With the NBA combine kicking off today, we already know that former Kansas University sharp-shooter Brannen Greene did not receive an invitation to the event, which runs today through Sunday in Chicago, and, therefore, will have to go about earning a spot in the NBA through team workouts and the old school grind.
The news came as no real surprise, and leaves Greene, who hired an agent and is not eligible to return to school, on the outside looking in when it comes to hoping for an NBA future.
Those facts got me thinking: Did Greene make the right decision in leaving Kansas?
Let’s take a look.
Invites to the combine were sent out to a little more than 70 players regardless of age. We learned Tuesday that an injury will keep Wayne Selden out of the combine, leaving former Jayhawks Perry Ellis and Cheick Diallo as the only KU players competing. And some fantastically talented college players — namely Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell — were not invited. Like Greene, those players will be hoping to catch the eye of the right team at the right time through pre-draft workouts.
What’s more, the NBA announced recently that 162 early-entry players had declared for this year’s Draft — June 23 in New York — with 117 of them being from the college ranks and 45 being international players.
That’s 162 players, not counting college seniors. And there are only 60 selections in the NBA Draft.
Needless to say, that makes the chances of landing a spot on an NBA roster a long shot for roughly 75 percent of those players hoping they’ll hear their names called in this year’s draft.
OK. So now that we’ve established all of that, let’s get back to Greene. Did he make the right choice in leaving?
The numbers above might suggest no, but the correct answer is yes. Why? Because it was simply time for him to leave.
Greene had three years to earn a regular spot in the rotation and, outside of a stretch here or a stretch there, did not do it. What’s more, he seemed to be in constant conflict with KU coach Bill Self — that’s rarely the way to go about getting more playing time — and, with the arrival of freshman phenom Josh Jackson, likely would have been, at best, the fifth man in KU’s perimeter rotation next season, behind Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
Would there have been minutes for Greene next year? Probably. But would they have been consistent? Probably not. And would he have made the most of them? To that, too, you’d have to say probably not.
During his three-year career at Kansas, Greene recorded more suspensions than starts. In all, he played in 93 games and averaged a little more than 11 minutes per contest. That’s barely a quarter per game and anyone who watched those three seasons closely knows that he played single-digit minutes in roughly half of those 93 appearances. To think any of that was going to change next year is a reach.
I’m betting Greene knew that. Give him credit for that. A naïve player would’ve returned with the false hope and misguided belief that said, “Hey, it’s my senior year and it’s time to really make it count.” With Wayne Selden departing and the Josh Jackson commitment coming after he made his decision to bolt, Greene easily could’ve thought that way. But he’s too smart for that and clearly knew better.
He also could’ve believed that, because he would’ve been a senior, Self would’ve leaned on him for experience and that fact alone would have increased his minutes. But it’s not so much experience that gets you on the floor for Self as it is trust. And there’s no two ways about it; Self never trusted Greene.
That is merely one more factor that made leaving Kansas, regardless of what his pro basketball future becomes, the right move for Greene. He’s going to make it — or not — based on his ability to shoot the basketball at a world-class level. And nothing he would have done during one more season at Kansas was going to change that.
As stated above, Greene is one heck of a shooter and the NBA has proven that it has a place for players with that kind of specialized skill.
Nobody’s going to sign him for his defense or attitude or leadership. If Greene makes it, it’s going to be because he can square up, flick his right wrist and knock it down with the best of them.
So let’s say Greene gets picked up by an NBA team as a free agent and winds up making a roster after lighting up the summer league circuit. If that happens, he clearly made the right decision, that whole right place, right time thing, you know? From there, he begins an NBA career, that, with his skill set, could last a number of years and deliver big time bucks.
But even if that doesn’t happen and Greene is forced to give up his NBA dream and heads overseas to shoot the rock, he’s still going to be better off than he would’ve been playing 11 minutes off the bench at Kansas. He’ll be getting paid to play basketball and travel the world and he’ll actually be playing.
Greene needed a fresh start and KU needed a break from Greene.
Combine invitation or not, both the program and the player got what they needed from Greene making the decision he made and it should be interesting to see where Greene takes things from here.