For college basketball
fans, this is without a doubt the worst time of year.
It’s the time between
cutting down the nets and the NBA Draft. There is no more college
basketball and the only NCAA news is the seemingly daily reports of a
promising young player deciding to forgo the rest of his college career
for a chance at playing in the NBA.
For some kids, the
decision is a no-brainer. Adam Morrison, LeMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy
Gay – just to name a few – will soon be starting in the NBA, making lots
of shoe commercials, and driving very expensive cars. Sure, they would
benefit from staying one more year and further refining their skills.
But to suggest they are making a mistake by leaving now is just foolish.
It is asinine for
anyone to turn down the millions of dollars and the guaranteed two-year
contract in the NBA that goes to every single first round pick. It‘s
like waiting a year to cash in on a winning lottery ticket. Only a very
tiny percentage of student athletes will ever have the opportunity to
play in the NBA, many of them from poor or troubled backgrounds, and
they should take it.
But what about the
Going in the second
round of the NBA Draft does next to nothing for a young athlete. Teams
technically have the rights to players
selected in the second round for three years, but they are under no
obligation to sign them. There is no guaranteed money.
real difference between going in the second round and going un-drafted
is that if the player gets cut (which many second round picks do) they
more than likely will get sent to the NBDL and be given another chance
to make the roster when and if they are ready within three years.
pretty clear, if you’re not projected to go in the first round, it’s
probably best to return to school and improve your game, maturity and –
more importantly – your NBA Draft stock. You might even get an
education and a college degree to boot. Not nearly enough kids heed
Florida is a case in
point. Dismissed as having to rebuild after the surprising early
departures of top scorers Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, the Gators
turned to their unheralded sophomores and won a national championship.
Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford all saw immense improvement in
their game since their freshmen season – especially Noah – and have all
since declared their intention to return for their junior year. After
that, they will likely be NBA millionaires, and have fruitful careers.
As they watched their
former teammates cut down the nets in Indianapolis, one can only
speculate as to what was going through the minds of Walsh and Roberson,
both of whom went un-drafted last year and spent most of the season in
the NBDL. Had they stayed, it’s not hard to imagine them having a
better shot at the NBA, not to mention sharing in the incredible
experience that is the Final Four and winning a title.
There are a
total of 30 first round NBA Draft picks. Over the past five NBA Drafts,
there has been as many as 9 seniors who went in the first round, and as
few as 4. There have also been as many as 8 international players taken
in the first round, but as few as 4. So, on average, you’re looking at
about 12 or 13 slots that were not available for underclassmen. That
looks like it will be the case this year as well.
no more than 18 picks up for grabs for underclassmen looking for that
guaranteed contract. As of this writing, there are 63 underclassmen who
have declared for the NBA Draft. If my math is correct, and all of
these kids stay in the draft, at least 45 of them will get no NBA
contract, and a minimum of 15 athletes will go un-drafted. This is
assuming of course, that no seniors or international players go in the
second round – an extremely unlikely scenario to say the least.
of these kids should stay in school. Some of them will. Many have not
hired agents and may learn enough about their draft status and the
things they need to improve on to make the right decision by the June 18
deadline. Unfortunately, some won’t.
just three years, there were 29 underclassmen that stayed in the 2003
NBA Draft. Just 13 of them can be found on NBA rosters today. Go back
a year further, and out of the 42 underclassmen that made the plunge in
2002, only 10 remain in the NBA today. In fact, exactly half of those
42 athletes did not even get drafted at all.
No one knows
for sure why smart kids make bad decisions. Sometimes it is due to the
people around them who are looking out for their own interests. Greedy
“friends” and unscrupulous agents often play a role.
there are plenty of honorable agents in the sports management industry.
But there are also plenty of bad apples. Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, founder of
Sports Management Worldwide, has said that it is a fact that the agent
that tells a family or guardian what they want to hear is more often
than not going to get the contract over the one who tells the unpleasant
truth about where the kid may be drafted. The result is a lot of
athletes getting bad advice for all the wrong reasons.
basketball organizations need to do more to educate impressionable young
athletes on where they really stand in the eyes of NBA scouts, and to
publicly call out agents that engage in the dishonest tactics that gives
the industry a bad name.
We can also
do more in the media. We know all about those who left or skipped
college and went on to greatness in the NBA. But for every Kobe, KG,
and LeBron there’s a
Taj McDavid, Ellis Richardson, and Leon Smith. For every Dwayne Wade or
Rip Hamilton, there’s Omar Cook and Mario Austin. Their stories need to
be told as well, if for no other reason than so others can learn from
Still, it remains to be
seen if any of these things would truly stop, or even slow, the parade
of underclassmen becoming “un-drafted free agents” every year. When it
comes right down to it, you just can’t force someone to make the right
choice. It’s their lives, and their decision, not ours.
However, no matter
what, college basketball will be just fine. Whenever a superstar leaves
the college game, one rises up to take his place. Players blossom out
of nowhere to become stars, young teams learn to play as a team, seniors
become leaders, underdogs make improbable runs, and the game continues
to get more popular than ever.
Related: Ranking All 49 High School All-Time
NBA Draft Picks