Why do players choose to declare early for the draft?
The consensus top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft and WNBA Draft came to very different conclusions with regards to their future, shaking up their respective draft boards. For triple-double machine Sabrina Ionescu, the rationale for returning to Oregon instead of heading to the WNBA was simple: she wanted another shot at the national championship. For the hyper-athletic Zion Williamson however, the NBA proved to be the more enticing option despite having similarly fallen short in his collegiate quest. Why do players choose to declare early for the draft?
Experience: Although players gain experience by staying in college as well, sometimes nothing beats the real deal. With the heightened intensity and physicality of the professional game, players need time to adjust and to get better through conditioning and skills training. As an athlete’s prime may be limited, this approach allows them to maximize their years of professional experience.
Draft value: It is often advisable for players to declare when their draft value or ‘stock’ is high. This can follow a successful freshman campaign or a deep championship run, with the key players on title-winning squads usually being snapped up early in the draft. Although these are generally talented players who can thrive in any season, luck may play a part in wins and losses in a knockout tournament, and even in staying healthy.
Circumstances: At times, a player may not fit in very well with his or her collegiate squad’s style of play, and thus hope for a change in the professional ranks. Financial circumstances may also lead players to declare early in order to earn a livelihood and provide for their families, while opportunities may fluctuate depending on the talent level of the incoming recruiting class, particularly at the same position.