Todd Porter: Ohio State standout right to enter NBA Draft
Initially, quite a bit of criticism was directed at Kosta Koufos when he decided to go the route most high-profile college basketball players go: Leave college after a year and declare for the NBA Draft.
Much of that criticism is dying down.
Koufos’ decision was made with a solid foundation of research, feedback and knowledge. For a 19-year-old, he made a very wise decision.
There is an argument to be made that he could have returned to Ohio State for another year of seasoning and improved his draft stock, going from say a No. 15 pick to a No. 5 pick.
But that argument isn’t rooted in dollars and cents. NBA rookie contracts aren’t the kind of deals that set up players for generations. Of course, any of them will fill up a luxury SUV at the pump, but it takes more research to realize that Koufos made the right decision from a financial standpoint.
Last year, No. 7 pick Corey Brewer received the typical four-year rookie contract from Minnesota with the final two years at the team’s option.
Brewer made $2.5 million last season. No. 14 pick Al Thornton got the same four-year deal and made $1.7 million from the Clippers. That’s a lot of money for you and me.
In the NBA, though, that’s not significant. What is significant is to get the clock started on that rookie contract as soon as possible, because after those two team options are done, players can make the kind of money that sets them up for life.
Figure Koufos at 19 can be out of his rookie contract when he’s 23. The average NBA salary is about $5.5 million. Assuming Koufos is an average player, and that’s kind for a 7-footer with his athleticism, and applying a 5 percent raise in the average salary over the next four seasons, Koufos stands to make upwards of about $6.5 million a season after his first contract.
Remember what the difference between last year’s No. 7 pick and 14th pick was? It was about $800,000. The difference between that rookie contract and the average NBA salary by the time Koufos has four years in the league is almost $4 million.
Staying in school another year delays that rookie contract clock from starting and puts his body at another year’s risk. It also requires his career to be a year longer on the back end during prime earning years.
That’s why 19-year-olds with Koufos’ skills and upside leave college after a year. Getting the clock started on that four-year rookie deal is important and it makes a real difference.
Koufos can expect to sign a contract, depending on where he is drafted, that will guarantee him about $3 million to $3.5 million, not including the two team options in years three and four.
If those options are picked up, he’s looking at another $6 million or $7 million. Then the real big-dollar earning kicks in at year five at about $6 million or more per season, assuming Koufos is an average or better NBA player.
The Cavs have a lot of offseason moves to make to get ready for the draft.
Near the top of the list is deciding what to do with Damon Jones and Eric Snow. Both are veterans with high salary cap implications. Snow appears ready to begin the next phase of his career in coaching. Jones can still play.
If Koufos is still around when Cleveland picks at No. 19, ESPN and Chris Monter both have the Cavs taking Koufos. Monter, a draft guru and former Alliance, Ohio, resident, has sound reasoning.
“Zydrunas (Ilgauskas) is getting older,” Monter said. “He’s a local kid. He’d be a fan favorite. ... With his range you’d have to move a big out on a 7-footer who can shoot from the perimeter. Look at what that does under the basket for LeBron James. I think there is definitely some interest on Cleveland’s part.”
Some NBA teams flood the information highways with draft scuttlebutt. Some, like the Cavs, don’t say a word.
Vegas training helped
Another reason Koufos withdrew from Ohio State after declaring for the NBA Draft is he realized the time commitment he would have to invest in training for the draft.
For almost six weeks, Koufos was in Las Vegas and worked in Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball camp.
Abunassar analyzed Koufos’ game and his body type. There aren’t many legitimate 7-footers out. Koufos measured 7-foot-1 1/2 in basketball shoes and 7-foot-1/2 in his socks.
He was carrying extra weight in his upper body, limiting his mobility and agility.
“I feel very good,” said Koufos. “My body fat is down to 6.6 percent. I’m in great shape.”
Koufos shed the weight during those six weeks. Teams are now seeing a 7-footer who is much more agile than they expected. Koufos left Seattle having held his own, if not more, against Kevin Love, a projected top 10 pick.
That’s a training program Koufos would not have been able to attend had he stayed at Ohio State.
Feedback from teams
According to reports, Toronto and Seattle left impressed with Koufos after his workouts. The general consensus from teams is he is bigger than they thought, more athletic and more skilled.
A measurement that most fans and media don’t give enough credence to is wingspan. If a player’s wingspan is greater than his height, NBA general managers fall in love with that. Koufos is 7-1. His wingspan is 7-5 1/2.
Teams want length at the defensive end of the court. The Lakers rode that to the NBA Finals.
“I think wingspan is every bit as important, maybe way more important than your height,” said Minnesota Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale, who had an 8-foot wingspan in his day. “You’ve seen those guys that are 6-11, and they’ve got those pterodactyl arms. Those guys, they don’t do too well.”
Inside Seattle’s workout
Koufos impressed Seattle’s personnel evaluators with his perimeter shooting.
Numbers coming out of Seattle say they watched a 7-1 player hit 34-of-40 mid-range jumpers, then saw him put the ball on the floor and show off his mad ball-handling skills.
Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail email@example.com