It really didn’t take that long for Emmanuel Mudiay to start the great debate, something sports junkies and media members love to eat up. While it’s not surprising in this non-stop, 24 hours a day-7 days a week news cycle of sports, it’s a bit troubling to see so many people jump on a story like this and immediately start saying, “Change is coming!”
Let’s just take a minute and think about this.
First, a quick recap. Mudiay, a projected lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, had committed to play college basketball for the SMU Mustangs, coached by NBA great Larry Brown. It was reported last week that instead of playing college ball, Mudiay was going to take his talents not to South Beach, but overseas, becoming a professional basketball player.
On Tuesday, it was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, or simply referred to as The Woj, dropped a patented WojBomb when he reported that Mudiay had agreed to a deal in China with Guangdong. His reported salary for the one year of work: $1.2 million.
With so much discussion recently about paying college athletes and whether or not they have enough to eat with their scholarships, anyone and everyone started bringing up the possibility that Mudiay may be sparking a trend. It mostly started as a Twitter conversation, but as usual, it has grown in interest.
This piece by Bleacher Report’s Rob Goldberg is a good example as he brings up the possibility of more high schoolers picking the pros overseas rather than playing college basketball. This is not a form of calling Goldberg out in any way, it’s just used as an example.
This is an interesting debate, but a rather shortsighted one. There is some interest to the possibility of Mudiay maybe being a trend setter, but there’s nothing indicating it could or would happen.
Consider this a warning call to take a step back and just assess everything instead of jumping the gun on something such as this.
Brandon Jennings, the top rated basketball recruit for the 2008 class, was also supposed to be a trend setter. When the NBA adopted what’s now called the one-and-done rule, Jennings had been expected to play collegiately at Arizona.
Instead, he chose to go overseas, earning a paycheck while playing basketball. In his one year in Italy, Jennings played less than 20 minutes per game, shot 37 percent from the field and 23 percent from the 3-point line and averaged about six points per game. His contract netted him a guarantee of $1.65 million for his one year of service.
Jennings did go on to be picked in the 2009 draft as the Milwaukee Bucks chose him 10th overall. In each of his his four years with Milwaukee, Jennings averaged more than 15 points, shot nearly 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line in more than 30 minutes per game.
How do his international stats compare to his NBA stats? Obviously, his NBA stats are far more favorable than they were during that one year stint in Italy. In reality, that would ideally be the measuring stick for a movement of high school players choosing to play professionally overseas rather than at college.
However, really only one player has taken the road less traveled like Jennings.
Jeremy Tyler made waves in 2009 when he decided to not only skip playing college ball at Louisville, his original commitment, but he skipped his senior year of high school as well. This would’ve made him eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft.
After just 10 games with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Super League, Tyler went back to home to San Diego to sort things out.
Tyler would then sign a contract with the Tokyo Apache of Japan for the 2010-11 season. That year, Tyler averaged just less than 10 points per game, more than six rebounds and shot better than 50 percent from the field in 15 minutes of action per contest.
He then entered the 2011 draft and was taken 39th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. Since then he has bounced around the NBA with stops in Golden State, Atlanta and the New York Knicks with several stops in the NBA D-League along the way.
In three years in the NBA, Tyler has played in a total of 80 games, averaged less than five points per game while shooting less than 45 percent from the field.
How do Tyler’s international stats compare to his NBA stats? Well, he had better numbers in his one year in Israel than he’s had at any point in the NBA, though they’re not much worse.
With Mudiay taking the international route, this is just the third notable instance that a player has chosen to play professionally overseas rather than play in college. The NBA’s one-and-done rule was implemented starting with the 2006 draft.
As math would indicate, that’s three players in nine years, or one-third of a player per season that has taken this route. Seems like a small number to say that this would become a trend, doesn’t it?
Actually, looking at it, there should’ve been more players from the 2006 to 2009 recruiting classes that played overseas, as they were the first real generation that were impacted by the one-and-done rule. Instead, there was only one: Jennings.
Jennings is the lone wolf right now (since Tyler skipped some high school as well as college) and Mudiay is about to join him.
Now, the thought can be made that maybe it’s Mudiay that starts the trend. Maybe, with all the uncertainty surrounding the NCAA, their potential addition to paying athletes and their unfavorable view around the country, high schoolers decide that getting paid big money is better than getting nothing.
However, there’s another aspect few fail to see with this: attention is no longer on them and it’s often harder to get fully scouted by the NBA overseas.
Playing in college allows all teams to watch your games, evaluate you and see what you’re capable of at the highest level with all the attention on you. While overseas basketball generally has better overall talent, most of those players will never make it to the NBA or have already failed their chance in the NBA.
Sure, there are just as many, if not more, college players that will never get a whiff of the NBA, so that argument can become a wash, but the intensity and the spectacle of college basketball is something that young players crave.
When’s the last time an international basketball game was nationally televised? While it seems petty, that’s a huge factor. The top athletes should want to play with the best and, until proven otherwise, the best are going to either be in the NBA or in college.
Obviously these are smaller scale things to consider, but the concept of Mudiay being a “trend setter” is still pretty premature and slightly overblown. It’s the D-League expansion argument all over again.
A lot has to happen in order for the NBA’s minor league system to overtake the NCAA for aspiring pro basketball players and the international scene has always been an option but few have ever used it. Three total players in nine years is really not a good sampling to indicate is/could start the trend of something else.
While this is an interesting discussion, it’s one that’s quickly been overblown and become mundane. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, but that reaction, in this case anyway, will at take years to fully come around.
This is a conversation worth having, just not right now.