakthrough season where he led BYU in scoring and assists and ranked second in rebounding. He also led the Mountain West Conference by shooting 56.9 percent from the field, a remarkable stat considering more than 36 percent of his field-goal attempts came from 3-point range. Cummard, who isn't particularly athletic, won't be a lottery pick and he may not get taken in the first round. But his stock is unlikely to ever be higher. Plus, his 6-7 frame and an ability to play multiple positions give him an edge over many other early entrants.

F Donte Greene, Syracuse
Stats: 17.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 1.3 spg

When you have a solid chance to be a lottery pick, you need to enter the draft, and that is the case with Greene, a freshman who is projected to be taken between the 10th and 20th picks. It's easy to see why. He has the physical tools to be a great small forward in the NBA someday. At 6-9, he has long arms, great leaping ability and shooting range that extends beyond the college 3-point line. It's unlikely Green's stock will fall, but if it were to happen, he still can pull out of the draft since he hasn't signed with an agent. That option wouldn't hurt Greene. In fact, since next year's draft promises to be much weaker the incoming crop of high school prospects isn't nearly as strong as previous years -- he stands a better chance of being taken in the 2009 lottery.

G Lester Hudson, UT-Martin
Stats: 25.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 4.5 spg, 2.8 spg

It's rare to see a player from the low-major ranks who should leave school early, but it's tough to imagine Hudson's stock getting any higher. Hudson, a 6-3 junior guard, put up remarkable numbers this past season. More important, he showed he could more than hold his own against high-major programs. Hudson scored 35 against national runner-up Memphis, 36 against Vanderbilt and 27 on defense-minded Mississippi State. Those kind of performances against that kind of competition grabbed the NBA's attention. Hudson has been invited to the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, and if he shows he can play point guard there, he could wind up being a late first-round pick.

C Brook Lopez, Stanford
Stats: 19.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg

This may seem like a no-brainer since Lopez is a lock for the lottery, but he probably would have been taken among the first 14 picks last year. Seven-footers with his size and coordination always are in high demand. The difference this time around is that the 7-foot, 260-pounder is good enough to help an NBA team immediately. He developed a couple of go-to moves in the post this past season, allowing him to score consistently when given the ball with his back to the basket. He also became a better rebounder and post defender. Look for him to contribute from Day One with the NBA team that picks him.

FIVE WORST

F J.J. Hickson, N.C. State
Stats: 14.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg

If given the choice, you never want to go into the draft with your stock slipping. That is the case with Hickson, a 6-9 freshman. He got off to an impressive start, averaging 16.5 points per game in November and December. But that dropped to 12.5 in conference play. The Wolfpack's struggles didn't help, either. They lost their last nine games and finished with more losses (16) than wins (15). Hickson is projected as a borderline first-round pick, but if he stays in school and makes some improvements, he will be a first-round lock next year.

F Davon Jefferson, USC
Stats: 12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Of all the possible one-and-dones this year, Jefferson is the most surprising of the bunch. The 6-8 forward put together a promising freshman season, but was far from dominating. He lacks the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and doesn't have a dependable jump shot, glaring problems considering he will likely play on the perimeter in the NBA. But the worst part about Jefferson's decision was signing with an agent. The former five-star recruit could have improved specific parts of his game in the coming years and developed into a first-round lock. Instead, he'll probably spend next season on the bench of an NBA team if he's lucky.

C Robin Lopez, Stanford
Stats: 10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg

Robin is virtually the same size (7-0/255) as his twin brother, Brook. But they don't share much else in common. Robin lacks the offensive skills needed to be an inside scoring threat at the college level, much less the NBA. The sophomore likely will be drafted in the latter stages of the first round, but it's unlikely he will play much next season. Robin would have been better served by staying in school. With Brook leaving, Stanford and its new coach, Johnny Dawkins, would have built the team around Robin next season. He could have developed some go-to moves, played his way into the lottery and become better prepared for going up against the best big men in the world.

C/F Marreese Speights, Florida
Stats: 14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg

The NBA draft is more about potential than production, which suggests Speights is making the right choice. Speights, a 6-10 sophomore, has good size, a soft shooting touch -- and significant room for improvement. But this is shaping up to be a strong draft for big men. At least seven Kansas' Darrell Arthur Kansas State's Beasley, LSU's Anthony Randolph, Nevada's JaVale McGee, Stanford's Brook Lopez, Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan and UCLA's Kevin Love could be taken in the first 20 picks. That could push Speights to the last few picks of the first round. If Speights stays in school he has not signed with an agent and puts together a solid season, he could be taken 10-15 picks higher next year.

F Bill Walker, Kansas State
Stats: 16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Walker hasn't signed with an agent, and the freshman should not even be entertaining the idea of turning pro. At 6-6, Walker needs to improve his ballhandling skills and his shooting range to show he can play on the perimeter in the NBA. The former-five star recruit shot 30.7 percent (35-of-114) from the college 3-point line. He also needs to show he can be a more consistent scoring threat. Walker has the ideal opportunity to do all that if he stays in school. The departure of Beasley, who will be the first or second pick in the draft, creates a huge void for the Wildcats. Beasley averaged 26.2 points. Walker isn't going to replace those stats, but he could be the Wildcats' go-to guy and get as many shots as he wants next season.

VIDEO: Best and worst decisions to turn pro

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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