While Jarnell Stokes has quietly moved into the first round in most mock drafts, Jordan McRae appears to be hovering right on the edge of being drafted at all. DraftExpress has him going second-to-last with the 58th pick to San Antonio. Unlike Stokes, who could be a nice pickup for a contender looking to add more rebounding, I think McRae's NBA success depends less on which team takes him and more on whether his offensive game is good enough to produce against NBA competition.
McRae completed the sixth-highest-scoring season in program history in April, averaging 18.7 points on the year and 19.8 in the NCAA Tournament. He scored single digits just four times in 2013-14, two of them Vol blowouts where he played less than 22 minutes.
Tennessee played eventual one-seed Florida three times, and McRae struggled with his shot on each occasion. Nothing was as bad as his 1 for 15 performance in Gainesville, but he couldn't stick the three ball in Knoxville or the SEC Tourament either, a combined 3 for 11 in those two games. He was also challenged at Rupp Arena, going 1 for 7 from deep and 5 for 14 for the game. Florida and Kentucky were easily the two most talented teams Tennessee played last year, and McRae could not produce at an elite level against elite talent.
However, if you'll allow the distinction, McRae shined against some of college basketball's best teams last year:
- 26 points on 8 of 17 at Wichita State
- 21 points on 6 of 10 vs Virginia in just 31 minutes
- 24 points on 9 of 18, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks vs Michigan in the Sweet 16
- 10 of 23 LOSS at Missouri
- 6 of 22 LOSS vs NC State
- 9 of 20 WIN vs Ole Miss
- 9 of 19 WIN at Mississippi State
- 8 of 18 LOSS at Xavier
- 9 of 18 WIN vs Arkansas
- 6 of 18 LOSS at Vanderbilt
- 9 of 18 LOSS vs Michigan
- 6 of 17 LOSS vs UTEP
- 8 of 17 LOSS at Wichita State
- 5 of 17 WIN vs Missouri
Again, it's not that McRae's selfishness was the reason Tennessee struggled in those games. More than anything, McRae has the confidence you want in a scorer. The Vols needed Josh Richardson to step up offensively, which he absolutely did in the NCAA Tournament. And Tennessee needed a greater commitment to team defense, which McRae was certainly a part of down the stretch. As mentioned, Jordan was still plenty good in the NCAA Tournament, the Vols were just better served when other guys were too.
So, will his game translate to the NBA? McRae is full of confidence, has a nice three ball and can score a number of different ways. He was bottled up by elite talent, but at that point he was also getting very little help from any of his perimeter teammates.
Even if McRae isn't drafted, he should have no problem making a living playing basketball. If he does get selected, he and Jarnell Stokes would mark the first time two Tennessee players were drafted since Marcus Haislip and Vincent Yarbrough in 2002. Here's hoping the 6'6" scoring machine gets a chance to show what he's got in the NBA.