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NBA Folks, Don't Make Jim Boeheim Your Straw Man

Jim Boeheim lit a fire under some people's butts over NBA draft comments. But those people are missing a key component of why Boeheim said them.

Much gnashing of teeth today over Jim Boeheim's comments regarding players leaving college early. Almost all of it misdirected.

First, a note. I don't agree with everything Jim Boeheim says about players, especially when it comes to paying them. I think he's stuck on an old argument when the rest of us are talking about something else (players getting paid at all vs. players getting what they deserve). And I agree that players should be allowed to go pro whenever they want. It's ridiculous that anyone can tell anyone 18 or older that they're not allowed to make a career at whatever they want, whenever they want.

Second, let's get Boeheim's comments from this past weekend.

"I think guys make those decisions based on where they are in the draft," he told "This year there’s probably about 30 guys thinking they’re going to be in the Top 10 picks, so it’s crazy. More than 30 probably that think they’re going to be in the Top 10."

I’m not going to be specific about anybody but my experience is guys look and if they see they fall where they’re favorable [they leave]…If you go 15th in the draft, you’re nothing. You might be out of the league in two years. It used to be a first-round draft pick you had a chance. That’s nothing. Those guys are out of the league. Half the guys taken in the first round the last three years are not even in the league.

"You gotta be in the top seven, eight, 10 picks to make sure you’re going to be playing in the NBA."

You gotta have a skillset. They don’t work with you up there. You’re either ready to play up there or you’re not. You go up there and you can’t shoot, you’re not playing. You up there and you’re not strong enough, you’re not playing. People forget how good the players are in the NBA.

"Kemba Walker, he’s about what, the 20th best point guard in the NBA? If he’d have played here for us yesterday, he’d have had 40 points. That’s what he would’ve had and everybody would’ve said, ‘Jeez, he’s pretty good.’"

Third, check out the BRIMSTONE ANGER these comments have unleashed over at PBT and here at SBNation. Oh my God, did Boeheim threaten to murder everyone on the Indiana Pacers or something?

Fourth, reality check time...

Those quotes are typical Boeheim. Strong opinion, loose with the stats, based on own experience and, most of all, honest.

"Honest" is the key one because if the NBA folks would bother to do some research, they'd realize that Boeheim constantly gives his players an honest assessment as to whether or not they should go pro. And often times, that honest opinion has shoved them out the door and into the waiting arms of the NBA Draft.

  • Boeheim told Carmelo Anthony to go pro after one season (not that Carmelo was going to disagree, but Boeheim was ready to push him out even if he did).
  • Boeheim recommended to Jonny Flynn that he test the NBA waters (wondering whether or not the NBA folks wish Boeheim had been more of an a-hole then).
  • Eric Devendorf, who left SU with a year of eligibility, told that Boeheim "supported me 100 percent in my decision and you know if I wanted to come back, I know he'd love to have me back, as well as Paul [Harris] and Jonny [Flynn] too."

I know, I know. You want to hate Jim Boeheim. I totally get it. He's like a living Disney villain from the 60's. His facial features, voice and mannerisms are tailored to make you dislike him.

But, trust me, Jim Boeheim is not a bad person. He is not trying to force Tyler Ennis or Jerami Grant to stay in Syracuse and forgo millions. If anything, he is trying to do what he thinks is in their best interest, especially Grant, who appears to be trending as a mid-range first-round selection.

You're talking about a guy who has watched underclassmen like Fab Melo, Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn leave only to struggle and eventually fade away way sooner than they should have. You're also talking about a guy who has watched Carmelo and Michael Carter-Williams flourish. He knows the difference between the two groups. He's got 38 years of experience to know it.

Boeheim's greatest faults are his honesty and his absoluteness. His statements can come off as arrogant and know-it-all, and maybe he is some of that. But he's also not wrong. And he's not messing around with the lives of the players under his care just so he can pad his own stats. Trust me on that.

Syracuse will do just fine if Ennis and Grant leave, Boeheim knows this. But he seems to think that they might be better served by another season in orange. If that's the case, it's simply his honest opinion based on experience.

And nothing more than that.