In this current day and age of Kentucky basketball, it’s rare to get a player with NBA aspirations to return for a second or third year.
John Calipari tells players what is in their best interests, and to that point, mostly it involves making the wise business move. This is especially true if a player doesn’t have an opportunity to improve his draft stock, or at least not by much.
Willie Cauley-Stein, however, has an opportunity to drastically improve his draft stock, even with a more loaded draft next year.
Well, it’s pretty simple. The 2013 draft is going to be absolutely loaded with big man talent. Archie Goodwin should go to the draft this year for the same reason that Cauley-Stein shouldn’t -- there aren’t a lot of guards and small forwards, but there are tons of centers and power forwards.
Just to name a few, Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Isaiah Austin, Cody Zeller and Mason Plumlee will all be taking their talents to the NBA next year. That makes it tough for Cauley-Stein to really move up in the draft with those players getting more of an opportunity to showcase their talents night in and night out. As good as Willie Cauley-Stein is, he’s still raw and has a long way to go. He may sneak in to the lottery, but may have to follow a lot of UK players’ paths to the D-League to work on fundamentals.
But there’s another option.
The 2014 draft, while deep with overall talent, appears to be short on big men. If you look at the 2013 class right now, it’s filled with big guards and small forwards with a lot of talent. Be that as it may, it’s very short on quality centers, which is exactly what Cauley-Stein is.
With the mass exodus of big men heading to the NBA this year, Cauley-Stein has a chance to come back, get stronger, work on his fundamentals, and let the play of Andrew Harrison showcase his talent next year without playing next to another center who gets most of the spotlight. WCS would have an opportunity to soar up draft charts, and possibly move into the top five.
According to a forbes.com report, the difference between the No. 14 pick, or the last pick in the lottery, to the No. 5 pick, assuming WCS could play his way up to the No. 1 big man in the draft, would be over a million dollars. Therefore, on the basic three-year contract rookies get, WCS could make as much as $3.9 million more over his first contract then what he would make if he came out this year and was a late lottery pick. That’s a lot of money to leave on the table just to come out this year.
According to draftexpress.com’s current 2014 Mock Draft, WCS is only competing with international players and Steven Adams for the top big man in the draft, and that’s assuming Adams doesn’t go pro this year (which he’s projected to be a first rounder this year as well). There are a lot of good players on the board for 2014, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the first five teams look right past the top big men all for small forwards and guards.
Coach Cal always says he doesn’t push guys to the NBA, but he simply gives them the facts and helps them make the best decision for them. If that’s true, and Cauley-Stein doesn’t move up draft boards drastically between now this summer, he may need to tell Willie it’s in his best interests to come back next year.