Back when Josh Selby announced his decision to enter the NBA draft after a disappointing freshman season at Kansas -- Selby's NBA leap was motivated more by his ability to create a better life for his mother, so it's tough to criticize -- I, strangely enough, got a little bit excited. For some reason, I felt like I had a slightly sneaky piece of information. Selby was bad as a freshman, yes, but he was ineligible, then injured, then spent most of his time trying to crack a cohesive group of senior guards that were clearly more comfortable running Kansas's high-low motion offense with each other.
But Selby was still hyper-athletic. He still had the size, speed, and strength that caused some recruiting services to call him the best player in the class of 2011. Had his season panned out, he might have been a lottery pick. Now, he was a possible steal in the mid-to-late first round, and I was interested to see which intelligent NBA front office would make a play.
Apparently, the answer is ... none of them.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford released his Mock Draft 6.0 Tuesday, and Selby is nowhere to be found in the first round. In fact, in Ford's projection, Selby has dropped all the way to No. 37, several picks into the second round (which, in Ford's mock, means a trip to L.A. to play for the Clippers). By my count, there are currently 12 guards ranked higher than him in the draft, including players like Iman Shumpert and Travis Leslie, guys whose upsides seem vastly lower than Selby's.
Just a few weeks ago, scouts raved about Selby's individual workouts. Now, nothing. It begs the question: What happened?
These answers are always hard to decode, and we're still 36 hours from the draft, so anything can still happen. But it appears Selby's individual workouts haven't done enough to convince scouts he's worth the risk of a first-round pick. Or, as the Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan writes, some NBA team may be intentionally deflating Selby's stock in the hopes of snatching him risk-free in the second round:
What’s up? Maybe scouts are a lot like Kansas fans. The more they saw of Selby, the less they liked him. Or could it be, as one NBA insider wonders, that one team desperately wants Selby to drop to them and has spread rumors that they think he’s a bust waiting to happen?
If one NBA team is able to torpedo a player's stock among the rest of the league, well, you have to hand it to them. That is one effective front office.
Another possible problem is the Avery Bradley factor. In 2009, Bradley was the No. 1 player in the ESPNU 100 rankings, arriving at Texas with fanfare matched only by Kentucky guard John Wall. Wall, of course, was a national player of the year candidate and went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Bradley had a so-so freshman season, jumped to the NBA early anyway, was drafted No. 19 overall by the Boston Celtics, and eventually found himself playing as many minutes in the NBA Developmental League as the NBA itself.
Does that mean Bradley won't turn into a solid pro? Of course not. But if I'm an NBA team, and I want to make the most of my first-round pick, maybe I look at Bradley and Selby as similar entities. Maybe I'm hesitant to take the high-risk, huge-upside one-and-done player who failed to make an impact in his eight months on a college campus.
Maybe I'm worried Selby is just in the draft for the money. Maybe I'm fretting about his injury history. Maybe he didn't interview well. Maybe NBA scouts saw Selby's absence in yesterday's Seebpomd as a prohibitive sign. (OK, OK, not so much.)
It's hard to divine these sorts of things in the run up to the draft, because you really never know what's going to happen when David Stern takes the podium. Still, it's hard to believe that in this draft -- a weak one by all accounts, and one that features more undersized, risky combo guards with their varied share of negatives -- that Selby isn't at least worth a late-first round flier. As I wrote back in April, one man's one-and-done bust is another man's sleeper. Apparently, as of today, the NBA doesn't seem to agree.
Now watch the Spurs get Selby in the second round, and watch Selby turn in a DeJuan Blair-esque rookie season. The NBA is so weird.