How Much Did Marcus Smart Cost Himself by Coming Back to School?

College basketball's best athletes can make a lot of money if they're chosen in the NBA draft. One prospect, though, has likely lost out on millions because he came back to school an extra year.

Mar 15, 2014 at 7:49AM

Business Of Basketball

Is Marcus Smart anything but? Last year, the Oklahoma State freshman would've been a top five selection in the NBA draft without question, and possibly the No. 1 overall pick. After returning to college for a second season, 2014 has been far less kind. Between his altercation with a fan, questionable shot selection, and heightened competition from super-freshmen, Smart's draft stock has fallen. And even worse, he's likely lost out on millions in the process.

Where will Smart be drafted?
Some analysts compare the 6'4, 220-pound guard to James Harden, but personally, I see him as a slightly shorter version of Andre Iguodala. Smart's ball handling ability, lockdown defense, and willingness to be what Bleacher Report calls "a scorer with a point guard's mindset," make him attractive to any NBA team.

But his potential to become truly dominant is less than a handful of freshmen. In fact, most experts predict he'll be drafted after no fewer than five first-year players: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh, and Julius Randle -- and Australia's Dante Exum.

How much money will he make in 2014?
It appears No. 7 overall is a reasonable landing spot for Smart. Over the past half-decade, players taken here have made considerably less than those drafted higher.

Average Value of Rookie Deal by Draft Slot, 2009-2013*
No. 1 $10,685,000
No. 2 9,474,000
No. 3 7,877,000
No. 4 7,623,000
No. 5 6,990,000
No. 6 6,309,000
No. 7 5,759,000

Source: Spotrac. *All deals are two years in length, and rounded to the nearest thousand.

Most likely, Smart would make somewhere between $5.7 million and $5.8 million over two years, which is similar to the contracts signed by past No. 7 picks like Stephen Curry, Greg Monroe, and Harrison Barnes. If he goes tenth -- an extremely worst-case scenario -- Smart's probably looking at a two-year contract in the vicinity of $4.5 million.

How much money could he have made?
The Oklahoma State product missed out on a lot of money by delaying his journey to the NBA by a year. Every No. 1 pick since 2009 has made over $10 million their first two seasons, nearly 85% more than the salary of the average No. 7 pick.

Additionally, Smart might have taken a hit to his endorsement potential. In explaining his decision to return, Smart told CBS early this season, "These are times you don't get back. What I'm doing now is priceless." But after Smart shoved a middle-aged fan in the heat of a game, will companies -- even MasterCard, despite a tailor-made ad campaign -- want to align their brand with him, at least until he's able to prove himself in the spotlight?

On the bright side, Smart probably won't experience a drop-off in playing time if he's drafted outside of the top five.

Average Minutes Per Game in Rookie Season, by Draft Position 2009-2013
No. 1 29.6
No. 2 23.0
No. 3 19.1
No. 4 26.5
No. 5 21.7
No. 6 26.1
No. 7 27.3

Source: ESPN.

Despite a smaller contract, he'll likely get a similar "shot" at NBA stardom as the No. 1 pick. In fact, within the upper half of the lottery, there appears to be no correlation between playing time and draft position.

Because Smart's a player with iffy shot selection and a midrange jumper that leaves a bit to be desired, the opportunity to play 20-plus minutes per night will be important for his development. 

March Madness is right around the corner
It's clear that Marcus Smart's decision to return to school will likely cost him between $4 million and $5 million in his first deal. If his contract is extended for an optional third year, he'll have left even more on the table.


First image (above initial text) via Batistaya, Public Domain. Second image (directly above), via Jeff Turner, Wikimedia. 

Because of the NBA's rookie wage scale, draft position is extremely important when it comes to salary, but the good news is he'll still be given time to improve his game.

March Madness is almost here, and Oklahoma State is set for a seed as high as No. 8, and probably a No. 11 at the worst. If Smart can lead his team to the Sweet 16 or beyond, he theoretically could push his way into the draft's top five picks.

Remember, scouts were high on his leadership abilities last year, so a tournament run could reignite support, and allow him to recapture some of that lost money.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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