Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 NBA Draft for the Orange

Three starting Syracuse basketball players had an opportunity to be drafted in the 2014 NBA draft.  The draft went okay for Tyler Ennis, while both Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair have to be disappointed in the results.
I think Ennis made the right choice financially. His game was stellar for Syracuse at the college level, and I wish we had three more years of him with the Orange.  But I’m not sure his game would have improved significantly enough over the next year or two to make him better than the 18th overall pick, and if he didn’t continue to develop in those years, this ‘potential’ would have decreased as the reality of who and what he was became more clear.  He could have actually dropped by staying around.  There are some strong points to his game, but he needs to improve his shooting, and he needs to prove he can consistently play up tempo if needed.  In 2013-2014 those were unknowns and thus ‘potentials’ he could build upon; but if he did not improve in those areas next year, that would cause him to drop.

Ennis has the guaranteed money for 2014-2015, at about $1.24 million (Forbes article)  for the next two years, and that could go four years if his NBA team wants him that long.  That’s $1.24 million this year, instead of no income, and $4.96 million over four years.  If he stayed around one more season and went 15th in the draft in 2015, he would have made about $1.57 million a year, or $6.28 million over four years.  BUT, by going in the draft his year, he would be an unrestricted free agent in 2018-2019 and free to earn what he could get on the market, instead of making the $1.57 million he would have had going in next year’s draft at the hypothetical #15.  Assuming he is successful, he almost certainly would be making more money in 2018-19 in the first year of a free agent contract, than the $1.57 million.

You can use the math of any of the top picks, and I think realistically Ennis would never go higher than #10.  But when you take the impact of getting the $1.23 million this year guaranteed (which is money he would never be able to make up because his career will now be one year longer) and that his free agency will start one year earlier, it’s the smart move.

Jerami Grant , on the other hand, has to be regretting the move.  Assuming he was in good academic standing, he would have had an opportunity to be the central star on the 2014-2015 Syracuse Orange.  He came into the 2014 NBA draft with a ton of potential, but a lot of areas with need for improvement. He could jump explosively and leap quickly, he blocks well, rebounds well, and has a very long reach.  But he needs to dramatically improve his shooting, ball handling and defense.  The real skills he has in 2014 are not uncommon skills in the NBA; they are unteachable, which is what makes him attractive, but it’s not a unique skill set.

Grant ended up the 39th overall pick.  He is not going to get a guaranteed contract, and he’s going to make less than $800k (possibly around $500k) if he makes the team at all. Philadelphia is a good fit for him because it is in a youth movement, but he left a lot of money on the table. If he does sign with the 76’ers and stays on the team, he will have earn about $2.5 million over his first four years of his NBA contract.   Grant has the athletic ability and potential to have moved into a lottery position in the 2015 draft, and he could have earned that amount of guaranteed money in his first season.    He could've earned $10 million over his first four years in the NBA, instead of $2.5 million, and he would be unlikely to make up that difference in the first year of his free agency.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim thought Grant could have made All-America next season, and I agree with that assessment.  

"As far as what he should do, I think, what I think if he came back, he would have had a good chance to make 1st-team All-American based on what he can do and what we would ask him to do next year," Boeheim said. "I think that would have helped his draft stock quite a bit. But players have to decide what they want."  

C.J. Fair made the right decision to stay another year in college. He was not going to be drafted in the 2013 NBA draft. He got another year under his belt to improve his game, and I hope he finished his degree.  The 2013-2014 season did not elevate Fair to a level where he got drafted.  He struggled to score once he became the primary scoring option for the Orange, and his perimeter shooting decreased as he was now a focus of the opposing defense.  Fair struggled at times to be the ‘go to’ man for Syracuse, and really wasn’t able to carry the team on his back many had hoped.  He was a good player last year, but not NBA draft worthy.  

At least Fair is an undrafted free agent and has the opportunity to try to find the right fit himself. 

Fair is a lesson to what could have happened to Ennis if he had stayed.  Fair did improve his senior year, but the ceiling for his potential also dropped as it became clearer what he could and could not do. 

Good luck to all three former Orange on their future professional endeavors, whether it is in the NBA, another league, or another business venture altogether.