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Maalik Wayns forgoes final year of eligibility for NBA draft

March 22, 2012

Today, Villanova University issued a press release confirming PG Maalik Wayns’ intent to skip his senior season for a chance to be selected in the NBA draft.

"You want to stay in school. These are not the droids you're looking for."

According to philly.com, Maalik placed his name in the pool of candidates last week. Such a move is often just a formality for talented players, since it allows them to gauge the interest of professional teams without any risk to their NCAA eligibility so long as they do not sign with an agent. If there is little-to-no interest from the NBA—as was the case when Scottie Reynolds tried this after his junior year—then the player need only remove his name from the pool by the NCAA-mandated deadline and try again the following year. Though I have not read any reports of Maalik actually signing with an agent, the existence of a Villanova press release makes his departure pretty certain.

Maalik must feel confident about his draft stock, then. I did some Googling and found that nbadraft.net ranks him fourth among college point guards and projects him to be picked late in the second round (by the Philadelphia 76ers, in a happy hometown coincidence). They also wrote a profile on him but it is years old. Draftexpress.com has a more recent profile but does not place him in their mock draft—possibly because they assumed he would return to school. (For those interested in height misrepresentation: both of these websites subscribe to the absurd notion that Maalik is 6’2″. Maybe you should take their fortune-telling with a grain of salt.)

Perhaps we can look to the past for answers. Ken Pomeroy, in all his resplendent glory, provides a statistical profile for each Division I men’s basketball player replete with player similarity scores. According to Pomeroy (or his machines, it’s hard to tell who is boss), 2012 Maalik was most similar to ’08 Tyrese Rice, ’06 J.R. Reynolds, ’08 Eric Maynor, ’11 Tony Taylor and ’11 Damier Pitts.* It should be noted that the similarity scores compare only players of the same grade, so all the aforementioned players were juniors during the corresponding years. Of those five, all returned for a senior season. Of those five, only Maynor has played in the NBA (currently as Russell Westbrook’s backup on the Thunder). Two have found careers in Europe: Rice plays the point for BC Lietuvos Rytas of Lithuania and Reynolds plays for BCM Gravelines in France. Taylor and Pitts have just finished their senior seasons, but neither figures to go in the draft according to the two sites mentioned above.

*I would link y’all to it but it’s behind a pay wall.

But the similarity score is nothing more than a formula (albeit an extremely advanced one) that considers a player’s statistical output; Maalik is not doomed to an NBA bench or Europe. In other words…

Just as these guys could be twins, so could two dissimilar players rate similarly on kenpom.

I don’t know those other five players or the finer aspects of their respective games particularly well. But I do know from three years of observation that Maalik can dribble as well as or better than most NBA guards, and he is just as fast with the ball as he is without it. This makes him extremely dangerous in the open court and on the fast break, where he has demonstrated that he can absorb contact and finish. He is easier to guard in a half-court setting because his jumper isn’t very dependable yet, so defenders back off to protect the lane. This year, he often responded by forcing an ill-advised shot (to be fair, he often found the ball in his hands late in the shot clock, depressing his shooting averages). His handles are his greatest asset going into the NBA, but to utilize those handles at the next level he will need to develop other facets of his offensive game.

As a point guard, Maalik did not distribute the ball enough. Part of that is attributable to limited teammates, but whatever the case an assist-to-turnover ratio under one is simply not good enough. He will be surrounded by more scoring talent in the NBA while also facing better, more athletic defenders, so it is hard to say how his passing skills would translate.

His height (so not 6’2″) should limit him defensively, but he won’t be a liability there, either.

***

As for next year’s basketball team, Maalik’s departure means the absence of their best player. Ty Johnson becomes the starting point guard and most fans would expect Dominic Cheek and JayVaughn Pinkston to pick up their scoring in place of Maalik’s production.

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