Kids leave college basketball early for the NBA all the time. The incentive is obvious: If you’re good at this, why not go ahead and make a bunch of money doing it?
Except not all these kids turning pro will make a bunch of money. Some will sacrifice college eligibility to end up in the development league or play overseas with very uncertain futures.
Dozens of underclassmen have made themselves available for the 2013 draft. Some, like Kansas’ Ben McLemore or Georgetown’s Otto Porter, know they’ll be drafted early and guaranteed millions. Others – several with Carolinas ties – don’t come close to knowing they will be first-round picks, yet they chose to irretrievably give up remaining college eligibility.
The difference between being a first- and second-round pick is a big deal financially. Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, every first-rounder is guaranteed two years of salary. It’s a sliding scale, based on when a player is chosen, but even the 30th pick makes a lot of money.
There is no such prescribed guarantee for second-rounders. Teams can choose to guarantee some money if they want, but are under no obligation to do so.
That makes decisions by N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie and North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock a little dubious. None of those three can say with confidence he’ll be a first-round pick. And yet each left school with remaining eligibility.
NBAdraft.net, a solid source of draft information, projects Brown as the 27th pick, Leslie as the 40th and Bullock as 55th.
Even in a relatively weak 2013 draft, each of these guys has noticeable holes in his game.
Scouts like point guard Brown’s 6-foot-5 height and his ability to find scorers in transition. But he’s not a great athlete by NBA standards. The way the NBA game is called – you can’t hand-check the ballhandler like you can in college – point guards have to be highly athletic.
Leslie is 6-foot-9 and a skinny 200 pounds. That build suggests he needs to be a small forward in the NBA, but he doesn’t have the perimeter skills – particularly jump-shooting – to excel there.
Bullock is a proven jump-shooter (38.6 percent from 3-point range over three college seasons) but there isn’t much else about his game that will excite NBA teams.
So each has taken a risk, trading away remaining college eligibility on the hope he can convince an NBA team he’s worth their money. That’s a common practice these days, but not necessarily a wise one.
Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Bobcats: