The Oklahoma State Cowboys have started the 2013-2014 season 5-0 and they have moved up to the #5 ranking in the AP poll. The Cowboys appear to be a legit national title contender and that is thanks to the NBA ready Marcus Smart leading the way. So far this season Smart is having an impressive stat line averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Oklahoma State will be a power house all season thanks to Smart, but did the young man make the right decision to stay in college?
This past 2013 NBA draft was one of the weakest in recent memory and it was truly a tossup for the number one pick in the draft. If Marcus Smart would have declared for the draft then he would have almost certainly been a top four pick, but which team would have drafted him?
The Cleveland Cavaliers ended up drafting Anthony Bennett who was a one and done player out of UNLV. The Cavs were not in the market for another guard after drafting Irving and Waiters in recent years, so Smart wouldn't have been the top selection.
The Orlando Magic would have been the first team to seriously consider taking Smart. Orlando was in need of a franchise caliber guard and that is why they ultimately drafted Victor Oladipo. The Magic could have rolled the dice on Smart, who was less of a proven commodity than Oladipo, and I have to assume the Magic wouldn't have turned down the opportunity to get the upside that Smart has.
If Smart would have slid past two, then the next team would have been the Washington Wizards who were also not in need of a guard after taking Wall and Beal in recent years.
The fourth team to pick was the Charlotte Bobcats and if Smart was still on the board here then he would almost have certainly been snatched up by Michael Jordan's team.
Marcus Smart would have most likely been drafted 2nd or 4th overall and that means he turned down a rookie contract of between 3.1 and 3.8 million dollars per year to play one more season in college. Turning down this kind of money seems crazy to the average person, but it is exactly what Smart did.
I commend the young man for putting his life in front of money, but turning down this kind of guaranteed money is a big risk. If he gets injured or for some reason doesn't improve on his shooting, which was his goal for this season, then he could find himself sliding in the draft and taking a pay cut as a result.
The 2014 draft is going to be one of the best drafts in recent memory with guys like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, and Aaron Gordon, among others, who could all turn into franchise players at some point in their NBA careers. This makes being a top 2-4 pick, and getting similar money, less of guarantee for Smart.
The top three picks of the 2014 NBA draft almost seem locked in with Wiggins, Parker, and Randle so that would mean Marcus would most likely go somewhere between 4-6. This a potential loss of over 1 million dollars per year (if he would have been the 2nd pick in 2013) and the loss of salary of over 3 million that he could have made this season in the NBA. Leaving this kind of money on the table is a risk and that is why so few top caliber players end up staying in school.
It isn't all bad news for Smart though. Marcus is getting more publicity and air time as a star college player than he could have gotten as an NBA rookie and that certainly has value. Getting name recognition means having a higher probability of getting a shoe deal or getting advertising deals.
Another big positive for Smart staying in school for another season is he avoided spending the bulk of his young career for small market teams like the Magic or Bobcats. The NBA landscape has changed quite a bit this season and big market franchises like the Celtics and 76ers will both be making bids towards the top of the draft.
There are certainly pros and cons for Smart playing another season at Oklahoma State and in the end it is up to him and his family to make the decision on what is best for them. Smart turned down fame and fortune for another year of his youth and that is nice to see in this day and age of basketball.