C.J. Fair shouldn't go pro now. An easy decision.
Sure, the stats say Fair has upped his average for each season at Syracuse. Going from 6.4 points as a freshmen to this past season's average of 14.5 per game. And yes, Fair seemed to develop a little bit of a jump shot during his junior campaign -- even making 46% of his 64 attempted three point shots. Basically, C.J. Fair became a go-to-guy on a team that came thisclose to playing for a national title. A team that finished third in the final rankings for 2012-13.
But while stats are nice, sometimes they're just numbers. Orange fans know Fair struggles to go to his right offensively, predictably driving to his left too much. And on those drives, at least out of an isolation, Fair is only shooting 34% according to Draft Express. Basically, Fair needs more time to marinate before the NBA call.
Which is probably one of the reasons why we aren't really seeing Fair's name in the world of the mock NBA draft:
- Hoops Hype - Updated 4/1 - Only a first round look, but no Fair to be seen
- ESPN - Chad Ford doesn't include Fair in his round one mock.
- Draft Express - A full two round mock! And, surprisingly enough, Fair doesn't crack in.
(Side - Michael Carter-Williams is a pretty set as a lottery pick and as good as gone. Not that you didn't know that already, but I thought it was worth pointing out.)
Obviously, the "experts" don't consider Fair a legit threat in the world of the NBA. Which is no surprise to the Syracuse fan who has been expecting Fair to return all along. (Although, as Sean points out, you never know until you know.) But here's where I throw the column into a different direction. I know you saw it coming, giving the title and all, but let me at least make something of a case for the opposition - maybe this is a little more difficult a decision than first thought:
C.J. Fair should go pro.
First, let's start with those mock drafts. Skim through them again. Notice something? Actually, go back and check out any of the previous drafts over the last decade, or so. Freshmen, sophomores, some juniors, a lot of international players on those lists, but rarely do you see the word "senior." Obviously not a new phenomenon, as NBA scouts and general managers fall in love with potential. And somehow, somewhere along the way, potential was lost between 18 and 22 years of age.
It's a philosophy that is probably an underlying factor in the case of Michael Carter-Williams. Despite being only a sophomore who barely played as a freshmen, Carter-Williams will be 22 by the start of next season. It's disturbing, but an old age for most scouts.
While Fair could be someone like Duke's Mason Plumlee or Kansas' Jeff Withey, who benefit by proving they got better each year, that's usually the exception to the rule. With the rule being, the longer you stay in college, the more the NBA looks for your flaws and turns its attention to a younger, less proven, player. Plumlee and Withey, and a few other seniors here and there, were able to gain the spotlight later in their careers and show improvement. Fair has already done that in each of his three seasons at Syracuse. So maybe now -- especially after a nice Final Four run, striking while the iron is hot -- is really his best chance?
And what probably stands out most about Fair's junior season, capped off by that run to Atlanta, was how his raw athleticism blended into his skill set. Fair has always been the guy to get the big rebound, get a key deflection on defense, or hit a big put-back basket. But this year, as pointed out with in his stats, Fair did start making the mid-range jumper, and he did start taking more threes. A big knock on Fair is he kind of fits the "tweener" mold -- too small to play in the paint, not efficient enough as a shooter to play wing in the NBA -- but this past season could leave a powerful impression on GMs looking to find the next hidden gem.
A diamond like Denver's Kenneth Faried -- a guy that, maybe five years ago, would maybe struggle to see the court. Faried is a big 6-foot 8, but still many considered him a "tweener." Now? He's one of the most entertaining players in the Association on one of the most entertaining teams in the Association. Now, Fair is no Faried in terms of athleticism, but Fair does have similar flaws and has similar strengths. With Fair's ability to find the ball, no matter what, and his improved jumper, I wouldn't be too surprised to see NBA teams think Fair could fit their rotation.
And another thing, there is a little buzz for Fair and the NBA, right? I can't seem to find anyone fully backing Fair as a pro, but whatever buzz that is out there has to be coming from somewhere. Whether it's just talk or not, scouts who came to watch Carter-Williams or any opponent the Orange played during the season certainly got a good look at Fair. Maybe that's where Fair's name comes into play? Maybe it's just Orange fans talking about it because, well, they're Syracuse fans and they've learned to expect the worse?
Still, whatever the unknown, what is known is that testing the NBA draft waters is sink or swim. And it's a sea loaded with talented players, and even more players with world's of potential. I think Fair sees the writing on the mock draft walls, understands he could sink given the work still needed, and gives himself another year to prove his worth, despite any risk he may be taking in returning.
But, then again, it may be a tougher decision than any of us realize.