The NBA Draft came and went on Thursday night with teams taking sixty players over the course of several hours. Former Tar Heel forward James Michael McAdoo was not one of them. Three years ago when the departing junior arrived at UNC, there were incredibly high expectations for him. In 2009, McAdoo became the youngest player in thirty years to receive USA Basketball's Male Athlete of the Year award. He was later co-MVP of the McDonald's All-American game and touted as a potential lottery pick.
As is the case sometimes the player never quite measures up to the pre-college expectations. His first season at UNC was quiet with McAdoo playing behind Tyler Zeller and John Henson. The next two seasons showed marginal improvements, flashes of brilliance but an alarming lack of consistency. McAdoo is undoubtedly a gifted athlete with great quickness at his position and is a solid defender. Unfortunately his offensive game was never truly reliable. He struggled to finish around the rim and through contact. His jumper was hot and cold while his free throw shooting trended towards the latter of those two. Despite his struggles on the court, McAdoo was a respected teammate and team leader last season for the Tar Heels.
After the season ended, the consensus was McAdoo would return to Chapel Hill for his senior season. All of the available intel indicated McAdoo was at best a mid-to-late second around pick in the NBA Draft. The player that could have been a lottery pick in 2012 based on his potential now had the flaws in his game exposed putting a possible NBA career in jeopardy. So when McAdoo announced in early April he was leaving for the NBA, it came as a bit of a surprise. The conventional wisdom says a player shouldn't leave school early unless he knows he can be drafted. McAdoo's decision to leave ran counter to that wisdom.
When McAdoo chose to forego his senior season, it stands to reason he didn't do it expecting to be a high draft pick. Based on what we know of McAdoo's family and the kind of information Roy Williams provides to his players regarding their draft prospects, this was not a blind decision or one made with many illusions of what the future would hold. McAdoo and those around him likely understood the options and while they probably hoped he would be drafted, the fact he wasn't likely did not come out of left field either.
In short, McAdoo didn't make his decision to leave UNC based on his draft stock. He made it because, after considering all the options, he was clearly ready to move to the next stage of his life. The fact he got married to his longtime girlfriend at UNC seems to confirm McAdoo's readiness to move on. Whether he was going to be picked to play in the NBA or he ends up in Europe was probably a secondary consideration. The bottom line is McAdoo felt it was time for the next step.
From the moment Baylor's Corey Jefferson was announced as the 60th pick early Friday morning confirming McAdoo would go undrafted, there have been criticisms and derision of his decision from rivals and UNC fans alike. Many of the criticisms fall somewhere in the "he should have stayed" category and operate on the assumption that returning to UNC was clearly a better option or McAdoo could have improved his draft stock with one more season. Both those points are highly debatable. While McAdoo would be the first to agree UNC is a great basketball program and one more season had its share of positives, there are other options which may be a better fit for him at this stage of his life.
The problem here is fans and even media types tend to impose their own set of values on a player when evaluating a decision while simultaneously using the benefit of hindsight. While we all have opinions about what we think would be best for a player, that opinion is often drenched in ignorance. Only a select few people have a true understanding of what McAdoo's thought process was in making his decision. Only a handful of people have the information he had and can claim insight into what priorities were considered. To assume one option is better than the other and then criticize him making a different choice reeks of arrogance on the part of the critic. Doing so substitutes one person's judgement and values for that of the decision-maker but absent the benefit of critical information and insight.
At the end of the day McAdoo made what he thought was the best decision for him. Disparaging him because it seemingly didn't work out or being presumptions enough to claim with certainty he made a mistake is asinine. Life is full of decisions that don't work out at first and bear fruit down the line. At the same time, there are plenty of "great decisions" that lead to ruin and disaster. The uncertainty of life is prevalent enough to give us pause in making grand declarations regarding another person's plans.
Time will tell how this decision plays out for McAdoo. In the meantime, he is a 21 year old newlywed who at best could latch onto an NBA roster somewhere or at worst end up playing basketball for money in Europe. It may not be what he or anyone else expected but there are far worse ways to spend your time.
Ultimately, if McAdoo is happy then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.