OT: Pro-ready college players, what goes through their mind?

Submitted by goblue12 on April 10th, 2013 at 10:33 AM

To me, it's basically a forgone conclusion that Trey Burke will enter his name into the NBA draft. Look, the kid does not have anything else to prove at this level. He's won a B1G regular season championship, B1G freshmen of the year, swept all the major awards for player of the year in his second season, and led his team to an incredible Final Four run. He came a couple of calls away from achieving the only thing he has yet to accomplish, and that's winning a National Championship. It's expected, and to a certain degree prudent, that he leaves this year for the NBA. Bottom line is, he is ready for the pro's. 

My question is, what goes thorugh the minds of other student-athletes who find themselves in similar positions (even those that have not achieved as much as Trey)? There are a few things they surely take into consideration such as: the economic benefits, the "achieving my dream" factor, "my game can't grow anymore at this level with this competition" factor, the "injury" factor etc. All of these are arguments that favor entering the pro-draft. The anlge I had not explored, or thought about before, is if these players might feel selfish for staying when they know, and everyone else knows, they are ready for the next level? Let me explain myself with an easily relatable example... Derrick Walton is a highly touted recruit that plays the same position Trey does and will be an incoming freshmen next year, do you think Trey might consider that as a factor which favors him entering the NBA draft? Does he think: "Hey, it's his time to shine at Michigan and do his thing at the college level."? Is it limited to incoming recruits of the same position? I mean, does he feel like it's Mitch McGary's time to take over this team, or GRIII's time to shine, or LeVert's time to take over, or SPIKE's time? Do you think he feels he does them a disservice by staying and not allowing their individual game to grow?

This does not happen often at Michigan because we rarely have this type of talent in such a young team. It is a much more common occurence in places like Kentucky where 1 and dones are the norm. I think it's an interesting point of view and I'd like to know what everyone else thinks about this. 




April 10th, 2013 at 10:36 AM ^

I think if the player thinks they have any significant thing they can improve upon by coming back for another year, the time to shine part doesn't matter. The opposite is true though. GRIII has to know that coming back will make him one of the 2 or 3 focal points if the offense which should help his stock rise considerably. Same with MMFM.


April 10th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

Charles Barkley was on Dan Patrick's show this morning. He said that agents were doing a fine job of ruining basketball. They just want people to get to the second contract as quickly as possible. That's the only thing they care about.

He brought up the case of the UK kids who went pro last year. Had they come back this year, they would have been one of the all-time great college teams. Instead, UK was in the NIT and the NBA was saddled with a bunch of kids who had made zero impact on the league so far. 

The teams that are bad in the NBA can't get better because the draft is littered with kids who are years away from contributing. By the time they're ready...they sign with someone else. 

Everyone agrees that adopting something like baseball's rules would be best (let the best players go out of high school...let everyone else have to stay a couple of years in college). But agents run the union and the union won't sign off on such an agreement (doing so without their consent would be illegal). 

Perkis-Size Me

April 10th, 2013 at 10:56 AM ^

I'm guessing Derrick Walton doesn't factor much into Burke's decision to leave or stay. This decision, one way or another, is for the betterment of Trey Burke, and him alone. I'm guessing all Burke is thinking about is if he's got anything left to prove at the collegiate level, and I'm sure the universal opinion is that he doesn't. Sweeping national POY awards and willing your team to the Final Four will do that to you.

But hell, what do I know? Derrick Walton's arrival could be the focal point of Burke's decision.

Space Coyote

April 10th, 2013 at 11:01 AM ^

Deciding on something like this is and should be a selfish decision. In my opinion, this sort of thing isn't really something where you think 'but the guy coming in behind me is good and he should get a shot'. Frankly, your teammates should hardly affect your choice, after all, if you are that close they should want what is best for you.

In my opinion, this type of decision comes down to you, your family, and your closest of friends that you really, really trust. Outside of that, as hard as it may be, you have to try to ignore.


April 10th, 2013 at 3:56 PM ^

No player, ever, has said "well, I don't really want to go, and I'm not going to get drafted high enough, but maybe I should let the next guy get more playing time. I've had my share." It's about them, and it should be. If a guy wanted to be guaranteed minutes he shouldn't have committed to play the same position where Trey Burke is.  No one "gives" anything away. They leave it.


April 10th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

Much as I loved Michigan, my ultimate goal was the job it was supposed to prepare me for.

If you waived that dream job in front of my face after my first year, would I have thought about leaving early?  Of course.  I would have to give it a long hard look.

If you are a good hoops player, your goal is the NBA.  When that is in reach, you are going to want to jump.  The only consideration is going to be if staying another year gets you an even better NBA job.  In Trey's case, the answer is no.  in McGary and GRIII's case, the answer is yes.  THJ, I still don't know.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:03 AM ^

I see a guy who is a steaky shooter, who is much less effective shooting if you make him dribble before he shoots, who is awkward finishing when he can't dunk (he almost never finishes with his left hand), who can still improve his ball-handling, and whose defense is inconsistent.  I love the guy - don't get me wrong - but I think he can improve a lot...Shockingly, though, he hasn't asked for my opinion.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

Dear Eric:

I got your scouting report (thanks BTW for the left hand tip - didn't realize I was only ever finishing righty until you pointed that out) but what I really need to know is what are your thoughts on me going pro this year?  

Should I stay and try and work on the areas I'm still a bit short on or leave now and roll the NBA lottery-dice if you will.

Yours Anxiously,

Timmy H



April 10th, 2013 at 11:31 AM ^

First, thanks for everything you've done for the program!  Second, I'm glad that I, as a Doctor of Basketball, can help.  I agree with what Space Coyote said below.  I also think, though, that you can almost certainly improve your game and that you have a very good chance of improving  your draft stock if you stay another year.  I very selfishly want you to stay, though, so that must be weighed when considering my opinion...Regardless of what you do, know that Michigan fans love you and that you can always come to me for life advice. 


Oh - one more tip:  Make sure to floss your teeth at least once a day.  Those things are your best friends!

Space Coyote

April 10th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^

Is that he has a good enough handle, has good enough athletic ability, and has great body control. This is why he gets so many good looks.

The problem: he doesn't convert nearly as much as he should for the looks he is getting. You watch him and see how easy he gets good looks around the rim: step ins from 5 feet away, open lay-ups after slicing between defenders, etc. But for whatever reason, after getting to that point (with what looks like good control) he doesn't put the ball through the hoop.

In my opinion he could actually greatly improve his draft stock if he really worked on finishing. The problem is, if that doesn't work, he only would greatly diminish his draft stock. So he can go now and maybe go late first, most likely early second, or he could come back, play his way into a mid-first or play his way into a late second. That's the risk/reward in front of him. As of now, with the way his game is, I honestly don't see a role for him in the NBA. There aren't many volume, streaky shooters with inconsistent defense that help you coming off the bench. If he could become more consistent on his outside shot and convert more around the rim he could be a great 6th man/spot starter in the NBA. With the patience the NBA has for players that take more shots than they should, I think coming back is his best option. But leaving isn't a terrible option either.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:11 AM ^

I feel this year being a weak draft and next year being better involves a couple of factors.

-I think all recent drafts have been weaker because they all draft on potential now, so there is less to go on with players abilities.

-I think the guys who were supposed to be the focal point of this draft (Noel, Muhammed) got injured or underperformed in college and put a damper on some of the draft hype.

-There is no surefire talent to build a team around like Davis was last year, or Griffen a few years back

-Finally I think the current crop of high school seniors is thought of as better then this years college freshman, making next years draft better.

That is just one mans opinion.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:15 AM ^

The "weak draft" arguement happens pretty much every year, except for those every few years when a draft has more than one or two legit superstars.  I remember when Morris was thinking of leaving, some kept arguing that the draft was weak in point gaurds and with his length, NBA teams would love him.  Almost the same thing happened with Burke last year (except the arguement there was "he's not going to grow more, and what else can he accomplish at the college level?), except he decided to stay.  But yeah, you have a point that if all the good players decide to go pro this year, then next year becomes a weak draft.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:12 AM ^

Keep bringing McGary's name up? He clearly stated he hasn't even thought about that. He is so raw and has so much to work on. GR3 is in the same boat, he's not even close to ready. He'd be an idiot to leave. I think Burke and THJ are both gone. I do believe both could still learn a lot staying another year, but with Burke winning every ward possible, I don't think he can get his stock any higher. Hardaway Jr to me is still too inconsistent.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:25 AM ^

If you are an NBA team w/ a mid-to-late first round pick, who do you want on your 2014-2015 team?  A potential starter or a likely journeyman?

If you get guidance that you're a safe first round pick, then you've got a guaranteed million or more that's just a signature away.  I wish I was in the position to be an idiot by accepting that kind of money for a couple of years of work.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:24 AM ^

As has been pointed out multiple times in all of these discussions over the last few days McGary has sinced backed off his previous statements about being 100% sure he is coming back. He said once the season was over he would sit down and evaluate his options to see what made the most sense for him. Keep in mind, he is or almost 21, much older then a typical college freshman.

As for GRIII, he would not be an "idiot" as you put it, if he went pro if he is projected to get drafted in the lottery. I assume his dream is to play in the NBA, and if he can realize that dream and being a lottery pick after one year great for him.

Most of the NBA draft now is based purely on potential and raw talent, look at the last few drafts. Is that 19 year old from France fully developed? Andre Drummond was and still is incredibly raw, yet he went in the top 10 and is having a good rookie season. That is what the NBA draft is now, drafting the guys with the highest ceiling and hoping they develop, and both McGary and GRIII have very high ceilings. I hope they both come back, but if they are both lottery picks then my best wishes for their future NBA careers.


April 10th, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

"Do you think he feels he does them a disservice by staying and not allowing their individual game to grow?"

Do you think that Mitch, Glenn, Caris, or Spike are thinking, "man I hope Burke leaves so our team gets worse, but I have more time to improve individually"?  I have to believe that the players want to be part of a winning team with a real chance at championships.

"The anlge I had not explored, or thought about before, is if these players might feel selfish for staying when they know, and everyone else knows, they are ready for the next level?"

If they are doing what is in their best interest, then sure it is "selfish".  That's not a bad thing, especially when it is a win-win by making the team better as a whole.  

Drunk Uncle

April 10th, 2013 at 11:20 AM ^

I looked at a few NBA mock drafts, here are our players mock positions and a rough estimate of their salaries. 

Burke 7-12, $2.6m - 1.8m

GRIII 12-20, $1.8m - 1.2m

McGary 18-25, $1.3m - 1m

THJ 25+, <=1m

If McGary and GRIII come back and move up in to the top-5 they double or triple their first contracts. If THJ comes back and improves he could secure himself in the 1st round and also make bit more money. Burke, I'm not sure he can improve his draft position so the main benefit to coming back is winning a national championship. 



Space Coyote

April 10th, 2013 at 11:26 AM ^

I don't think GRIII has much to lose from coming back. Next year he will probably be allowed to get his own shot, he will improve a bit shooting and be much more effective showing his isolation game and getting to the rim. If those things happen he sees himself become a top 10 pick. If they don't, he's still young enough and still shows the potential to warrent a top 20ish pick. Honestly not much to lose for him there.

I question if GMs are actually that high on McGary right now. He didn't really show NBA skills at all until the tournament, and even then it was mostly rebounding and getting to the spot on the court for Burke to find him for good looks. His post moves are still hard to watch. At this point he would be an energy guy coming off the bench with NBA guys hoping they can get something out of him eventually in the post. I think he comes back and solidifies that top 25 type pick (because I honestly don't think that's where he is, I think these mock experts are just a little high).


April 10th, 2013 at 11:27 AM ^

Then there's the argument of longevity in the NBA.  Does sticking around in college prepare one more physically, mentally, and improve skills in order to have a longer, or more successful NBA career (for those that aren't in the LeBron James strata of skill)?  I really don't know the answer to that, but it would be an interesting analysis.


April 10th, 2013 at 3:02 PM ^

Evidence suggests no:


Peter A. Groothuis, James Richard Hill, and Timothy J. Perri, “Early Entry in the NBA Draft: The Influence of Unraveling, Human Capital, and Option Value,” Journal of Sports Economics, 2007, Vol. 8


"In the second part of their study, Groothuis et al examine player performance for firstround picks between the 1987 and 2002 seasons to see the effects of on-the-job training.

They find that high school and college freshman entrants tended to play fewer minutes and exhibit a lower performance level than players who stayed for more years in college during the first two years in the league. However, during the third year, performance and minutes reached a similar level, and by the fourth year into the NBA players who entered early significantly outperformed college juniors and graduates."


"Players who entered the draft straight out of high school from 1995-2007:
• 34% went on to become All-Star players
• 60% became solid starters
• 86% became solid NBA contributors

Players who entered the draft after their freshman year from 1995-2007:
• 28% went on to become All-Star players
• 62% became solid starters
• 87% became solid NBA contributors

Players who played 2+ years of college basketball, and were ranked in the top 22-27 of their class their senior year of high school, and played at least 1 NBA game from 1995-2007:
• 12% went on to become All-Star players
• 35% became solid starters
• 65% became solid NBA contributors"


April 10th, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

With big men, correct me if I am wrong, it seems that staying a second year has hurt more people than it has helped.  I think of sullinger specifically and Zeller as well...

Basically, their main asset is size and agility.  I think that if I was McGary and I really thought i was a top 15 pick right now I would probably leave and not risk falling down the board if my weaknesses get exposed next year.  (dude is older than most freshmen already).

That said, I think McGary is going to stay and dominate, good thing he isn't me...  I am always a take what you can get kind of guy.

Drunk Uncle

April 10th, 2013 at 11:58 AM ^

Here's a question. McGary vs. Zeller NBA long term potential?

If GMs are comfortable with small samples sizes, like the NCAA tournament, then you could make the case that McGary has more upside than Zeller. Due to teams like Denver who are winning with high motor  / non- superstars I think players like McGary have a place in the NBA. 25 pts, 14 rebounds and only 1 TO vs. Kansas is pretty amazing. 

However, Zeller performed well in B1G play and pre-conference so there is more to go by. I'm bias in favor of Michigan players obviuosly, but if I was a GM I'd pick McGary over Zeller. Zeller seems lazy, slow and plays 2-3 inches shorter than his height. He telegraphs often and seems a bit weak against thicker post players. He's sitting top 10 in most of the mock drafts so I'm probably way off and wrong. But, he reaks of bust to me. 


April 10th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

no mention of Taylor Lewan?  I'm shocked. 

Something nobody has mentioned here yet is that sometimes not all decisions are predicated upon money and fame.  Burke will be able to play in the NBA for years to come, once you leave college you are gone and there's no turning back.  Lewan embraced this philosophy because he knew it would be the last time he'd ever really play for The Team, The Team, The Team. 

So while I can't say that I would 100% stay, and I also realize that Burke really doesn't have a lot to stay for in terms of things left to accomplish at Michigan - there is an innocence of sorts that goes away once you leave.  Lewan learned that from Jake.  Hopefully Burke would see some value in that as well.

Der Alte

April 10th, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

Doesn't the NBA have some sort of developmental league where coaches can teach players with potential to play the "NBA way"? When Darius Morris was drafted by the Lakers I saw he only played a few games (19) with the parent team during the 2011-2012 season. Didn't he spend most of that season playing somewhere else? This season he's with the Lakers, but not seeing a lot of PT --- a Spike Albrecht-like 14min/game. Of course when you're playing behind Steve Nash and whoever else the Lakers have in the backcourt, you won't get a lot of PT right away.

Morris was not a lottery selection, so maybe the idea was that he would hone his skills with some obscure team (no doubt at a much small salary compared with the "varsity") and then join the big guys.

Anyway, my point is that if Darius had it to do over again, might he have opted for at least another year in AA and maybe improved his draft (and earnings) potential and possibly avoid a developmental-league stint (if that's what happened)?


April 10th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

is their lack of a salary cap and the way-too-long garunteed contracts. Every year, there is MAYBE 5 really good players in the draft, 10 above average players... and the rest is D-League fodder. If there was a salary cap, better revenue sharing, shorter garunteed contracts (maybe 3 years max garunteed?) the league would be in better shape. Instead, most teams feel obligated to draft the ONE TRUE SUPERSTAR player, and since there just aren't enough of them, players get paid way too much and much mediocrity ensues. 

Think of teams like the Bucks, Orlando, Golden State, Sacramento, Cleveland, Nyets, Jazz-- all of these teams have really good pieces, but are built with the idea that they have a super star or will get one-- and, other than the Cavs, none of them actually have one. Lots of good pieces, but they are stock piled together in a weird way. The reason is that these teams are either delusional about what they have (Cough, NETS, cough cough) or they are "Stockpiling assets" for a trade, when another team has a star player they need to give up for cap space (See: Rockets-OKC deal). 

Having said all that, we are in the golden age of point gaurds. This fact alone makes the league much, much more entertaining, since teams actually have an offensive strategy (well, unless you are my favorite team, the Nuggets, but they still have two really good ones) and will, you know, pass the ball from time to time. This makes these mediocre teams fun to watch.

As for what is going through these kid's minds, I dunno. What should be going through their minds is using their rookie deals in order to set themselves up for life. 


April 10th, 2013 at 2:03 PM ^

In this current economy, I do not blame any student athlete who has a pretty solid shot at getting drafted early... who goes.  There is just too much uncertainty in the global economy to risk giving up sure hundreds of thousands, if not many millions of dollars.  One injury could wipe all of that out.  It is just a fact of how things are these days...gotta take the money and opportunity when it is there.  No one gives you anything in this world, so you gotta take it when you can get it.


April 10th, 2013 at 2:22 PM ^

   Maybe just maybe the millions of dollars they can earn would be a big reason for a 18-20 year old to leave , also it is a dream for them to go to the NBA so when they get that opportunity many would jump at it.


April 10th, 2013 at 5:06 PM ^

1-money, more specifically when and how much as dependent variables
2-injury-any time anywhere pro or college it can happen and is somewhat dependent on sport/position
3-accomplishments now and potentially

1) money drives the world of sports with unrealistic contracts and many kids see the payday, family debts, freinds and lifestyles. It's very tangible and when agents are whispering in your ear it can be difficult to pass up. Seeing peers go and land the big contract, let's face it, athletes are competitors,if he got that I can get more...
Likewise if I'm a guard and I know Burke is going in the draft, do I stand to gain more next year knowing he is at the top of every list looking for a guard as a top pick? As for Lewan, knowing his progression of leadership, the nature of his position and dependence on strength which increases over time until about age 38... He benefits regardless of who else is draft ready now or next year.
If a team says they are intersted in me now, I take the money and run. If I'm told one more year will help, I listen.

2) Trip Welborne comes to mind. Hurt his knee and was never the same..one year in the NFL. The risk of geeting hurt really makes a kid think. If they sign that contract they are guaranteed signing bonus money and contract terms...if they get hurt in college they are guaranteed nothing. And if they are hurt while playing for Nick Satan they are guaranteed to be removed from the program to make room for a healthy kid...

3) Lewan owned Clowney...he's a mountain of a man, has cut down his penalties, controlled his temper and just keeps getting better. While he wowed a lot of scouts with his performance against one of the touted defenders nationally...losing to ohio and in the bowl left some unfinished business.
Realistically Burke won every award immagineable and played a key role through the National championship game. Knowing the things that CAN HAPPEN he was at the peak of the basketball mountain...the odds of returning to the title game and winning it are far less likely than the odds of getting beaten along the way...I would love to believe we take it all next year but it's tough to do. His chances of increasing his stock are VERY limited. Could he stay to be a leader for his team? Yep...does he stand to lose more than all others? Sadly yeah. Selfish isn't wrong here.

Interestingly I read a study on Hs to pro prospects like lebron and Kobe...you'd think entering early would simply add years to your lucrative career...wrong...the study showed there is a biological degeneration that starts the moment you enter the league regardless of age.

Factors including practice time, travel and sleep disruption, intensity and speed of play, wear and tear on the body degrades you at the same rate regardless...in fairness they acknowleged freaks of nature degrading slower than peers sometimes but essentially when your time is up, it's up no matter your age start to finish.