The NBA Draft is tonight, and one of the most interesting story lines is where Brandon Jennings will end up. After opting to forgo college and instead spend his mandatory one year of post-high school hoops in Europe, Jennings is going to be scrutinized forever as the trend setter of this decision (assuming others follow his lead in the future, which will in large part depend on where he gets drafted and how he performs in the NBA next year).
Recent mock drafts seem to have no consensus on Jennings, who is projected as either late lottery pick, or (more likely) a mid-first round pick. ESPN college basketball and NBA draft analyst Fran Fraschilla (also a college basketball coach for 23 years at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico) just said on ESPNEWS that Jennings' lack of experience running an offense is causing a lot of concern for NBA teams, causing his stock to drop in the last few days. Here's what Fraschilla has to say about Jennings on his International Player rankings:
"The former high school All-American who opted for Europe after not gaining academic eligibility at Arizona has had a season of mixed results. In his first season as a professional, there was no denying his outstanding athletic ability and great speed in the open court. That excites a lot of NBA teams. But his weaknesses showed in Italy's Lega A, where he displayed below-average outside shooting and the inability to run a team in the half-court offense.
One of Jennings' mistakes this year was in choosing a team with a number of experienced guards. He was not allowed to play through his mistakes and inexperience as he would have been at Arizona or with a smaller Italian club. While that has set his development back, he still remains one of the quickest players in this year's draft and a likely lottery selection."
Of course, as Fraschilla indicated and as most regular "Buzz" readers know, the main reason Jennings struggled with Virtus Roma was the stellar play of former Quakers star Ibby Jaaber. Jaaber started for Virtus Roma and relegated Jennings to limited opportunities off the bench. In 2009 Euroleague play, Jaaber averaged 26.1 minutes, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 10.4 points per game, compared to 19 minutes, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 7.6 points for Jennings. In Italian League play, Jaaber led Roma in minutes (30.2) and points (14.9), while Jennings averaged just 17 minutes and 5.5 points. You can find all of Roma's 2008-09 statistics here.
Interestingly, the Philadelphia Daily News listed Jennings among eight players that might be drafted by the Sixers at No. 17. That would certainly be a big disappointment for Jennings. In the story the DN mentions that Jaaber was asked to compare Jennings to likely top 3 pick and international sensation Ricky Rubio, and Jaaber said Jennings is the better athlete.
If Jennings slips tonights, Quakers fans can smile big knowing the biggest star in recent Penn hoops history had a direct impact on the NBA draft. Either way, Jennings' draft status appears to indicate that Jaaber has a chance to test the NBA waters himself. Jennings is younger and more athletic, so his potential is definitely higher than Jaaber's, but I see no reason why Jaaber shouldn't be considered as a second-round pick. If his back-up does end up in the top 10, Jaaber's stock can only go up. I'm still hoping to catch up with him soon to get the real scoop on his NBA prospects.
Update (June 25, 8:33 p.m): Jennings was just drafted No. 10 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. Going in the top 10 somewhat justifies his decision to play in Europe, and certainly is a good sign of Jaaber's ability and potential NBA prospects.