At the end of last month, when Oscar Tshiebwe announced that he return to Kentucky for his senior year, his decision was unsurprising, if rare. It has been 14 years since the last time a consensus player of the year returned to college after racking up so many awards, and Tshiebwe is only the second Naismith award winner in the past 40 years to return. defend his trophy.
While Tshiebwe’s decision was almost unprecedented, he was only the first of a flood of greats to say they would stay at school for at least another year. Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and North Carolina’s Armando Bacot have also agreed to return for another season of college basketball. As the sport split in NBA and college levels over the past decade, April’s slew of returns was just the latest indicator of the extent of its divergence.
The NBA has moved away from the traditional big man with his back to the basket as adopted spacing and fast twitch centers that can provide horizontal and vertical spacing. Yet, as the new era of name, image, and likeness has hit college basketball, the divergence may still worsen, with college now not only a safe haven for classic greats, but also a place where they can be paid without having to leave. the comfort of a sport that appreciates them but can also pay for them.
“It comes down to value,” said a college assistant coach. “It depends on your NBA value. The thing with the greats is there’s more value in having a great like Oscar Tshiebwe on your roster in college than the NBA because of space and point and how much they value the three point shot. It gets fair (roughly) if you are a very good player who is a draftable player or not. There are guys who are really good college players who don’t get drafted into the NBA. I think it gives them more value and gives them more ability to make money in the age of name and image and likeness. If you’re a really good fat guy, it makes sense to be recognized.
Tshiebwe, Dickinson and Bacot were all likely to be second-round picks or go undrafted had they entered the NBA draft; only Tshiebwe was ranked in the top 75 of Athleticismthe grand council of 2022 before their decisions.
Going back to college has always been an acceptable route for players of this type, but the new ability to also enjoy while still in school could create a new chasm in how big men are viewed. While the NBA may continue to throw in the cold shoulder, it will have more reason to stay in school rather than leave early to find the G League or European grind to build a professional career.
“The old-school undersized center that can score a lot of points…they have a potentially very profitable future in college,” an NBA front office official said. “Right now it’s not really something that’s really coveted. It is a very good thing for them. They’re making a lot of money and probably graduating… It’s really a best-case scenario for the league situation.
Tshiebwe will do over $2 million this coming season. Dickinson and Bacot will do well too. The financial advantage only increases – until and unless the NCAA finds a way to set its own rules.
That salary would far exceed what Tshiebwe could earn in the NBA next season. This season, the 30th pick in the draft brought in $1.99 million. Second-round picks don’t get guaranteed contracts, and teams may pressure them for player-unfriendly offers. They could also strike a two-way deal, which has paid $462,629 this season, but is also not guaranteed.
“When they see that more guys are having more success in NIL, they’ll realize the risk isn’t worth the reward,” the front office manager said. “The money only increases.”
While the NBA draft hasn’t become any less hospitable to the big guys over the past few years, it has been so for the less mobile or those who don’t have a broad skill set. The college assistant noted that NBA teams also place less emphasis on offensive rebounding, a skill that allows greats like Tshiebwe to dominate in Kentucky.
The second round has become their domain. In 2021, six centers were removed from the 50-60 picks.
This year, only three centers are ranked in the top 30 of Athleticismtop 100 prospects from; seven land in the next 40 spots. Even Gonzaga star Drew Timme might not be selected.
The trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. For greats like Tshiebwe, Bacot and Dickerson, staying in school is just following the money.
“Especially looking at the playoffs,” one scout said, “it’s so hard to be a dinosaur these days.”
the San Antonio Spurs picked up a small win on Tuesday that will help them play a few more away games. The Bexar County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to approve a one-year license allowing Spurs to play four games outside of San Antonio and the AT&T Center – their home arena – during the 2022 season- 23. The commissioners court granted the franchise limited approval after seeking permission to do so for four games in each of the next two seasons. Their agreement with the county only allows a maximum of two games per season.
The Spurs have been in San Antonio since 1973, while still at the ABA, and began playing at the AT&T Center in 2002 when it opened. They are contractually bound as the tenant of their current arena until 2032.
The commissioners’ court has asked Spurs to return for its next court meeting on May 17 to further discuss the game at the AT&T Center and what’s behind the franchise’s request, according to details provided by a person from the court, including measures. and the rationale for getting a waiver to play four away games for San Antonio in a second season. The court also asked Spurs to return to it to discuss the franchise’s long-term commitment to Bexar County.
“From day one, we have received incredible support from Spurs fans in San Antonio and South and Central Texas,” RC Buford, CEO of Spurs Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement. “We are committed to finding new, creative ways to engage and celebrate our Mexico fans in Austin, continuing to grow our regional fan base. We believe that San Antonio is uniquely positioned culturally, geographically and economically to serve as the anchor for this region. San Antonio has been home for five decades and the organization will continue to innovate, positioning Spurs to thrive in San Antonio for the next 50 years.
Spurs chief legal counsel Bobby Perez told commissioners the franchise wants an amendment to their agreement with the county so they can play as the home team in Mexico City and as the home team in the Alamodome during the 2022-23 season, as well as two games as in Austin, which would be less than 100 miles from his home. Spurs will celebrate their 50th anniversary next season and want to play games at the Alamodome to mark the title they won there in 1999.
The NBA is targeting a game in Mexico City involving Spurs to be played in December 2022. Spurs have previously played in Mexico City but as an away team.
Spurs want to play two international games in the 2023-24 season and two games in Austin. Perez said he had discussions with the Moody Center in Austin to play there, but there is no agreement. The specter of Austin, especially, seemed to worry the commissioners.
Perez said the Spurs went to commissioners’ court to avoid triggering the no-move clause in their agreement with the county, which would result in a penalty of around $130 million if imposed. He said the games would be intended to “grow our regional market” and grow the franchise’s business.
The Spurs are one of the NBA’s bottom 10 media markets and want to expand their reach from their hometown to a radius covering Austin and Monterrey in Mexico. They have already taken steps in this attempt. They signed a partnership with Viva Aerobus, a Mexican airline, and deployed staff to Austin for over a year to figure out how to engage Spurs fans in that market. Spurs’ naming rights partnership has also ended and they are looking for a new naming rights partnership for their home arena.
Perez also told commissioners that Spurs’ recent franchise stock sales – which brought Michael Dell, Sixth Street and Joe Gebbia as Minority Owners – actually increased the size of the Holt family’s stake and control of the franchise.
Perez faced a series of lingering questions from the commissioners about the Spurs’ desire to stay in San Antonio. Asked by Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Fores about Spurs’ commitment to San Antonio, Perez replied, “Our commitment is that we stay in San Antonio” and reiterated Buford’s statement.
County Judge Nelson W. Wolff was appalled by the 3-2 vote dividing the court and still seemed dubious about Spurs’ long-term plans.
“That’s not a good sign,” Wolff said. “It shows you that there is a mixed opinion in this community as to Spurs’ intention and there is a lot of concern about what you are doing.”
Wolff said he believed team owner Peter J. Holt that the Spurs were staying in San Antonio. Still, he expressed reservations and asked franchise ownership to come to the next meeting.
“It would be nice,” said County Judge Nelson W. Wolff, “to get a statement from him.”
Holt took over as managing partner last June. The Holt family has run the team for more than 20 years and first purchased the franchise in 1996. They are also building a $510 million mixed-use performance campus in San Antonio.
(Photo by Oscar Tshiebwe: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)