Bob Huggins obviously is happy that he’ll see standout post player Oscar Tshiebwe back in a WVU men’s basketball uniform next season. After seeking an NBA draft evaluation, Tshiebwe got back an answer that was better than he thought he would get, but not one good enough to leave Morgantown for a possible pro career.
So the Mountaineers get back a player considered one of the best returning for the 2020-21 season, but that’s not the only reason Huggins is relieved. During a recent video conference, he wondered exactly how accurate any draft projections would be in the current landscape of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This draft, I think, you have really less an idea of where you’re actually projected to be drafted than maybe any draft we’ve had in a long time,” he said.
With the sporting world shut down due to the pandemic, the opportunities to evaluate potential NBA draft picks in person are nil. The New York Times’ Marc Stein tweeted Thursday that the May 19 draft lottery and May 21-24 draft combine in Chicago are expected to be postponed.
All that draft prospects get now, Huggins said, is a projected position of where they might get picked. That comes from the NBA sending the player’s name to a pool of general managers and those GMs saying a player could get picked fifth or 18th or 40th.
“What they don’t say,” Huggins said, “is there may be seven Europeans that no one knows about other than the NBA people that are coming over that may drop you down seven more spots or 10 more spots.”
As for NBA franchises evaluating college players during the NBA season? Huggins said that doesn’t happen and justifiably so. During the season NBA franchises are focused on their current teams — whether they can make a trade to improve the roster for a postseason run or what they should do with a player already on the roster.
“They watch some college basketball, but not to evaluate anybody,” Huggins said. “They watch it because they enjoy it. They’re not during their season evaluating guys. And when our season’s shut down, their season shut down. So what are you evaluating? Don’t think there are scouts out there making decisions. They’re processing information and supplying it to people.”
If evaluation opportunities are scarce, Huggins added, NBA teams will go with players that are familiar and that they’re sure about. That could mean leaning more on European players they’ve been watching develop for years.
What would most benefit college players trying to figure out their own draft prospects, Huggins said, would be if those who could gain financially from them going pro would keep quiet. A problem in the process, Huggins said, is when people looking at dollar signs for themselves pressure college players to make hasty or bad decisions that cost them in the long run.
“The best thing is if those people trying to make money from them would stay out of their business,” he said. “That’s what would help. I’ve done this for 40 years and you can’t find one of my guys who’d say I tried to make something off of him. I’ve always tried to do what is in their best interests.”