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Opinion: LeBron James, Aaron Craft headline intriguing NBA Draft, off-season for Ohio basketball fans

June 24, 2014

grega.9@osu.edu
Then-senior guard Aaron Craft attempts a layup during a game against Nebraska March 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. OSU lost, 71-67. Lantern file photo

Then-senior guard Aaron Craft attempts a layup during a game against Nebraska March 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. OSU won, 71-67.
Lantern file photo

As the dust from the NBA Finals has settled, basketball fans have turned their attention to the much anticipated 2014 NBA Draft, and even more so, free agency.

For basketball fans in the state of Ohio, two names will be watched closely: LeBron James and, for those in Columbus, Aaron Craft.

James, who according to multiple reports will exercise his early termination clause with the Miami Heat, has Cleveland fans buzzing about the thought of seeing “the King” return to his home state and to the team that drafted him in 2003.

The Cavaliers have been building, and tearing down at times, their team since James took his talents to South Beach, but with key pieces in place such as Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett (just kidding) along with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, Cavs fans can only dream for now.

If James was to return to Cleveland, it would be the best move he will have ever made in his career.

During his four seasons in Miami, James has been largely the victim of ridicule for how he left the Cavs in the summer of 2010, and rightfully so. As a Cleveland fan on vacation in Florida at the time of “The Decision,” I sat and watched Florida basketball fans celebrate in the lobby of my hotel. I sunk in my chair as all hope of bringing a championship to Cleveland was washed away in the Florida sun.

Now, James can fix the broken bridges between he and Cavs fans if he makes his triumphant return home to a city which has not won a major championship since 1964. If in fact he does return, it will be to a better roster than the one he left back in 2010.

Which brings me to Aaron Craft. How you may ask? Simple.

While discussing sports at a summer job, a co-worker of mine and a fellow Ohio State student brought the following comparison to my attention.

Remember James’ old teammate on the 2007 Cavs Finals team, Eric Snow? If you look closely at the similarities between Snow and Craft, you will see where I am going.

Snow, a Michigan State grad out of Canton McKinley high school in Canton, Ohio, played four seasons in college, just as Craft did. Both Craft and Snow also put up comparable numbers in their college careers.

Craft, who averaged 32.6 minutes per game in his college career also averaged just 8.9 points per game. How does that stack up to Snow? Snow played in just 25.2 minutes per game and averaged 5.9 points per game as a Spartan.

While neither Craft nor Snow was a particularly good outside shooter, each shot around 50 percent in their careers. Craft finishing his career with a 45.9 percent career field goal percentage while Snow shot 52.1 percent.

However, with every pro there is a con and with every similarity, there is a difference.

Craft was clearly the better defender of the two, as he averaged 2.45 steals per game during his time at OSU, while Snow averaged just 1.3 in his time as a Spartan.

In terms of passing, Snow was clearly better, however, as he averaged 5.3 assists per game including 7.8 his senior season. Craft never averaged more than five assists per game in a season.

So what am I trying to say? Someone needs to take a chance on Craft.

If Snow can get drafted (43rd overall) and have a 13-year playing career with three teams – the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Cavaliers – Craft can as well. The former Buckeye may not be the fastest, strongest or most athletic guy on the floor, but there is no one in this upcoming draft who will give you more effort than Aaron Craft.

Enjoy Thursday’s draft and free agency season Ohio basketball fans, it could very well be a memorable one.


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