Coming off a breakout junior campaign for the Marquette Golden Eagles, shooting guard Vander Blue has decided to leave school a year early and enter the 2013 NBA Draft. Blue is by no means a lock to be a first round pick which makes the decision somewhat surprising. Allow me to break down why the decision both makes sense but could be one that Blue will regret.
Vander Blue’s growth from his sophomore year to his junior year was staggering. He developed a consistent jump shot, something that was totally lacking during his first two seasons at Marquette but still only connected on slightly above 30% from three-point range. The 6-4 Blue became the team’s go-to scorer especially in the clutch (see the St. John’s and Davidson games) and his evolving maturity and leadership made it nearly impossible for Buzz Williams to take him off the floor in big games.
Selfishly, I would have loved to see his game continue to blossom during his senior year where the Golden Eagles were shaping up to be a top ten preseason team. You figure that steady development would have only made NBA scouts take further notice of what they saw glimpses of during this past season.
One thing Blue has going for him is that the 2013 NBA Draft is going to be MUCH weaker than the 2014 class which is shaping up to be extremely stacked. With that being said, these shooting guards will be taken ahead of Blue; Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Archie Goodwin, Jamaal Franklin, Ricky Ledo. That list doesn’t include Brandon Paul or Tim Hardaway Jr. (if he declares) so at best, Blue is the 11th ranked shooting guard in this class. AT BEST. Yes it only takes one team to like Vander Blue and draft him, but let’s remember that a second round pick does not guarantee Blue a NBA contract and that’s where he will likely end up with the possibility that he might not be drafted at all. Ask Darius Johnson-Odom about that. To be honest, I think DJO was more “NBA ready” than Blue is right now.
NBA scouts do love athleticism which Vander Blue certainly possesses but I question whether or not he is physically ready for the next level. Blue is more times than not a finesse finisher in traffic with his flippy/finger roll lay-ups rather than rising up and trying to posterize defenders which he usually only does in transition. For every St. John’s/Davidson game winner, there was a somewhat out of control attempt that barely grazed the rim or got swatted into the first row.
His defensive tenacity was also one of Vander Blue’s best traits in the college game but can he defend the Dwyane Wades, Kobe Bryants, and Andre Iguodala-like shooting guards at the next level who will try to back Blue down and out-physical him? Sure, Blue will get stronger as time progresses but that is what NBA teams will considering when they try to gauge his transition to the next level.
Of course this is all me thinking out loud. I covered Blue throughout his high school career at Madison Memorial High School and as a psycho, obsessive Marquette basketball fan, saw practically every game he played in a Golden Eagle jersey and obviously wish him the best.
Marquette players have recently developed a reputation under Buzz Williams that should help Blue get extra looks during this draft process. Hopefully everything will fall into place for him (like it did for Wesley Matthews, Jimmy Butler, Steve Novak, and Jae Crowder) rather than having to scratch and claw to find a home in the league rather than settling for a career in the D-League or overseas (like Lazar Hayward, Jerel McNeal, and so far DJO.) What separates Vander Blue from those former Golden Eagle players; they all stayed for their senior season. Blue is making the choice to leave as a junior. Hopefully it turns out to be the smart decision like it was for another Marquette player; Dwyane Wade.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks