Ohio State sophomore center Trevor Thompson has declared for the NBA draft but will not hire an agent, as first reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
Thompson averaged 6.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG during the 2015-16 season and is arguably the Buckeyes’ third-best big man. To put it bluntly, Thompson will not be hearing his name called at the 2016 NBA draft on June 23. So, why declare for the draft?
Thompson’s decision is like my decision to begin every dinner at college with a plate of pancakes and hash browns–why not?
In a way, declaring for the draft at this time is the smartest decision that nearly every college basketball player can make. As long as a player does not hire an agent, he has until 10 days after the conclusion of the NBA combine, held from May 10-15 this year, to withdraw his name from draft consideration.
NBA guidelines state that a player may only withdraw their name twice before they become automatically eligible, while the NCAA currently has no restriction on the number of times a player may declare for the draft before returning to school. Essentially, this rule only affects a player that declares for the draft after each of their first two seasons, as they would automatically become draft-eligible after their junior year.
For a player in Thompson’s situation, he may potentially enter the draft both this year (after his sophomore season) and next year with the only consequence being that he is automatically draft-eligible after his senior season. So barring a redshirt season, a player need only withhold their name from draft consideration once, and that is if they plan on staying in college for all four years, a relatively rare feat nowadays.
This creates a system in which it is in the best interest of any player in college basketball with even the smallest hope of playing in the NBA some day to put their name into the draft without hiring an agent, as Thompson has done. By doing so, a player is allowed one private workout with each of the NBA’s 30 teams and consequently an inside look at how scouts at the next level view him, and what he needs to work on.
Imagine this. A representative from the Constructive Criticism Department at the company you’ve dreamt of working for your entire life offers you the chance to come work with that company for six days. Throughout those six days they would tell you what you need to improve on in order to have success there as a permanent employee one day. And at the end of this, there is no retribution from your current employer for seeking a better opportunity.
You would be crazy not to take it.
It almost feels wrong that the NCAA and NBA have put what is best for the players first, something not all that common in professional sports and even less so in collegiate sports. It will be interesting to see the long-term effects of this new rule. Hopefully, this system is here for the long-haul and players will be able to make smarter career decisions moving forward.
But if players do begin to take advantage of this at the rate that they should, the NBA will be looking at the very real possibility of several thousand players temporarily putting their name in the draft each year, hoping to both get a feel for their draft prospects and use the insight of NBA scouts to improve their game.
The urge to use the phrase “cheat the system” is strong here. But it’s almost as if the NBA and NCAA are encouraging players to do so. The initial reaction to John Calipari stating that his entire team, walk-ons included, would at least temporarily declare for the draft was that of laughter and, “of course, it’s Kentucky.” However, sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshmen Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere are the only underclassmen for which their declaration is certainly the real deal.
Coach Cal is merely the first coach to take full advantage of this new opportunity. It should also give him another talking point when it comes to recruiting, as he can claim that every one of his players will have a chance to fully explore their NBA prospects at the end of each year.
I don’t expect Calipari to be alone in this. He may be the only coach this season to have his entire team declare for the draft. But it would be surprising if Kentucky were the only team to have more than a few underclassmen initially enter their names into consideration.
Years from now, I surely hope we get to say that Trevor Thompson and Kentucky’s walk-ons were the pioneers of this potentially extremely beneficial new system.