BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 03/24/2016

Thiel: Huskies had no shot keeping top-tier talent

Once they flashed a few games of promise, Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray were so done with college basketball. If they make it to a second contract, the cash in the NBA will be astounding.

Marquese Chriss will get two or three years of apprenticeship in the NBA, then a shot at some giant money. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The Huskies had no chance at keeping Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss. Particularly this year. Their decisions to go pro after one season had nothing to with the Huskies’ record, coach Lorenzo Romar’s coaching, the current half-decade absence for the tournament or the absence of a Louisville-style party dorm.

It has much to do with the expiration of the NBA’s current television-rights deals ahead of the 2020-21 season.

That’s when it would be a splendid time to be a free agent.

Should both players be drafted in the first round June 23, which is the conventional wisdom, and complete four seasons on their original contracts, they would be free agents at the time when the NBA anticipates a massive windfall of increased revenues — unless, of course, the NBA before that collapses in a fetid pile of its own hubris.

Barring that, Murray and Chriss would be beneficiaries of a huge increase in the players’ share of the NBA’s revenue pie. They would eligible to receive, if a club chose, a maximum contract under the peculiar rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

What does that mean? This year’s maximum for a player between zero and seven years experience is $16.4 million. By 2021, that number might be Donald Trump money.

If all this seems a little bewildering, it might help to look at this chart from realgm.com that breaks down the rookie pay scale that is slotted by the CBA for draftees over their first four years.

Clubs and players can negotiate to pay up to 120 percent above those figures, or as little as 80 percent. But wherever Murray and Chriss end up on this scale, it isn’t nearly as good as draftees in the NFL or MLB.

Both union and management in the NBA want the big money going to the veterans good enough to get a second contract. By jumping to the league now, Murray, Chriss and their fellow first-rounders — only the contracts of first rounders in the NBA are fully guaranteed — are situated perfectly to benefit first and best when the stupid money gets ultra-stupid.

Whomever Murray and Chriss choose to represent them will know all about this stuff and will make it plain, if they haven’t done so months earlier, clandestinely.

So weighing these prospects against the opportunity to play East Squalor A&M next December at Hec Ed . . . well, it was never hard to begin with, and became real easy this time.

As to the question of whether the two gone Dawgs are of the proper caliber to be first-rounders, it really doesn’t matter for the first year or two. Both will be on the bench as 19-year-olds, which may not be a lot of fun but saves some tire tread when playing time becomes important in years three and four.

There was nothing to be said or done by Romar to dissuade them from the screaming logic of financial math. In an interview Tuesday on 950 KJR radio with Dave Mahler, Romar said he was told recently by unnamed NBA personnel that both players were likely first-rounders.

Asked what he would say to players about staying, he said simply, “It’s up to them.”

That’s the beauty of one-and-done for players, and the nightmare for big-time college basketball programs.

Now 10 years old, one-and-done has proven to be great for the NBA — no more scouting high schools — and lucrative for two or three handfuls of U.S. collegians. For the schools, it means a constant churn of rosters that includes the transfers of players with eligibility remaining in pursuit of more playing time/exposure.

The only thing going for big-time college basketball right now is the NCAA tournament, bulletproof entertainment and one of the few things left on national television that is appointment TV.

The rest of college basketball is just a lot of teams running around trying not to be last until the start of the conference tournaments. At least Murray and Chriss had a chance to see China and the Bahamas.

Can’t wait until the NBA expands the Developmental League to include its 353 Division I junior programs.


YourThoughts

  • Kirkland

    Hockey has an interesting idea. College undergrads can be drafted, but can still return to their college teams the next season, and so on until they sign the pro contract or graduate. That way, the player can concentrate on his development in college hockey while knowing he’s got at least an entry-level contract waiting for him when he’s ready. It also helps the college teams cut down on one-and-dones and not lose as many players to the junior ranks (e.g. the Thunderbirds and Silvertips). I wonder if college hoops could benefit from a similar rule?

    • art thiel

      Hockey is more like football in that bodies needed to be physically mature to survive at the top. More 18-20 year olds can sit the bench in the NBA.

  • jafabian

    IMO, Coach Romar should rethink his recruiting philosophy. He likes the best athlete that’s available but why go for Kobe Bryant when Ray Allen is also available and willing to invest in the program and can tell the NBA to wait? If Chriss and Murray stuck around for one more year the program would have been even better than last year. But it was obvious from the get-go these two had an agenda. Not sure how they’ll be better than Tony Wroten, who left UW early for the NBA and wasn’t even good enough to stick with the Sixers.

    Have fun in the D-League guys.

    • Pixdawg13

      Methinks that in both Chriss and Murray, LoRo thought he had Ray Allen, not Kobe. And, I suspect were it not for the TV contract timing, they’d stay another year.
      TW was never going to stay more than one year–he’d have had to actually learn something if he did.

      • art thiel

        I don’t think Romar was at all surprised at this outcome.

    • art thiel

      Both are much better than Wroten.
      Romar tried reaching for Gordon and LaVine, and just missed. It cost him runs at slightly lesser talents.

      • jafabian

        If there’s any chance of a player being one and done I think at this point they need to be passed on. Look at how sticking around for four years worked for Gary Payton II and Oregon State.

        • 1coolguy

          You hit it on the head! But then after 12+ years, don’t expect any logic to make it into Romars’ grey matter.

          • art thiel

            Logic has nothing to do with what works in college basketball. It’s all about what you can get away with.

        • art thiel

          Most of the time, there’s no way to know when HS seniors will mature into first-round picks. GPII was not ready for the pro game in his first three years. Neither was Brandon Roy.

  • notaboomer

    i hear russell okung is available to provide sports agent services.

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      I believe he may have retired from the business.

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  • 1coolguy

    Apparently the obvious has not yet sunk in with Romar – It is really quite foolish, as the past 10 years have shown, to load up with such highly touted players, either at all (The Gonzaga way) or very few with solid, 3-4 year players rounding out the roster.
    Unfortunately Romar appears to be blinded by the bright lights and pub of signing highly regarded recruits rather than the second tier, yet still very good, players that he will see for more than 2 -3 quarters. You know, players that actually know where Kane Hall and Suzallo are?

    • MrPrimeMinister

      Do any of the montlake athletes climb the steps into the educational environment of campus? More to your point–Callipari does the same thing and he seems to get it done every darn year.

      • 1coolguy

        if you have been a part of the athletic dept you would find the vast majority of kids are students that graduate.

        • MrPrimeMinister

          Graduate–sure, why not. Attend classes, don’t think so. If someone built a wall on Montlake between the athletic complexes down below and the upper area of the campus education halls, nobody would notice.

          • art thiel

            The non-rev sport athletes graduate, and even get educated. FB and BKB athletes rarely are permitted the time to be students. And for jocks, graduation isn’t the same thing as education

          • 1coolguy

            So, to use an apples to apples example, the women’s BB team has the same graduation rate and attention to the classroom as the men?
            Same practice hours, same gym, same sport, same # of games, travel, etc, right?
            If anyone has the stats, let us know.

          • art thiel

            Most women scholarship players don’t have the same pro options as men. The WNBA pays poorly, and the bigger money internationally may not be as appealing as a four-year degree.

          • MrPrimeMinister

            Aye Mr Thiel, so you have been following the happenings with the UNC Tarheel basketball program.

          • art thiel

            . . .And most every other big-time program.

      • notaboomer

        not this year. go hoosiers!

      • art thiel

        the Ky program is s religion to which the entire state bows. He and Pitino can get away with most anything.

        • 1coolguy

          yep, you have that right!

      • art thiel

        Most do at UW, mostly to stay eligible. It’s hard to explain four years of hard work to many kids who live near-crisis lives daily that see a quicker way out.

    • art thiel

      Romar knows the realities. It’s a one-and-done world. He took his chances, and was not surprised by the outcome.

  • Rj Smith

    I think from top to bottom the roster needs to be consistently deeper, made up of mostly 3/4 star recruits & maybe one 5 star guy every year. That seems to be a better formula for sustaining winning & building a program, plus sometimes it takes those 5 star kids an extra year to get used to the college game, which allows them to get better. I wonder if Washington has ever made a serious inquiry about Mark Few? He has been successful with that basic formula without of course getting the top 100 players. At Washington he could get the local stars, because he has grabbed some at Gonzaga & continue to recruit the same style players he has at Gonzaga. I think if he were offered double his salary, he might have a hard time saying no.

    • 1coolguy

      Few was hired after Romar so there has been no opportunity.
      Few has been courted by many colleges yet has consistently stated he loves Gonzaga, loves Spokane, the lifestyle, etc, etc, etc and has no intention of leaving. He has a very, very good set-up and I don’t doubt he is VERY well $upported!

      • art thiel

        He’s made an empire in a small town. But I bet there’s a dream job out there he might take, as Petersen did with the Huskies.

    • art thiel

      Hedges made a run at Few. He laughed.

      In recruiting, there’s no formula. As I said above, it’s all about what you can get away with. Romar also prefers guys with a bit of character, which limits the pool.

  • Paul Harmening

    Nicely done Art…And some of the comments as well. Ever think of running for President? Those guys need some serious help in the area of competency and research and integrity and brains and on and on and on and on and on.

    • art thiel

      I shall not seek. If nominated, I shall not run. — LBJ

      • Kirkland

        I thought that was Pat Paulsen? (Who may have been a saner candidate than any we’ve had since …)

  • MJL

    Good article – I agree with needing more talent across the board in Romar’s programs. Ever look down the bench? Players 8-12 who should be redshirts or projects or a SR that you can count on to contribute when called upon – which is what you see on a lot of good team does not exist here. Most are local guys I have never heard of and I follow local sports pretty close.

    • art thiel

      He had to replace nearly an entire roster in one recruiting class. Depth? No.

  • 1coolguy

    Wow – This picture of Chriss is a dead-on image of Jerry West! Perfect form.
    Ok, I am aging myself, but its’ identical.

    • art thiel

      Now you see why he’ll be in the lottery.