NBA AM: Top Prospects Should Enter Draft
It’s April, which means it’s time for the nation’s top college basketball players to make a decision regarding their future. Right now, players are submitting their name to the NBA advisory committee and deciding if they should enter the draft or return to school.
Some prospects have already declared for the draft including Anthony Bennett, Archie Goodwin and Tony Mitchell. Other prospects have announced that they’ll return to school including Willie Cauley-Stein, Dwight Powell and Kyle Witjer. Many players are still weighing their options, and will wait until the April 16th withdrawal deadline gets closer before choosing to declare or return.
For the top prospects, the decision should be an easy one. The best move for players like Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart, Shabazz Muhammad, Victor Oladipo and many others is to enter the 2013 NBA Draft.
This is a relatively weak draft class, which means these players are all but guaranteed be selected in the lottery. It would be a big mistake for these players to return to school, especially considering the 2014 NBA Draft is going to be loaded with talent. Many of the top picks in next year’s draft class will be incoming freshmen, with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Gordon, Aaron Harrison and Noah Vonleh already being projected as lottery picks. The 2014 NBA Draft is being described as one of the best in quite some time.
It would be foolish for this year’s top prospects to return to school and choose to be part of next year’s draft class. It’s a high-risk, low-reward move that could cost them millions of dollars if they struggle or get injured.
In the last few years, there have been several players who decided to return to school rather than enter the draft. Prospects should learn from these cautionary tales so that they don’t make the same mistake.
Jared Sullinger was projected as a top three pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. In fact, he may have been selected first overall if he had decided to leave Ohio State after his freshman season. NBA executives and scouts were drooling over Sullinger after he averaged 17.1 points on 54.1 percent from the field and 10 rebounds with the Buckeyes. However, rather than declaring for the draft, Sullinger decided to return for his sophomore season. He averaged just 17.5 points on 51.9 percent from the field and 9.2 rebounds. Then, Sullinger’s draft stock took a huge hit when NBA doctors red-flagged him after noticing he had a bulging area in his back. The doctors believed that the injury was serious and could shorten his NBA career. Rather than being a top pick, as he would have in 2011, Sullinger was drafted with the 21st overall selection by the Boston Celtics. Had Sullinger been the first overall pick in 2011, he would have made $4,286,900 in his first season and a total of $19,331,674 on his first contract. As the 21st overall pick, he’s making $1,089,100 in his first season and a total of $5,305,350 on his first contract.
At the 2012 Final Four, Sullinger told reporters that he “wanted to make a statement that not everybody is using college basketball as a pit stop to go to the next level, that there’s more than money and endorsements.” While that’s admirable, Sullinger’s decision to return to school backfired in a big way.
Perry Jones was in the same boat as Sullinger. If he had left school and entered the 2011 NBA Draft, he likely would’ve been a top five selection. NBA teams loved Jones’ 6’11 frame, athleticism and potential. Rather than cashing in and entering the 2011 NBA Draft, Jones returned to school for his sophomore season, a decision that shocked everyone since would have to sit out the first five games of the season because an NCAA investigation found that his mother accepted money from an AAU coach to pay rent. After serving his suspension, Jones was very average during his second college season. He was plagued with bouts of inconsistency and he didn’t dominate games as he was expected to. On top of that, he was red-flagged for a meniscus issue in his knee. NBA doctors believed the injury could limit Jones and require surgery down the road. The mediocre sophomore campaign coupled with the knee issue caused Jones to nearly slip out of the first round. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Jones with the 28th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. As the 28th pick, Jones is making just $863,300 in his first season and $4,404,905 on his first contract (or close to what he would’ve made as a rookie had he entered the draft in 2011).
Sullinger and Jones are the most recent examples of what can happen if a player returns to school rather than cashing in on their potential and declaring for the draft. However, they aren’t the only prospects who have made this mistake.
Willie Warren had an excellent freshman season alongside Blake Griffin at Oklahoma and was projected as a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. However, Warren decided to return to school because he wanted “to play a year without Blake to see how good” he was. He returned for his sophomore season, and things couldn’t have gone worse for Warren and the Sooners. The team went 13-18, finishing their season with nine straight losses. Not only did Warren post mediocre numbers, he butted heads with head coach Jeff Capel. He was benched for undisclosed reasons and publicly criticized by Capel. Like Sullinger and Jones, Warren was also limited by injuries (in his case, an ankle injury and mono). After the season, Capel was fired and Warren plummeted down draft boards. Rather than being selected in the lottery, or even the first round, Warren was picked 54th overall by the L.A. Clippers. As a second-round pick, his deal wasn’t guaranteed, and he was waived the following year. He’s now playing in Israel.
It should be a no-brainer for the top prospects in this year’s draft class to leave school rather than returning to compete with the likes of Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Gordon and the Harrison twins.
Anthony, Archie and Tony, you made the right choice. Nerlens, Ben, Marcus, Shabazz, Victor and every other top prospect, go get paid. Returning to school may seem smart, but it could really cost you. Enter the draft. If getting a degree is really that important to you, take online classes in your spare time. You’ll be able to take them on a brand new laptop in a five-star hotel because you did what’s best for you.
Who Helped Their Draft Stock During March Madness?
Yannis Koutroupis and I discuss the prospects who helped their draft stock this month in the latest episode of HOOPSWORLD TV:
Which Team Gets the West’s Eighth Seed?
The race for eighth in the Western Conference will likely come down to the final day of the regular season. The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks are making things very interesting out West. As of right now, the Jazz hold the eighth seed, but the Lakers are just a half game back and the Mavericks are just two games back. Dallas can make up some ground with a win over Los Angeles tonight. Here is a look at the three teams and what’s left on their schedules.
Utah has seven games remaining (four at home and three on the road). Of those seven games, four will be against teams with a .500 record or better. The Jazz will face the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves (twice) and Memphis Grizzlies. ESPN’s Playoff Odds, which simulate a team’s final stretch 5,000 times to project the most likely outcome, put Utah’s odds of making the playoffs at 48.4 percent. The Jazz are currently on a five-game winning streak and have won six of their last 10 games.
Los Angeles has eight games remaining (six at home and two on the road). Of those eight games, five will be against teams with a .500 record or better. The Lakers will face the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. ESPN’s Playoff Odds put L.A.’s postseason odds at 45.6 percent. The Lakers have won just five of their last 10 games and continue to be plagued by injuries.
Dallas has nine games remaining (four at home and five on the road). Of those nine games, four will be against teams with a .500 record or better. The Mavericks will face the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets (twice), Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets (twice) and Memphis Grizzlies. ESPN’s Playoff Odds put Dallas’ postseason odds at just 8 percent. The Mavericks seemed lottery-bound one month ago, but have given themselves a shot after going 11-5 in March.
Will the Jazz hold onto the eighth seed for the second straight season? Will the Lakers overcome their injuries and grab the final playoff spot? Will the Mavericks top off their miraculous run with a trip to the postseason? Share your opinion by voting in the poll below: