NBA-bound Longhorns may face uphill battles at professional level

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Head coach Rick Barnes will bid farewell to another group of players leaving for the NBA Draft. Since 2006, eight Longhorns have been selected in teh first round under Barnes

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

The three Longhorns drafted into the NBA last week spent about as much time on the draft board as they did playing college ball. Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph were all taken in the first round of the draft, and it is a point of both contention and celebration for Longhorn fans.

Perhaps the disappointment can only be erased by taking solace in the fact that, for the first time in school history, three players were selected in the first round. Weak draft class or not, no one expected that.

The biggest shocker of the night was when Cleveland selected Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick. Let’s be nice and at least count this early selection as a victory for Thompson. The extra “W” will come in handy for him since he is now on the worst team in the league, which did itself no favors by drafting so terribly.

Thompson, along with the Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, will head into the home of the Rust Belt with equally as much rust in their games. Irving played a grand total of 11 games his sophomore year because of injuries, and Thompson played one solid year of beginner ball with Texas. Now he is expected to make an immediate impact on the league’s laughter squad. The problem is the Cavaliers are already stacked with raw forwards.

Thompson would have been better off falling into the upper teens before being selected. He would have fit well into the second team of a squad such as Phoenix or New York; high-scoring teams with an emphasis on speed.

Thompson’s impact is not going to be as a scorer. He is the guy you want to come in for 15-20 minutes, cause defensive chaos, snag big rebounds and drop a respectable nine or 10 points a night. Cleveland may expect too much too early from the big man, and it could have a negative impact on his career moving forward.

If Thompson was drafted into an unfortunate situation, Jordan Hamilton was dealt the exact opposite hand of cards.

Landing in Denver was perfect for Hamilton, because the Nuggets know a thing or two about explosive scorers. Hamilton is being ushered into a situation tailor-made for his game. He will get to spend a year or so on the bench, learning from guys such as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, while simultaneously being allowed to unleash his hyperactive shot for 10-15 minutes a game. His progress will be slow, but he is set up for the most success of any of the former UT players drafted.

As far as the Cory Joseph pick is concerned, I’m still shaking my head at why he even chose to enter the draft.

He was essentially going to have the keys to Texas backcourt handed to him had he stayed another year. He would have had a chance to retool his game and up his draft stock. Instead he went 29th to the Spurs, where he could battle Tony Parker for the starting job — a job Joseph will compete for but won’t get.

To be frank, how is anyone supposed to know how these things will turn out? Draft selections often surprise fans. And if anyone knows about draft steals, it is the San Antonio Spurs. In 1999, an Argentinian by the name of Manu Ginobili was selected 57th overall in the second round, and no one aside from the Spurs had high hopes for him. Turns out everyone else was wrong. Ginobili has won three championships with the Spurs and was an All-Star in 2005.

During the 2007-08 season, he received the Sixth Man of the Year Award and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. One can only hope Joseph will be so fortunate.

As for Longhorn basketball fans, you’re free to be either unhappy at the loss of your team’s cornerstone players or happy for their progress. I’m just jealous they have jobs already.