Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 4/17/13
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.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Peyton Manning declines to comment on possible retirement

Mike Carey not heard from again after being wrong earlier

Von Miller forces Cam Newton fumble to secure Super Bowl win

With cryptic tweet, did Marshawn Lynch just hang up his cleats?

NFL shows off every Super Bowl MVP in history

Jordan Norwood breaks off longest punt return in Super Bowl history

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Beer company trolls Seth Rogan after Super Bowl commercial

Levi's Stadium's field problems continue in Super Bowl

Kevin Durant credentialed photographer for Super Bowl

Brady would be 'very jealous' if Manning wins Super Bowl

John Elway takes swipe at John Fox

Jets DT: I won't watch a Super Bowl 'until I play in one'

WATCH: Cam Newton gives questionable effort to recover fumble

Lions say Calvin Johnson's future still not determined

How Louisville basketball bungled their self-imposed ban

Ted Ginn Jr. whiffs on football twice on one play, results in Panthers turnover

Kony Ealy makes one-handed interception of Peyton Manning

Mike Carey gets another call wrong on incomplete pass in SB

Steph Curry beats Panthers' "Keep Pounding" drum

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

WATCH: Panthers' Jonathan Stewart leaps over pile for TD

Aqib Talib commits three awful penatlies in first half of SB

WATCH: Broncos score TD after Von Millers sacks Cam Newton

WATCH: Luke Kuechly sacks Peyton Manning

WATCH: Lady Gaga goes over on National Anthem betting

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.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker