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Johnathan Motley Undergoes MCL Surgery

How will this effect the NBA Future of Baylor’s All-American?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-South Carolina vs Baylor Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report from the Waco Tribune Herald and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, Baylor mens basketball’s Johnathan Motley has undergone surgery for a torn meniscus:

A second team All-American, Motley has been projected as a first round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft by leading draft predictor

This surgery will make the decision to declare for the draft tough for an all-time great Baylor Bear. The big day is not until June 22, well beyond the 4-6 weeks projected recovery time. The combine, however, where Motley could demonstrate the strength, athleticism, and three-point shooting teams will be looking for in a power forward of his size and skill set, is scheduled for May 9-14, which is in what will be Motley’s fifth week of recovery. Assuming he declares, he will still be able to participate in interviews, but he likely will be limited in his participation in physical testing and scrimmages.

If Motley does declare, teams might shy away from drafting a power forward of his age (22) and size (6’9”) in the first round without first seeing him in a combine setting and in team workouts. Motley’s tape this season is phenomenal and could be enough to get him into the first round regardless, and he should be recovered in time to participate in NBA Summer League and training camp, but he no longer seems like a lock to go in the first round. The NBA is, generally, moving away from 6’9” players who make a living in the paint and are limited in their ability to guard the perimeter. A team’s confidence in Motley’s foot speed, lateral quickness, and shooting range is paramount to his first round chances. Limitations in the draft process could give teams just enough hesitation to pass him up in the first round, where contracts are guaranteed.

Of course, next year’s draft class seems loaded with talent at his position. Eight of the top 14 players on DraftExpress are listed at the PF/C position, and 11 of the top 30. That doesn’t even include several players Motley’s height or taller that are classified as small forwards. If Motley does return to college next season, it is no guarantee that he can improve his stock or draft position. With a career year already behind him and another year added to his age, it seems like next season is almost guaranteed to see a slight reduction in his NBA value, especially with so many younger players coming in at his position.

Motley may decide to declare in order to receive feedback from teams, and then he will decide whether to stay in the draft or return to college depending on what he hears. Recent rule changes should make this process better for him than in years past, so he is fortunate in that regard, at least. He will have until 10 days before the draft to withdraw and return to college should he declare (but he is not allowed to hire an agent).

One also has to wonder how the injury effected Motley’s efforts against South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. Given the outcome and final margin, a full strength Motley may not have made the difference, but you never know.