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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Every year a new batch of underclassmen is faced with an inevitably impossible decision to make; should I stay or should I go?

For some the bright lights and (potential) big pay days of the NBA prove too much to resist. For others the security of another year at school outweighs the risk-and-reward approach. For all, only hindsight is able to confirm whether the right decision was made.

While we still have 11 days until underclassmen to declare their eligibility for the NBA Draft, Tuesday marked the final day in which players could retract their intentions of going pro. In a week that has seen a host of players declare themselves eligible,only Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart – that we know of – rescinded his eligibility in favor of heading back to school. But should more players have considered a U-turn?

Here’s a look at some of the underclassmen that have declared eligibility and how we think they’ll fare.

Trey Burke (Michigan)


If Burke wasn’t seriously considering a move to the NBA, a National Player of the Year award all but implored him to put his name forward. The Michigan point guard was undeniably one of college basketball’s superstars this season but does he have what it takes to make it in the NBA? His numbers suggest yes but his 6-0, 190lbs frame suggests things might not be that straightforward. Could you see Burke guarding the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook?

Verdict: Who knows? We’re fence-sitters here. Burke has the potential to be a Tim Hardaway (Sr.) or Gary Payton type of player but you can’t help but think another year or two learning the game would be beneficial. Still, Burke opting for the NBA makes more sense than any of his teammates, all of whom need to stay in school.

Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)

Were it not for the NBA’s age restriction, Muhammad would have gone straight to the NBA. Instead, he spent (almost) a year at UCLA where he averaged close to 18 points per game on the way to a share of the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and a spot on the All-Pac-12 first team. Now he’s on his way to the NBA and most likely a lottery pick. At 6-6 and 225, he has the size of an NBA guard and we already know he has the talent. The question is: can he learn the game?

Verdict: Good decision. Muhammad looks like one of those rare players that just ‘gets’ the NBA game and continues to improve. As long as he’s mature enough to learn, he’ll succeed.

Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)


Like Muhammad, Noel should already be in the NBA. Instead he’s nursing a surgery-sore knee. Now, we’re not saying that the freshman center wouldn’t have gotten injured in pro ball – the way Anthony Davis has become acquainted with the trainer’s table suggest he probably would – but at least he’d have been sat on a paycheck while he underwent rehab. Alas, we can’t change the rule so let’s forget about it. Looking ahead, Noel will be in the NBA next season and if you believe the experts, he’ll be going No.1.

Verdict: Who knows?. Again, we’re not ready to throw our hat into anybody’s ring here. Big men are notoriously difficult to judge before joining the NBA, injured big men even more so. Noel is hardly Shaq but you would hope he’s no Darko Milicic either.

Otto Porter, Jr. (Sophomore)

Some believe that Porter’s season was all smoke and mirrors. Barely raising eyebrows early, the Georgetown sophomore became a Wooden Award candidate before the year was out and led the Hoyas to a share of the Big East regular season title. To say that his season was built on a fluke is detriment to his abilities though. Porter simply had one of those seasons.

Verdict: Good decision. Yes, Porter could have stayed in college for a junior year and proven that this season was no fluke, but unlike the others on this list, he has an advantage in heading to the NBA. If there’s one position you can take time to develop in the NBA it’s small forward. Guards face a sharp learning curve defensively while power forwards and centers are in for a bruising time. The small forward position gives a player time to mature. Now, who else wants to see Porter on the same team as John Wall and Bradley Beal?

Russ Smith (Louisville)


There’s no denying Smith was vital in Louisville’s run to a national championship but does that make him NBA caliber? No! It’s that simple. Smith was good (at times) scoring the basketball this season but his assists and rebounding numbers were lower than you’d expect from a potential pro, even at the shooting guard position. He also went missing in the National Championship game. That’s something scouts will notice.

Verdict: Bad decision. On the entire list of players to have declared eligibility, there is no better example of a player that would have benefited from more time in school. Smith could have looked to help the Cardinals to another title. Instead, he’ll be bench warming and playing garbage time, if anybody’s willing to take a chance on him at all.

Cody Zeller (Indiana)

A Wooden Award candidate for much of the year, it’s no surprise that Zeller is following his brothers into the NBA. Indiana looked like a champion at times and Zeller was a big part of that, alongside another NBA draft-hopeful, Victor Oladipo. But Zeller has the disadvantage of coming into a league where center play is tough.

Verdict: Bad decision. Remember when Tim Duncan hung around Wake Forest for four years, tormenting NBA teams in the process? Well, Zeller should have followed suit. NBA teams might not have been so tormented but Zeller could have honed his skills and entered the league ready to start. Instead, he’ll probably join his brothers on the bench.


Of course, picking out success stories ahead of the draft is an inexact science. You need only look at this season’s rookie campaign to see that. Did anybody expect a junior guard out of Weber State to run away with Rookie of the Year honors ahead of Anthony Davis? Okay it hasn’t happened yet, but there’s no argument against Damian Lillard being named ROTY this season.

The simple fact of the matter is that whether these kids are making the right decision to skip out on their remaining years in college will only become apparent at a later date. At least if they jump now and get picked-up early in the draft, they’ll have some money to play with. From there on out it remains a bit of a crap shoot.


Other players that have been declared eligible for the NBA Draft include: Vander Blue (Marquette), Lorenzo Brown (North Carolina State), Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Allen Crabbe (California), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Alex Len (Maryland), C.J. Leslie (North Carolina State), Ben McLemore (Kansas), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), Tony Snell (New Mexico), Adonis Thomas (Memphis), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State)

The NBA Draft is scheduled to take place at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, on June 27.

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