Friday, April 18, 2008

Farewell Donte

I am sad to see Donte' Greene declare early for the NBA draft, but I also believe it is the right move for him. I do not think Greene is ready to play in the NBA, but staying in college is more of a risk than a benefit to him at this point, and with the basic guarantee of millions on dollars it would be foolish for him to risk it.

The possibility of injury does exist at the college level, and Greene was well aware of this past season with teammates Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins both having devastating injuries, and Devan Brennan-McBride basically having his career ended due to shoulder problems. If that were the only risk, I think he should return to college. The number of Syracuse players who have had their career cut short by injury is very short (as a mentioned a few months back). Greene, however, faces more a more serious risk.

Donte' Greene’s value is the big ‘P’: “Potential”. He has a 6’11” frame and a very nice shooting touch from the perimeter. That “potential” is going to earn him a lot of money in the NBA draft, as general managers and scouts imagine ‘what if’. Each year Greene plays in college, his potential decreases and his actual skills become more defined.

Greene showed flashes of being a great perimeter shooter. Early in the season, he was shooting about the 40% mark from the three point range. He has a quick release and loves to catch and shoot. He averaged 7.2 rebounds a game, and scored 17.7 points a game. Nothing earth shattering, but at the same time, numbers that showed he could play at the college level.

Greene had his weaknesses. He could not, or would not, play defense. He did not like to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop, and he did not like to play near the basket. He could rebound, but for his size, you could expect more. If he came back his sophomore season, he could work on improving those weaknesses and his stock would increase.

But what if he couldn’t improve? It is possible that Greene does not have the aptitude to play defense, or the mental toughness to play in the paint. Another season of college ball might expose his inability to improve in those areas. He started his freshman season off by shooting very well from the perimeter, and finished by shooting very poorly. What if the second half of the season was more true to form that the first half? Greene could not afford to prove any of those assumptions.

My guess is that he could improve in all those areas, and that he has the ability to succeed. He will likely go on to a very solid NBA career. But he is smart to not risk it in college, not when the money is there waiting for him.

Some will argue that he needs to have the time to develop in college and that he will be leaving money on the table by leaving early. I disagree on both points. The NBA team that drafts him will make sure he gets plenty of time in practice to learn the game, and they will make him work hard for they will have a sizeable investment in him.

As for leaving money on the table, it may be true that his initial contract could be less than he could get if he stayed another year. But you need to factor in that if he stayed in college for 2008-2009, he would have $0 income, whereas he will earn at least a few million by going professional. Plus he will likely have a three year deal, meaning he would be a free agent after the 2010-2011 season. Assuming he would play until the same age in either scenario, he is picking up an additional year of salary, and becoming a free agent on year earlier.

It is a shame that he is leaving Syracuse early. He will just be a footnote in Syracuse basketball history, really nothing of tremendous significance. He did score 620 points, the second most ever in school history for a freshman. But you get the sense that was more a product of him being the top option on the team, rather than excellence. Greene did not give Syracuse fans any magic moments to remember. No 30 point games, no game winning 3 pointers, no playoff dramatics.

In fact, Greene’s team blew a large lead in the Big East tournament to Villanova, and failed to win a Big East tournament game. The team did not go to the NCAA tournament, lost more games than any Jim Boeheim coached team, ever. Lost more games than any Syracuse team since the 1968-1969 season. The team blew a 20 point lead in the NIT tournament to bow out in the quarter finals. No, there are no heroics for Greene in his college career.

He scored 17.7 points a game and had 7.2 rebounds a game. Solids numbers, but not record breakers. He’s unfortunate to be compared to Carmelo Anthony, as all future Syracuse freshman always will be. Anthony averaged 22.2 points and 10.0 rebounds. Lawrence Moten, who came to Syracuse unheralded, averaged 18.6 ppg and 6.0 rpg.

Greene did set the Syracuse freshman record for 3 point shots made with 90, breaking Gerry McNamara’s record of 85. But GMac had a knack of making very memorable shots, game breakers. McNamara made 35.7% of his shots, Greene 34.5%.

I’m sure that if Greene has a great NBA career (quite a possibility) fans will reminisce about how great he was to watch at SU. Revisionist history always prevails. I am willing to post right now, however, that it really was not that memorable. And that’s unfortunate.

1 comment:

OrangeRay said...

FYI - I do not mind dissenting opinions. In fact, I will encourage them.

However, I do not tolerate profanity. If you leave profanity in your comment, your comment will be deleted.

Thank you.