And we're back to the hardwood. As you all know, today is the last day for underclassmen to pull out of the upcoming NBA Draft. However, as you also know, Mario Chalmers decided against doing so. Best of luck to you, Mario! We here at IBT will be rooting for you for years to come, hopefully not as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
If you're interested, it appears that purple school down the river lost their last remaining hope of being competitive next year. Despite another knee injury, Bill Walker will stay in this year's NBA Draft. Fare thee well, Pee Pants, we hardly knew ye…
Roy and the Tar Heels luck was quite the opposite, as Lawson, Ellington and Green all pulled their names out of the draft to return to Chapel Hill. Memphis' Robert Dozier is also coming back and though he doesn't get his own link, his coach has high expectations for him,
"I want Robert to come back with two things in mind -- to help the team win a national championship and become the player of the year in college basketball," Memphis head coach John Calipari said in a statement. Piece of cake.
And lastly, before we get to Brandon Rush's draft profile, it seems that a default judgment has been issued against Sherron Collins in the amount of $75,000. Apparently, Collins (or his attorney) did not respond too the summons. By the way, if you can get through that report without laughing, you are a better man than I. (Also worth noting: alleged incident, May 17, 2007 --- court case filed for money, May 14, 2008 (aka: Finals week).
Without further ado, here is the NBA Draft Profile of Mr. Brandon Rush…
As we've all heard ad nausea, this isn't Rush's first go round in the NBA Draft. He originally declared out of prep school before removing his name and enrolling at Kansas for a presumed one and done campaign. Despite having a great freshman season and leading the Hawks in scoring and rebounding, Rush decided that he needed at least another year in Lawrence before chasing his NBA dreams. As expected, he again led the team in scoring his sophomore season and after a tough defeat to UCLA in the Elite 8 he decided to test the NBA draft waters. Fortunately, for all of us, and even for him, he tore his ACL during a pre-draft workout and subsequently pulled his name out of the draft and began rehabbing for his third season in a Jayhawk uniform. We all know what happened after that…
Rush is a hard case to figure as far as projecting to the NBA. Not whether or not he'll be successful (he will), but to what extent. On the one hand, I've always thought it suited him better than the college game as there is much less zone defense and a typically spread out floor. As someone who has a dead-eye shot, but a little trouble handling in traffic, this seems ideal. Add to that his unreal athletic skill and ability to defend and you have yourself a surefire NBA contributor. To put it simply, even if Rush's game never improves dramatically; there's no reason to think he can't enjoy a career mirroring Raja Bell.
But can he do more? Does he want to? No one who has watched Rush will question either his competitiveness or desire. When the Hawks were struggling, he was often the player who would hit a shot or make a move to the basket to try and get them going again. He gives of a very ho-hum vibe, but if you've really watched him, you know that the emotions do come out. I, however, completely disagree when all the "experts" talk about him as a guy who wants the ball in the big moments. Anyone who watched the Hawks over the past three seasons knew that simply wasn't true for Brandon and that some guy named Chalmers actually fit that bill. My guess is that the rest of the nation now knows this as well. Regardless, Brandon is a great competitor and will do what it takes to win.
Off the court, we never really knew until this off-season. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I saw any improvement from his freshman to his sophomore year. I'm sure Bill Self and better basketball people than I will tell you differently, but from my perspective, he was pretty much the same player. However, between his sophomore and junior years, he showed me all he needed to. In addition to somehow rehabbing from an ACL tear in just five months, he also improved several dimensions of his game. Granted, he still doesn't drive as much as he should (could), but when he was playing well this year and taking it to the hole, he seemed to have another element to his game; passing. This isn't to say that Rush wouldn't or couldn't pass before his junior campaign, but that he got noticeably better at it this year. During his first two years, if Brandon was taking the ball into the paint he was going to pull up for either a jumper or charge in for a floater. By improving his ball-handling skills and overall court awareness, he has now added the ability to kick out to either side of the court, making him much more difficult to defend when he's driving the lane. Note to NBA defenders though; if you're not crowding Rush, you're playing him all wrong. He's certainly improved these areas of his game, but shooting is still his strength and he can definitely be frustrated into a bad night, especially if he's not hitting shots early.
Now I know I called him Raja Bell earlier, but defensively, the jury is still out. I say this only because of his surgery. I'm not sure we ever saw Rush at 100% this year and at times that cost him on the defensive end. Assuming he gets back to full strength, this can and likely will be what keeps him in the league for a long time. With his athleticism, arm length and lateral quickness, he will be able to defend most twos and threes. To go along with this asset, it should be mentioned that Rush has always been a great rebounder from the guard position. I doubt he ever puts up many double figure nights, but with ample playing time, you can expect him to get his share. I'd say anywhere in the 4-6 range seems entirely reasonable.
Much like was the case with Arthur, I'm sure you knew before reading a word that I thought Rush was on his way to a solid pro career. I think I've reinforced that opinion with some legitimate arguments though, and I'd love to hear what you think as well. Will Brandon be the next Raja Bell? Will he be better? Worse? No matter what happens in the end game, he leaves college as a national champion, beloved Jayhawk and on the verge of being a very rich man.