So, uh, the world exploded last night. Either that, or signs started to point to Jordan Williams leaving Maryland and entering the NBA Draft. (I think it was that one, actually).
As it turns out, Maryland's most productive post player in decades (
maybe ever?) is now planning on putting his name in the NBA Draft to "test the waters", per his father Leon. The wide belief seems to be that he's a lean to go pro for good, with quite a bit of chatter building a strong case for it.
Aside from the questionable tweets (linked above) he sent out to Maalik Wayns (also expected to go pro), Cam Chism told Jeff Barker that Jordan has stopped going to at least one of his classes. That's not only a good indication that he wants to go pro, but it would also make it difficult for him to come back, assuming his academic standing is as bad as would be expected after two weeks of skipped classes.
Quite honestly, him going pro has seemed like the most likely outcome for the past few days; you just get a feeling that he'll be going, don't you? It's almost like a Murphy's Law sort of deal - a lot has gone wrong for Maryland basketball recently (we missed the NIT!) and historically. Then we hit that good spot of Justin Anderson committing and Shaquille Cleare becoming a
likelihood legitimate possibility, and, well, it felt like it was time for another shoe to drop. It started to drop last night, and it dropped hard.
Still, there are options for Jordan. If he doesn't hire an agent and doesn't like the feedback he's getting from scouts, he could withdraw his name from the draft and return to Maryland for his sophomore year, although the academics could make that process difficult. Even though that may seem unlikely, keep it in mind and don't start start freaking out too much until he makes it officially official.
As for the logic behind the decision, I don't know if there's a lot of it, though there is some. Keep in mind, though, that almost no NBA draft decisions are entirely logical. Recall that last year a whopping 77 underclassmen declared - for 60 total spots. This happens all the time. Jordan isn't ready to play in the NBA and most mocks/analysts don't have him in the first round, if they even have him drafted at all. He lacks a true position, he's not very athletic, he has no face-up game, he's still a little clumsy at times, and his defense is average - all of these are question marks that may (or will) likely hinder his pro game.
But despite all that, I've long thought that Jordan can contribute in the NBA. He's not Kevin Love, that's for sure, but he's not without skills that translate. He has a pretty solid back-to-the-basket game, for one, a trait that continues to die out in the pros. His rebounding by itself is an elite skill, even without great athleticism or height. And don't forget that he was extraordinarily productive, which will probably enough for some team to take a flyer on him.
Bill Simmons says that if you have one elite skill, you can catch on in the NBA, and I mostly agree. It doesn't mean that you'll get playing time or you'll be effective, but you can stay in the lig. Jordan's rebounding is elite, similar to the way Dejuan Blair's rebounding is elite: he's not that tall or athletic, but he has vacuum hands and a great sense for getting to the ball. (Not saying he'll be as effective as Blair.)
As far as the logic goes, if you're trying to figure out whether or not Jordan should go or stay, it's best to consider if he could improve his biggest weaknesses. And I don't really think he's going to get taller or more athletic anytime soon. Could he develop a face-up game?Maryland's over-reliance on him would probably prevent him from getting that opportunity.
His defense could improve, yes, and he could definitely improve his jumpshot - you could see him focus more and more on it as the year went on - so the question really becomes if that will boost his draft position enough for him to delay/risk getting, if nothing else, solid dough in Europe. And that's his call. And I'm not sure why we're debating it - that has a lot more to do with draftniks than it does us.
A lot of people are trying to figure out why he's going, too. The money? His girlfriend? Does he hate school? Does he think he's awesome? I don't know, and I don't think it matters. It's also irresponsible, nosy, and kind of douche-y to go about drawing conclusions about it when we know so little. Unless the only reason he's leaving is because he started to flunk out, I'm not sure the why here is relevant.
The same goes for the entire decision-making process. I've seen far too many comments toward/about Jordan and his decision-making throughout this entire ordeal. In reality, it's his decision entirely*. I won't go so far as to say that he did the University of Maryland (or the basketball team) a favor, but he certainly doesn't owe the team, the school, or (most obviously) the fans a thing. It's his life, and even if the decision ends up screwing Maryland next year, I'll still wish him luck.**
*I don't think I should have to remind people that contacting Jordan through any social media = not cool.
**I won't pretend I won't be bitter or upset at the situation, but I don't think I'll be angry at Jordan. Unless, that is, the reports about giving up on school are true, in which case I'll definitely be a little disappointed. I can deal with someone making a bad choice like going pro, but pulling a McCray ain't cool.
And I know I'll sound like firegary here, but that's a risk I'm willing to take: the problem isn't Jordan making a questionable decision and going pro; it's that Maryland is relying so heavily upon him not making that questionable decision. Quite simply, Maryland doesn't have elite depth, and it's been awhile since they have. I said it several times in regard to the most recent senior class - getting one elite player every year or two isn't enough, because that player may not turn out (Cliff Tucker), may end up getting sidetracked (Gus Gilchrist), or may, well, be so awesome that he leaves early.
I still caution anyone to be careful when trying to overlap that problem with current recruiting, which appears to have picked up pretty well. But it's something to keep in mind for the future: you can never have too many four-stars.
And, finally, what about Maryland next year? Are they screwed now? Eh, probably not, but it would certainly put the Terrapins in a precarious position. We'd probably see a lineup similar to the Dave Neal days, playing with three or four guards for a lot next year. Much of Maryland's success would depend on how ready Nick Faust and particularly Martin Breunig are, as well as the progression of Terrell Stoglin.
If Breunig can give 20 minutes of ACC-level play as a face-up four, it certainly makes things a lot easier. If Stoglin can become a carry-the-team-on-his-back scorer, which most people think he can become, that'll make things easier, too. You can succeed in the NCAA without a dominant big man, but I don't think there's ever been a great team without a great guard.
With that, I just wrote about 1200 words on a situation that is still massively undecided. And that'll probably be my last comment on it until the decision is made for good. But hey, something had to be said at some point.