No, NBA prospects will not necessarily make more money by staying in school

Stacy Revere

Having an instant impact in the NBA is nice, but prospects who stay in school are forfeiting actual money for the promise of more money down the line. That's a problem.

Joel Embiid is "strongly considering" staying at Kansas for a second year, which may or may not be a smart individual decision for the big man, but is certainly one he's capable of making. This will disappoint NBA writers who want to claim the Embiid Experience for their own. Even more, it will disappoint the GMs and fans of really bad teams with a need for a defensive big man. As an NBA writer who roots for the Kings, hearing Embiid may stay in school is doubly painful.

But again, that's Embiid's decision to make. Too often, there's no choice available, because jumping to the NBA as soon as possible is purely a financial decision. Even if you're only going to be picked in the middle of the first round, a couple million guaranteed instead of nothing but tuition and books is a pretty stark choice. At the very top of the draft, where Embiid sits, the choice is in even more contrast: The No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft is guaranteed $9.4 million over his first two seasons.

The NBA is a business, and when college players decide whether or not to declare for the draft, they are and ought to be making business decisions. Whatever they choose to include in that decision-making is fair game. Personal enjoyment is fair game. (Win in Lawrence or lose in Milwaukee?) Honest assessment of what they need to work on is fair game. A quest for a national championship, wanting to play with a recruit or thinking you can rise up the draft boards with more seasoning: All legit reasons to stay. But there are as many legit reasons to leave. All of them -- pro and con -- should be respected.

What shouldn't be respected is when outsiders make up stuff to argue their case on behalf of players who didn't ask. Greg Anthony is a good analyst and fair voice on these issues, but I don't understand why he argues the current crop of potential 2014 draft stars aren't "ready" for the NBA.

"You look at [Anthony] Bennett, you look at [Ben] McLemore, they weren't all necessarily ready. Michael Carter-Williams had two years and didn't play his freshman year. It's not that some guys aren't ready, it's that some guys just need more time to refine their game to be ready to make an impact because remember all those guys are going to be going to teams that basically aren't that good and they're going to be expected to produce right away."

It's not about making an instant impact. It's about making basketball your job. It's about getting paid for your work by folks who want nothing more than to pay you for your service.

And staying in school is no guarantor of finding a place where you can make an instant impact. Witness the polished Harrison Barnes, who passed up a chance to go top-five to stay in Chapel Hill. He ended up falling to No. 7, and midway through his second underwhelming season, his next contract isn't looking too buoyant. (Some of us got a little overexcited by his playoff run. Whoops.) Witness Andre Drummond, who came out after one year when no one -- not even the Pistons, who picked him -- thought he was ready. He put those fears to bed almost immediately and is well on his way to a max deal.

You could go up and down the league to find examples like Bennett, examples like Barnes, examples like Drummond. There's no surefire way to tell which players will benefit from more time in college and which will perform better in the NBA environment. There's no evidence that more raw rookies will have lower career earnings than their more polished counterparts.

And without that evidence, the very basic logic of "a dollar today is worth more than a potential dollar tomorrow" rules.

More on the Draft

Here's my favorite example of this logic at work in the NBA. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are the same age. KG jumped to the NBA right out of prep school in 1995, was considered raw and went No. 5 overall. Duncan went to Wake Forest and stayed four years, entering the 1997 draft where he was polished and the obvious No. 1 pick. (Duncan had just turned 17 when he graduated high school; Garnett was 19 when he did.)

Both have had incredible NBA careers with championships, MVP trophies and myriad All-Star nods. Career NBA earnings? Garnett, $315 million. Duncan, $224 million. That's a $91 million difference. And it all started with the two-year head start Garnett had in the NBA. He got to his second contract faster and has never looked back. When Duncan was making $3.4 million in his second season, Garnett was pulling in $14 million.

When you tell prospects they'll benefit financially by passing up guaranteed money now, you'd better have some hard facts on your side. Anthony, nor anyone else making the case for school over the draft, has those right now. So advocating that position with that financial argument is really problematic.

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