Everyone remembers Brandon Jennings’ decision to circumvent the NBA’s minimum age requirement by playing professionally in Europe for a year rather than spend a year in college. It worked out well for Jennings, who became a lottery pick and was one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year last season.
Latavious Williams was the example in last year’s draft. He skipped college and went to the NBA Developmental League. Although Williams wasn’t as talented as Jennings, he still parlayed his athleticism into becoming a second round pick this season.
Jeremy Tyler, however, is by far the most interesting test case. Tyler didn’t just skip college, he skipped his senior year of high school to turn pro, signing with a team in Israel. Things didn’t work out so well there. His lack of maturity was a constant criticism (not surprising, considering he was only 17) and he eventually quit the team. He’s re-emerged this season with the Tokyo Apache in Japan, trying to rebuild his draft position. Whether you’re supportive of his decision or not, Tyler is still a young big man with tremendous upside and many teams will consider him in the 2011 draft.
Measurables: 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, center playing professionally in Japan
Key stats: 9.2 points, 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent
Projected: Second round
How would he help the Pistons?
Joe Dumars has never been afraid to take projects in the second round. Mehmet Okur was a solid reserve on the title team and later became an All-Star in Utah. Amir Johnson never realized his potential in Detroit, but his experience here playing behind veteran, tough big men no doubt made him a better player and he’s a serviceable rotation guy for the Raptors now. It would’ve been nice if both guys were more productive as Pistons, but the general principle — finding the best upside when picking in the second round — isn’t a bad one. Second round picks rarely pan out, and Dumars has had moderately good success in that round compared to his contemporaries in the league.
Tyler, at 19, is already bigger and stronger than some of the college-seasoned bigs who will be available in the second round. He hasn’t played a lot in Japan, but his per-minute averages are pretty good — he’s getting about 10 points and 6 boards in only 15 minutes per game. Tyler is extremely athletic and, as you can see in the below clip from Asia Basketball Update, he’s incredibly raw but still a load inside with pretty solid footwork for such a young big:
He wouldn’t be an immediate help to the Pistons, but who realistically expects any second round pick to make an impact as a rookie? With Ben Wallace around one more year and Greg Monroe continuing to develop, as well as hopefully another big taken in the first round of the draft, Tyler would have a chance to learn from a couple of hard-working veterans and get some D-League time while the team evaluates whether or not he could become a solid player in the long term.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
There are two obvious question marks when it comes to Tyler.
First, the maturity thing. Now there’s certainly something to be said about a kid who has been a professional overseas for two years. Not many 17-year-olds would handle that well, and I’m sure Tyler has grown from the experience. But the fact that he quit a team and the fact that he decided to go pro at age 17 in the first place will at the very least cause teams to ask some questions about him.
And secondly, last season, in a very tough pro league in Israel, he didn’t play much before quitting. The Japan league he’s in now certainly isn’t an easy league, but the competition level is a notch or two below Israel and some of the top leagues in Europe. Tyler has shown progress on the court, but until he’s in a NBA camp, facing NBA caliber big men, it’s going to be really tough to evaluate where he’s at. He turns the ball over quite a bit and has been in foul trouble quite a bit this season.
Still though, if he’s around in the second round, that upside would be incredibly intriguing.
What are others saying?
“He is an athlete, there is no questioning that. He is quick, long, and can get up, but he is really raw. I have watched eight of his games now and have not seen him hit a shot farther than a free throw and have never seen him make a move with his left hand.”
* Big body, great size
* Elite athleticism
* Skilled player can face the basket and post up
* Lacks emotional maturity
* Made a terrible decision to skip high school and college
* Where is he going to play and how are scouts going to evaluate him?