It's unclear whether they love school, hate money or simply believe the best route to maximizing their long-term potential as a basketball player is to spend one more year on campus. Anyway, the bottom line is the same: The projected lottery picks who are returning to school at an unusual rate have simultaneously killed the 2009 NBA Draft and enhanced the star power of the 2009-10 college basketball season.
That's the story of the week.
|Georgetown big man Greg Monroe will wait another year to become a millionaire. (Getty Images)|
First Ed Davis confirmed he will return to North Carolina, which was followed by Kansas' Cole Aldrich, Georgetown's Greg Monroe, Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu and Oklahoma's Willie Warren each also promising to spend at least one more season in school. Add it up, and what we have are four -- and perhaps five, depending on what you think of Aminu -- near-certain lottery picks now off the table. And when you consider that fifth-year high school star John Wall has repeatedly insisted he won't try to enter the draft despite the presence of a loophole that could make it possible, what that means is that as many as six of the top 15 or so prospects who could be in the 2009 NBA Draft won't be in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Which is good news for Jordan Hill.
And bad news for the franchise that has to take Jordan Hill third.
"I want to say that people are looking at Blake Griffin and seeing how much he improved himself [by returning for his sophomore season at Oklahoma]," said Jonathan Givony, president of DraftExpress.com, a website dedicated to thoroughly covering the NBA Draft from all angles. "That might be it. But more than anything else, it's probably just coincidental."
Not to mention monumental.
Seriously, this doesn't happen often.• Early entries
For proof, understand that only two guaranteed lottery picks (Griffin and Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet) returned to college last year (2008); everybody else bolted. The year before that (2007), no guaranteed lottery picks returned to school. And the year before that (2006), the only guaranteed lottery picks who returned were Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, i.e., the Florida teammates who valued winning a second NCAA tournament above immediate riches in what was truly a unique situation, one unlikely to ever be repeated.
So this is rare.
The beneficiary is college basketball.
The victim is any fringe first-round pick hoping to improve his stock like Hill did this season.
Let me be clear: Yes, I'm skeptical of Hill's impact on the NBA level and certain he's not the type of player who will get any fan base excited, but there is no denying he went from a likely late first-round pick to a possible top five pick in a span of 12 months by returning to Arizona. It was a wise move. Good for him. But if I were a middle to late first-rounder right now, I'd declare for this draft quicker than you can say two-year guaranteed contract, because even the prospects who return to college and actually improve are going to have a hard time drastically improving their draft position given the massive difference between the talent available in 2009 and the talent that should be available in 2010.
This is why Jonny Flynn and DeJuan Blair were smart to leave.
They have high stock in a weak draft.
That's a great combination.
Much better than their likely combination next year, which would've been high stock/deep draft thanks to some heralded prospects -- like Wall, Xavier Henry (uncommitted), John Henson (signed with North Carolina) and Derrick Favors (signed with Georgia Tech) -- who should be eligible for the 2010 NBA Draft.
"In Wall, Henry, Henson and Favors you have four legitimate lottery guys," Givony said. "Right now the  draft looks great."
As does the college basketball season that will immediately precede it.
So, NCAA fans, I encourage you to enjoy what's coming and not try to make sense of it. Who cares why all these lottery picks are leaving money on the table? Who cares whether they realize even the worst lottery pick (the 14th overall pick) is guaranteed $2.9 million (a number the guy making $50,000 annually will spend the next 58 years trying to achieve)? Who cares if the NCAA frowns upon gambling? That's essentially what Davis, Aldrich, Monroe, Aminu and Warren are doing with their futures.
It's not important that you understand their reasoning.
Just crucial you understand what it's doing for college basketball.