Growing up as someone who loved playing and watching the game of basketball one of the key events I enjoyed following was the NBA draft. As enjoyable as games are to watch, for some reason I’ve always loved following the drama of the draft and seeing 60 players have the opportunity to realize all their hard work and dreams finally pay off. For that reason, I wanted to write some thoughts about the draft last night, as well as give my opinion on a rule change that I think would benefit the players who were not chosen in the draft last night.
I want to start off this post by discussing a rule change that I’ve thought about some and am curious to hear what others think about it. While it definitely has some drawbacks, I think it has the potential to provide what the NCAA claims its mission is to do and that is to benefit the student-athletes. My idea and it is one that has been shared by others in the basketball industry is to allow student-athletes who are undrafted the option of returning to college. Yes, I understand this rule would have some drawbacks and I intend to lay those out and provide my counter-points, but this rule would put the benefit and welfare of the student-athlete first and foremost.
Let me first address how I feel this could work and what the benefits of it would be. Essentially any undrafted player with eligibility left could return to school if the Coach allowed them and there was a scholarship available. Some naysayers to this idea would state that it hurts the coaching/recruiting/etc if they let players come back this late; however, by allowing the Coach the decision to choose whether the player can return and making sure there is already an open scholarship this would benefit both the program and the player. It gives the Coach a player who understands the program and system and also has the ability to help the program. It benefits the player as it would allow a player who was undrafted the opportunity to come back and develop and either improve their draft stock or have a chance to receive their degree and then go play professionally whether that is in the NBA, overseas or the G league. At the end of the day, the college game should be about the well-being of the student-athlete and by allowing this rule it creates an environment that benefits student-athletes who go undrafted but are willing to return to college.
Some people make the argument that these players who are borderline 2nd round picks/ undrafted should have never declared in the first place and essentially should be punished for wanting to make money playing the game they love. First, I want to address that these are 18-22 year old kids who have various factors playing into their decision of why they declare. I’m not saying I agree with their decisions and in some cases, these guys just want to make some form of money playing basketball. It is completely feasible that even a player who is undrafted can make 100K plus going to play overseas, or earn themselves a spot on an NBA roster.
From the outside looking in it may be difficult to understand why someone who is not on a mock draft may declare for the draft, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes which cause a player to declare for the draft and ultimately sign with an agent, when many people think that player may not be ready. For one, the hours required being a collegiate athlete are extremely difficult and there were many days last year where I was up by 7 AM and didn’t have a chance to even think about sleeping until 2 AM or later. For guys who want to focus on basketball, I can understand how instead of spending their day dealing with all the little things that college athletes have to deal with, they want to focus their time and efforts strictly on basketball. Furthermore, and I think this is the main reason I support players leaving is the financial side of the game. Yes, players do receive their education paid for and I fully support any player who uses that free education to receive their degree and players receive stipends, but people don’t realize how quickly that stipend goes away. I personally ran through my stipend last year fairly early in the semester and that was just spending it on food and a few other basic necessities. Luckily, I have parents who are able to support me and provide financial backing, but for many of these athletes it is not the same. I’ve seen first-hand multiple guys who were strapped for money and I’m sure this is widespread around college basketball. For those players, it seems feasible to try and get drafted and attempt to make some money off their basketball career because you never know when an injury or something may happen that causes you to lose the opportunity to make money for yourself and your family before your career is over.
My attempt there was to try and provide some reasons for why I think players leave early as well as various other factors that cause players who may not seem like they have a chance of getting drafted to declare and sign an agent. All that being said, I think if a player is Undrafted and willing to come back to further their education and hopefully receive a degree while developing their game to put themselves in a position to be drafted, and the coach is willing to have them return to the team then I don’t see the issue.
Let me walk through a hypothetical example of how this could work using one of my prep school teammates (Wenyen Gabriel). Obviously, Wenyen went undrafted last night, so I’m going to walk through a hypothetical here. Let’s say Wenyen decided he wanted to go back to school (he has 2 years of eligibility) to hopefully get drafted next year and finish his degree or get closer to completing his degree. If Coach Cal has a scholarship still available and he wants him back then I don’t see the issue of letting someone like Wenyen come back. It allows Coach Cal the opportunity to add a player who has 2 years in the program and has contributed to the program while it gives Wenyen an extra year of developing his game and also being close to graduating college. I see this as a win-win for both sides. However, if Coach Cal doesn’t have a scholarship open or for some reason doesn’t want a player back in his program who decided to declare early, then he can reject the player’s return and they can do whatever they planned on doing anyway (summer league, overseas, G league, etc). Some people may argue that adding players after the draft is too late and that the players have already been together, but summer workouts only recently started and it’s not like your adding a guy who’s brand new to the program. In every case, they’d have been there at least one year so they most likely are familiar with the teammates and system and wouldn’t really miss out on much since practices in the summer are pretty restricted. One thing I want to add is that if the player declares after the completion of his freshmen or sophomore year then decides to return to the college game and declare again the following year that they have to stay in the draft no matter what. I think this could be a stipulation in order to force kids to seriously weigh the benefits of returning to the draft versus receiving their degree the second time.
Now that I have gone over my spiel about how I think undrafted players should be allowed a chance to return to college if the program has an open scholarship and the Coach wants them back, I’d like to talk a little bit about some thoughts from the draft.
- The biggest thing that happened last night (in my opinion) was the trade of Doncic for Trae Young and a pick. I don’t really want to discuss how I feel either player will turn out because the reality is neither I or anyone knows who will be a better player. What I do want to discuss is how this impacts the Dallas Mavericks moving forward. There have been rumors that they feel very comfortable about their chances of landing Demarcus Cousins. To me, this was exemplified by them giving up the chance of drafting Mo Bamba, who has the potential to be a STAR in the league to move up and draft Doncic. Let’s say they do land Cousins, which it seems like they think is very possible. We’re looking at a lineup in the future of Smith, Doncic, Cousins, Barnes, and Julius Randle (?). That last one is complete speculation, but he is a free agent and he is from Dallas so I’m going to roll with it. Even if you replace Randle with another young and athletic PF you have the makeup of a team with a bright future. If Doncic turns out to be the greatest European ever, like some NBA guys think, combined with Cousins and Smith and a few other pieces, that team has the makeup of potentially being REALLY good.
- Brett Brown is out here playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. When I first heard the news of the trade that sent Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first rounder to the 76ers for Mikal Bridges (the perfect 76ers fit), I was shocked. As a bandwagon 76ers fan, I was just confused as well. Bridges had what seemed to be the perfect makeup for what the 76ers needed to add in this draft. He’s a winner that can excel as a 3 and D guy on a team that needs that role from him, plus the family connection to the 76ers and everything added on. While I do love Smith’s game, I just didn’t see it fitting as well within what the 76ers need right now to win. Yes, Smith may have more potential, but the 76ers have the roster buildup to win right now and Bridges gave them the best shot at that. However, reports in the last 24 hours make it seem as though Brown is going to use Smith, Fultz and the 2021 pick to trade for a star (S/O Kawaii Leonard). If this happens and they can get Leonard to actually resign, well then Brett Brown deserves a seat in the hall of fame. If it doesn’t, I still like the addition of Smith as he has high potential and then the pick in 2021 could be used as trade bait down the line or give them a chance to draft another potential key piece to their roster.
- I’ve been really big on Michael Porter Jr. since I first saw him play for Mokan in a few practices a couple summers ago. Heading into this season and before his injury I truthfully thought he would be the number one pick. Clearly, the medical staff’s of these NBA teams see some issues or else he wouldn’t have dropped all the way to 14. That being said, if the Nuggets give him some time to recover and he makes a full recovery I think this could turn out to be one of the top draft picks in a LONG time. When MPJ is healthy he has the opportunity to be a generational type talent, which is why he was a top 3 recruit in a deep and loaded recruiting class. If his back can get cleared and he can play at the level he is capable of, and end up becoming what his potential is then the Nuggets are going to be absolutely loving themselves for being able to get MPJ at 14. Anytime you can get a guy who would normally be a top 3 pick at the 14th selection, even with the baggage MPJ may carry right now, you have to do it. This is a pick that I think could end up paying off immensely for the Nuggets and giving them the type of franchise-altering player that combined with Jokic and the pieces they have right now could allow them to jump a category or two in the NBA hierarchy
- S/O to Devonte Graham and Svi for being drafted and representing KU bball. Also, glad to see Malik Newman got picked up by the Lakers. Svi and Newman (2 KU guys) on the Lakers makes it even more likely Lebron ends up there since he’s even admitted he can’t win a ring without a KU guy. S/o to Magic Johnson for understanding the best way to get Lebron is to add a couple KU guys that may just end up at best being role players, but allow Lebron to win championships. Great move by Magic.
- I also want to give a s/o to Landry Shamet who played for the same AAU program as me for being drafted in the first round by the 76ers. I told my friend, Colin Matthew, a diehard WSU fan the summer going into Landry’s senior season how special he was going to be. After watching him workout and play for the summer I thought he had a chance of being a lotto pick. While he isn’t a lotto pick, being a first rounder while playing for an organization that has a chance to win it all is not a bad gig. His work ethic, basketball IQ, shooting ability, athleticism, ability to control a game all stood out to me that summer and I’m excited to see Landry represent KC and Wichita in the NBA.
That about wraps it up for what I wanted to discuss regarding the NBA draft, and I hope whoever had a chance to read this enjoyed it. Feel free to comment, Tweet, Facebook comment or whatever your response to my thoughts on undrafted players going back to college. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions as this is obviously just my own and I always enjoy debating/discussing this kind of stuff with people.