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

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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.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)