Garcia began the season like gangbusters, lighting up the chatter by coming out of nowhere to leap into the national top-10 in scoring and rebounding. A rangy forward compared to Lamar Odom by some, Garcia wowed by taking full control of the Seattle U. offense and leading the team to some solid wins. Scouts were (anonymously) quoted placing Garcia in the first round. DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony echoed the sentiment.
But things didn't stay especially buoyant all season. As Kevin Pelton noted last week on Basketball Prospectus, Garcia's play slipped substantially right around the New Year, and the Redhawks suffered for it. Things turned back around -- Pelton credits the growth of Garcia's teammates, which allowed Garcia to better fit in. But the consensus seems to be that the recent uptick for the team hasn't launched Garcia back into the orbit he found himself in early in the season.
Quantitatively, a quick sparkline of his night-by-night Hollinger GameScore bears out the perceived decline of Garcia's performance.
If Garcia hasn't recaptured the hearts and minds of NBA decision-makers, he might be in a spot of trouble in terms of becoming a first-round pick (with the guaranteed contract it comes with). While power forwards remain a premium position (behind centers and point guards in terms of general top-level scarcity), high-production college prospects at the position typically take a beating as the months-long obsession with potential takes root. And while I mean no offense to those teams Garcia bludgeoned this year, that generally excellent production won't mean much to NBA scouts when compared to work done in the Big East, in the SEC, in the Big 10. So Garcia, still a relative unknown, is banking on his own potential in the draft run-up. He needs to show that his production against mostly middling competition just scratched the surface of his game.
In my opinion -- and perhaps I'm off-base -- Garcia's also fighting the story of Michael Beasley. Never mind the reported lack of constant focus or effort Garcia has been tagged with -- this is something different. This is about rebounding and interior play. At Kansas State, Beasley was simply a beast, one of the top rebounders in the nation and top 10 in drawing fouls. In the NBA? Beasley hardly ever gets to the line, and is a mediocre rebounder for his position. Garcia has some level of perimeter game, just as Beasley did. Clearly, the pro game is bigger and more physical, and Beasley hasn't adapted to those changes particularly well. Will that happen to Garcia in the big leagues? Will NBA scouts fear that?
I would, though there's of course plenty of time to assess whether Garcia has the drive and ability to remain a strong slashing/rebounding player as opposed to a purely jump-shooting four. (There's also the possibility teams could want him as a purely jump-shooting four. I don't know why -- there are better shooters out there -- but the possibility exists.) Garcia looks like a player who needs a solid run in the 2-3 months of workouts to become a first-round pick.