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NBA Draft | NBA Mock Draft | 2006 Draft Profiles | Message Board

By Kevin McNeill

May 30th, 2006


NBA Draft: Good Kids/Bad Decisions


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 rest?


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. 


The only 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.


So it’s 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 this advice. 


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.


That leaves 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.


Nearly all 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. 


Going back 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.


Of course, 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.  


Both 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 their mistakes.


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




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