It's said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. For basketball fans, we can add another certainty: college basketball players wrongfully leaving school early for the NBA. It's a rite of passage for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, who are either too physically or mentally immature to test the pro waters, before immediately picking up a ticket to the D-League instead of realizing NBA dreams.
However, it's more than understandable for some underclassmen to make the leap for off-the-court reasons. Some players have financial struggles and want some cash to help families, while others may jump to the NBA because a new coach is coming to town.
From a strictly draft-stock standpoint, though, let's look at 10 underclassmen who should stay in school in hopes of improving their lot down the line.
Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams
Irving has confirmed that he will enter the draft and will be a top-two pick. Williams has not declared but will be the other top-two pick if he does. A no-brainer.
A five-game suspension to start the 2011-12 season coupled with top-five projections in most mock drafts means that Jones would be making a wise decision to leave if he does declare.
Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker
Projected top-10 picks after their incredible tournament runs. Neither has committed to draft. Ride that momentum!
Marcus Morris and Chris Singleton
Two juniors who have defined games. Morris is a versatile, smooth big man who could stand to get a little bit bigger. He has officially entered the draft. Singleton is a defensive wizard who could stand to improve an outside jumper, and has not made any announcements yet.
Still, they have enough polish, and it's hard to see these guys improving by leaps and bounds next season for much higher draft stocks.
Like Morris and Singleton, how much more can Leonard improve in college? He's going to be a lottery pick if he declares, and San Diego State is bound to take a step back next season with D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White—three senior starters—all leaving. Sounds like it's time to abandon ship.
Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas
With height in short supply in the NBA, two 6'11" big men and a seven-footer won't find a problem being picked in the top 10, maybe even the top five.
Thompkins' scoring, shooting, rebounding and assist averages all dropped from last season, and I don't think he's cracking the lottery in the 2012 NBA draft, which will be loaded. He's making the right decision to leave after his junior year.
A guaranteed first-rounder who just might sneak into the late teens with great workouts, Harris has room to improve, but who knows how he'd mesh with new Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin? No official decision yet.
The projections on Williams vary widely, with NBADraft.net having him at 23rd. Not sure how much better Williams can get at Maryland. He's a big boulder (6'10", 260 lbs) down low who isn't about to shoot 15-footers any time soon. The double-double average isn't about to balloon to 20 and 15 either. He is receiving evaluations from scouts.
A solid defender and shooter, Vanderbilt junior Jeff Taylor may have proven all he can at the college level and may want to cash in his first-round chips after proving to the country that he can shoot the three-pointer (34.5 percent on the season). His rebounding numbers have stayed around five to six per game throughout his career, and Taylor reached a career-high of 14.7 points per game this year, although his per-40 minute adjusted scoring numbers were down from sophomore year. No word yet on his status.
Boston College PG Reggie Jackson
Boston College loses eight seniors next season. Abandon ship.
Missouri G Kim English and F Laurence Bowers
They weren't going to be drafted anyway if they stayed a year, and their chances may have been worse after adjusting to Frank Haith's slower-paced offense.
Washington PG Isaiah Thomas
Not sure if we've seen anything on Thomas that he can't prove to us next season. Lightning-quick, 5'8" guard but partially a product of the fast Lorenzo Romar system.
Tennessee SF Scotty Hopson
Cuonzo Martin takes over for Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. Would Hopson gel with a new coach? Hard to say. Might have been taking a chance just going back to UT.
USC PF Nikola Vucevic
Hard to see him improve much from junior year.
Alec Burks would be a top-five pick in the 2012 NBA draft if he stayed at Colorado and shot 1,000 three-pointers per day all summer to improve his outside marksmanship. The 6'6" shooting guard made only 29 percent of his three-pointers last season but scored 20.5 points per game on 47-percent shooting overall.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Terrence Jones is just not ready for prime time. He doesn't pass the eye test at this juncture. The freshman had a successful season at Kentucky because he is an athletic freak of nature at 6'8" and 244 pounds. However, he's going to run into many athletic freaks in the NBA who can shoot much better than he can at small forward.
Jones averaged only 10.25 points on 41.4-percent shooting in the SEC tournament and NCAA tournament combined.
Jones needs more polish to his game and, with some more experience, he can be a top-five NBA draft pick in a year or two.
Really strange for Gibbs to test the draft waters. He is a 6'2" shooting guard in a point guard's body, though, so I'm not sure Gibbs has a long-term future in the NBA anyway. One of the few players to have a better three-point percentage (49.0 percent) than field-goal percentage (46.8 percent) last year.
The Morris twins have officially announced intentions to enter the NBA draft. Markieff may not be making the best decision, as he has tremendous upside and can stand to work more on his post game offensively.
Still, an excellent shooter at 6'10", Morris will find an NBA home by the 20th pick.
While numerous prospects find themselves trapped in Ben Howland's offensive system at UCLA, both of these players were not consistent throughout their college careers and could stand to improve before heading off to college.
Honeycutt, a sophomore, saw his shooting numbers dip from 49.6 percent to 40.6 percent, scoring anywhere from seven to 33 points on any given night (12.8 points per game overall). The 6'8" forward is more known for his defense (3.0 blocks and steals per game combined) and will be called upon to shut down an opposing wing, but he's not starter material now, though he could have been with another year or two in college.
Lee, a 6'5" guard, averaged 13.1 points per game on under 44-percent field-goal shooting and 29.5-percent three-point shooting. Why leave now?
Selby may be working out in Las Vegas for NBA scouts, but please don't tell me he is going to enter the draft. He is more or less a spot-up shooter right now and played no more than 17 minutes per game after February, averaging under three points per game.
Tell me the last time a college basketball player was drafted into the NBA after averaging around three points in March.
Richmond has officially declared for the NBA draft after one season in which he averaged 7.6 points per game. The 2010 McDonald's All-American may be drafted in the second round based on his athleticism and length, but this will turn out to be a terrible decision.
Morris is a mid-second round pick at best who is testing the draft waters based off his dramatic improvement from his freshman season of 2009-10 (Morris had 15 points and 6.7 assists per game this season compared to 4.4 points and 2.6 assists per game last season).
His 2.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is very impressive, but why should he go now when he can wait to improve at least one more season? Morris will not be a first-round pick.
No guarantee Leslie is gone yet. A supremely athletic 6'4" guard who plays inside the arc, Leslie will crack the first round, but will he ever get significant minutes in the NBA without a formidable outside shot? It may not be Leslie's game but, in the NBA, he may find himself with numerous, wide-open three-point shooting opportunities. Leslie should work on that over the summer and come back for his senior year to prove that he can lead Georgia by himself with Thompkins not in the mix anymore.