If you’re an elite college basketball player thinking about the NBA, this is the advice you get from the sage people (not the dirty agents and others trying to be a parasite, but the people looking out for the students):
If you are a guaranteed first-round pick in the NBA draft, you have to seriously consider going.
Because it means — at the very minimum — three years guaranteed money and as players have a limited career to earn money this gets you on the clock and out of your rookie deal at a younger age so you can earn more down the line. You can still get your degree, but you only have a short window to earn money that can and should set you up for life.
But the looming NBA lockout changes the equation. There will be a lockout and potentially a protracted one (the NBA sides are farther apart than the NFL owners and players, and you see how well that is going.) The New York Times spoke to a number of people involved and while so far nobody is really seeing a difference because of the threat of a lockout it could happen.
“I had one N.B.A. guy tell me that anyone that is a bubble guy, the lockout should pop everyone’s bubble,” Georgia Coach Mark Fox said in a telephone interview. “Those guys are a risk anyway. Put this factor into the mix, and it’s just too volatile.”
“I think it will have an effect, and it should have one,” the agent Mark Bartelstein said, noting the consequence of leaving early and being sidelined by a lockout. “That’s a disastrous thing for a player in the development stage of his career. It is an issue, and something I’ve raised with coaches and families, and that’s part of the equation, I think.”
There are still guys in for it. Duke’s Kyrie Irving — the likely No. 1 overall pick — is expected to announce he is still coming out for the NBA soon. Kemba Walker of Connecticut also is expected to decide soon and told the Times the lockout will not impact his decision. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (likely a top five pick) has said he is staying. (We should note that the list of players who said they are staying during the tournament then left anyway is a long and storied one, so stay tuned.) UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt is in and hired an agent so he is committed. There are a lot of guys putting their name out without agents to preserve their eligibility, but about the usual amount the NBA says.
The equation of the lockout works two ways, as Butler Coach Brad Stevens told the Times.
“Does that make this draft weaker? Might,” Stevens said. “So you might be able to get drafted higher. Does it make it so that nobody wants to go out because they don’t want to sit out their whole senior year and not play basketball until February?”
Nobody is sure what impact the lockout will have on prospects coming out. So far none, but that may change as decisions need to be finalized. We know the lockout is coming, and we know it’s going to be bad. The Summer League and that development time are certainly going to be wiped out. The question is camp and games, and many around the negotiations are not optimistic about saving all of those.
There are no easy decisions here. It’s just another way the lockout is going to screw with people’s lives.