Before I totally turn the attentions of the site to spring football and baseball, there is one loose end to tie up. That loose end is the Curious Case of JaJuan Johnson. The biggest news out of West Lafayette yesterday was that JJ has not yet made up his mind in regards to turning pro. It is really a perfect storm of sorts. Many college football players decided to enter this year's NFL draft in the hopes of one last big payout before the new collective bargaining agreement. The same appears to be true for the NBA.
If JJ goes pro, it will be because of money. As a first round pick he gets a guaranteed contract worth at least a couple of million dollars. If he waits a year, the NBA may have a new agreement with tighter restrictions on rookie contracts. If the CBA isn't settled, they may not have a 2011-12 season at all. The situation doesn't seem as drastic as the NFL appears to be after the 2010 season, but there are certain to be some changes.Most of the NBA's problems come from guys getting massive contracts beyond their rookie ones, then doing nothing after they get them because they are getting paid. I am looking at you, Jamaal Tinsley.
Naturally, we want JJ to stay. If he goes, we'll be a very good team and likely in the top 15. If he stays, we have the potential to be the best team to ever play at Mackey Arena. One thing that may help us keep JJ is an influx of underclassmen to the League. Naturally, the more players that declare ahead of JJ that are rated higher, the less likely he is to be a first round pick.
Another factor is the number of foreign entraints into the draft. According to MyNBADraft.com, the Pacers are on track to waste their first pick on another European player in the tradition of Primoz Brezec and Bruno Sundov. JJ is not on that projected first round list, but Al-Farouq Aminu, a player he outplayed head-to-head, is on the list. NBADraft.net doesn't have him on their mock draft, either. Draft Depot has several players who have not officially declared on their list, but JJ is not among them. He is currently 45th on their 2011 list.
Personally, I think JJ is staying. Too many players that are projected ahead of him are turning pro. Most of Kentucky's team is gone. Evan Turner is gone. Xavier Henry from Kansas is gone. They are far from the only players who have already declared, so the market is somewhat flooded at the moment. I don't think JJ is ready, and he would be a lower first round pick at best. Being a lower first round pick means that he would go to a team that is a title contender with an already established rotation. Ask yourself this question, then: Where do you see JJ fitting in on a team like Cleveland, the Lakers, Dallas, or Orlando? It likely means he doesn't get as much of a chance to play as he would on another team.
So we're left with a waiting game over the next two and a half weeks. JJ has until April 25th to make his decision. In the meantime, we must all keep sending subliminal messages towards West Lafayette to get him to stay. If someone can fly a banner over campus, even better. JJ can be part of something special next year while improving his chances of making millions in the NBA. We haven't had a first round pick since the Big Dog anyway, and I don't think he breaks that streak if he goes right now.
Next year, however, he can make a statement as the dominant big man in the Big Ten. He has a pair of centers to face off against in Mike Tisdale and Ralph Sampson III. He can also show his versatility if we want to go big with Carroll/Marcius at the five and Hummel at the three. If you plug in JJ at the four there you can have a lot of fun while showing off a new skill set for the NBA scouts.