Earlier in the season Freshman Chris McCullough was at the forefront of Syracuse basketball after an NBA GM pegged the forward as a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. All of this talk dissipated when the 5-star recruit went down with a season-ending knee injury in the Orange’s first home ACC game against Florida State.
In the last couple of weeks, reports have emerged that McCullough is going to return for his sophomore season and that he is eyeing the end of November for his return to the court. Monday, this all changed as reports suggest that McCullough is reconsidering his return and may declare for the NBA draft.
Syracuse fans are still reeling from the loss of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant to the NBA Draft last season and this would be another devastating blow. More than that, the move would make little sense for McCullough.
This situation can easily be likened to that of Ennis. Ennis had a remarkable freshman year with the Orange as he was the catalyst for the 25-0 start and he decided to leave school after only one year. He was drafted 18th overall in the 2014 NBA draft but then experienced difficulties in the NBA.
In the Phoenix Suns’ organization he was up and down to the D-League getting very little playing time and he has already been moved to his second team in the Milwaukee Bucks.
McCullough could be in a similar situation if he declares. While McCullough may have been a stronger recruit, he is coming off of a significant injury and was not playing particularly well at the time of his injury in January.
Returning for one more season would allow him to continue to grow as a player and not under the draft with the injury hanging over him. If he returns he will be relied on heavily and he will have ample opportunity to show his abilities with a strong team around him.
There is no question the front-court would be crowded with the additions of Tyler Lydon and Moustapha Diagne but one would expect McCullough to start over the two freshmen.
Baring catastrophic circumstances he will be drafted in 2016 if he chooses to return and there is no reason to think his draft stock won’t be higher a year from now. The most important thing for an NBA player is the second contract because that its where they make the real money.
Declaring for the draft this year could see him fall later in the draft and not be given a chance to show that he can be a great NBA player. It makes all of the sense in the world for McCullough to return for his sophomore year.
Posted: Logan Grossman