Syracuse NBA Draft Preview - Where Will C.J. Fair Go?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NBA Draft is almost upon us. Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, and C.J. Fair are hoping to hear their names called on Thursday night, with Ennis and Grant likely to be selected in the first round. I sat down with my CNY Central colleague and fellow basketball junkie Alex Dunbar to discuss the draft and where the three former Orange men are expected to land.

Up today: C.J. Fair

Jeremy: It looks like C.J. Fair is in the same boat that James Southerland was last year. IF he gets drafted at all, it will likely be in the middle to end of the second round. That begs the question that same up with James last year: Is it better to go undrafted and try to find the right fit then get picked by a team that may not have a place for you?

Alex: I agree with the Southerland comparison. There is no question that Fair can help a team, but since he is being viewed as a non-rotation guy (at least right now) the situation is crucial. Fair is an above average rebounder as a small forward, can put the ball on the floor, shoot it and play tough defense. That's exactly what teams want from a 10th, 11th or 12th man to provide versatile depth. Unfortunately, this is a deep draft for small forwards and I hope Fair isn't lost in the crowd. NBADraft.net has consistently kept Fair in the second round - what do you think of the idea that there are a few teams hoping to bring him in on a non-guaranteed/series of ten-day contracts?

Jeremy: Well, it's a virtual lock that he'll have to earn his way onto a roster. It will be a huge upset if he is picked in the first round. But every franchise has one or two guys who make the team out of training camp each year. If he doesn't, perhaps he can catch on with a D-League team and hope for a call-up a la Southerland or Arinze Onuaku. However, like you said, the modern NBA is looking for jack of all trades guys like Fair. They need players who can shoot, handle the ball, rebound, and defend. In a way, he's the antitheses of Jerami Grant. Fair isn't a super-athlete (by NBA standards) like Grant, but he's very skilled. He can shoot it, he put the ball on the floor well enough to create space, and he can get to the rim. Whether he can finish is another story.

If you were a playoff team looking for small forward depth, would you take a polished product like Fair or a project like Grant?

Alex: It is clear that Grant has the higher upside and NBA teams essentially have to swing for the fences. If I was an NBA team, I would go for a potential in the first round and target Fair in the early second round where he could be a bargain. He's an upgrade on the end of the bench guys most teams have right now - and you wouldn't need to sign him to a long term deal. Unfortunately, many NBA teams are carrying too many contracts right now and even their end of the bench spots may be already assigned to guys on multi-year deals. If you were in the room for an NBA team - where would you recommend they consider taking him?

Jeremy: I think you're thinking of the 'old' NBA. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, contracts are typically shorter and there is more player turnover from year to year. There are also 15 man rosters now, instead of 12 and an injured list. I think it's actually easier now for a player like Fair to get a realistic shot in training camp than it was a few years ago.

But to answer your question, I agree that Fair could offer some end of bench value to an NBA franchise. I don't think it would be a reach to pick him in the mid-to-late second round and not take a chance on signing him as a free agent. I think the biggest knock on Fair is his lack of elite athleticism, but if he can prove his versatility and willingness to fill a role I think he could have a nice journeyman career.

So which NBA playoff-caliber teams do you think should take a long look at him?

Alex: Good point - the modern collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow NBA teams to destroy their future with bad contracts, just do serious structural damage. It is a better situation overall (it had nowhere to go but up) and it does give a guy like Fair a better shot. For my money, Denver, Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia are the teams that should give Fair the most consideration. (Disclaimer: Fair is the type of player who could help any team in the league - I'm just looking at the ones that could use him the most.)

Denver is a decent team that could benefit from a guy who does a bit of everything. He could provide toughness as a small forward but could also give the Nuggets some much needed outside shooting as an undersized power forward.

Washington is a good team, they are familiar with Fair as a Baltimore kid. Journeyman Trevor Azaria played 35 minutes a night for the Wizards last year so opportunities are available. The team clearly wants Otto Porter to develop into a starter but Fair would be some inexpensive insurance/plan B.

Dallas might be the best option. Vince Carter and Shawn Marion are in the twilight of their careers but aren't quite done yet. Bring in Fair, see what you have and maybe his skill set fits in well with the Mavs' offensive game plan. It makes a lot of sense and I don't want to jinx it any more than I have. (One last note - Dallas has two second round picks.)

Philadelphia has five second round picks so they have plenty of opportunities to do whatever they feel like. Why not just draft a new staring lineup for the D-League 87ers? Philly was pretty terrible last year (obviously) and I doubt they would be interested in giving heavy minutes to C.J. Fair right now but he's better than the small forwards on the end of the bench. The fact that Fair played with Carter-Williams in college for two years might win him some points with the 76ers' front office too.

Anyway, that was longer than a Bond villain self-congratulation speech, and probably crazier too. What do you see out there for C.J and his headband?

Jeremy: It's so hard to predict these second round guys. Just as many teams look for the best player available as draft for need. Among contenders, I like the Bulls at #49. They lost Luol Deng last year and are thin at small forward. I like the Pacers as a backup to Paul George. I think he could be a great fit for the Spurs system. He can shoot, pass, play defense, and make smart plays. He just might not get a chance to do so for a couple of years.

I like what you're thinking with Philly. He would have an excellent chance to make the team and may even get some decent minutes. Even if the team is terrible, that could be the best place for him. I'd like to see his name called on Thursday, but as long as he gets a real chance to make a team we should be happy for him wherever he lands.

Alex: Agreed. It's also worth noting that even if C.J. Fair doesn't latch on with an NBA team, he will have an outstanding professional basketball career. The play (and the pay) in the Euro leagues is very good.

Jeremy: There are worse things that can happen than making mid-six figures, getting a house and car for free, touring Europe, and oh by the way playing basketball for a living. If that’s Fair’s future for the next decade, I think he’ll be ok.

Monday: Tyler Ennis

Tuesday: Jerami Grant

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