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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.

BYU guard Nick Emery announces retirement from basketball

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PROVO, Utah (AP) — BYU guard Nick Emery said Tuesday he is retiring from basketball following a college career that began with high expectations but that ended with him at the center of an NCAA investigation.

Emery used social media to announce he is stepping away with a year of eligibility still remaining.

“My time here has been rocky at times, but the good times definitely outweighed the bad,” Emery wrote in an Instagram post also shared to his Twitter account. “I’ve learned so many life lessons and this journey has been so rewarding. I am at a point in life where I am happy with what I’ve accomplished with basketball and I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life with my wife and son.”

The school confirmed the retirement.

“We are excited for Nick as he begins this next stage of his life,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said in a news release. “He has great things ahead.”

Emery made a splash right away at BYU, averaging a career-best 16.3 points per game during his first season and setting a BYU freshman record with 97 3-pointers. He helped the Cougars reach the semifinals of the 2016 NIT.

After playing for two years, he withdrew from school for the 2017-18 season, citing personal reasons. The 6-foot-2 guard returned to the program in 2018 and he began his third and final season serving a nine-game suspension following the NCAA investigation.

The NCAA last year placed the men’s basketball program on probation for two years and said it must vacate 47 wins from Emery’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

The NCAA said Emery received more than $12,000 in benefits from four boosters, including travel to concerts and an amusement park and the use of a new car. The NCAA also accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties of reducing one scholarship, disassociation of one of its boosters and a $5,000 fine. The NCAA didn’t identify Emery by name but the university said the case involved him.

Emery averaged 12.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game over his three seasons with the Cougars.

With grad transfer Jake Toolson joining BYU from Utah Valley for the upcoming season, Emery’s role with the Cougars would likely have been greatly reduced this fall. Toolson earned WAC Player of the Year honors as a junior after averaging 15.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists for Utah Valley.

NCAA punishes DePaul for basketball recruiting violation

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CHICAGO (AP) — The NCAA suspended DePaul men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao for the first three games of the regular season Tuesday, saying he should have done more to prevent recruiting violations by his staff.

The NCAA also put the Big East program on three years of probation, issued a $5,000 fine and said an undetermined number of games will be vacated because DePaul put an ineligible player on the floor. An unidentified former associate head coach is also facing a three-year show cause order for his role in the violations.

According to an NCAA infractions committee decision, in the Spring of 2016, the associate head coach arranged for the assistant director of basketball operations to live with a prospect to help ensure the player did the work necessary to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. That arrangement violated recruiting rules. At the time, Rick Carter was DePaul’s associate head coach and Baba Diallo was the program’s assistant director of basketball operations.

“The head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance because three men’s basketball staff members knew about the arrangement but did not report the violation or question whether it was allowable,” the NCAA said. “Even more troubling to the committee was the director of basketball operations stated he knew the contact was a violation but did not report it because he did not want to be disloyal, cause tension, get in the way of the associate head coach or otherwise hurt his career. … According to the committee, a culture of silence pervaded the program.”

Leitao was hired in 2015 and has pushed to return the Blue Demons to respectability in his second stint as head coach at DePaul. After a pair of nine-win seasons under Leitao, DePaul went 11-20 two years ago before going 19-17 and reaching the College Basketball Invitational championship last season, falling to South Florida in three games.

Leitao is also a former head coach at Virginia and his assistant stops include Connecticut, Missouri and Tulsa.

“The head coach did not monitor his staff when he did not actively look for red flags or ask questions about the assistant director of basketball operations’ two-week absence,” the NCAA said. “The committee recognized the head coach’s efforts to require staff attendance at compliance meetings and communicate with compliance officials, but it said he needed to do more.”

DePaul said it would not challenge the decision, but called it “disappointing.”

“This infraction was an isolated incident directed and then concealed by a former staff member that resulted in, at most, a limited recruiting advantage relative to one former student-athlete,” the university said. “Since our self-report in January 2018, DePaul has cooperated with the NCAA enforcement staff to proactively pursue the resolution of this matter and has reviewed and further strengthened related protocol and practice. … Coach Leitao is a man of character and integrity, who has the support of the administration in leading our men’s basketball program.”

DePaul was among several schools mentioned at a recent federal trial involving corruption in college basketball.

Brian Bowen Sr., father of a top recruit, testified in October that DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman paid him $2,000 a month to send his son to an Indiana high school where Heirman coached at the time. The school responded by saying it had done its due diligence on the matter and had previously investigated the allegations.

Zion Williamson signs with Jordan Brand

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Zion Williamson may not be the next Michael Jordan, but he will be the next NBA player to don the Jumpman logo.

On Tuesday afternoon, Zion announced that he has signed with Jordan Brand, ending speculation about where the Duke product and biggest brand to enter the NBA in years, if not ever, will sign his endorsement deal.

Where Zion ended up signing was never the most interesting part of this process – although the fact that he ended up under the Swoosh’s umbrella after a Nike shoe blew out on him and nearly cost him his left knee. What we all want to know, and what is yet to be reported, are the terms of this deal.

Outside of LeBron and Jordan, I’m not sure there is a more marketable player in the NBA right now. Think about it like this: When I say Zion, even non-basketball know exactly who I’m talking about. There are only a handful of basketball players that is true for, and the only active ones are LeBron and Steph with KD and Kyrie potentially thrown in that mix.

That’s elite company, and none of those guys have the social media following or ability to go viral with the next generation of basketball fans like Zion does. He already has a global following, one which is only going to grow as he becomes more mainstream.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning this piece on how going to college made Zion a literal fortune. We’ll see if Nike’s investment in the 18-year old pays off.

Utah State star injures knee playing in FIBA U-20 event, reportedly not an ACL tear

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Update (11:58 ET) According to a report from SPORT TV Portugal, Neemias Queta sprained and dislocated his knee, but it doesn’t appear to be an ACL tear.

The star center for Utah State suffered a knee injury while playing for Portugal’s U-20 team in the FIBA European Championships over the weekend.

Queta landed awkwardly while trying to grab a rebound and immediately reached for his left knee. He had to be carried off the floor without putting any weight on the leg, although he was eventually able to walk through handshake lines – with an icepack on his knee – after the game.

Queta did not return for Sunday’s final, and he had his knee wrapped while using a cane while watching from the bench. Portugal won the B Division championship despite his absence.

This would be a massive loss for the Aggies, who are a top 15 team in the NBC Sports preseason rankings and the clear-cut favorite to win the Mountain West. The 6-foot-11 Queta averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 boards and 2.4 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three as a freshman.

According to reports out of Portugal, Queta is due to undergo an MRI Tuesday.

 

Ex-Tar Heel Woods comfortable back home in South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard Seventh Woods can’t take a few steps around town these days without someone telling him it is good he came home. The former North Carolina player is happy with his latest choice, too.

“It’s been great,” Woods said Friday. “Family’s here, friends here. I’ve been getting along well with the players and the coaches.”

The 6-foot-2 Woods expected to be a collegiate force when he finished Hammond School in Columbia and picked the Tar Heels over Georgetown and South Carolina in 2016.

Instead, Woods was a backup during his time with the Tar Heels. He was part of North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament title team in 2017 but never averaged more than 11 minutes or three points a game during his three seasons in Chapel Hill . Woods missed 17 games with a broken foot during his sophomore season and averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 assists last season as backup to freshman Coby White.

In April, Woods posted on social media that it was time for a change. Woods will sit out next season per NCAA transfer rules and return to the court in 2020-21.

“I can focus on me getting into a groove,” Woods said. “Learning a new system and we didn’t want to rush anything.”

Woods, who turns 21 next month, gained attention during his middle school years for his ability to dunk and dominate opponents off the dribble at Hammond. He was a YouTube, basketball mixtape regular in the early 2010s, when ability like his was largely experienced in person watching youth games.

The buzz about Woods intensified the pressure for him to stay put and revive South Carolina. Woods felt differently.

“I just wanted to do what was best for me,” Woods said. “Going away was best for me at the time.”

Woods felt comfortable with the Tar Heels and believed it would be the best place for him to grow as a player and person.

“Only positives, all positive,” Woods said of his three years at North Carolina.

When Woods met with Martin to discuss is basketball future, the coach emphasized him taking some time away from games.

“Every time he dribbled, the crowd was sold out and every critic was out there criticizing everything he did wrong,” Martin said. “I have no idea how that young man has been able to keep the class he lives with under those circumstances.”

Woods looked at Gonzaga and Michigan before picking the Gamecocks this time. The relationship he built with Martin was rekindled the past few months and Woods was grateful to his new coach for this latest chance.

“I felt it was perfect timing just being able to come back home,” Woods said. “To come back to a coach who allowed me to come back home. That was big for me.”

Woods says he’ll spend his time improving his strength, consistency and outside shooting. He’ll be part of practices and knows that will help him develop chemistry with his future teammates.

His aspirations, as they were during middle school, are to play basketball professionally after college. He’s looking forward to a productive time off the court to recharge and improve.

“I feel like sitting out a year will be great for me and I’m going to try and use it to my advantage to make the most out of my senior year,” he said.