If there is one take away from the NBA Draft last night, it’s the image of highly touted prospects free falling from the lottery into the late first round.
Last night’s draft proved once and for all what players and agents have been saying for years: Staying in college hurts your draft stock.
What do all of these guys have in common? They all would have been lottery picks if they came out last year…and they all weren’t this year.
Their draft stocks fell for a variety of reasons. Medical concerns, character concerns and an all-around deeper draft. However, the point remains: all these guys suffered from their draft stock falling largely due to their decision to stay in school.
Terrence Jones, midway through the 2010-2011 season, was predicted to be a top 5 pick. Questions about consistent effort saw him land at number 18.
Jared Sullinger was projected to go in number 1 overall in some drafts. Bulging disc problems scared 20 teams away before the Celtics finally grabbed him at 21.
Perry Jones III suffered the biggest fall of the three with a combination of questions about effort and medical concerns. He was saved from the second round by the Thunder at 28.
This story, unfortunately, is not unique to this year. Every year there are a couple guys who wish they had come out the year before.
However, players who leave school early are often condemned.
Daniel Orton is a recent example of this phenomenon. He played behind DeMarcus Cousins during his freshmen year at Kentucky. He declared for the draft after the one year. That decision was met with a chorus of criticism.
People said he was too raw, and that he hadn’t played enough. Many thought he had too much to work on, and that he wasn’t ready quite for the NBA.
It appears those things were revealed to be true. However, Orton was drafted with the 21st pick by the Orlando Magic and has been in the NBA the past two years. He may not be in the NBA next year, but he at least has had the NBA experience, and a nice rookie contract.
Pretend Orton waited a year:
- NBA scouts have a whole another year to pick apart all his flaws.
- He has a whole another year develop medical issues.
- He also risks coming out in a more competitive draft, thus pushing his stock down.
The Magic chose not to renew Orton’s contract. However, in spite of the way his career developed, from Orton’s perspective he probably still made the best decision for him and his family.
In hindsight he probably wasn’t ready for the NBA, but last night tells us that if he had waited another year, NBA scouts would have found that out and Orton would have missed the opportunity of a lifetime.
College basketball fans understandably want to see their stars play for more years, but the truth is that, as a player, you have to consider the risks. You have a finite number of years to make money with your athletic ability, and apparently if you wait too long people will begin to doubt that ability.
Given recent draft history, more likely than not, a lot more players are going to decide to play it safe, strike when the iron is hot, and leave early.