Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Perhaps you are familiar with Jared Sullinger. He was projected as a top-three draft pick. Then the NBA issued a red flag pertaining to a back ailment, and lottery teams tripped over themselves running away from the Ohio State big man in terror. He fell to the Celtics at pick No. 20 and turned out to be a mighty fine pro player, until said back issues ended his season in February. You probably remember this, of course, even though a key element of it is not true. Sullinger was indeed predicted as a top-three pick — in 2011, in far-ahead projections that, due to their nature, often rely on a lot of assumptions and speculation. By the time the 2012 draft rolled around, Sullinger was consistently slated to go in the middle of the lottery, maybe as high as sixth, in the majority of mock drafts. This is not taking anything away from Sullinger, who proved up and down this season that many of his naysayers were wrong. But a lot had changed in a year. Nobody was drafting Sullinger, healthy or not, ahead of Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Nobody. Then the red flag came up, the Celtics nabbed Sullinger and the team started rewriting the narrative. Suddenly, Sullinger would have been drafted in the top three, or at least the top five, sans red flag. Never mind that Cleveland, picking fourth, wanted a wing player, or that Sacramento, picking fifth, had a weird fascination with Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, or that Portland, picking sixth, badly needed a point guard. Sullinger was a top-five talent, so he would have gone in the top five, all other evidence be damned. We bring this up because a similar rewrite of reality happened Tuesday, when Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart announced he would not declare for the NBA draft. The move made sense. At 6-foot-4, Smart probably is too small to play shooting guard as a pro, and scouting reports indicate he does not run the pick-and-roll well. Yet as soon as he made his decision public, the reaction across the basketball blogosphere was shock that a “high lottery pick” was staying a Cowboy. What? No. Stop. While a couple projections placed Smart as high as the top four — with ESPN calling him the No. 1 point guard on the board — those were not typical before Smart’s announcement. Many reliable draft websites had Smart being selected in the mid-to-low lottery, with the extremely thorough Draft Express placing him at No. 9. These projections have to be part of the reason Smart is staying in college. His move is not a shocking, boneheaded reversal. It is simply practical. In a draft widely considered to be weak, Smart had several knocks against him. Trouble operating the pick and roll is as severe a red flag as any medical-related one for a would-be NBA point guard. Greivis Vasquez and Raymond Felton have proved that if a player can do little else other than run a pick and roll well, he can play point guard in the pros. Likewise, worries about Sullinger’s lack of length and athleticism reportedly caused some executives to back away from him prior to the draft, before any concerns about his back came up. Again, this is not a knock against Smart or Sullinger. If anything, Sullinger’s success illustrates how a paint-by-numbers approach to the draft is loaded with faults. Both players show how drastically the premise can shift when the situation changes, however. It is easy to make predictions when they can’t possibly come true. Projecting Smart as the third overall pick would have been laughable when there was still a chance he could be in the draft. Now that he will not be drafted anywhere, such a wild projection cannot be proven false, so apparently it can be paraded around as truth. Sullinger will be back on the court next fall, battling for a spot in the Celtics’ starting lineup. Smart will be back in Stillwater, Okla., hopefully honing his outside shot and running pick-and-roll drills until he collapses. They should turn out to be pretty good players, no matter where they were — or were not — drafted. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Athletics trade Derek Norris to Padres

Dodgers not happy with Padres GM over Matt Kemp trade

Mario Balotelli banned match for offensive Instagram post

Marc Trestman: Benching Jay Cutler could revive QB's career

Rob Gronkowski jokes about Tom Brady saying he's grown up

Rajon Rondo traded to Mavs for three players, picks

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Washington Post has perfect description for Titans-Jaguars

Wilbon angry at DC for not supporting Wizards

Urban Meyer says Tim Tebow still wants to play in the NFL

Keenan Lewis: Saints preparing 'funeral' for Falcons

Chris Christie defends being a Cowboys fan

Celtics co-owner: 2024 Olympics would be 'boon for Beantown'

Extremely rare set of Air Jordan 7s selling for $45,000

Five reasons why Alabama will win College Football Playoff

Hugh Freeze proud of Ole Miss’ record 2.57 team GPA

Youngstown St. addresses Bo Pelini's profanity-laced rant

It's been almost 40 years since NFL's last untelevised game

The NHL has finally fined a player for diving

Ben Roethlisberger: Le’Veon Bell is having an MVP season

Jim Harbaugh comments on the reported offer from Michigan

Michael Jordan's college Converse shoes sell for $33,387

Week 16 NFL game watchability rankings

Game of the week: Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Chicago Bears are the Monstrosity of the Midway

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Gronk jokes about Brady compliment

In Matt Kemp, did the Dodgers find a pigeon in Padres?

Why the Saints are legit playoff threat

Impact of U.S.-Cuba relations on MLB

Andrew Hawkins, other athletes gain support for social statement attire

NBA's most underrated players

Michael Vick nearly debt-free

Dolphins CB rips Brady's career plans

Biggest winners of the MLB offseason

Brian Billick owns Browns fan

Pelini has profane words for Nebraska AD

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.