There will be an NBA lockout. At least, that’s the unanimous belief of everyone you talk to who has ties to the pro game. The question is how long it will last.
Most executives maintain about one-third to a half of the NBA season will be lost while the two sides negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Others feel the entire slate could go by the wayside.
It’s a difficult spot for those players debating whether to leave school early. Not only could these kids be sitting at home, waiting for a lockout to end, but they also won’t know their pay structure.
Making it an even more difficult decision: This could be the weakest NBA draft in decades.
College kids have until April 24 to decide whether they want to, at least, explore the possibility of leaving early and declaring for the June 23 NBA draft. Two weeks later, May 8 is the NCAA-mandated date they have to decide whether to withdraw in order to maintain their eligibility.
We’ll give you a look at who should stay and who should go:
KYRIE IRVING, DUKE
He was sensational for the first eight games of the year before a toe injury put him on the sidelines for the rest of the regular season and the Atlantic Coast Conference tourney. Irving came back for the Big Dance and, although he wasn’t quite himself, NBA folks had seen enough to be sold early on.
Goodman’s advice: We’ll miss you. Irving could be the No. 1 pick. No reason to come back.
Result: Irving announced Wednesday that he will indeed enter the NBA draft.
JARED SULLINGER, OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes’ big man maintains he’ll be back in Columbus next year, and I believe him. However, I’m not sure it’s the correct move for him and his future. Sullinger is a likely top-five pick, and his stock could slip a bit next season.
Goodman’s advice: I love your desire to stay, but my advice would be to go now, young man. Take advantage of a terrific season. Your stock won’t go any higher, and you’re physically ready to play at the next level.
HARRISON BARNES, NORTH CAROLINA
He came in with all the hype and struggled to start the season but found his way the second half of the year and is a lock to be taken high in the lottery. In fact, he could still go No. 1 overall. Barnes is a different dude and could wind up staying in Chapel Hill in hopes of trying to accomplish what he set out to: national Player of the Year and a national title.
Goodman’s advice: Say goodbye. Barnes needs to take advantage of his second-half play.
KEMBA WALKER, UCONN
He led a young Huskies group to the national championship, he improved his perimeter shot dramatically and he has the speed and quickness that all NBA guys are falling in love with these days.
Goodman’s advice: This one is as big a no-brainer as there is. Walker needs to go. Now. He likely will be a lottery pick, and there aren’t many quality point guards in the equation, either.
JOHN HENSON, NORTH CAROLINA
The rail-thin Tar Heels sophomore established himself as, arguably, the top defensive player in the nation with his length and ability to alter and block shots. He’s a lock for the NBA lottery.
Goodman’s advice: Return to Chapel Hill. You’re not ready for the NBA. Take another year to get stronger and work on your post moves. Then maybe you could be the No. 1 overall pick.
PERRY JONES III, BAYLOR
He was suspended for the end of the season by the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits back in high school. He’s long and exceptionally talented and will likely be taken somewhere in the top five picks because of his potential.
Goodman’s advice: Come back to Waco for another go-around. I just think the NBA would eat this kid up right now, both mentally and physically.
DERRICK WILLIAMS, ARIZONA
He’s a tough kid to read because he’s so unassuming. But he’s also a kid who basically came from nowhere, and he needs to capitalize on his recent success.
Goodman’s advice: You don’t come back to school when you’re a likely top-three pick and you’ve done what Williams has done and come from where Williams has come from.
MORRIS TWINS, KANSAS
These guys are likely history in Lawrence, anyway. Marcus has always been the alpha dog of the duo, but I think Markieff could have more NBA potential because he has a true position at the next level. Both could — and should — go in the lottery.
Goodman’s advice: See ya. These two come from Philly and have come a long way since their high school days. Hit it while you can.
Result: Both announced Thursday that they have signed with an agent and will go pro.
BRANDON KNIGHT, KENTUCKY
His stock will never be higher than it is right now. NBA folks are convinced he’s a clear lottery pick because of his ability to score and his maturity running the team.
Goodman’s advice: Go. There’s no reason to come back, especially with Marquis Teague — a true point guard — coming to Lexington next year. Knight would have the ball in his hands a lot less, and his stock would drop.
TERRENCE JONES, KENTUCKY
Although he didn’t have a terrific second half of the year, the NBA execs saw more than enough from him. The knock, as I said before the season, was his inconsistency. But the potential is clearly there.
Goodman’s advice: Bolt now. Although he didn’t finish as strong as Knight, Jones’ ceiling is even higher. That’s what matters to a lot of these NBA guys. Potential. Hit it while you can, Terrence, and go now.
JOSH SELBY, KANSAS
The Jayhawks freshman was suspended by the NCAA for the first semester and was supposed to be the difference-maker when he became eligible. Instead, he was a complete non-factor. If I were Bill Self, I’m not even sure I’d want him back. I question his willingness to be a quality teammate instead of dominating the ball and worrying about his own numbers.
Goodman’s advice: Bye-bye. Maybe I’m being crazy, but some team will roll the dice on Selby and his talents in the first round. If he remains in Lawrence, it could all blow up.
SHELVIN MACK, BUTLER
This is one of the more difficult dilemmas. Mack was terrific the second half of the season. Even though he struggled in the national title game, it won’t affect his draft stock much. What will alter it, though, is not having Matt Howard around.
Goodman’s advice: Return. Mack could go down as, arguably, the greatest player ever to put on a Butler uniform if he comes back and leads this program back to another Final Four.
Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli are all considering whether to leave early. Taylor still needs to work on his skills, Jenkins could use another year to expand his game and Ezeli could be one of the elite big men in the nation next season.
Goodman’s advice: Return and do something special. If all three come back, the Commodores could be a legitimate Final Four contender. Then all their stocks would jump.
JORDAN HAMILTON, TEXAS
He’s not a great athlete, but the sophomore scores as well as anyone not named Jimmer. Hamilton will be a first-rounder and could easily play his way into the lottery based on his size and ability to score the ball.
Goodman’s advice: It’s time. I think it’s best for Hamilton and for Rick Barnes’ mental health for him to leave Austin. Although Hamilton is talented, he’s also frustrating and a train wreck on the defensive end.
Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, are both entertaining the thought of leaving early. Thompson has the higher upside after a strong season, but Joseph has plenty of potential, as well.
Goodman’s advice: Come back. You guys aren’t ready for the NBA game.
MALCOLM LEE, UCLA
There were some that pegged the Bruins’ shooting guard as a one-and-done guy. Instead, he may wind up being around for four years. He has turned into a quality defender who can score — and a likely first-round pick.
Goodman’s advice: Play one more season for Ben Howland. Next year’s team should run through the Pac-10, and Lee can take advantage of the success.
DARIUS MORRIS, MICHIGAN
He had a terrific under-the-radar sophomore season, and the point guard crop is weak. But Morris isn’t ready to make the jump. He needs to work on his perimeter shot this season.
Goodman’s advice: Do a few workouts and withdraw. This one is easy. Michigan has a chance to compete for a Big Ten crown, and Morris isn’t a lock first-rounder.
CHRIS SINGLETON, FLORIDA STATE
The long and athletic Seminoles forward wasn’t healthy after coming back from foot surgery, but NBA folks love his length, ability to defend and knock down shots. He doesn’t put the ball on the floor well and get by defenders, but he’s still a first-rounder.
Goodman’s advice: We’ll miss you. I would love to see him back in Tallahassee, but I think he has a shot to go in the lottery — and again, this draft is incredibly weak.
TOBIAS HARRIS, TENNESSEE
The skilled freshman is an interesting case. He’s on the verge of being a first-rounder, but he doesn’t have terrific athleticism and now he has a new coach in Cuonzo Martin — a guy he knows nothing about. I think Harris will play in the NBA for a long, long time whether he’s a first- or second-rounder, but his stock can only go up with another year.
Goodman’s advice: Come back and spend a year with Martin. My guess is he’ll make Harris the focal point this season.
SCOTTY HOPSON, TENNESSEE
I’m not sure there’s a more frustrating player to watch in the country. Some days, he’s a lottery pick; others, he can’t play in the NBDL. Ultimately, I think he is what he is — a second-rounder.
Goodman’s advice: Enough is enough. Take a shot at the NBA now because a coaching change could hurt more than it helps.
KAWHI LEONARD, SAN DIEGO STATE
Long considered a tweener at the next level, Leonard’s motor can’t be questioned. This kid plays hard and has come virtually out of nowhere after being unheralded back in high school.
Goodman’s advice: San Diego State loses a lot this year. Leonard needs to go now while he can, while he is a hot name.
ALEC BURKS, COLORADO
I saw this sophomore put up one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a long, long time at Harvard. But he was dominant at times this season. That’s the problem: You don’t know what you’re going to get.
Goodman’s advice: Come back to Boulder and display some consistency. Next year’s draft won’t be loaded — and maybe he can work his way higher up the draft board.
JOSHUA SMITH, UCLA
This kid can be a beast. Well, he already is — but he could be a dominant force each and every night as a sophomore if he works on his body this offseason. I think he’s probably a late first-rounder now but could be a lottery pick a year from now.
Goodman’s advice: Go on a diet, lose 25 pounds or so and you will be unstoppable every game. It will result in millions of dollars coming your way.
MASON PLUMLEE, DUKE
He has been tagged with that potential label forever, but, at some point, he’s going to have to show he can produce. With Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and likely Kyrie Irving all leaving Durham, Plumlee should be a focal point of the Blue Devils’ plans.
Goodman’s advice: One more year. My guess is Plumlee can make himself into a lottery pick with a solid campaign. It doesn’t even need to be earth-shattering.
JORDAN WILLIAMS, MARYLAND
He’s not a big fan of the academic component of school, but neither was I. The Terps’ big man put up huge numbers this year, but no one cared because he did it in obscurity. Next year, he’ll have older guards who can make his life easier.
Goodman’s advice: I’ve known Williams for a long time, and it’s best for his future if he comes back and plays his way into the first round, which is a realistic possibility.
REGGIE JACKSON, BOSTON COLLEGE
I live in Boston, so, selfishly, I’d love for him to stay another year. But when you look at the team he’ll be playing with next season, it’s a difficult sell.
Goodman’s advice: I think this kid can be a late first-round pick. He’s tough and can really score. I say he takes a shot at it.
IMAN SHUMPERT, GEORGIA TECH
He has a new coach in Brian Gregory, and his game really began to grow last season. Another year, and he could be a solid first-rounder with his size and ability to defend.
Goodman’s advice: Return to Atlanta. Shumpert is a combo guard who, with improved big men, could see his stock rise with another season.
GUYS WHO HAVE SAID THEY’RE GONE
Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
Jereme Richmond, Illinois
Isaiah Thomas, Washington
Trey Thompkins, Georgia
Nikola Vucevic, USC