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History says Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon’s NBA Draft decision can work

A late first round pick is not a bad career move at all.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse
Tyler Lydon’s the latest Orange player to draw criticism for declaring for the NBA Draft
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Lydon’s decision to enter the NBA Draft should shock no one. Yet here we are again, watching as some people deride the decision as being some kind of folly.

The common thread among the detractors is that Lydon needs to return to the Orange to show he can develop into the centerpiece of an offense, properly lead a team or develop a more muscular build.

Even Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said he believes Lydon could benefit from returning for his junior year.

The last part of that quote made me wonder if this was really the case, or a bit of “Boehyperbole.” So I went back to the 2010 draft and looked at players taken in this range and listed those who appeared on a NBA roster during the current season.

2010: 4

2011: 6

2012: 5

2013: 8

2014: 8

2015: 7

So out of the 60 players drafted in this range since 2010, 39 have been on NBA rosters this season (and three others remain under contract on international teams). Obviously I’ve extended the time frame Boeheim used, but even if you take away 2015, you still have more than 60 percent of players drafted at the end of the first round who have been able to stay in the league.

This group is not just a collection of bench players either, as it includes starters such as Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler was drafted 30th back in 2011
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the rush, Tyler?

So looking at the numbers above, and where Tyler stands in most mock drafts (he’s typically being taken around pick No. 25), could he improve if he returned to Syracuse?

In recent years, players like Frank Kaminsky or Buddy Hield stand out as ones who played their way into lottery picks by returning to school. You also have Marcus Smart and Kris Dunn among those who were viewed as lottery picks earlier in their careers, yet returned to school and didn’t lose any ground.

On the other hand, players such as Paul Harris, Andrew and Aaron Harrison (and possibly Melo Trimble this year) have watched themselves go from projected lottery picks to either being taken in the second round or going undrafted completely.

At the conclusion of Syracuse’s Final Four run last April, Lydon checked in at the No. 18 spot in Draft Express’ mock draft. Returning for this season didn’t raise his draft stock – in fact, it lowered it – so why would returning for his junior season change anything?

We know that NBA executives draft players based more on their potential as much – if not more than – as their production. Lydon is 21 years old and the only projected first round pick who is 22 years or older is North Carolina Tar Heels forward, and ACC Player of the Year, Justin Jackson.

Based on the current Draft Express mock draft, only five first round picks this year are older than Lydon, which should factor into his decision making process. In case you were wondering the last Syracuse senior to be drafted in the fist round was Hakim Warrick back in 2005. While the last Syracuse junior to be taken was Wes Johnson in 2010. The reality for the NBA Draft is that younger often means better.

Follow the money

Another issue is the guaranteed money for first round picks. Look at what our own Steve Haller sketched out which shows the rookie contracts for Syracuse first-round picks:

If Lydon stays around his projection (and for reference he’s projected to be taken at No. 20 in The Vertical’s latest mock), he’s looking at more than $3.5 million guaranteed. There’s a lot of time between now and the draft, but he’s still making the right decision if he’s in the late first round. Even if he doesn’t get a second deal and heads overseas to play in three years, by leaving sooner rather than later he can maximize his professional earning potential.

I know people assume that returning to college improves draft status, but history really indicates otherwise. We can get caught up on NBA statistics as a measure of success when we really should be looking at this like any other professional and asking if they made the best career decision.

After reviewing the facts, it looks like Lydon certainly has.