Sullinger pays $9m for a year of college

mushi Roar Guru

By mushi, mushi is a Roar Guru

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    If we step into the trusty DeLorean and go back to last year’s draft, we see Jared Sullinger – a potential top pick and a lock for the top three – making the decision to go back to school and play another year.

    Many punters, including some on this site, heralded the move as a great decision, as he’d grown up as a basketballer and it would deliver him benefits in the long run.

    Now returning to the present day, Sullinger is still essentially the same player he was a year ago.

    He’s an All-American big man who can rebound, score in the paint and use his basketball IQ to offset his athleticism.

    Predictably, his deficiencies of height, girth and explosive leaping have not really changed.

    So where does he look like getting drafted now?

    Present mock drafts have him going anywhere from 10th to 13th, probably not how he’d planned on this turning out.

    So let’s address first the long-run benefit for Jared Sullinger.

    If Jared is selected in this range he will have lost US$9m to US$16m on his rookie contract alone, after factoring in the strike-shortened season.

    If he ends up having the kind of career where his body, rather than his ability, tells him to stop, then he’s given up one year of professional eligibility, worth anywhere up to circa US$20-25m.

    What would you pay for one year of a free education?

    I think a starting price of US$9m would be a little steep, myself.

    Let us address the even more important issue of development. Has this experience made him a better NBA player?

    The first problem for Sullinger, in becoming a better NBA player, is that a coach and general manager are far more likely to commit resources (complimentary players, court and coaching time) to ensure their top three pick pans out than a mid-lottery guy.

    One ESPN analyst calls it the royal jelly concept, where players’ success can be as much due to the opportunity and encouragement they’re given as to their inherent ability.

    Like a queen bee and worker bee starting out as the same larvae, it is the commitment of resources that determine their fates.

    Even throwing that to one side, the fact remains that when Sullinger chose to go back to school he decided that he was going to play fewer minutes of basketball, against weaker opponents, with less practice time and an incentive-free environment.

    All to ‘broaden his game’.

    Sullinger played 1123 minutes this season, compared to the probable 1500 minutes he would have played in a strike-shortened NBA season.

    The competition in which he played included – let us be generous – around 250 minutes against players who are likely to contribute to an NBA team.

    In reality that 1123 minutes did little to prepare him for the athleticism, size and basketball IQ he will encounter in the NBA.

    When practicing, he not only went up against players who will only see an NBA game from the comfort of stadium seating, but he was restricted to the practice time limits imposed by the NCAA.

    All this time he was learning to play a style of game in which he was already proficient.

    Which leads us to the last point: there was zero incentive for Ohio State to use those prescribed hours to try make Sullinger a better NBA player.

    They relied so heavily on what he already does as a college player in order to get to the final four this year.

    For players projected to go in the mid-lottery and later picks I can see the incentive to stay in school (though the ‘learning’ aspect is still superior in the NBA).

    But for guys like Sullinger, I wonder how honest their coaches were with the costs and benefits.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • Columnist

      April 4th 2012 @ 4:06pm
      Ryan O'Connell said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

      This is a great article, and poses some questions that have gone unanswered for years.

      However, in players coming out early, there is also the potential damage that can be done to their psyche by playing in the toughest league in the world when they’re not ready, especially mentally. The damage, or mental scarring, that a player receives can set their development back for years. Or permanently.

      I’m not necessarily suggesting that may have been the case for Sullinger. But the fact is that another year of maturity can never be a bad thing either. (Just as a counter-point to your thought that Sullinger cost himself $9 million.)

      • April 4th 2012 @ 4:20pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

        The other point is just what was an extra year of taking Ohio State into the first rank of American college basketball teams worth to the coaches and assistant coaches who talked him out of being a paid full-time professional, and in favour of being an unpaid full time professional.

        My estimate is three million dollars, spread among the coaching staff.

        His cut of that was nil.

    • April 4th 2012 @ 4:47pm
      mushi said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

      Interestingly though sullinger being a higher pick means his team would be more likely to try to nurture him (barring using the Michael Jordan school of management) –but like you I’m not sure he is the kind of person that need’s that.

      It would be interesting to do the analysis of preps to pros taken in the lottery versus college players. My very cursory look at it has I think 16 guys since 1989 3 were MVPs, 6 All NBA, 2 more are top quality players (Chandler and Jefferson) so a 50% hit rate of a “quality” player. Of the 8 also rans Curry had an above average NBA career whilst Miles, Bender and Livingston were derailed by injury.

      For super stars I’m not sure another year of being pandered to in college is going to give them that much scope to mature as a person.

      That said for lottery bubble guys it potentially makes sense as you have room to move up but if you are a top 5 guy the only thing that scouts are going to focus on is your deficiencies.

    • April 4th 2012 @ 5:44pm
      mushi said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

      The list I had I left out Bynum aswell.

      • Columnist

        April 5th 2012 @ 8:31am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 5th 2012 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Preps to pros is a slightly different proposition though. You’re then talking about players that were deemed so talented that they were potentially ready for the NBA at teenagers. Freshman, Sophmores & Juniors that enter the draft are different, as they were players that may have needed some college coaching, or maturity, or time for their bodies to fill out.

        I was actually surprised that the preps to pros hit rate was 50%, as I thought it would be lower.

        However, the list of players that came out early, when they potentially should have stayed around for another year, would be a lot different. (And harder to list, as there would literally be hundreds!).

        One thing I do disagree with is people who criticise players that come out early and say “they’re doing it for the money”. That’s just naive and stupid. You go to University so that you gain qualifications to get a job – hopefully a well paying one. If you a contract worth millions of dollars ready to go, you take it. That’s the idea!

        • April 5th 2012 @ 11:19am
          mushi said | April 5th 2012 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          But today’s one and done guys include people who would have been prep to pros right?

          Either way I was more using that to say I’m not sure there is any evidence to support staying in College longer provides a better platform for your NBA career. Once you have a “ready” game or body to be drafted does college provide you with any maturity that the professional world does not.

          The top ten players in PER last year 7 of them entered the NBA with the minimum college eligibility and 9 of the top 15. tim Duncan was the ONLY player with 3 or 4 years. the only player. If additional college is this panacea then why are the early leavers or the internationals the best players? Remeber Duncan elected to stay becuase he’d committed to get his degree rather than for basketball development.

          The “should have stayed” argument for those player that washed out relies on the notion that playing more college basketball would have better prepared them when no one can seem to produce any empirical evidence to suggest more college = better NBA player.

          It is this assumption I can’t understand. You play and practice far fewer minutes against inferior competition. You are playing a game at a lower level of athleticism and far inferior decision making.

          If I took NBA and college out of the scenario and described the two situations no one would say hey I think the one with less time and relevance would be more educational.

          • Columnist

            April 5th 2012 @ 11:42am
            Ryan O'Connell said | April 5th 2012 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            Oh mate, I wasn’t disagreeing with you at all. I think you’re right. But just as you can’t empirically state that staying in college makes you better NBA player, I don’t think you can also say that it definitely doesn’t. Sometimes it’s not so much that the college system makes you a better player, it’s more that you’re not ready mentally.

            In any case, it’s up the NBA team to nurture and develop their young talent, and I think different individuals need development. Some just need to play and learn ‘on the job’, others need to be brought on slowly.

            • April 5th 2012 @ 11:54am
              mushi said | April 5th 2012 @ 11:54am | ! Report

              All good – not having a go just discussing back and forth.

              Whilst it’s hard to say this or this makes you better (as you can’t test the same player) I think there’s enough evidence to suggest college experience is irrelevant which ata couple of million a year is a pretty expensive exercise.

              I get the mentally ready point, just not sure I’ve seen too many guys that are off in the regard “get it” during their college years. Also if you are the kind of person who isn’t mature enough to handle things then you’re probably unlikely to be self aware enough to recognise it.

              • Columnist

                April 5th 2012 @ 5:10pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

                Hhhhhmmm, irrelevant is a big call!

                What goes massively unnoticed or unaware is the fact that college teaches you about defense, specifically rotations. Almost every single prep to pro player has been a horrific NBA defender. I would say 100% almost!

                Whilst that may not be a big enough reason to stay in school, to not at least acknowledge that is a big call.

    • April 5th 2012 @ 6:43pm
      Johnno said | April 5th 2012 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

      So Ryan would you say Kobe bryant and le bron James are seen average defenders for the NBA level, i don’t know anything about there defensive reputation in the nBA just there offence reputation.
      I know about there offensive ability via the media, but don’t know how they are viewed in the NBA defensive wise are they seen as scott pippen or dennis rodman or gary payton, or ron harper, standard type defenders.
      Micheal Jordan was a great defender he was just as well known for his defence as his offence.

      • Columnist

        April 5th 2012 @ 7:28pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 5th 2012 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

        Sorry Johnno, I should have qualified my comment by saying that prep to pro players are poor/terrible defenders when they first enter other league. I didn’t meanthat they are poor defenders for their entire career. Bryant and James are both good defenders. Not great, but good.

        But equally, both of them were below average defenders in the first couple of seasons in the league, and I attribute this directly to the lack of coaching they received.

    • April 5th 2012 @ 8:31pm
      Mushi said | April 5th 2012 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

      Don’t think you could be more wrong Howard garnet Kobe bron Bynum.

      Seriously I think your apprehensions are all built on conventional wisdom rather than analysis.

      James was rated by synergy sports as the second best defender in the league (breaking down every single isolation play last season) behind Howard who also happened to go prep to pro.

      Also if you are going to counter point where is your 4 year college guy?

      Also every piece of empiracal evidence suggests at best that college has 0 impact it is all a flawed assumption with 0 basis

      • Columnist

        April 5th 2012 @ 10:30pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 5th 2012 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

        I think you need to slow down and actually read my comments. I never said 4 year guys make better NBA players. Never said it. I said “…another year of maturity can never be a bad thing.” That’s not definitively saying players should stay in school, its a comment about maturity.

        As for the defensive abilities of high school players, read my reply to Johnno. I’m referring to when they first come into the league, not once they’re established, and especially not now in their respective careers. LeBron James as a rookie was poor defender, though it was sometimes masked by his elite athleticism. He worked very hard on that part of his game, and he’s now an outstanding defender.

        Defense is the one area that almost every single prep to pros player has struggled with early in their career. This is just a fact. Most rookies struggle on D in the first year, regardless of age or college experience. But the prep guys normally struggle a touch more because they haven’t played a lot of structured defense, nor have they had top level coaching.

        And before you jump on it, I’m in no way saying that that means they should have gone to college. You can learn defense in the NBA, just like James, Bryant, Garnett, etc did – all who beame outstanding defenders. But it is fact that most guys who went to college will have a leg up in terms of playing defense, and be better at things like rotations. This doesnt mean they’re better defenders – everyone would pick LeBron over, say, JJ Redick, as a defensive player, but early on Reddick played better team defense due to the coaching he received in college.

        • April 6th 2012 @ 12:49pm
          Mushi said | April 6th 2012 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

          But you are making a flawed comparison. You are comparing their rookie years rather than their 4th or 5th years as an adult basketball player.

          You are talking about a pre to pro rookie or a one and done rookie which isn’t the right comp you should be comparing a one and done player with three years pro experience to a four year college player who is a rookie.

          If college made you a better defender four year college players would be better than three year professionals, but they aren’t.

          All the data suggests that 2 year and under college players is where the cream of the nba come from so it is tough to see how we can justify staying in college improves your game

          • Columnist

            April 6th 2012 @ 1:34pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | April 6th 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

            It all depends on the individual player and situation, that’s what I think we can agree on. If you’re guaranteed to be a top 8-10 draft pick, you should declare for the draft, regardless of whether you’re a high school player, freshman, sophomore or junior. Nothing can seriously be gained by having one year in college, or one more year in college.

            You only yourself up to injury, a drop off in production, a deeper draft, or anything else that will see you slip down, or even out, of the draft.

            But, again, depending on the individual, a year in college, or another year in college, can have its benefits too. Some players have dramatically improved their daft position by doing so.

            Sadly, I don’t think Sullinger will fit that description, and that’s your main point. He should have gone last year.

          • Columnist

            April 6th 2012 @ 1:39pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | April 6th 2012 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

            Yep, that’s a fair point actually. Because the time they didn’t spend in college means they should be compared to players that did. I’ll take that one on the chin.

    • April 5th 2012 @ 11:41pm
      Johnno said | April 5th 2012 @ 11:41pm | ! Report

      This comment section and where it is going got me reading tonight about this subject about skipping college after high school, and by passing the tradiotnal development structures in basketball and if it is good to go straight to NBA.

      Now the NBA i red has a rule that you have to of left High School for 1 full academic year. Basically means in relaity you have to be 19 basically or just about to turn 19. I think it is good rule. The NBA did it to protect college basketball, and also to have more mature adults who are hungry and motivated and more mature and level headed.

      Becoz what wa sharpening was this some of the star high school kids post 2000 were basically getting signed up by the NBA teams thrown semi big money or big money and basically being lost in the hype , and basically just fading away in the celebrity lifestyle and ending up broke or washed up or both.

      And also hurting college basketball as a production line.

      To rectify both problems the NBA made the rules that you have to of left high school for 1 full academic year. Good decison too.

      You think about everyone, your 18 just finished high school and you get offered $1-$2million a year plus maybe an endorsement deal and sign on fee suddenly you have about after tax maybe $1 or $2million dollars before you know it while your high school mates are 1st year university working in fast food, and nightclubs, to pay the rent and food maybe only marginally better than frozen pizzas and 2-minute noodles or still a thoem with there parents in maybe a poor lower middle class to dirt poor area, and university books .

      And you have suddenly $2million dollars at 18 and all the girls and hangers on pretending to be your friend , when instead taking you for a ride.

      So I think this decision by the NBA was a good move. So it stopped the future le bron james, kobe bryants , kevin garnetts of this world just going straight out of high school and into the NBA.

      Better way as it develops maturity, more adult life experience, hunger and motivation , and more sensible attitude to being professional.

      And that’s why i like the toyata cup rugby league under 20/s comp. it gives a clear pathway for the young adult 18-20 to become a senior pro at a slow and steady pace. Many rugby league coaches would like no player to play 1st grade before they turn 20, and I agre with that too, and the toyata cup at least gives that slow steady pace development pathway plan which is very good.

      • Columnist

        April 6th 2012 @ 9:39am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 6th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        It’s a contentious rule, Johnno, because it’s basically a restriction of trade. If, coming out of high school, you were such a mathematical genius that a company offered you a job straight away, it would be discrimination to prevent you from taking the job, based on your age. The same applies to LeBron. He was ready for the NBA as a teen, and didn’t (and shouldn’t) have had to wait a year.

        The flip side of the coin, is that the NBA was trying to protect its ‘product’, which they believed was being harmed by the number of players coming into the league who perhaps weren’t ready, both physically and/or mentally. Their thinking was that this lowered the overall standard of the league, so they brought in the age rule.

        I don’t neccassarily agree with it. As mushi pointed out, the preps to pros strike rate of quality players is 50%. That’s not terrible, and it wouldn’t be far off the same strike rate for lottery picks who attended college (for any amount of time).

        At the end of the day, the onus is on NBA team’s scouts, GM’s and coaching staff to ensure they pick, and then develop, players that they think can help their team.

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