Michigan v Louisville

Despite earlier statement, Louisville’s Russ Smith to skip NBA draft


Young men have the right to change their mind.

Louisville guard Russ Smith has. Not long after the NCAA Tournament said he was going to pull a George Costanza and leave on a high note, walking away after the Cardinals won the NCAA title and entering the NBA draft.

But now he’s changed his mind, Smith is returning to college for another season, reports our sister blog CollegeBasketballTalk.

“If I would have left, I think I would have been shooting myself in the foot,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think I was mature enough.”

“As much smoke as you thought I was blowing to people, I really didn’t know. I was really unsure until I woke up this morning.”

I think this is a smart move. Smith was a likely second round pick who would have had a battle just to make a roster. Guys in that spot should stay in college (unless circumstances force them out). This isn’t the head scratcher around the league that Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State staying in was — he was a lock top 10 pick, those kind of guys have the green light to come out.

Smith will get his NBA shot in a year. And likely even in 2014 will be a second round pick. That said, he is the kind of quick, scrappy player I think can make a nice career in the NBA. He’s just going to have to adjust his game — 6’0” shooting guards don’t exist in the NBA. He’ll have to become a defense-minded, score-first point guard. He needs to develop a steady three point shot because without that teams will play off him and dare him to shoot. But scrappy players who can defend and are quick will catch a coach’s eye. He will get his shot.

Just next year.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.