The Case for Entering the NBA Draft and Economic Opportunity Costs

Occasionally I hear Jim Barnett and Bob Fitzgerald, the Warriors’ TV announcers, talk about how players who stay in college for additional years do not lose much from doing so – that not only do such players get better and become more mature from the experience, they also end up making the same amount of money (or perhaps more) from elongated careers.

As a Cal Bear, this makes me think of the upcoming decisions of super freshman Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown. Sorry Jim and Bob, I disagree with you because of former Warrior Chris Porter.

Porter is expected to be a late lottery pick in the June NBA draft. He could have been a lottery pick had he come out after an All-American junior season last year.

Andy Katz, (May 2000)

Chris Porter lost potential lifetime financial security by staying in school
Chris Porter lost potential lifetime financial security by staying in school

Over 15 years ago, Chris Porter was a hot NBA prospect, projected to be a lottery pick after his junior year. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A year later, after giving scouts a full year to focus on his weaknesses, he was drafted by the Warriors at the 55th overall pick (I was very excited by this pick, as I remember).

He went on to have a nothing career.

This is the danger of giving up guaranteed money.

Let’s break this down for Rabb and Brown.  As of today, according to DraftExpress (a reputable source on pre-NBA talent), Jaylen Brown would be the 4th pick (or is the 4th best prospect, however you want to read it) in this summer’s draft. Ivan Rabb is 14th. Both would be considered “lottery picks”, draft picks for teams that do not make the NBA playoffs, just as Chris Porter could have been so long ago.

So why should both Rabb and Brown leave for the NBA?

In a worst case scenario, any 1st round draft pick gets two years of guaranteed money upon signing. As of this year, the amount for the lowest 1st round draft pick (30th) is approximately $1.9 million dollars. Even if a rookie has a terrible agent (see: Ricky Williams / Master P), he would still more than likely get at least $1.5 million. (I am going to leave any net present value arguments out of this entire discussion, as well as taxes, agent fees, etc.)

If their draft positions hold, Rabb and Brown would get closer to $3M and $7M, respectively.

Minimum $1.5M dollars and a (virtually) guaranteed spot at worst case on a NBA basketball team for two years is nothing to scoff at, especially if you did not grow up in a fairly affluent family. I went to Business School at Kellogg (Northwestern). If I were offered this deal today, I would absolutely take the $1.5M now, despite having a good amount of work experience and knowing I can do other things. Thus to paint 20 year olds (who are probably unable able to do other things at this state in their lives) as silly for taking the money is a bit ridiculous.

Yes, it sounds great to believe in your talent, that the money will always be there, but that’s actually the dumb move.

Taking money now is the smart thing, if it is guaranteed. For any player’s long term development, he has to be in a good team situation in which he can grow (compare San Antonio Spurs vs Brooklyn Nets) – this is something a player has much less control over and thus, has much more risk. The money is guaranteed while the opportunity to play, be liked by a coaching staff, is not.

What are the opportunity costs for staying?

Other than having your draft position go down, costing you literally millions of dollars, if you get booted to the second round as Chris Porter, you will not have a guaranteed contract, or a contract at all. Let’s ignore the chance for life-changing injury too, which could happen but is rare.

If you go to the NBA DLeague (the minors) on your own to try to make it to the NBA, you can make up to $25K a year. This could easily be 19K or 13K as well.

In other words, if your stock falls for whatever reason and you fall out of the 1st round, you will AT BEST be making just 3.3% of what you would have made, IN THE WORST CASE, as the lowest chosen first round draft pick.

This is a huge drop. Yes, someone could make good money (six figures to low seven figures) internationally, but if you are just starting your career and feel you are an NBA player, you will probably try the DLeague first.

A key thing to note here is not just the relative different of the 96.7% drop in salary, it’s the absolute drop. If you had this disparity with Kobe Bryant’s pay, you would still be making $750K per year, a ton of money for 99% of Americans. But this is $25K, and you won’t be flying first class, staying in nice hotels. This is bus life, a hard way to earn $25K (roughly equivalent to making $13/hr at a full time job for a year).

If a player stayed in school in order to complete his college degree and then dropped out of the first round, I would say he wasted the point of going to college. Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, get in the draft now and go to summer school in the future.

If you want a more current example of how delaying can matter, look at Skal Labissiere from Kentucky. If he could have entered the draft a year ago, he might have gone #1 overall. After a poor freshman season, however, he might now be picked towards the end of the lottery, a $4.5 difference in guaranteed money.

Is there another way?

In my opinion, college basketball (the talent level) suffers from elite players leaving early. It is harder for non-traditional powerhouse teams to create momentum off of strong seasons (if Rabb and Brown leave, the Bears program is very weak for next year). Players are unable to mature in a more natural (college) setting and have to develop their games in the constant pressure of the professional ranks among men 5-15 years older. In addition, unless they play for a terrible team, elite players will likely see more reps and minutes playing for a college team.This lack of elite players over consecutive years is also part of the college game’s ratings decline.

Solution: Let players enter the draft but continue to play in college.

How this would work:

  1. College Players can enter the draft anytime in their college career.
  2. If drafted in the 1st round, a player could stay in school up to their 4th year after their high school graduation year (you cannot stay in school forever).
  3. Contracts are guaranteed (as they are today) for 1st rounders, while contracts for 2nd rounders can be offered guaranteed (optional by the team, as today). Contracts take effect once the player decides to leave school.
  4. 1st round picks do not have to sign their contracts, but their rights would stay with the drafting team until the end of their 4th year after high school graduation. Rights to 2nd round picks would only stay with the drafting team until the next year’s draft (a bit like the college baseball draft).
  5. Players who want to maintain college eligibility cannot leave school and take time off to prepare for the draft process. Instead, teams can visit with them during specific break (spring break, summer break) periods. This will limit the number of workouts (and injuries) possible, but interviews should be fine. Schools like Kentucky would likely hold on-campus “Pro Days” as in the NFL, which admittedly could favor powerhouse schools in college recruiting.
  6. Players give up their college eligibility completely by leaving school and going through the normal pre-draft preparations – this would be no different from today.
  7. Teams can cut players with no salary cap hit (the year the player enters the NBA) in case a player seriously regresses (or for whatever reason), but the player still gets fully paid.

For NBA Teams

  1. Teams no longer have to pay to develop players (ex. Jermaine O’Neal) and then see them leave once they are physically and mentally ready to contribute to a team. Thus, teams pay more for actual expected contribution than potential.
  2. Insurance can cover players who (perhaps this can be paid in half by the player, through his contract, and the team) have a career-ending injury during college after being drafted.
  3. Per Net Present Value, it is always better to have a financial obligation later than sooner.
  4. Non-ready players take fewer jobs away from NBA veterans.

For College Teams and the NCAA

  1. Teams can hold on to players longer, and coaches would no longer be in this weird “I want you to stay, but I swear it’s for your own good, not for mine” position.
  2. Having players for multiple years helps sustain programs.
  3. Consistency and multi-year player resonance creates better television ratings and attention, i.e. business revenue.

For Players

  1. Significantly less risk. If you have a good potential draft position, get drafted and get guaranteed money when you leave. If you’re hot, strike. If you’re not, keep working.
  2. Make progress on a degree (what college is for), become more mature, and improve your skills so you don’t flunk out (see: Anthony Bennett) once you do reach the NBA.

Some other notes about why this makes sense. First, we can look internationally. Teams like the Spurs have signed professional international players for years, knowing they are unlikely to come to the NBA right away. In that time, these players develop further and come to the NBA ready to contribute. These aren’t necessarily older players either – many European players (Tony Parker, Ricky Rubio, Kristaps Porzingis) turn professional as teenagers, before their college-age years.

In addition, with the NCAA’s supposed focus on amateurism, under this plan, players will not get paid anything until they leave for school. This is like getting a job offer when you are still in college, which is pretty common. MBA students often finalize their jobs up 10 months in advance of the actual start date.

I think these changes will not prevent players who can play in the NBA right away (ex. Karl-Anthony Towns) from jumping, nor should it. However, it can help the many players who have the talent, but not quite the skill set, with Brown and Rabb as examples. Jaylen Brown cannot shoot or handle the ball particularly well, and yet his physical talent makes him a great NBA prospect. An additional year or two would allow him to become a great player and make more progress on his academic ambitions without financial risk (aside from if his family needed money to survive right now).

This is a solution that helps everyone – both NBA and NCAA teams, younger players in college, older players in the NBA, and the NCAA as a business. Fans get to watch their NBA teams’ young talent in college and become more devoted and hopeful for their futures while enjoying their favorite college players for multiple years.

Failed Sales Conversion – Santa Cruz Warriors

One of my first jobs was in Customer Service for Webgamezone, a company that later changed its name to RedOctane and produce the Guitar Hero videogame (yes, I was part of the team then too) franchise. I was on the front lines (I was told to “figure it out”) of dealing with hostile customers, but learned a lot in the process that people want to respected, listened to, and receive transparency.

[Edit: On March 16, I had a call with Gina Antoniello, Director of PR & Community Relations at the team. She was apologetic about the situation and explained what happened. Overall, she was friendly and understanding – I accepted the apology and hope that this won’t happen to future fans.]

That’s why I am very sensitive about customer service, and how often companies think dealing with customers as a cost center, and not a branding and loyalty growth opportunity.  I also often write about poor and disrespectful customer service that leads me to hate the company and stop using it.

Sports teams, unfortunately, are probably more prone to this problem. Teams with established fan bases often treat social media as a team-to-fan one way channel, with no need to address fan issues or reasonable direct-revenue fan questions. Where does a fan turn to when these things happen?

For example, the Golden State Warriors earned the Co-Retailer of the Year Award. Beyond this lofty recognition, which supposedly considers Customer Service as a factor, I can tell you that the Warriors Team Store has never answered one of my emails about purchasing the last few years.

But why should the Warriors care about me? They’re on top of the world – Stephen Curry and World Championships put them in good shape with or without me.

But how about the Santa Cruz Warriors, the Warriors’ minor league team that competes for 2,500 fans a night?

After attending the team’s 2nd ever home game, of which I enjoyed, I had been looking forward to going back. Then, I heard that Baron Davis (former Warrior great) had joined the NBA DLeague and would be playing in Santa Cruz. I messaged Baron on Twitter and asked if I could say hello and take a photo with him at the game. He gave me the thumbs up through a Like.

Wanting to be respectful of the teams and players, however, I wanted to ask the Santa Cruz Warriors the best way to do this – should I come early, where should I wait, etc. After all, the team was heavily promoting the Baron Davis visit to sell more tickets, and I was not asking anything unreasonable. I emailed the team (nearly a week in advance) through the email listed on its website, and sent messages on Facebook and Twitter. A few days later, I followed up on my email. Facebook showed that the Warriors read my Facebook (private) message.

The Warriors never replied. As the week closed along with forecasts of rain, I became more hesitant about going to the game. Not only would the weather be bad, (I would have a lengthy drive as well) but the Warriors did not seem to care about me as a fan and answer a simple question.

When Sunday (yesterday) came, I decided to not go. In addition, this experience has soured me on not going in the future. In past years, the Santa Cruz Warriors have also not answered my emails (about purchasing game-used jerseys) and messages (about being unable to unsubscribe from their promotional emails), and this experience has been a new reminder that the Warriors do not care. Unlike the Golden State Warriors, which could claim they get too many messages to reply to, the Santa Cruz Warriors average about 20 messages per day on Twitter. Why support private messaging and emails if you have no intention to reply?

Ultimately, it turned out that Baron didn’t play due to a minor calf injury. This somewhat validated my decision to not go, and general fear of missing out (FOMO). However, the Warriors game sold out, so I guess the team can say they didn’t need / want me to come anyway.

Thanks, Santa Cruz Warriors. Do not count on me for future sales or positive recommendations.

The Real (Secret) Reason why the Warriors Won Game 4 [NBA Finals]

For all the talk about LeBron being tired in Game 4 or Andre Iguodala having a stellar game back in the starting lineup, there’s actually a secret reason why the Cavs weren’t able to conquer the mighty Golden State Warriors. After driving to Cleveland from Chicago, Ha and I had a plan to vex the mighty LeBron: we would visit all his favorite places and curse them. (We thought about driving by his house, but we ran out of time)

For example, here’s the famous LeBron Nike sign in front of Quicken Loans Arena. Ha poops on LeBron!

Nike LeBron Witness Sign

We also went to LeBron’s hometown of Akron to see how he grew up. This is where LeBron went to high school, St. Vincent-St.Mary. Incidentally, I used to really love LeBron and have owned his high school jersey for the last ten years. Nonetheless, Ha poops on LeBron (with her Stephen Curry shirt)!

St.Vincent St.Mary

Both LeBron James and Warriors’ hero Stephen Curry were born at The City Hospital of Akron. Because of that and as this is a hospital, no pooping here. We left the pooping to the newborn babies.

City Hospital of Akron

This is the original Swensons in Akron, LeBron’s favorite place for burgers. It’s a drive-in service spot, and this was the original location.We ate like LeBron (try the Galley Boy), taking away his power for the game!



Were our tactics successful? You tell me. Game 4, Warriors.

On the way to victory.

Stephen Curry Team USA Jersey Review (AliExpress, Aimee Smith)

To reward myself for a recent 2nd place (but a cash prize!) finish at an innovation competition at Kellogg, I decided to buy myself a fake jersey. Normally I wouldn’t do this, at least not knowingly (damn you eBay!), but I wanted to look at the process of buying things from AliExpress (an Alibaba company), which helps Chinese vendors sell directly to international consumers. Prior to this, I had been curious about the quality of fake jerseys, and who made the best ones. You can find plenty of reviews of fake jerseys on YouTube, but sub-Reddits like and are also very useful.

I ended up deciding on a Stephen Curry Nike FIBA 2014 jersey, primarily because as far as I know, it was never sold to the public as Curry is signed to Under Armour. For the seller (there are a number of them), I chose “Aimee Smith”, who has great reviews both online and within the AliExpress storefront – as of my writing this post, she had received feedback from 10,299 people with 99.4% reporting positive transactions. This means about 10,237 people liked “her”, while just 62 people did not. I, for what it’s worth, also liked her.

Before going into the jersey , I’ll talk a bit more about the AliExpress experience:

  • Security: AliExpress is very easy to use – you do not need to worry about credit card security issues, or any other negative fears you may hold about buying from some “random” site in China. AliExpress (and Alibaba) is no random company – they have been doing this a long time, and you will see that in your shopping. AliExpress accepts all major credit cards (American Express, Visa, Mastercard) and also has a clear buyer protection policy. The website is no harder to use (and is likely easier) than any other American site that you like.
  • Responsiveness: It is very easy to ask sellers questions, and Aimee Smith in particular is very responsive. She answered all my questions in less than a day and often, within minutes (keep in mind the different time zones). On eBay, whether you get any responses at all is random based on seller. From my experience, eBay sellers response properly less than 50% of time.
  • Reviews: If you are fairly comfortable buying things on eBay or Amazon 3rd Party sellers, you will be fine on AliExpress. What I especially like about the service is that you can review the specific product from that seller. Thus, I could see what others felt about the specific Curry jersey I was buying from Aimee Smith. This makes sense for AliExpress since their products are not one-off goods (e.g. I only have one to sell, like my limited edition baseball card). This wouldn’t make as much sense for many small volume eBay sellers but it would for some and it would definitely make sense for many Amazon sellers.
  • Shipping / Tracking:  Assuming you get a good seller, AliExpress also does a great job of letting you know the status after you order. Even though you can check your order details on the site, however, the site never sends a detailed receipt via email

If you’re interested in AliExpress, I definitely say try it without fear, but do make sure you check for sellers with strong feedback before doing so, just as you would (I would hope) with purchases from eBay or Amazon 3rd party vendors.

On to the jersey!

I am happy with it. No complaints considering the price and fact that I cannot get (a major incentive to buy fake jerseys is when an authentic version is unavailable) a real one. The Curry jersey cost less than $22 shipped, and I received it in about 2.5 weeks (coming from China, after all) after ordering. If you are interested in fake jerseys, I would not hesitate to get one from Aimee Smith, and all the feedback online I have seen agree.

While I have not worn the jersey to play basketball in, the material is really soft. I am sure it does not have Dri-Fit or any other moisture-wicking technology built-in, but the jersey is light and I could see myself wearing it. In this sense, if you are normally someone who wears t-shirts for athletic wear, I would recommend this as an alternative. I bought a size small (I am 5’6, 140 lbs.) and I feel it was correctly sized.

To get into the details, let’s do a comparison of images from Getty Images,

455063814 455055924a Paul George authentic jersey auction on eBay,

and Nike Store images.clip_image0014clip_image001And for reference, my Stephen Curry Aimee Smith USA Jersey:

I imagine it might be tricky to compare all these images in this kind of vertical-line view, so I’ll summarize what I see as best as I can:

  1. For the USA lettering on the front, the authentic jerseys are flat (almost like a screen print integrated into the jersey material) and the borders around the letters are dark. On the Aimee Smith version, the borders are red, and the lettering is stitched.
  2. I believe the USA badge (on right chest of player above Nike symbol) on the authentics is printed on the jersey, while it is embroidered on the Aimee Smith.
  3. The placement and size of the “4” on the front match Getty images fairly well. There is no FIBA patch on the left clavicle, but some fake sellers have it.

Moving to the back and other components. This time, I will show Getty first, then the Aimee Smith and Paul George authentic alternating different parts.

455160982imageimageimageimageOther than the “4” on the back being too high relative to the Curry name, the back looks pretty good as well. While I could not tell how accurate the lettering was based on the Getty Images photo, comparing the Aimee Smith Curry to the Paul George authentic reveals that the “R” looks pretty close. Again, the Aimee Smith is more of a Swingman jersey in which all letters and numbers are stitched, which is not the case with the authentic. The jock tag at the bottom front of the jersey is much different between the two jerseys, which is also true of the collar tag. Nonetheless, if you had nothing to compare either with, it would be difficult to say that one of them appears fake.

As I mentioned before, the quality of the jersey is excellent – it probably looks no worse than an authentic Obsidian Warriors Swingman alternate jersey I bought from the NBA store a few months ago for 4 times the price. It could have easily sold as an authentic Nike USA swingman and it is likely better than an authentic replica Andre Iguodala Nike USA jersey that I own. I hope this helps, but feel free to ask me questions!

How Reggie Miller Cost Me an Autograph from Tim Hardaway (and Junior) [Funny Memories]

“I’m Tim Hardaway of the Miami Heat and blah blah blah…[redacted from memory]”

My sister went to the Warriors game versus the Knicks last week and she mentioned Tim Hardaway’s son, and this brought back my own memories of both son and father.

In the summer of 1995, I was 14 years old, waiting at the San Francisco International (SFO) Airport for my relatives (family of aunt, uncle, and two cousins) to arrive from Indianapolis. As they were my only other relatives in the United States, they were my favorite relatives, and Indianapolis was my adopted second favorite city. In addition, the Colts and Pacers were my second favorite professional sports teams in their respective leagues to the 49ers and Warriors (I stopped supporting the Colts after they fired Ted Marchibroda. Nearly 20 years later, I may be on the verge of ending my support for the 49ers because of their stupidity in letting Jim Harbaugh go. Harbaugh was also Marchibroda’s quarterback with the Colts and the Baltimore Ravens and was replaced with whom I fear to be the next Mike Singletary.)

Continuing the story:

“Hi Tim,” said the man behind the counter on the phone in between moments of talking to customers.

I was five feet away from Tim Hardaway and his three year old (had to look it up) son (the aforementioned Tim Hardaway, Jr.), wearing a Reggie Miller (my first jersey, shown below, still in pristine shape) Pacers jersey. Our family had come to SFO to pick up my cousins’ family and I had worn my jersey proudly to show that I love Indiana (please remember I was 14). And yes, I loved Reggie Miller, the Knick killer as well.

However, there was Tim Hardaway so close to me. I wanted an autograph (in 1995, it was not so common just to have cameras on one’s person) of course – it was Tim Hardaway, former all-star (and soon to be once again, sigh. WARRIORS!) and Run-TMC member who had just been traded from the Warrior a few months prior. But I was shy and of course, had branded Reggie Miller and the Pacers across my body. How could I do this, how ridiculous would it be? Plus, what if Tim was a super jerk or just too busy and rejected me. (By the way, Tim was either trying to rent a car at the time or claiming lost luggage at this moment)

Tim looked at me (I can only imagine what he was thinking), and I shied away. I was too ashamed (not of Reggie, but appearing like a bandwagon fan. Tim was never to know that I LOVE the Warriors and always have) and could not do it.

Today, I have kept my Reggie Miller jersey (another embarrassing note, I used to think I would grow into a size 48 jersey. While part of this was the era of baggy everything, I was clearly very optimistic. I am today 5’6, essentially the same height I was at in 1995, and can wear a size 36. NBA players wear size 48 and above.) Recently, I have also purchased a vintage Tim Hardaway jersey as well as a recent issue Chris Mullin (also of Run-TMC) one, shown below.