There are few things I find more difficult than suggesting that kids who could stand to make millions of dollars should forego that cash and return to school for one more season. After all, wouldn't you rather be paid to play basketball than do so for free for a university that makes plenty of money off your talents?
Sometimes, talented players nonetheless would be best served taking one more season to polish their game. It may be a matter of adding strength or polishing their overall skill set. It could be simply becoming more consistent.
Whatever the case may be, I've found three very talented players who I believe should stay in college for one more season. They might all be lottery picks if they declare, but they're surefire top-10 picks who will hit the ground running in the NBA in 2014 if they wait a year.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Glenn Robinson III's talent is unmistakable. He's a natural small forward who has the length and athleticism to one day thrive in the NBA. Plus, when he's on his game, Michigan is really hard to beat.
The problem is, he's not always on his game, and inconsistency is still an issue for Robinson. In Michigan's seven losses this season, he's averaged just 6.4 points per game. Seven times this season, he's failed to score more than six points (Michigan was 4-3 in those games).
Robinson has a pretty natural feel for the game, but he's only a freshman and really could use another season to add some polish. If he declares for the draft this year, he may be selected at the end of the lottery; if he waits a year, he could be a top-five pick and certainly will go in the top 10.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
It's not that Cody Zeller won't be drafted in the top 10 if he declares for this draft, it's that he simply could use one more year to bulk up and work on his game before heading to the NBA.
Zeller did not look like a top prospect against Syracuse, who banged him down low and frustrated him the entire game. Zeller just isn't athletic enough to overcome long, physical power forwards and centers. If he doesn't improve his perimeter game, I think he'll get eaten alive in the NBA.
Zeller is going to make it in the NBA by being smart, outworking the opposition and putting himself in positions on the court where he can get easy buckets. That means he needs to stretch his jump-shooting range and hit the weight room hard.
Otherwise, his game against Syracuse will become his career. Zeller needs one more season at Indiana.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
On one hand, Gary Harris was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 12.9 points per game. That's no small honor in the country's toughest conference this season.
Who is the most NBA ready?
On the other hand, he injured his shoulder during the season and may need surgery that would cost him three or four months of recovery time. That shoulder injury has largely prevented Harris from showing his immense talent getting to the bucket and playing above the rim.
Harris would be wise to return to Michigan State and get a full, healthy season under his belt. NBA teams will surely drool over his talent—I mean, he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year with a injured shoulder, for heaven's sake—but he won't crash the top 10 until NBA teams see his full arsenal of abilities.
He should return for one more season, and I'm guessing he will.