In the most surprising NBA Draft decision this spring, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart will announce that he is returning to school in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Smart was considered a lock for the lottery. Most NBA front office types looked at him as a lock for the top five. Draft Express has Smart going third in the draft. And he’ll be returning to school. This is, indeed, a shocker.
If true, it’s also sensational news for Oklahoma State fans. All of a sudden, the Cowboys, with Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown back in the fold as well, look like the preseason favorite to win the Big 12.
(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)
You also won’t find me complaining. Smart is a terrific talent on both ends of the floor. He does all the things that make media-types cough up cliches like ‘plays the game the right way’ and ‘leader on the floor’ and ‘winner’. He is all of those things, and he’s also got enough potential to be deserving of that top five pick.
The best part? He’s a better kid off the floor than he is a player on it.
So no, I have no problem watching and covering Smart at the college level for one more season.
But that doesn’t mean that I understand the decision to pass up guaranteed millions to return to school. Look what happened with guys like Cody Zeller, James Michael McAdoo and Perry Jones III. They returned to school and had their games get picked apart by the critics. Perhaps the best example in regards to Smart is Jared Sullinger. Like Smart, Sullinger excelled because of his understanding of the game and excellence in the technical aspects of the sport, not simply because he’s got endless length, athleticism and potential.
Smart is a stocky-but-strong 6-foot-4 point guard that can’t really shoot. Does he have a position at the next level? Is he athletic enough to defend NBA guards? Does he have the kind of ball-handling ability to be a full-time point guard? These are questions that will be dissected over and over again for at least the next 14 months, when the 2014 NBA Draft takes place. That, alone, could end up dropping Smart down draft boards if he doesn’t show improvement in some of his weaker areas next season.
And that’s also before you factor in that the high school class of 2013 is producing a ton of talented NBA prospects. I find it incredibly unlikely that Smart would go top five next year, even if he does have a sensational sophomore season. That’s what happens when you’re looking at a draft class that includes Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and the Harrison twins.
Nerlens Noel is probably going No. 1 this year, but if Smart had gone No. 2 in this year’s draft, he would have made $8.1 million guaranteed in his first two years, with team options for $4.3 million in his third season and $5.5 million in his fourth season.
Look at the 2013-2014 rookie wage scale. The No. 6 pick makes $5.4 million in his first two seasons combined. The No. 10 pick makes $4.0 million.
So from a business and financial perspective, Smart probably isn’t making a smart decision. He could end up costing himself upwards of $10 million by staying in school. That’s an incredible amount of money, enough to keep many generations of Smarts housed and clothed and fed.
But life isn’t always about business and money and finances, and that’s the key thing to remember here. Marcus Smart’s life is about Marcus Smart pursuing what he loves and doing what makes him happy.
If Smart wants to spend another year as a college kid, if he wants to try to end Kansas’ nine-season streak of Big 12 titles and he wants to see if he can bring a Final Four banner to Gallagher-Iba Arena, than good for him. If he doesn’t think he’s ready, both from a maturity and/or a basketball perspective, to handle the rigors and the temptation of the NBA lifestyle, than good for him. A 15 year NBA career will be more lucrative than flaming out after that first contract.
So I’m happy for Smart and the decision that he has reportedly made.
I’m glad that he’s following his heart instead of a dollar sign. I truly am.
And I’m glad that I’ll be able to watch him enjoy the decision that he made for another year.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.