Duke And The Draft

As Austin Rivers inadvertently proved, the NBA draft is a crapshoot - Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

I want to believe that Jabari Parker will return next season to team with Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and company on a team that would almost certainly be preseason No. 1 in the nation. I want to believe - but I can't.

It's encouraging to read stories - such as the one linked on the first page of DBR Thursday -- suggesting that Jabari Parker might decide to return to Duke for his sophomore season.

And I believe Sonny Parker's assertion (also linked Thursday) that his son has not yet made up his mind. My sources tell me that Parker is still on campus, doing his academic duty - just what you'd expect from the kid who made the academic honor roll in his first semester at Duke.

I want to believe that Parker will return next season to team with Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and company on a team that would almost certainly be preseason No. 1 in the nation.

I want to believe - but I can't.

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I can't believe because Parker IS such an intelligent, thoughtful young man. He's going to make the right choice for him ... and that choice is to come out now and be a top three - maybe No. 1 - pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Yes, he could improve his chances of NBA success by returning to Duke and polishing his game. For some kids, that's a consideration as Krzyzewski noted in his recent press conference.

"It's not about being a first-round pick … it's if you're ready," Krzyzewski said. "You can get washed out of there quickly. If you are a high lottery pick, then you become an asset - a monetary asset for an organization and your chance of washing out [is slim]. But if you are [picked] later, you have to hit it pretty quick because they don't have to pick you up after two years.

"It's more important to make sure you have staying power."

That's the message that Coach K tried to explain to Will Avery in 1999.

The sophomore guard, coming off a second-team All-ACC season in which he averaged almost 15 points and five assists a game on a 37-win team, was anxious to make the jump to the NBA. Avery was a bright kid who hated schoolwork - that's what got him in trouble in high school and led to his struggles to gain admission to Duke. He was only too happy to chuck the books (which he did as soon as the season was over) and take his chances in the NBA.

To the untrained observer, those chances were good. Indeed, Avery became the 14th player taken in the 1999 draft, earning a three-year guaranteed contract for $3.86 million.

But - as Coach K tried to explain to Avery before the draft - the young man was not ready to play point guard in the NBA. He needed at least another year to polish his game.

Avery ended up playing little in the NBA. He was an end-of-the-bench player, who saw just 1,200 minutes of action in three seasons (almost exactly the same total playing time as his sophomore year at Duke alone). As soon as his initial guaranteed contract ran out, he was out of the NBA, never to return.

While I'm not privileged to listen in on Coach K's conversations with Parker, I doubt that's the message he's sending now. Go back and look at that quote and note the third sentence: "If you are a high lottery pick, then you become an asset - a monetary asset for an organization and your chance of washing out [is slim]."

Patker is not ready to be a dominant player in the NBA, but he's good enough to play right away. And because he'll be such a high draft pick, whichever team drafts him will give him time to develop.

In the end, it makes sense for Parker to turn pro - as much as that hurts Duke fans … and Coach K. When he met with the press a little more than a week ago, the Duke coach sounded resigned to losing Parker - and sophomore Rodney Hood, who is also virtually certain to declare for the draft.

"I'd love for these guys to stay and see where they'd be next year and the year after … but so would a lot of other coaches," Krzyzewski said. "That's the landscape that has changed."

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE

For almost two decades, Krzyzewski was immune to the rush of young players to jump to the NBA. There were early entries in the 1980s and 1990s, but very few one-and-dones. It was not uncommon for top juniors to jump - as James Worthy and Michael Jordan did at UNC - and not surprising for a few sophomores (Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas were two examples), but it was also not surprising when coveted NBA prospects to stayed four years - as Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan did.

Coach K never had to deal with the problem.

Oh, there was a moment of uncertainty when he replaced Bill Foster in the spring of 1980 and junior forward Gene Banks flirted with the idea of turning pro before deciding to return and give the new guy a chance.

I can't remember any issue with junior Johnny Dawkins, even after JD won consensus first-team All-America honors as a junior in 1985. Danny Ferry could have gone after his first All-America season in 1988, but his father was an NBA general manager and he made it clear that there was no hurry to turn pro.

Just a side note on Ferry. In hindsight, he probably should have come out in 1988. He returned and won national player of the year honors in 1989 and ended up the No. 2 pick in the 1989 NBA draft. But that pick was made by the LA Clippers and Ferry was clued in enough to the NBA to understand what a messed up franchise that was (and would remain for another two decades). His disgust that draft night was evident even over TV… and it was not surprising that he opted to play a year in Italy, returning a year later to play in Cleveland. He ended up playing 13 seasons in the NBA and winning a ring in San Antonio, but who knows what would have happened in 1988 - he wouldn't have gone No. 2 in the draft, but he probably wouldn't have been drafted by the Clippers either.

The real threat to go pro in those first two decades was Grant Hill, whose dazzling potential was evident in 1991 as he helped Duke to its first NCAA title. In today's climate, the pressure to turn pro after his freshman season would have been overwhelming. But Hill returned for a second … third … and fourth season at Duke. Like Banks, Dawkins, Ferry and Christian Laettner (a lottery pick after 1990 and 1991 for sure), Hill passed up certain NBA status to stay in school.

As I mentioned, he wasn't the only top player doing that during that era. But the fact that Duke never lost an undergrad to the NBA had a lot to do with Coach K's unbelievable run - seven Final Fours and two national titles between 1986 and 1994. His immunity from the lure of the NBA grated on rival fans, who labeled K selfish and ascribed magical powers of persuasion to the Duke coach.

Well, I don't know exactly what the Duke coach was telling his best players in that era. Was he telling them that they would not be first-round draft picks - as a certain rival coach incorrectly told Reggie Bullock last spring? Maybe, but I suspect Ferry was getting pretty good advice from his father. Grant Hill was also the son of a famous father and I'm sure that Calvin Hill understood the pro potential of his son.

I do know that in the spring of 1999 - when Coach K was "selfishly" advising Avery to stay for another year, he was advising sophomore Elton Brand to declare for the draft. He thought Brand was ready and knew he'd go early in the draft.

There was a third Duke undergraduate looking at the NBA in 1999.

I don't know what Krzyzewski told Corey Maggette about his NBA chances, but I suspect he was advising the gifted freshman to return for his sophomore season.

That wasn't even an issue until March. Maggette was a good recruit, but merely No. 11 in the RSCI (which averages recruiting rankings). He didn't start for that powerful Duke team, but he did have some spectacular moments as the team's Sixth Man. I know Coach K and his staff thought Maggette would blossom into a superstar - and a potential national player of the year - in his second season.

But the weekend of Duke's East Regional victory over Temple, Chicago writer Sam Smith (the author of 'The Jordan Rules") wrote a column suggesting that if Maggette turned pro, he would be the first player taken in the NBA draft. I talked to Maggette in the locker room at the Meadowlands about Smith's story and it was obvious that he was dazzled by the possibility - especially since at that point, his hometown Bulls had three high draft picks and stood a good chance to winning the lottery.

I can never prove it, but I'm convinced that without that article, Maggette would have returned for his sophomore season at Duke.

Indeed, it turned out that Smith was wrong. The Bulls did draft first, but used the pick on Duke's Brand, not Maggette. The freshman didn't get drafted until the tail end of the lottery - No. 13 by Seattle. He was shipped to Orlando on a draft-night trade and after one year with the Magic, he eventually spent the bulk of his career playing for the hapless Clippers.

Now, don't get me wrong. Maggette played 14 seasons and made $89 million in his NBA career, although most of that money came at the end. He made "just" $4 million in his first three-year deal. While he never became an NBA superstar, he had a long, productive career.

Could he have done more had he returned to Duke for the 1999-2000 season?

That off-season, I did an interview with NBA mega-agent David Falk about the economics of Maggette's move. Falk argued that had Maggette returned and improved his draft status from No. 13 to the top five, he would have made significantly more money - over both the long term and the short term (an $8-11 million initial contract, rather than $4 million).

It might have helped K win a national title in 2000, but then again, Maggette's return would have led to problems when the Myron Piggie story broke midway through that season. If Maggette was still at Duke, he would have been suspended 3-4-5 games and been forced to pay back the $1,500 or so dollars in illegal benefits he got from his crooked AAU coach.

ONE AND DONE

Maggette was Duke's first one-and-done player. Six years after his departure, Luol Deng became the second.

The pace has picked up in the second decade of the 21st century.

Kyrie Irving left after his freshman season in 2011 and Austin Rivers followed after winning All-ACC honors in 2012. If Parker goes this spring, that will make three one-and-dones in four years. And, it's not out of the question that Jahlil Okafor will make it four in five years after next season.

That's not quite Kentucky's pattern under Calipari (10 one-and-dones in the last four years … not counting Enes Kanter, who was at Kentucky for a year but never played there), but few schools are losing freshmen at a similar rate.

I know some readers will object to projecting Okafor as a one-and-done player. Obviously, we need to wait and see how he plays and what choice he makes next spring. But my projection is based on the historical evidence - in the first 14 years of this century, the consensus No. 1 recruit has either gone straight to the NBA out of high school four times:

  • 2001 - Eddie Curry
  • 2002 - Amar'e Stoudemire
  • 2003 - LeBron James
  • 2004 - Dwight Howard

Or been a one-and done (Note: after 2005, players no longer had the option of going straight to the NBA) seven times:

  • 2000 - Zack Randolph, Michigan State
  • 2006 - Greg Oden, Ohio State
  • 2007 - O.J. Mayo, Southern Cal
  • 2009 - Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
  • 2011 - Anthony Davis, Kentucky
  • 2012 - Shabazz Mohammed, UCLA
  • 2013 - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

Brandon Jennings, the No. 1 prep prospect in 2008, never played college ball. He played professionally in Europe before he became eligible for the 2009 NBA draft.

That leaves two No. 1 prospects in this century who went to school and stayed more than one year - and they both left after two collegiate seasons:

  • 2005 - Josh McRoberts, Duke
  • 2010 - Harrison Barnes, UNC

So I don't think it's farfetched to suggest that the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2014 is likely - not definite, but likely - a one-and-done player.

MAKING THE DECISION

Tracking the decisions of the top recruits in this century got me to thinking about player decisions and the input of their coaches.

I still hear UNC fans complaining that K puts his program first and mesmerizes guys into staying who should have left. But I also hear Duke fans say the same thing about Roy Williams.

Who's right?

It's actually an impossible question to answer, because every decision - every player - is different. Did Harrison Barnes make a mistake in not coming out in 2011, when he was expected to be a top 10 pick? He might have won a national title in 2012 (had Kendall Marshall not gotten hurt), but as it was, he was drafted No. 7 - just about where he would have been a year earlier.

By the same token, did Jason Williams make a mistake not coming out after 2001? He would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft (ahead of Kwame Brown), but he returned to guide Duke to a No. 1 final AP ranking, but a heartbreaking flameout to Indiana in the Sweet 16. He then went No. 2 in the 2002 draft (behind Yao Ming).

Waiting a year cost him $3 million -- the difference between the $11.7 million Brown signed as the No. 1 pick in 2001 and the $8.7 million three-year deal that Williams, in fact, signed in 2002. Long term, we'll never know how the delay impacted his career, since Williams was able to play just one season before a career-ending motorcycle accident.

One other note about the 2002 draft. We often suggest a player makes a mistake when he leaves early and doesn't get drafted in the first round. Well, Duke center Carlos Boozer left after his junior year and was the sixth player taken in the second round.

Boozer's first deal with the Cavaliers was for a mere $359,000. He got just over half a million his second year. But before his third season, he signed with Utah for more than $10 million. He's still in the league and so far has earned $129 million dollars in salary. And that doesn't count the $16 million he's guaranteed by the Bulls for next season.

Did Boozer make a mistake?

The same question could be asked about Josh McRoberts, who left after his sophomore season in 2007 and fell to the second round of the draft. His first deal was for less than a half-million dollars, but while he hasn't quite matched Boozer's success, he's stayed in the league 11 years and earned $11.6 million - with $2.7 million more guaranteed for next season.

Or, just to give fair sway to the other side, what about UNC's James Michael McAdoo? The Tar Heel power forward was widely projected as a lottery pick after showing flashes of talent as UNC's Sixth Man in 2012. But Roy convinced him to return to school and after a lackluster sophomore season, McAdoo became a borderline first-round projection. After returning for his third year, McAdoo is no longer seen as a first round pick (Draft Express rates him midway through the second round).

Did McAdoo, who opted for the draft Thursday, get out in time? Did he hurt himself by staying or will he - like Boozer and McRoberts - turn a second-round opportunity into a long career?

So with such factors so hard to determine, how do you measure the decision-making process - and especially break it down by schools?

About the best I can offer is to measure consensus prep rankings with eventual draft status.

Follow me through this: I broke down every top 5 and top 10 recruit in this century and tracked them by how long they stayed in college before turning pro. Check the overall top 5 prospects from 2000 to 2012 (we still don't know the status of all the top 5 members of the 2013 Class):

That encompasses 65 players in all. In the 2000-05 era, 16 went straight to the NBA and one went to Europe for a year.

That leaves 48 top 5 prospects who played at least a year of college basketball. Of that number, 34 were one-and-done players. Six more played two years of college basketball before turning pro. Five played three years. Two stayed four years.

That adds up to 47 players - I still don't know the draft status of Isaiah Austin of Baylor, who has played two years at Baylor and is still there.

If we leave out Austin for the moment, that means that the top 5 recruits who went to college averaged 1.48 years before turning pro …almost exactly 70 percent were one-and-dones.

How does that break down by school?

UNC - 7 top 5 recruits stayed a grand total of 23 years - an average of 3.3 years per recruit. Just one of seven was a one-and-done (14.3 percent).

Kentucky - 6 top 5 recruits (all recruited by Calipari) stayed six years - an average of 1.0 years per recruit. Six of six were one-and-dones - 100 percent.

Duke - 4 top 5 recruits stayed a grant total of five years - an average of 1.2 years per recruit. Three of the four were one-and done (75.0 percent).

Michigan State - 3 top 5 recruits have stayed a total of eight years - an average of 2.7 years per recruit. Just one of the three was a one-and-done (33.3 percent).

Memphis - 3 top 5 recruits stayed a total of 3 years - and average of 1.0 year per recruit. Three of three were one-and-dones (100 percent).

Nobody else has had more than two top five recruits in that period.

It's obvious from this list that Roy Williams has benefited far more than anybody else in terms of keeping his top players around. Both of his national titles can be attributed to long-term commitment from top 5 guys - Ray Felton and Rashad McCants were both juniors in 2005 (as was Sean May, a top 10 prospect), while the 2009 champs relied on senior Tyler Hansbrough and junior Ty Lawson.

Look at it another way.

Two top 5 players in this era have stayed in college four years - Hansbrough (No. 4 in 2005) and Michigan State's Kelvin Tolbert in 2001.

Now, even though Hansbrough was a first-team All-ACC pick as a freshman and an All-American as a sophomore, I'm not sure his draft stock changed very much - for better or worse - over his four years. He ended up the No. 13 pick in the 2009 draft, but at no point was he ever expected to be a top five or even top 10 pick.

Tolbert is an odd case. Even though he stayed four years and was a key player on some solid teams, he was never drafted. In fact, he's the only top five prep prospect in this century who has not played in the NBA.

But we were talking about Roy and his success at keeping top players.

In addition to Hansbrough, one of two four-year players in the group, Williams also have four of the five players to stay three-years - Felton (No. 3 in 2002), McCants (No. 4 in 2002), Lawson (No. 5 in 2006) and John Henson (No. 5 in 2009).

The only non-Tar Heel on the list is Michigan State guard Shannon Brown (No. 3 in 2003).

It's pretty clear that if you are a top 5 player and in a hurry to get to the NBA, UNC is the last place you want to go (and Michigan State is the next-to-last place).

THE TOP 10 GUYS

But what happens when we expand the list to the top 10 prospects every year?

Now we're talking about 130 players in this century. Of those, 23 went straight to the NBA when it was legal before 2006. One more went straight to Europe.

That leaves 106 top 10 prospects who attended college at least one year.

Of those, 56 were one-and done. Twenty more played two years. Eleven played three years and 10 played four years.

I know that doesn't add up but we're missing several recent players who haven't made up their minds yet - will UNC's James Michael McAdoo be a three-year player or a four-year player? What about Alex Poythress of Kentucky? Kaleb Tarazewski of Arizona? LeBryan Nash of Oklahoma State?

Based on what we can count, the average college stay of a top 10 prospect is 1.74 years - just a bit longer than our top 5 players. And the one-and-done percentage has dropped to 58.3 percent.

How do our power schools rank when you include top 10 guys?

UNC - 12 players stayed a combined 35 years - an average of 2.92 years per recruit. Just two of 12 have been one-and dones (16.7 percent).

Kentucky - 11 players stayed a combined 15 seasons - an average of 1.36 years per top 10 recruit. Eight of 11 have been one-and-dones (72.7 percent). Note : Two of the three top 10 recruits who stayed more than one year were before Calipari. So far, Alex Poythress (No. 8 in 2013) is Calipari's only top 10 recruit to stay more than one year. Second note: Calpari has had two non-top 10 guys go one-anddone - three if you count Kanter.

Duke - eight top 10 players stayed a combined 20 seasons - an average of 2.0 seasons per recruit. Three of 10 were one-and-dones (30 percent).

Michigan State - 5 players stayed a combined 15 years - an average of 3.0 seasons per recruit. Just one of five was a one-and-done (20 percent).

Expanding the list suggests that while Krzyzewski has pushed his top 5-type prospects out the door rather quickly, he's been able to hang on to players ranked in the 6-10 range. That includes Chris Duhon (No. 7 in 2000), Shelden Williams (No. 8 in 2002) and Kyle Singler (No. 6 in 2007) - who all stayed four years - and Gerald Henderson (No. 10 in 2006), who stayed three seasons.

Keeping those guys definitely led to a Final Four in 2004 (when Duhon was a senior) and a national title in 2010 (when Singler was a junior). Williams made his only Final Four appearance as a soph, but stayed to play a big role on ACC championship teams in 2005 and 2006 - helping the '06 team to a final No. 1 AP ranking.

Coach K has had a lot of his success with players ranked just outside the top 10 - players such as J.J. Redick (No. 11 in 2002) and Nolan Smith (No. 18 in 2007), Ryan Kelly (No. 14 in 2009), Mason Plumlee (No. 18 in 2009) and Rasheed Sulaimon (No. 12 in 2012). With the exception of Shavlik Randolph (No. 14 in 2002), who turned pro after his junior season, he's been able to keep those players in school four years.

So let's put it in perspective - when it comes to his very top recruits, Krzyzewski is much, much more likely to help them make the jump to the NBA than such peers as Roy Williams or Tom Izzo. But Coach K has had considerable success keeping non-top 5 prospects for the long term.

That gives me confidence that while Parker - and probably Okafor - will be one-and-done players at Duke, Krzyzewski will be able to keep guys like Sulaimon, Jefferson and Justise Winslow around for a long time.

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