The stakes for UVA guard Justin Anderson: All or nothing?

justin dunkEvery day brings another slew of college underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft. All UVA basketball fans care about is Justin Anderson, whose silence has created a vacuum into which fans and sportswriters have contributed endless speculation.

Ultimately the decision will come down to what’s best for Anderson’s future, and that would seem to hinge on his read of his status vis-à-vis the front offices of NBA teams picking late in the first round, because it’s first round or bust, right?

More on that a little later.

First, a review of eight mock drafts has a slight consensus on Anderson landing a late first-round spot. The highest the mock drafts have the 6’6” junior going is 22nd, and five of the eight overall have him going anywhere between 22 and 29.

But three of the eight have Anderson going early second round, and that’s where things would seem to get tough for him in terms of decisions.

Because first-round picks get guaranteed two-year deals, with two or three option years with nice raises built in; second-round picks are guaranteed nothing, not even a roster spot.

The difference between going with the last pick in the first round and the first pick in the second round can be stark, at least at first glance. Second-rounders can sign for the minimum salary, $507,336. The last pick in the first round gets a two-year deal with a value of $1.95 million, with three option years that could add $5.5 million more.

Were Anderson to go as high as 22, it’s more like $2.4 million over two years, with option years adding another $6.1 million.

Tough choice, right? Maybe as much as an $7 million decision. Or is it?

For a look at how it might not be that much different to be a late first-rounder or early second-rounder, let’s compare the situations of the 30th pick in the 2014 draft, Kyle Anderson, who signed a two-year, $2.24 million guaranteed deal with San Antonio, with three option years that could add $5.6 million to the deal before it’s done, and a guy familiar to UVA fans, Joe Harris, who went 33rd in the 2014 draft to Cleveland, and actually did well for himself, getting two years and $1.73 million guaranteed, with two option years worth as much as $2.2 million more.

Harris is doing much, much better than the guy selected one spot ahead of him, K.J. McDaniels, who got a one-year deal for the minimum, though McDaniels, having a solid rookie season, is likely to get a decent multi-year deal.

But that all said, there’s not a lot of breathing room between Kyle Anderson and Joe Harris, and then even further down to the 39th pick, Jerami Grant, who got two years and $1.73 million guaranteed out of Philadelphia.

The only way a guy like Anderson misses out is if he falls into the second round and then somehow fails to make an NBA roster, which doesn’t seem likely.

It seems that the question for Anderson isn’t whether he makes an NBA team and gets paid NBA money next year, because he will if he wants to, but rather does he put himself in a position to make more money by staying an additional year at UVA to improve his draft stock.

Let’s say he’s #22 in 2015, just for the sake of argument. He gets a guaranteed two-year deal with options that could be worth $8.5 million over five years. Now let’s say that with another year at UVA, he improves his position to, again for the sake of argument, #10. He gets a deal that could be worth $14 million over five years.

Split the difference and put him at #16 in the 2016 draft, and he gets a deal that could be worth $11 million over five years.

Now we see how tough the choice is. Justin Anderson is going to make NBA money, at least $507,336 if he only gets one year in the Association, if he leaves this year and is a second-round pick, and his agent is god-awful at his job.

He might get Joe Harris money even if he falls to the second round, and could get late first-round money if things break the right way.

Or he could roll the dice, play out one more year in the orange and blue, and put himself in position to make IDGAF money as a lottery pick.

That’s what this all comes down to: make a lot of money, or make a life-changing amount of money.

And yes, it’s good to be Justin Anderson right now.

– Column by Chris Graham


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