The Narrative: Harrison Barnes and the Cost of Staying in School
The Narrative is a running feature that assesses how we discuss basketball. It's quite fraught with fraught and stuff.
"The longer you stay in college, the better a brand you build," so says Harrison Barnes.
The UNC star is getting ripped across the board because his bad March Madness performance has coincided with an Atlantic piece that makes him look like a cynical, brand-obsessed twerp. I'm inclined to forgive a 19-year-old for being a jackass, and I'm quite thankful that so many loved ones afforded such leeway to my 19-year-old self.
But now that his draft stock has run aground, I wonder why nobody blames college ball itself for his plight. Or rather, why no one finds fault with Harrison's decision to stay past his freshman year, a season after which he likely would have gone Top 3 in the NBA draft.
This is not to argue that UNC is indeed to blame for a No. 1 recruit falling so far, but we always hear it the other way. Such as, "Oh, (flawed NBA player) came out too soon." Or, "You know, (college player) should really stay in school if he knows what's good for him."
Well, Barnes stayed in school, failed to really improve and torpedoed his draft stock. The narrative revolves around how he's been exposed, not how he made a bad decision per his bank account and skill development.
At the very least, staying in school has cost Barnes millions in his rookie-salary-scale seasons. He well could have been the No. 1 pick last year, which would have roughly earned him a probable $23 million.
Now, Chad Ford has Barnes ranked as the No. 8 pick, a placement that would grant him $11-12 million over that same time span. I'm not even counting this particular season of free labor against those earnings, and I'm not even projecting how far Harrison could drop in the wake of all this bad coverage.
Perry Jones is another example of how "staying" can go badly for a prospect. The Baylor forward could have been a Top 3 pick and has now sunk to No. 9 on Ford's list. There has been no marked improvement in his game, and scouts are punishing him for it.
You could also say the same for Terrence Jones (projected at No. 13) and Jared Sullinger (projected at No. 10). Perhaps they were motivated by the impending lockout, but few educations have been as costly.
Staying is often a sucker's bet. There is no data to suggest that staying correlates to an improved NBA future, though there is data that suggests just the opposite. So please, cool it with the argument that this is a sacrifice of draft stock in exchange for improved skill development. There is probably no better practice for life in the NBA than, you know, life in the NBA.
All the criticism is focused on a 19-year-old kid and not on a college system that didn't do him any favors, at least financially. And while the narrative right now is about Harrison Barnes and his bad decisions, we're ignoring the worst one he made.
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