Let me be perfectly clear, I would love for Kelly Olynyk to stay in Spokane for his senior season. One more year of K.O.’s freak scoring ability from both the mid range and post would cement Gonzaga as a top- 10 team going in to next year. Just imagine the damage that can be inflicted inside with a front court that includes the likes of a criminally underrated Dower, a more experienced Karnowski, and a pair of unknown freshman bigs, in addition to the returning all- American center. Chaminade might as well just hand us the Maui Invitational trophy now if this is the case.
Unfortunately it is not an ideal world and this hypothetical lineup may end up being just that. While I do not wish it to be so, Olynyk can make a pretty compelling case for why this is the ideal time to make the jump to the big show. I have come up with 3 reasons why we as fans should not be surprised when his name appears on the draft board come June.
1. 2013 Draft Class- To put it quite simply, this year’s NBA draft has the potential to be a complete bust. The list of top big men expected to be drafted is riddled with question marks and a blatant absence of depth. Starting at the top with an injured Nerlens Noel and ending with a low ceiling prospect in Cody Zeller. I don’t see a single sure- thing in the whole bunch. The board looks to be wide open in terms of prospects that teams "need" to take. It would seem to be a perfect scenario for a GM to take a shot on a highly skilled and obviously coachable center. Having only the one stellar breakout season to evaluate since his reemergence makes Olynyk even more of a compelling pick for a team because his potential is through the roof.
2. The Elias Harris Example- If Elias Harris has taught young Gonzaga players aspiring for the pros one thing it is to strike while the iron is hot. We as Gonzaga supporters applauded Harris’ decision to come back after his freshman year in order to help the Bulldogs continue to improve. But after all was said and done, one can’t help but play the "what if" game. What if he entered the NBA after his breakout freshman year? Instead of being a 19 year old, extremely athletic big with an unknown bevy of untapped talent, he now limps into the draft as an undersized power forward who failed to enhance his skill set in any tangible way after 3 extra years. The difference is millions of dollars and perhaps a fair chance at cracking any NBA roster. Olynyk of course in a different situation, may still have his teammate’s misfortune in the back of his mind. If he for whatever reason has a setback next season, it may drastically limit his opportunities to achieve his dream.
3. Reconciling last season with the expectations of 2013- 2014- The Zags are primed for another WCC title and March push as they return all but 3 contributors from last year. With the addition of Gerard Coleman there will be little drop- off from last year. While there is cause for much optimism, it would be hard to envision a season as perfect as the last (aside from the Wichita State loss). Can Gonzaga reasonably expect to have another 30 wins, go undefeated in conference play, or secure a number one seed in the tournament? Can a Kelly Olynyk, now on everyone’s radar with a full year of tape to analyze, put up the huge numbers he did last season? The answer to these questions would seem highly unlikely.
It could be the case that KO ends up staying for one more incredible season and proves this entire post blasphemy. However, I wanted to play devil’s advocate for a moment and consider the merits of his choice from an unbiased perspective. Whichever decision he makes, I wish Kelly success and would like to thank him for helping to make last season unforgettable. I guess all we can do right now is wait and see.