Re-assessing the Early Entry Withdrawal DeadlinePosted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.
Just over a year ago, the NCAA Legislative Committee voted to scale back the amount of time that players who apply for early entry to the NBA Draft have to withdraw their names from the draft and retain their college eligibility, a change that went into effect this season. Where last year undergraduates who had not hired agents had until June 15 to pull back out of the NBA draft, this year the limit for such a decision is May 8, a deadline that, among other things, also conflicts with academic responsibilities (including finals) for many of those 80 U.S. collegiate undergraduates who have declared for the draft. With NBA teams only allowed to begin working out draft prospects beginning on April 29 and with undergraduates needing to come up with a final decision by May 8, many of the benefits of “testing the waters” rule have been eliminated.
The theory behind the rule that allows for undergraduates to declare for the draft and then reconsider and return to school has been that the players will get a chance to work out for NBA teams, talk to general managers and scouts and get a feel for how the NBA perceives their game — what are their strength and weaknesses, what can they work on, and, perhaps most importantly, where they might get drafted. However, with the window for these players to get input from NBA teams reduced to just over a week, players may only get a chance or two to meet with NBA teams, if at all. According to an ESPN poll released last week, of the 19 NBA teams that responded, only two – the Lakers and the Blazers – had any plans to hold workouts for potential draftees prior to the May 8 deadline. And according to BYU head coach Dave Rose, whose star guard Jimmer Fredette is among those still weighing his draft options, “A lot of teams told us they’re going to start working out guys on the ninth of May,” the day after the deadline. Quite simply, for the players among the list of early entrants who have not yet hired agents and who are looking for a little guidance from NBA scouts on their decision, there is little or no help coming.
So, why was this rule even put in place? According to the NCAA, the extension of the deadline into June was “intrusive on academic performance during the spring and increased the potential for outside individuals to have a negative influence on the well-being of student-athletes.” However, for a player like Butler forward Gordon Hayward, who took final exams on Friday, Saturday and Monday, he had exactly four days to gauge the level of interest of NBA scouts. His plans: meet with a couple of agents to figure out the whole process and work out with a trainer in Indianapolis to get a little stronger. For Hayward, he is likely a first-round lock regardless of whether he does or does not work out for any NBA teams, but the point of the rule in the first place is to give guys like him an opportunity to gather as much information as possible in order to make his decision. Giving the kid four days directly after his finals wrap up neither eliminates the potential intrusion on his academics nor decreases outside influences from having a negative impact on his decision. In fact, it would seem that the limit on the amount of interaction that these players have with NBA talent evaluators would be more likely to have a negative impact, giving them less of a realistic look at their NBA chances and perhaps allowing them to fall back on the accolades of less-established talent evaluators (i.e., their family and friends) telling them that they are superstars.
The change in the rule began with a recommendation from ACC coaches last year, and coaches are the ones who this rule change benefits the most (although, frankly, it doesn’t really even benefit them much). The theory goes that if coaches can get a definite answer from players on the fence about going to the NBA, they can better plan for the next year, possibly recruiting additional players to take the place of early departees. However, even by May 8, the pickings for coaches that lose players early to the draft are slim at best. At this point, just five of the Scout’s Top 100 recruits for the 2010-11 season are still unsigned (two of whom, Terrence Jones and Luke Cothron have verbal commitments elsewhere, and at least one of the remainders, Kadeem Jack, now appears headed to prep school). Even if a coach gets bad news in late May that an undergraduate will indeed be staying in the draft, they’re not typically going to be able to replace a player with that kind of talent so late in the game. Andy Kennedy, the Ole Miss head coach whose Terrico White is among the early entry candidates, confirmed such a notion, saying “the shortened window isn’t going to help regardless” of whether he remains in the draft or not.
Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney entered his name in the NBA draft, and has been one of the fortunate early entrants to be able to schedule a couple workouts with NBA teams -– he is rumored to be one of 12 players (the maximum an NBA team is allowed to bring in for a workout) who have been invited to perform for Portland on May 7 (Ole Miss’ White is expected to be at the Portland workout as well – his lone NBA workout before the deadline). But despite that good fortune, Delaney’s dad still says the decision is made tougher by the shorter time window. “The decrease in time is frustrating because you don’t get a chance to explore things as much as you would if you had the extended period of time,” he said. For Keith Benson, a junior at Oakland University, the combination of the short window for evaluation and surgery on an injured thumb have prevented him from being able to get any workout time with NBA teams, and as a result he has made the wise decision to return to school. In his statement announcing his decision to withdraw his name from the early entry list, Benson noted the limited time available for team workouts as one of the reasons for his decision.
Aside from all the practical concerns about whether the players are good enough to be drafted and where they might be drafted (only first round draft picks get guaranteed contracts), there is the added mess this year of potential NBA labor strife in 2011 which could lead to a lockout and changes to rookie contracts, just another major issue that these players need to be able to sort out in less than two total weeks. One thing remains clear, with over a hundred early entry candidates (including international players) alone and only 60 picks in the draft, there just isn’t enough room for all of these kids in the NBA. For some the choice may be between going back to school or going undrafted and heading to either the NBA’s Developmental League or overseas to continue their careers.
That may be the career path Samardo Samuels is on. After two years at Louisville, and despite head coach Rick Pitino’s attempts to dissuade Samuels from staying in the draft, he has decided to hire an agent and roll the dice. At present, Samuels is projected as either a late second round pick or as undrafted. Is the Louisville big man the first really good example of a player hurt by the shortened window during which to gauge NBA interest, or is he just a guy who didn’t want to be in college anymore and wants to help his family out? The answer to that remains to be seen, but we expect to see other similarly questionable decisions between now and Saturday, as players’ decision-making cracks under the pressure of the new NCAA deadline.