The story broke over the weekend that Mr. James Webb III would be testing the waters in the NBA draft (his statement about the decision here). The way the NCAA rules are set up now a player can declare for the draft but, as long as he does not hire an agent, he can withdraw and go back to school without penalty. This gives an opportunity for kids to know if it is worth their time to pursue their professional dreams sooner than "usual" four to five years. While the likes of Boise State does not necessarily have to worry about this "problem" happening very often, teams like Kentucky have to contend with (or enjoy) NBA-caliber players who can, and do, leave after one year. In the case of James Webb, he is doing the right thing, by declaring for the draft, to maximize his athleticism, skill, and opportunity.
For players of Webb's caliber, it just makes sense for him to see what his value is, and to see if he likes what the NBA scouts have to say about his skills. The best player on the Broncos' roster last year, he averaged 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. This year, Webb was voted first team all-Mountain West Conference by both the media and the coaches. He was an United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District VIII team selection. And a National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-District 17 first team pick. That NABC pick will let him be eligible for All-America honors like former Bronco star Derrick Marks last year.
It has been said, many times in the comments, that Webb needs to come back to school and develop. That he is not quite ready for the big lights/big time of the NBA. I contend that is not necessarily true.
Why? Thanks for asking!
Webb can get paid to develop
As great as college athletics are, they are nothing compared to be being paid to do what you love. And if what you love to do is play a sport, and others are willing to hand you money to play said sport, all the better. So what does that mean in this case?
There may be some legitimate concerns about his skills, maturity, and capabilities on the next level. And, yes, another year at Boise State will certainly help him in that quest to "fix" those "problems." More games, more decision-making, more opportunities to make mistakes without it really "costing" much to himself or the organization he plays for. More guidance from the coach to see that Webb is always utilized properly and puts the best performance forward. These things cannot be overstated. They are valid points.
But why not take a paycheck?Why not get the same (or perhaps better) coaching and be able to practice the game officially full-time and no NCAA-mandated rules against it? Might as well take the money, and run, instead of "playing school." Even if he is in the NBA D-league for a bit, he could make his mark there and make the jump to the highest level of the sport. Even if he does not end up in the NBA next year, or perhaps the year after, he could be getting the same development and getting paid to do it.
It is one thing to dominate some dude named Bradley but something else entirely when Russell Westbrook is looking to get, yet, another triple-double against you. The competition is, putting it bluntly, not comparable. This is Mr. Webb's opportunity to play with the best in the world and, maybe, join those ranks. If he wants to be the best (and I have no doubt he does) he is going to have to play with the best. And that means doing what he can, now, to ensure he has as much time to do that.
Playing against college-level talent will only take your development so far. If Mr. Webb feels (or knows) that he cannot get to that next level here, why not take that jump? As said above, he may be stuck in a D-league for a year, or two. but the grind and competition of the development league will better prepare him for his (hopeful) last stop.
This is a huge one. We see it all the time where a player gets taken out with an injury when he is on the verge of something special. That very same thing almost happened to Webb this year against UNLV. And Bronco Nation had heart palpitations when they saw Webb land and really tweak that knee.
While injuries are just a part of athletics, and something that players accept as part of the game, they still do not want to be saddled with a nagging injury that could hinder not only their legacy but their paycheck as well. Webb cannot let the possibility of getting injured and letting possible millions get flushed down the drain. He cannot risk landing awkward again from a rebound and tearing an ACL. Or tearing a tendon. Or tearing a muscle. And not having something in place to carry him if need be.
If the injury happens in college the medical bills may be covered by any sort of insurance that the players may have, but that's about it. There is no medical plan in place for future issues. There is no pension to draw from so the player can remain afloat when he cannot work. There is nothing that an ex-college player can do (aside from get a "real" job I suppose) that will be able to make sure that he is compensated for the effort he left out on the court.
In the pros, there is at least something there. While a player's contract is hardly a guarantee that he is set for life, he can take what he's earned and try to build something. The NBA minimum wage next year is going to be north of $500,000. While that may be peanuts for the likes of Lebron James and Kobe, that money can be used to help a player whose career is cut short by injury.
Am I wrong? Probably. Let me know just how wrong I am in the comments.
This situation can only be answered by Webb himself and what is right for him and his family. If he thinks that he is going to hear the right things by those in the know at the NBA-level, then he should pursue that opportunity with gusto. While I would love nothing more than for Webb to return to Boise State one last year, he has the chance to add a recruiting tool to coaching coffers.
Or be a nice donor for the school.