Over the weekend, Michigan point guard Trey Burke elected to forego his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the NBA draft. Burke, who will be a classic case going forward of what an extra college season can do for some players, went from a marginal first-round pick last year to what's expected to be a top-10 selection this season after his National Player of the Year campaign.
Burke may be the most obvious case of "no duh" draft declarations, but this season's class has been shockingly free of what appear to be bad decisions. Other than maybe a marginal prospect like Saint Joseph's C.J. Aiken, there hasn't been one case of "Man, what's he doing?" so far, and with tomorrow being the deadline by which college players need to withdraw to retain eligibility, it doesn't appear we're going to get any real headscratchers this spring.
Some of this is related to the way draft classes have shaken out, especially in light of the NBA's lockout, which significantly affected the 2011 draft class. A number of players opted out of the professional uncertainty and stayed an extra season in college, which then made the 2012 class more of a "double class," with a number of strong prospects and solid class depth. This season's class is not regarded all that well in terms of high-impact talent, but it makes a ton of sense for anyone who can to jump now, ahead of next year's draft class that looks much more loaded with top talent.
So it makes perfect sense for juniors like Allen Crabbe, Lorenzo Brown and Jamaal Franklin to come out this year. All of them won't accomplish anything more at the college level than they've already shown, at least in decent quantity. There's no reason for big-man projects (of various size) like Alex Len and Steven Adams to try to show more consistency against college teams when they can get paid for their size and their potential as a pro. Archie Goodwin? Well, he was getting roster-squeezed with Kentucky's megaclass coming in, so declaring for the draft and trying to cash in on the potential tag isn't a terrible choice when the other options were "fight for fewer minutes" or "transfer and spend two more years as a collegian."
Deshaun Thomas? Tony Snell? B.J. Young? To various degrees, all of their decisions make some sense if they elect to remain in the draft. Even guys like Myck Kabongo and Ricky Ledo seem to be making understandable calculated gambles. All of their statuses will be impacted by how many more guys enter before the deadline (like Otto Porter did Monday), but what's the point in waiting? The situation would be the same next season, with more certainty of the line they'd be waiting behind, for starters. This is not to say that the draft evaluation process won't be full of intrigue. Smart playoff-bound teams are already licking their lips at the arbitrage possibilities in a draft without many stars and with comparable depth between some lottery picks and much later first-rounders. A number of players who are leaving early are going to find themselves in some pretty good situations, where a decent or better team falls in love with them because of potential or fit or whatever. That's all you need as a player, and this dynamic underscores that almost every prospect so far has made a perfectly defendable choice.