One measure for a college basketball player's stay-or-go decision is: Will he be better off bypassing the NBA draft for another season? And if not, what exactly is the point in hanging around?
This helps explain Tuesday's spate of departures that featured the Michigan duo of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, as well as Arizona guard Nick Johnson. Their outlooks vary: Stauskas received word from the league that he was a likely late lottery pick, no worse than mid-first round. Robinson III likely received first-round grades. Johnson, meanwhile, might slip into the late first round but also might have to settle for a second-round slotting.
And none of their situations were going to improve drastically with another year on campus.
Stauskas, the Big Ten player of the year, doesn't have a lot of room to go up if he's already projected as a likely top-14 pick. Maybe Robinson III could have vaulted into the lottery with a stellar junior year, but that reward isn't worth the risk of injury. As for Johnson, he would have had a hard time improving on an All-America junior season in which he proved to be one of the most valuable performers in the country in 2013-14; his win shares total -- a measure of how many victories were attributable to his offensive and defensive efforts -- was 6.7, tied for 10th nationally. But at 6-foot-3 and with only one more year on campus, NBA teams have already decided that he is a guard 'tweener and her probably can't move up much more.
Wildcats freshman star Aaron Gordon also made his decision to leave official on Tuesday, but it had been long, long expected.
The effect on both programs is straightforward: These are setbacks for Michigan and Arizona, but not the sort that undermines either team's chance to contend next season.
The Wolverines' chances are dependent on how another draft decision turns out. Head coach John Beilein told reporters in Ann Arbor that Mitch McGary, the sophomore forward who played just eight games last season because of a back injury, is still gathering information about whether to go pro. McGary's best friend and roommate, Robinson III, has now left campus. But if an injury-shortened season prompts McGary to return and reprove himself, Michigan will still have a nice core. McGary was a preseason All-America and guard Caris LeVert, who averaged 12.9 points per game this past season, could follow Trey Burke and Stauskas as the player who drives the Wolverines from the backcourt. Two other guards, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, can fill in gaps. Michigan has been through the routine of losing two top perimeter players before and still recovered nicely -- it lost Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., off its national runner-up team in 2013 and still won the Big Ten regular season title this past season -- and it can do so again.
Arizona, meanwhile, simply won't be as formidable a defensive team without Johnson up top and Gordon down low. The Wildcats led the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at 88.5 points per 100 possessions, according to kenpom.com, and Gordon led the nation in defensive win shares (3.3) while Johnson ranked 11th (3.0). Furthermore, those players were Arizona's top two scorers, so head coach Sean Miller now must replace their offensive production, as well. Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, Gabe York and incoming five-star prospect Stanley Johnson offer good reason to hope that someone will emerge to fill that void.
Either way, both programs had to be steeled for these decisions in some way. When a player is confronted with the best possible scenario and little evidence that it will get much better, there's not much reason left to stay.