With the announcements that Tyler Honeycutt will forego his remaining eligibility and enter the draft and Malcolm Lee will "test the waters," those players become the seventh and potentially eighth players to leave Ben Howland's program early since 2006. Two of those players (Love, Westbrook) had essentially no-brainer decisions, as they were top 5 picks. I would expect any player at any school to leave early if he were projected to be a lottery pick. The four remaining UCLA players who have been drafted (Farmar, Afflalo, Mbah a Moute, Holiday) chose to leave despite the fact that they were not expected to be picked in the lottery. The question then becomes: did these players leave because of dissatisfaction with the program at UCLA or because they were pursuing their dream and wanted to fulfill that dream as early as possible?
The way NBA salaries and rookie contracts are currently structured- where all the big $$ comes in your second contract, rather than your rookie deal- there is a very strong incentive to enter the draft as early as possible and get that NBA clock ticking. The difference in initial salary between being drafted 15th overall (1st spot out of the lottery) and 30th overall is roughly 600k per year- a decent chunk of change to you and me, but a mere pittance when you compare it to the 5 yr, $65 mil guaranteed contract that someone like LaMarcus Aldridge was able to sign once his rookie deal was up.
Nevertheless, there remains a certain status, team investment, and increased salary that goes with the designation of being a lottery pick; and so you would hope that some players on the outside looking in might return to school to improve their draft status. That hasn't been happening at UCLA (note: Darren Collison did stay, but his stock did not improve) and we're all painfully aware of that. However, is this early exodus of players unique to UCLA?
To examine that question, I looked at the NBA drafts from 2006 (when the 19 yr old age limit was imposed) through 2010 to look at underclassmen (for these purposes, an underclassmen is anyone w/ remaining eligibility) who entered the draft despite not being picked in the lottery. (Another note: I am making a somewhat false assumption that players knew with certainty whether or not they would be drafted in the lottery when they declared. Obviously, some players just get bad advice or have an ego that doesn't allow them to believe that they aren't lottery material. Nonetheless, for the sake of simplicity, I'm assuming that those players who ultimately were not drafted in the lottery knew there was a risk of that occurring.) I then filtered out random schools like Nevada, Ole Miss, Tx A&M etc. to look only at coaches and programs who have either been to a Final Four, or who are known as player friendly coaches who won't mind bending a few rules - or paying some cash- for their guys (Calipari, Tim Floyd). I also kept Mark Few's name in the results because I have heard his name bandied about as hypothetical candidates for the UCLA job if it were ever open.
After all was said and done, here are the underclassmen from those programs who entered the draft from 2006-2010 and were not drafted in the lottery:
|Draft yr||Overall pick||Player||Team||Yr in School||Coach|
|21||Rajon Rondo||Kentucky||So||Tubby Smith|
|24||Kyle Lowry||Villanova||So||Jay Wright|
|25||Shannon Brown||Michigan St||Jr||Tom Izzo|
|26||Jordan Farmar||UCLA||So||Ben Howland|
|35||PJ Tucker||Texas||Jr||Rick Barnes|
|42||Daniel Gibson||Texas||So||Rick Barnes|
|2007||16||Nick Young||USC||Jr||Tim Floyd|
|21||Daequan Cook||OSU||Fr||Thad Matta|
|27||Arron Afflalo||UCLA||Jr||Ben Howland|
|32||Gabe Pruitt||USC||Jr||Tim Floyd|
|35||Glen Davis||LSU||Jr||John Brady|
|37||Josh McRoberts||Duke||So||Coach K|
|52||Taurean Green||Florida||Jr||Billy Donovan|
|2008||16||Marrese Speights||Florida||So||Billy Donovan|
|23||Kosta Koufos||OSU||Fr||Thad Matta|
|27||Darrell Arthur||Kansas||So||Bill Self|
|28||Donte Green||Syracuse||Fr||Jim Boeheim|
|34||Mario Chalmers||Kansas||Jr||Bill Self|
|37||Luc Mbah a Moute||UCLA||Jr||Ben Howland|
|40||Chris Douglas Roberts||Memphis||Jr||Calipari|
|47||Bill Walker||Kansas St||Fr||Frank Martin|
|2009||15||Austin Daye||Gonzaga||So||Mark Few|
|17||Jrue Holiday||UCLA||Fr||Ben Howland|
|18||Ty Lawson||North Carolina||Jr||Roy Williams|
|24||Byron Mullens||OSU||Fr||Thad Matta|
|28||Wayne Ellington||North Carolina||Jr||Roy Williams|
|35||Dajuan Summers||Georgetown||Jr||John Thompson Jr|
|37||Dajuan Blair||Pitt||So||Jamie Dixon|
|45||Nick Calathes||Florida||So||Billy Donovan|
|2010||15||Larry Sanders||VCU||Jr||Shaka Smart|
|19||Avery Bradley||Texas||Fr||Rick Barnes|
|22||Elliot Williams||Memphis||So||Josh Pastner|
|43||Devin Ebanks||West Virginia||So||Bob Huggins|
|58||Derrick Caracter||UTEP||Jr||Tim Floyd|
Totaling the number of non-lottery early entrants by coach we get:
(4) - Calipari, Ben Howland
(3) - Thad Matta, Rick Barnes, Billy Donovan, Tim Floyd
(2) - Jim Calhoun, Bill Self, Roy Williams
(1) - Tom Izzo, Coach K, Shaka Smart, Boeheim, Jamie Dixon, Jay Wright, others
Some initial thoughts:
Coach Calipari has the reputation of being the equivalent of an AAU post-doc, so to see his name at the top of the list isn't very surprising.
Nobody has had more non-lottery players leave early than Coach Howland, however he finds himself in the immediate company of Thad Matta, Rick Barnes, and Billy Donovan- none of whom have reputations as coaches that drive players away.
Coach K has done a great job retaining players, as only one player who wasn't lottery material has left his program early since 2006 (Gerald Henderson also left early in '09, however he was selected 12th overall).
With the lone exception of Jim Larranaga, every coach who has been to a Final Four since 2006 has had at least one player leave his program early. (Brad Stevens is not on the list above because his one player, Gordon Hayward was drafted 9th overall).
Ultimately, my opinion is that while Coach Howland has his faults, I don't see him as driving players away to the draft. Rather, I think it is the players' drive to be in the NBA that motivates them to declare early, and it is Ben Howland's tutelage that provides the framework for making that a reality.