By Neil Patrick Healy
Nevada freshman forward Cameron Oliver decided to take the plunge into the NBA draft process last Friday. Oliver posted a photo to Instagram announcing his decision.
“Without further notice I will be declaring my name for [the] 2016 NBA draft process without hiring an agent so I will retain my college eligibility,” Oliver said.
There is no doubt that there will be angry fans in the comment section of articles screaming, “HE’S NOWHERE CLOSE TO BEING READY!” These are the same people who say no freshman is ready for the NBA and have a vendetta against the one-and-done rule, but the key phrase is, “without hiring an agent.” To Nevada fans, this means you need to pump the breaks and relax.
With a new rule change announced by the NCAA last January combined with the rules already in place by the NBA, college basketball players can enter their name into the draft three times throughout their career. If the player hasn’t hired an agent, he can still return to school before the May 25 deadline (10 days after the NBA combine). With around 1,000 players entering their name into the draft, it’s becoming more common for players to go through the evaluation process to see where they may land.
For fringe prospects like Oliver, this rule change offers a chance to be evaluated by NBA teams and hear where their stock is. Players are allowed to participate in the NBA combine, workout once in private with each of the 30 NBA teams and can work with their coach in private 12 hours a week if they are invited to the combine. The new change also gives prospects a security net to return to school if they don’t get the projection they wanted. Out of the 1,000 players entered in the draft, only 60 of them will get drafted. Some are college seniors and foreign players, but many are underclassmen that wouldn’t get drafted and would lose their college eligibility without this rule change.
Oliver is a player that has pro potential. At 6-foot-8, he possesses the size, athleticism and skill set that is all the rage in the NBA these days. He can shoot jumpers, rebound, block shots, run the floor well in transition and has a developing 3-point shot. He has the potential to player the three or the four spot, while being slotted in at center in certain lineups. Oliver’s game took a big step forward during Nevada’s eight postseason games, where he averaged 20.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks while leading the Wolf Pack to the first postseason tournament championship in program history.
Despite his potential and the productivity being evident, there weren’t exactly NBA scouts clambering to get into Lawlor Events Center to watch him play. The Mountain West Conference has been down the past few seasons making it harder to get noticed. This new rule change provides Oliver, and other players like him, more opportunities to get noticed.
One benefit that will serve Oliver well is scouts projecting what position he plays. Oliver is sometimes labeled a tweener (a player with a wide range of skills, but isn’t a perfect fit in a specific position) and up until recently that was a detriment to your draft stock. Now that wide range of skills is valued highly at the next level. Try watching an NBA game without hearing the word “versatility” 100 times. Players like Draymond Green, Jae Crowder and Kenneth Faried are tweeners who have found success and have blazed a path for players like Oliver.
The right move for Oliver is to go through this whole process and come back for his sophomore year. Unless something crazy happens that’s exactly what I think is going to occur. Oliver does have the potential, but he is still raw. Even though the NBA draft is based more on potential than being “ready” for the next level, Oliver still needs to hone his craft before he has a shot at getting drafted. Multiple scouting websites don’t even have Oliver in their top 100, let alone drafted. CBS Sports doesn’t have Oliver ranked in the top 100 draft prospects, DraftExpress doesn’t have him in the top 100 freshmen, and NBAdraft.net doesn’t even have any ratings or scouting info on his profile.
Oliver is testing the waters here with the draft process, but expect him to be back in a Nevada uniform next season. NBA evaluations will show him what he needs to improve on and he’ll apply that going into the season, which will result in a better player for Pack fans to marvel at. It will also result in more scouts showing up to Lawlor to watch. Oliver is a top-100 freshman in the country. He just needs the right exposure to prove it, and a stellar sophomore season with a MWC win and a good performance in the NCAA Tournament is the best way to do that.
So take a deep breath, Nevada fans. You’ll most likely still have him for another season. Enjoy it while you can, because next year’s draft announcement may be a little more final.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NP_Healy.