Mar 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (5) during introductions before the championship game of the Big East tournament against the Louisville Cardinals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft: CJ Fair’s Syracuse Future Hinges on First Round Guarantee


Syracuse southpaw C.J. Fair will not declare for the NBA draft without assurance of being a first round pick, according to a source with knowledge of his decision process.

The junior forward is mulling whether to return to school for one last hurrah, relying on draft information he’s compiled over the last week to help direct him. Fair left Syracuse for his Baltimore home this weekend to discuss his future with his family.

Fair, according to the source, will not forgo his final season if there’s a reasonable chance he slips to the second round in June’s draft. Pro scouts and league executives differ on Fair’s projected draft range, some slotting him at the back-end of the first round while others have him bracketed in the middle of the second. For Fair to leave, there would have to be a consensus among NBA intel tabbing him as a first-round pick.

In the NBA, only first rounders are issued guaranteed contracts — two-year pacts with third and fourth-year options. Second round picks commonly end up abroad or in the D-League playing for five-figure salaries. In fact, one-third of all second round selections in last year’s draft haven’t yet logged a single minute in the league. Typically only three or four second round picks per draft class average more than ten minutes per game in their rookie season.

A fluid 6-foot-8 combo-forward who offers one of the best mid-range jumpers in the college game, Fair became a household name during his junior campaign. He led the Orange in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) this past season and has made marked improvements in each of his three seasons on the hill. The former Brewster Academy star has been a fixture at the base of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, but has the physical tools and measurables to translate as a man defender at the next level.

Were he to return to school, Fair would lead Syracuse into its inaugural season in the ACC, possibly as a preseason all-conference selection. The smooth-shooting lefty must improve his seldom-used right hand, his ability to create his own shot and his consistency, not in making 3s, but in taking them. Fair shot a career-high 47-percent from behind the arc during his junior season, but attempted only 64 treys in all.

As a 3/4 tweener who figures to play mostly the small forward position professionally, Fair and his draft stock would benefit greatly from an expanded perimeter game paired with a willingness to beat his man off the bounce in iso situations. Fair’s scoring has come primarily as a catch-and-shoot player on the elbow, short-wing and short-corner. The next step in his development is finding ways to slither by bigger and rangier defenders on either side of the lane, a requisite skill for all NBA-bound small forwards.

Fair has until April 28 to declare for the draft.

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