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Should Bill Self Really Hate Mock Drafts?

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Some of us love mock drafts....others, as Self made clear this week, don't. But how have they affected his Jayhawks that have left school early for the NBA Draft?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, our head coach and beloved leader Bill Self created a bit of a stir in the college basketball scouting corner of the internet by saying, among other things, "The mock drafts don't mean anything, and I would tell the guy if he was here doing the mock drafts. They don't mean anything. They're ridiculous."  This, in turn, caused the writer of one of the most respected mock drafts, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, to get a bit bent out of shape.

{Quick aside:  To be fair, I don't blame Givony (or Chad Ford or anyone else) a bit.  If a well-known person in the world of finance went on a mini-rant in which he said something like "Accountants don't mean anything, and if Jim Hammen were here right now I'd say it to his face, all accountants are ridiculous", then I'd definitely feel the need to defend myself as well.  Also, I should state that I LOVE mock drafts.  My buddy Dan and I have spent more time poring over Draft Express than every player I'm about to mention put together.}

There have been responding articles the last few days, such as this one from SBNation's own Tom Ziller, that defend the accuracy of the mock draft.

While that piece is very well done and tough to disagree with, I think it misses the point somewhat.  Sure, things were beautifully projected two months before last year's draft-- one of the strongest, deepest drafts in history.  Long before the day that Andrew Wiggins committed to Kansas, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be a top-five draft selection after one season, if not the #1 overall pick.  It took a bit longer to get there with Joel Embiid, although it was clear by December or so that he, too, would be a very high lottery pick if he decided to declare.  You can pinpoint the exact moment that scouts that were heretofore late to the Embiid party had their world rocked, right about....here.

Bottom line, neither the University of Kansas' basketball program, nor its players, were wounded by shabbily projected mock drafts in 2013-14.  But I would venture a guess that Self's line of thinking that led to his comments was not restricted to a one-year window.  In addition, Self isn't only referring to the mock drafts that were released right before the draft.  What about the mocks that are running all season long, that help to Inception the idea into the heads of underclassmen that they should turn pro?

So my question is this:  Does Self deserve to have a beef with mock drafts, going back further than just last year?  Were his comments made simply as a result of getting annoyed with the constant "Yo, why isn't Kelly Oubre playing more?" questions?   Or is there something else here?

At the risk of sounding anti-climatic, for the most part, the answer is no, not really, there isn't much of a legitimate beef to be had.  We can run through the recent examples, and in very few cases is there a case to be made that mock drafts contributed to a KU player erroneously turning pro.  This quick study does nothing to address the agents, hangers-on, and World Wide Wesses of the world that get in players' ears, but that's a story for another day.

Ben McLemore had the benefit of an extra year of working out, and an extra half-season of practice, so he wasn't a one-and-done in the true sense of the term.  Despite being projected as a two, or even three-year player, he exploded onto the scene early in 2012-13, and very quickly established himself as a likely top-10 pick.  We (as in The Royal We) were looking at each other in early January and saying "Welp, get ready to say goodbye to Benny Mac in a few months", and even that timeline might be generous.

Before Thomas Robinson's junior year even started, it was widely known it would be his last on campus, as Self himself would even tell you.  And T-Rob's play that year certainly did nothing to dissuade anyone of that foregone conclusion, as he skyrocketed to the 5th pick of the 2012 draft.

The Morris twins in 2011 were a bit of a funky example.  Marcus was on some radars early that season, but Markieff was definitely not.  As the year went on, and both brothers started raining 3's and dunking on everyone, Markieff joined Marcus in the middle of the 1st round, and before you knew it, the twins were turning pro together, leaving Self short-stacked at the poker table.

Xavier Henry was a probable OAD from the day he inked with KU-- his dad helped make sure of that.  (No, I'm not bitter about Carl Henry's involvement, why do you ask?)  The fact that Cole Aldrich even came back for the 2010 season actually goes completely against Self's argument; if Cole would've listened to the mocks, he would've left after his sophomore year, fresh off the triple-double vs. Dayton in the NCAA tournament.  Staying another year almost assuredly cost him a few spots in the lottery.

Going back to the 2008 draft, there can't be many bad feelings about Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers going pro, regardless of mock draft results.  First of all, it's a national championship season; everything goes out the window.  The entire roster could have declared for the draft, and the coaching staff and fans would have reacted mostly by shrugging their shoulders, high-fiving each other again, and ordering another round of celebratory beers.  Arthur and Chalmers' stock was probably never going to be higher, particularly Chalmers, and both of them have parlayed that into seven-years-and-counting NBA careers.  As far as Rush is concerned, in my opinion, every one of his three seasons in Lawrence was a bonus.  Coming out of high school, he withdrew from the NBA draft at the last minute.  If Kansas hadn't lost in the first round to Bradley and gone out on a sour note, he would've left then.  Finally, after declaring for the 2007 draft, he tore his ACL playing pickup ball, and came back to school again.  So whatever, whoever wants to go pro, knock yourselves out; flags fly forever.

Julian Wright is an interesting case, in that he spent much of the 2006-07 regular season projected to be among the top picks in the draft-- after Oden and Durant, of course.  JuJu repeated over and over that he wasn't leaving early, but then after his stock took a dip into the lower lottery as the season went on, he still decided to bounce after his sophomore year (breaking my heart in the process, but that's neither here nor there).  As his NBA career showed us, he could have used another year at the college level.

There is, however, one sizable exception that I intentionally skipped over earlier, and he goes by the name of Josh Selby.  His career leads me to my next question, and the crux of this column:  By questioning the entire mock draft process, was Self truly looking out for the well-being of the college athlete?  Or did he have an axe to grind, regarding how certain Jayhawks leaving early for the NBA affected his teams?

Selby showed up in Lawrence with the coveted #1 ranking, a boatload of hype, and was arguably the most important player Self had brought in up to that point.  He had the infamous eligibility concerns that cost him nine games (#freeselby!), then a nagging injury that sapped a good chunk of his effectiveness.  By the time June rolled around, he had fallen down the draft boards quite a bit, to the point that he was a borderline first-rounder at best.  However, in Selby's mind, that apparently didn't change the fact that he had spent much of the previous calendar year as a projected lottery pick.

Now obviously, I can't presume to speak for Bill Self.  I know that he enjoys a good round of golf from time to time.  I know that he loves eating at the Salty Iguana.  I know that when he's stressed during a game, his go-to move is to frantically mash down the hair on the back of his skull like it owes him money.  But I can't guarantee that he was thinking about Josh Selby when he made his comments about mock drafts.  What I can say, with a pretty high certainty, is that it sticks in Bill's craw a little bit when he thinks about Selby going pro, falling to the 49th selection, and Self subsequently coaching the Jayhawks to the championship game.....and coming up eight points short, with a rotation that included Conner Teahan and Justin Wesley.

So yeah, the mock drafters have excellent points within their defense.  It isn't their fault that college kids are entering the NBA draft early, even when that decision turns out to be severely misguided.  But at the same time, we don't need to hoist Self over the fire and rotate the spit slowly, simply because the April 2014 mock draft turned out to be pretty accurate two months later.