For most NBA prospects, the goal is to get drafted as high as possible. No breaking news there.
But in order to maximize your draft stock, the player has to know the best time to sell. The decision to hold or fold could be the difference between a few million dollars a year.
Realistically, nobody should criticize a college athlete's decision to return to school. Everyone's values are different. Some love the experience and comradeship. Others wants the education. Some just may not be ready from a mental perspective to make the jump.
These are all perfectly good reasons to return to school.
But if we're talking about draft stock and maximizing your value as a young prospect, leaving early might be the move to make. Risking injury or being nitpicked could really damage one's stock, which could cost millions by the time the next draft rolls around.
These players might have been better off selling high, rather than holding on with uncertain futures.
Marcus Smart shocked the NBA draft world when he announced he'll be returning for his sophomore year. Many projected him as the first point guard off the board, a top-five lock and a potential No. 1-overall candidate, depending on who wins the lottery.
Whether you think he needed the development or not is completely irrelevant. By returning to school, Smart is risking guaranteed dollars. The top two picks in the draft get roughly $4 million a year.
The guy who goes No. 7 gets approximately $2.5 million a year.
I'm not saying he's going to slip to No. 7, but with an incoming freshman class consisting of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, all of whom, in my opinion are better prospects, Smart won't get the guarantee that he currently has.
This is a unique year, and prospects should take advantage of it from a financial perspective.
Clearly, Smart's values are different than most, which you have to admire. But from the outside looking in, Smart had maximized his draft stock, and instead of selling high he has decided to hold, knowing the market could be tougher the next time around.
It just speaks volumes about his confidence and character. Smart will be a kid we should all be rooting for to stay healthy and continue to dominate next season.
Mitch McGary's game needed an extra year of college seasoning—but not his draft stock.
No player did more with less than McGary, who went from college role player to potential NBA lottery pick in two games. McGary's had become the new trendy name on the block—and trendy prospects spark the domino effect.
Once one team drafting in the 20s-to-30s shows interest, a team in the 15-to-20 range will follow. And then when the mid-first-round drafters start to show interest, the lottery teams get curious.
This is what happened with Dion Waiters last year, who entered the draft as a trendy name and then watched the interest snowball.
McGary now has hype to live up to as a sophomore. There are expectations to meet that he previously never had. What if those two NCAA tournament games were a fluke?
Before his breakout games against VCU and Kansas during March, McGary had only one double-double throughout his entire freshman year.
Again, I'm not saying McGary will stink it up his sophomore year. But it would be hard to imagine his draft stock getting any higher than it was just a few weeks ago—even if he does need another year to develop.
Like Marcus Smart, McGary had the chance to sell high, yet decided to hold on without knowing the future.
Despite having a sub-par freshman season, Alex Poythress was still considered an impressive NBA prospect.
No way would he have slipped out of the first round had he entered in 2013.
But now he's going to return to Kentucky, and his opportunities next season will be limited. Coach John Calipari is bringing in arguably the most impressive recruiting class in the history of college basketball.
And depending on where Andrew Wiggins, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country, decides he wants to go (he's considering Kentucky, along with Kansas, UNC and Florida State), Poytress' could end up fifth in the offensive pecking order if he does indeed choose Kentucky.
Based on Pothress' game and skill set, he's not someone who's going to command the ball and make something happen. He's a guy who plays off his athleticism, strength and instincts. Poythress is going to need minutes if he's going to make a difference out there.
If he fails to show improvement after his sophomore year, it's possible he might turn some people off who were still holding out hope.
This one was tough, as Gary Harris clearly needs another year to develop. But many had Harris projected as a lottery pick.
Scouts like his potential down the road. Harris is an athletic 2-guard who can shoot, defend and slash.
However, based on the college game and Michigan State's offense, I'm not sure how much improvement Harris can show from one year to the next.
Players who are selling themselves on potential don't want to give scouts a reason to dismiss them before the actual sale.
There are also so few 2-guards in this year's field that now might have been the time for Harris to make his move.
I can't knock his decision to return, but there's a possibility I can once next season ends.