In The Money: Second-round picks cash-in guaranteed contracts at exceedingly high rates

Getty Images
0 Comments

The first thing you hear whenever any underclassmen says that they are testing the waters of the NBA draft is that they should return to school if they are not going to be a first round pick because they are not going to get any guaranteed money from an NBA team.

But a study by NBC Sports proves that is not the case.

Of the 132 college players selected in the second round of the last six NBA drafts, 91 of them — or 68.9 percent — received at least a one-year guaranteed NBA contract, meaning they had at least one season where they made the NBA’s minimum salary. This past season, the NBA minimum for a rookie was $815,615, a number that will continue to rise as the NBA’s salary cap rises.

Those numbers get even more promising, however, as you look closer to the top of the second round. As detailed by Vice Sports, the latter parts of the second round was something of a dumpster fire during some recent drafts.

Of the 72 college players selected between 31st and 45th during the last six drafts, 65 of them — or a whopping 90.3 percent — received a guaranteed contract from an NBA team. Just two of the college players that were taken in the top 40 since 2012 did not receive a guaranteed contract during their first season as a pro.

One of those two was Grant Jerrett, the 40th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Arizona. He went straight to Oklahoma City’s G League affiliate and, after a year, he was signed to a four-year deal with two years and $1.76 million guaranteed. Reports at the time suggested that the Thunder intended to sign him all along, which more means that UConn’s Deandre Daniels, the 37th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft who went to Australia instead of signing with Toronto, is the only top 40 pick in the last six seasons that didn’t get a guaranteed deal from an NBA team.

There is even more to those numbers, however, especially when you look at how things have been trending in recent years.

In the past two seasons, every college player that was selected among the top 50 picks — a total of 30 of which came in the second round — received a guaranteed contract. Of those 30, 22 were given a two-year guaranteed deal. In 2017, that would equate to roughly $2.19 million guaranteed at minimum. Some players — Boston’s Semi Ojeleye, Sacramento’s Frank Mason, Houston’s Damyean Dotson — received more than the minimum. Ojeleye’s salary this season was just $100,000 less than that of Josh Hart, the 30th pick in the draft.

Of the eight that did not receive a second season guaranteed, three were given partial guarantees for that second year while four more were given deals with first-year guaranteed salaries that were more than the minimum.

Thomas Bryant, who was taken with 42nd pick of the 2017 Draft by the Lakers, is the only player in the last two drafts that was selected among the top 50 pick that didn’t get either a two-year guaranteed deal or a one-year deal at more than the minimum.

But that still doesn’t tell the entire story.

Frank Mason III (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

There were seven college players that were taken in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft that did not get guaranteed contracts. Five of those seven wound up signing two-way deals with the teams that selected them, and all five eventually made an NBA roster and played in at least one (and as many as 20, in the case of Phoenix forward Alec Peters) NBA game. Every organization has two two-way contracts at their disposal, which will pay a starting salary of $77,250 during the 2018-19 season and allow the team to bounce the player between the NBA and the G League as they see fit. Every day the player is on the NBA roster, they make more money with a maximum earning potential of $385,000.

One of the two college players that didn’t sign a two-way contract was Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss, and that was because he and the team that drafted him, the Utah Jazz, felt it better than he spend a season overseas. He’s playing with Serbian power Partizan Belgrade in the Adriatic League — one of the best leagues in Europe — and averaging 17 points and seven assists. He reportedly makes $130,000, a number that is inflated because European teams often cover things like housing, transportation and even taxes; that $130,000 is, essentially, his take-home money.

The only college player that’s left is Jarron Blossomgame, who was picked 59th by the Spurs and spent the year with their G League team. That’s not a bad spot to be in for a worst-case scenario.

We can go down that same path with the 2016 NBA Draft.

Ben Bentil, the 51st pick to Boston, was the first college player that didn’t get a full first-year guaranteed deal, but he still received a $250,000 guarantee. Two players that were picked after him — Joel Bolomboy and Kay Felder — both received three-year contracts with more than $1 million guaranteed, and two other college players got paid six figures in camp bonuses and partial guarantees before spending the year in the G League.

In total, there were just three college players selected in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft that did not get that kind of money guaranteed. One of them was Boston’s Abdel Nader, who signed a four-year deal with $1.167 million guaranteed after one season in the G League. Another, Tyrone Wallace, spent the 2016-17 season in the G League and 2017-18 as a two-way player for the Clippers, a team that he is now negotiating a longer-term extension with. Daniel Hamilton, the 56th pick, is the only other college player that was drafted in the second round.

As NBA stars start to make a larger percentage of the money, NBA and G League salaries continue to climb and more NBA jobs (i.e. two-way contracts) start to come available, it makes more and more sense to NBA teams to draft players in the second round that they want within their organization.

You never know when that pick is going to turn into a Malcolm Brogdon, or a Josh Richardson, or a Draymond Green — I could go on (Khris Middleton, Norman Powell) and on (Jae Crowder, Mike Muscala) — but it also allows those teams to bring players onto their roster in the cheapest way possible.

The easiest way to pay the three or four superstars you need on a roster to have a shot at a title is to get rotation players like Semi Ojeleye, Jordan Bell, Patrick McCaw and Abdel Nader on the cheap in the second round.

I say all that to say this: The idea that it is only a smart move to head to the NBA as an underclassmen is when you are a first round pick is antiquated.

There is plenty of guaranteed money out available for players picked in the second round, and it’s been nearly three years since a player coming out of college that was picked in the top 50 of the draft was unable to get a contract that guaranteed them less than one year’s NBA salary.

That doesn’t mean it’s always the right decision to forego remaining eligibility. These salaries are big, but they aren’t life-changing and certainly don’t amount to the kind of money that would allow a player to avoid having to work once their basketball career comes to an end. What it does is muddy the waters, and make it that much more likely that a borderline first round pick would opt to enter the NBA draft.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

Getty Images
0 Comments

TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

Getty Images
1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.