An Open Letter to Drew Timme: Please Declare for the NBA Draft!
The Stats and Economics behind March Madness NBA Prospects
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Dear Drew Timme,
We've never met and I hope what I’m about to say to you is old hat. You are a phenomenal basketball player. And thanks to your performance this year with Gonzaga, you stand a very good chance of being drafted by an NBA team. And I’m here to say if you are having any reservations about declaring for the NBA draft, please ignore them and enter it — the deadline is May 30th!
March Madness was Great for Your Draft Stock
David Berri, Stacey Brook, and Aju Fenn are all savvy Sports Economics professors that did research on what impacts players’ draft stock. And the reality is that barring some very very improbable outcomes, your draft chances will never be higher! Thanks to making the Final Four, you gained, all else being equal, 12 spots in the NBA draft! And here’s the bad news, that gain completely disappears next year. Now, there’s a good chance Gonzaga runs in back and wins the title with you there next season. But upsets happen, just ask Michigan and Illinois! More bad news, NBA teams like younger players, and going back to school, according to the research, will cost you another 6 draft spots!
In short, before you even step on the court next season, should you return to Gonzaga, you’ve already lost 18 draft spots. The numbers say you can improve your draft stock with the stats. For instance, if you improve your scoring 9 points per 36 minutes, you’ll be right where you are right now. You can improve your other stats as well, but the bad news is that the primary driver for drafting NBA players are: wins, points, and age. And you can’t really control two of those! On that note …
The Opportunity Cost of an NBA Salary
The NBA minimum salary for next season is just over $900,000. If you can get a guaranteed contract, you’ll be owed at least a few years of that. Apparently, Gonzaga is expensive, listed at between $60-$70k in tuition, room, and board. Even so, with just one year of an NBA minimum contract, you could afford to get multiple doctorates at Gonzaga. If you were drafted by say the Bucks or the Timberwolves and got residency, you could attend some of Wisconsin’s fine schools for in-state tuition, which is much cheaper. Stevens Point, home of NBA All-Star Terry Porter is fantastic. And who doesn’t love the Wisconsin Badgers?
Some might tell you that another year of college could help improve your basketball skills or improve your draft stock. The data wholeheartedly disagrees with improving your draft stock. It’s worth noting that both Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, the top two finishers for Rookie of the Year in 2018 have publicly stated they didn't think their college programs prepared them as much as being around an NBA team! If your final goal is an NBA career, you should enter the NBA. If your final goal is a degree? Entering the NBA gives you the easiest means of completing that on your own terms.
A Petty Request
There’s one last reason I want you to enter the draft. You see, as an NBA blogger, one of the few things I can enjoy is occasionally bragging about being right. And every few years there are great NBA prospects that are being slept on for one reason or another. And if those players pan out, then the people that identified them early, such as those with Jeremy Lin, briefly get to feel validated on the internet. Nothing would make me happier than you having a breakout 2022 or 2023 NBA season and getting to point to a blog post I wrote. So if you don’t want to do it for the money, or for the data, do it for a random guy on the internet that wants to be able to tell strangers he was right!
Good luck on whatever path you choose to take in your basketball career. You are a fantastic athlete and I know you’ll play a great season professional ball next year be it in the NBA or the NCAA.
P.S. A majority of the data in this post is from “From college to the pros: predicting the NBA amateur player draft” published by David Berri, Stacey Brook, and Aju Fenn in the Journal of Productivity Analysis in 2010.