It's nearly impossible to guess what decisions college players will make when it comes time to declare for the NBA draft, but one rule you can pretty much write in stone is that potential top-5 picks will come out. On Tuesday night, we saw the rare exception, when Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State decided to return to school for his sophomore season. Smart's decision will have a lot of ripple effects in both the NBA and the NCAA next season.
Here are 10 things that I think about it.
1. In a draft where no player at the top has separated themselves from the pack, Smart could have gone No. 1 overall if a team if need of a point guard (like Orlando) had won the lottery. He's a tremendous prospect. How often do you see a 6'4, 225-pound PG? Just from a pure physicality standpoint, Smart is going to have a physical advantage over most of his peers as soon as he enters the NBA.
2. The biggest beneficiaries from Smart's decision are Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams, who immediately shoot to the top of the heap at the PG position. Neither is a perfect prospect: Burke is only 6', 190 pounds and Carter-Williams shot 29 percent from three-point range last year, mostly off uncontested looks. There are cases to be made for both, which is why it will be one of the most fascinating position battles in the draft this year.
3. Burke is the safer and more NBA-ready pick. He was the National Player of the Year in college and there aren't any holes in his game. At the same time, the importance of a good rookie season is overrated. Does anyone care that Tyreke Evans was once Rookie of the Year? In a world where John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday exist, it's going to be hard for a player of Burke's size to be an All-Star. So unless you think he's Chris Paul, it's going to be hard to justify taking Burke in the top five, even in a "weak" draft.
4. Just based on his incredible size for the position at 6'6, 185 pounds, Carter-Williams is a force multiplier. Detroit, for example, is a team that may be looking for a PG after moving Brandon Knight off the ball this season. MCW is the best way to salvage that pick because his ability to cross-switch on shooting guards will allow Knight (6'3, 190) to stay on the floor without having to run point. Ideally, you could have a backcourt similar to Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in Dallas. He fits with Jose Calderon, too: imagine being able to have Calderon, one of the best shooters in NBA history, spotting up off the ball.
5. It's ironic that Smart is from the Dallas area, because the Mavericks, who start Mike James at point right now, are the team really hurt by his decision. With so many other lottery teams already set at PG, Dallas probably would have had either Burke or Carter-Williams fall to them at No. 13. The Mavericks have had a horrible run of drafting lately and they really needed a lay-up in 2013. They're liable to do all types of foolishness now.
6. On the college level, Smart's return makes Oklahoma State one of the must-watch teams next season. The Cowboys are absolutely loaded with talent. It's the type of haul you would expect to see at Kentucky or UNC. Travis Ford can put five NBA prospects -- Smart, Markel Brown, LeBryan Nash, Kamari Murphy and Michael Cobbins -- on the floor at once and none of them are freshmen! This could finally be the year someone knocks off Kansas in the Big 12. The problem is there's a whole lot of Scott Brooks and Vinny Del Negro in Ford's game. Watching him try to match wits with Scott Drew last season was just sad.
7. Smart still has a lot of room to improve. The summer between your freshman and sophomore year is usually when a player makes the most gains, so people are going to be expecting a lot from him. The main thing is adding polish to his game. He could stand to improve his shot selection, his outside shot, his decision-making, his conditioning and his ball-handling. This is the most important summer of his life. It's time to get to work.
8. Of course, the problem with coming back to school is that it gives scouts a lot more time to pick apart your game. It doesn't take long for the glass to from half full to half empty. If the incoming freshman class is as good as advertised, there's a decent chance Smart slips out of the top five. That, however, isn't that big a deal. The real money in the NBA is in the second contract. As long as Smart stays in the lottery, he should be fine.
9. From Smart's perspective, the big concern about staying in school is that it's another year of financial uncertainty. The crazy thing is that it doesn't have to be this way: NCAA basketball is a multi-billion dollar product. If you can't afford to pay your workforce some money when they are producing billions of dollars in revenue, something is very, very wrong with your business model. The NCAA stands to make a lot of money from Smart coming back to school. Why not give him some? It's just good business. Schools are paying millions of dollars for golf, tennis and swim teams that no one cares about. We can figure out a way for guys to develop, stay in school and get paid. At a certain point, the NCAA's greed is just embarrassing.
10. If T. Boone Pickens wants to do the right thing, he should give someone Smart knows a job. T. Boone has plenty of businesses and Smart knows plenty of people. I'd like someone to explain to me why I should care if something like that went down.