May 6, 2016 by Marshall Kelner
By Marshall Kelner
There are two rounds of the NBA draft and 60 total picks. There were 63 players invited to the 2016 NBA Draft Combine. Julian Jacobs was not one of them.
So, a person with common sense in Julian Jacobs’ position (one year of eligibility remaining) might have inferred this: “I will definitely not be taken in the first round, so I will get no guaranteed money. I very likely won’t even be drafted at all. If I’m lucky enough to get an NBA team to sign me, I will go straight to the D-League. More likely, though, I will have to try and get signed to play in Europe.”
The simple logic continues: “I have a lot to work on when it comes to my game. I shot the ball very poorly from outside last season. I was one of the team’s spark plugs, but at times still made too many bad decisions and didn’t value every possession enough.”
Let’s keep going: “We have a chance to be special next year with me leading the way as a senior. Yes, we lost some transfers, but we gained far more than we lost. We have an extremely talented core of players, good chemistry, and good coaches. We have a chance to win our conference and do damage in the NCAA Tournament. The loss to Providence left a bad taste in our mouths and we will use that as motivation this off-season to come back next year better than ever.”
This is what a rational person would say if he was in the same position as Jacobs. I put my name in for draft consideration, didn’t hire an agent so I could keep my options open, and in the end wasn’t invited to the combine.
So, why did Julian Jacobs just make an extremely stupid decision? There’s no way to know for sure, but I can think of only two possible reasons:
- He has the wrong people giving him advice. Let’s be honest. Division-1 college basketball players at major programs have a lot of people in their ears. Lots of these people want a piece of the pie if and when they make it big in the NBA. Some of those people are agents, some are family and friends. If Jacobs was taking the advice of the USC coaching staff the most seriously, there’s no way he would be forgoing his senior season. Andy Enfield is in the perfect position to give Jacobs advice that is good for the player and the program. Sometimes, that’s not always the case. Kentucky coach John Calipari is known for encouraging his players to leave if they are guaranteed lottery picks. As he says, it’s about the team during the season and the players as individuals after. Jacobs was in an ideal position. If he had decided to come back, it would have been good for him and the program.
- Jacobs has convinced himself that he’s ready to take the quantum leap to the NBA. If that’s the case, I’m even more worried for his basketball future. Failure to be your own harshest critic is a bad trait to have. Kobe Bryant was harder on himself than anyone else could even imagine being. Confidence is one thing, but if Jacobs honestly thinks that he’s ready for the NBA based on the evaluation he has just received and the myriad of areas he needs to improve in, it has gone overboard into arrogance and fantasy.
Here are the reasons why I think it’s a foolish decision:
- He will likely not be drafted. If he is, it will be in the second round with no guaranteed money and little chance of making an NBA roster.
- Even though he’s played three years of college basketball, he still has lots of upside and areas to improve in, most notably his shooting.
- He can significantly improve his draft stock with a good senior season that features a higher shooting percentage from outside and better decision making at the point guard position on both ends of the floor.
- USC was a Pac-12 title contender with him and a likely Sweet 16 team or better.
- The Providence loss put a damper on a fantastic turnaround season and this team is hungry to do more.
- He could get his degree from USC. I’m not sure if he already has or will get his bachelor’s degree before he leaves. Regardless, however, he could start and/or finish a master’s degree as well.
- It would have been his last year of college. You can’t get that time back.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish nothing but the best for Julian Jacobs. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with his decision. Ivan Rabb of Cal, a likely lottery pick, is returning to school after a tumultuous end to the season for his squad. Jakob Poeltl came back this past season after he would have been a lottery selection and improved many areas of his game. Those are only two examples.
Almost any player entering the draft has significant areas of weakness in their game. Ben Simmons, who will be either the #1 or #2 pick this June, struggles to shoot the ball from outside of 10 feet. Former USC star DeMar DeRozan struggled with his outside shot coming out of school as well. Former UCLA star Kevin Love was overweight and many questioned his athletic ability. What’s the difference between those three and Jacobs? They were or will be top 10 picks with a lot of guaranteed money. They had more upside and much better college careers. They were invited to the NBA combine!
Nikola Jovanovic also put his name into consideration for the draft and also did not hire an agent at first, just like Jacobs. He was also not invited to the combine. It’s just a hunch, but I am confident that he will return to USC. He doesn’t have as much upside as Jacobs at the next level, but his draft stock is in a similar position right now. Neither will be drafted.
I have said for weeks now that if Jacobs decides to leave, it will be the worst decision I have seen a USC player make with regard to the draft since Davon Jefferson (O.J. Mayo’s sidekick) after the 2007-08 campaign. With one more year in school, Jefferson could have been a first round pick. He decided to leave, in large part because he didn’t enjoy school unfortunately. He went undrafted, but has enjoyed a long professional career in Israel.
While Jacobs probably couldn’t turn himself into a first rounder like Jefferson could have, you never know. Look at what Buddy Hield did this season! The guy would have gone in the second round at best last year, maybe undrafted. Instead he came back, was the best player in the country, led his team to the Final Four, and will now most likely be a top five pick. What a difference.
Jacobs was thrust into playing a ton of minutes at USC as a freshman and became notorious for his poor decision making. Isn’t it ironic that his final act as a Trojan is by far his worst decision of all?