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DeVon Hardin

The reason DeVon Hardin made the right decision to come back to Cal isn’t because he didn’t feel like he could be guaranteed a first-round pick. It’s because it’s the best thing for the long-term prognosis of his professional career.

The truth is, there is a good chance Hardin would have been a first-round pick, and earn the guaranteed money that comes along with it. But he is far from making a meaningful contribution to an NBA team. Teams are in love with his combination of strength and athleticism, but chances are he would have been viewed as a project and languished on the bench or sent to the developmental league early on.

How many times have we seen players in that position never make anything of their NBA career? Yes, Jamal Sampson has been able to hang around the league and probably is living a nice life even if he’s making the minimum salary, but the guess here is he would have made much more of an impact in the NBA had he stayed at Cal a little longer.

During the first two years of his Cal career, Hardin’s strengths were always his physical gifts. As a sophomore, he had to defer to Leon Powe so we didn’t get to see what he could truly do, especially on the offensive end. Last season was supposed to be the year we really saw what Hardin was capable of, but a foot injury limited him to just 11 games.

Truth be told, even in those 11 games, Hardin didn’t demonstrate the skill level required to make an impact in the NBA right away. He had his moments, just like he did earlier in his career, but never showed that he could consistently be productive. Despite that, he may have been a top-20 pick in this year’s draft.

Now imagine if Hardin is able to produce this season. He’ll be teamed up with a deep corps of big men, including returning leading scorer and rebounder Ryan Anderson, 7-foot center Jordan Wilkes and Duke transfer Jamal Boykin. If Hardin can demonstrate he’s NBA-ready, who knows how high he may go in the 2008 draft? Just moving into the lottery might be an understatement.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Pat

    Jon,

    Although I agree with mostly what you are saying, you know Hardin will be put to good use next season. Is it worth the risk of another injury that could jeopardize, if not, vanish his chances in the NBA?

    That’s why Aaron Rodgers didn’t stay another year, and look where he’s about to be after Farve (finally) retires.

  • Bowlbasaur

    7 footers who are still playing as seniors rarely if ever make an impact in the NBA. All the good ones have left by then.

  • Spence

    Oh yeah, what about Tim Duncan and David Robinson?

  • Baldbear

    What kind of kool-aid is Devon drinking? ‘First Round’???? You’ve got to be JOKING! Who was better, Leon Powe or Devon? No question Leon was MUCH better. And remember, Leon was drafted around 47th overall …. which means he came within a hair of going UNDRAFTED. So if Leon was 47th overall, how can anyone say with a straight face that Devon Hardin is a First Rounder!!! He’ll have a hard time being the best player on his own team this year, much less a Lotter Pick. KEEP IT REAL Devon!!!

  • MikeW

    Baldbear, 7-footers get drafted on potential not ability (see “O’Bryant, Patrick” as an example). I heard he had a guarantee from someone in the low 20′s. As for Jamal Sampson, he didn’t attend one class in his “year” at Cal…having him stick around was an insult to the concept of student-athlete. Good riddance…

  • Anonymous

    Any response Jon? Do you check your comments?

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Pat, there is always the risk of injury, which I’m sure is something DeVon and his family discussed. I’m sure that risk was one of the “cons” in the pros and cons he considered.
    Bowlbasaur, while it is true that the very best big men are gone much before their senior year, there also are the late-bloomers that can improve their stock by staying in college.
    Baldabear, the NBA doesn’t draft on college production. It drafts on potential. NBA teams see Hardin’s combination of strength and athleticsm and believe he can be an impact player someday. It has nothing to do with how his numbers compared with Powe’s. I talked to a handful of NBA scouts before last season even started and they all said DeVon was a first-round pick.