As fans relentlessly double-checked Twitter to see if Mintz would either return to Syracuse for his sophomore year or opt to stay in the 2023 draft by the deadline of 11:59 p.m. on May 31. Eventually, Mintz announced his decision to continue his playing career with the Orange, but not without Syracuse fans going through an agonizing process of waiting... and waiting... and waiting some more.
Mintz wasn’t the only college basketball player to wait until the clock struck midnight. In fact, he was far from it. College basketball continues to evolve as players gain greater autonomy in their futures. Up to this point, the recent trend has impacted how coaches like Adrian Autry manage their rosters and prioritize recruitment efforts. Ditto for the transfer portal, as more college players have significant control over their destiny now more than ever within the NCAA.
What Syracuse fans experienced with Mintz’s decision will not be going away anytime soon, as Jon Rothstein hinted:
A necessity for next year's NBA Draft Deadline Day. pic.twitter.com/XxRc2z4GsG— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 1, 2023
The most consequential factor behind all this chaos is the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, a 676-page document outlining all of the employment conditions agreed upon between the league and its players. The new CBA is loaded with updated terms which directly impact how college players like Mintz will determine their future playing careers.
To keep a long story short, the main objective of the new agreement seeks to incentivize lower-spending teams to pay more and higher-spending teams to cut costs. If the latter fails to do so, it leads to a laundry list of restrictions on trading, draft picks and adding players.
Simply put, expensive teams are looking to add cheap, ready-now contributors on rookie-scale contracts. Christian Braun, the 21st pick in the 2022 Draft, played a critical role for the Denver Nuggets in their championship run. With these new caps on spending, major-market teams are using the draft to bring in younger players at a discounted price.
If you saw you this year’s draft, you might have noticed lots of movement towards the bottom of the first round and most of the second round. Denver traded first round picks in 2024 and 2029 to add three second round selections in this year’s draft. The Minnesota Timberwolves dealt out two future second rounders to get the 33rd pick; the same goes for the Boston Celtics, who traded down three different times alone.
All three of Denver, Minnesota and Boston are win-now teams locked into enormous salaries for their best players. And, under the new CBA, teams also have access to an exception for second round picks - which means they could sign incoming prospects to multi-year deals. It’s a win-win: a second round prospect gets guaranteed years and dollars, while the NBA team locks down a young contributor at a cheap price.
That was a mouthful, so let’s bring this back to Syracuse for a moment.
College players are able to speak with NBA scouts and executives leading up to the draft process. For example, Mintz worked out for the Charlotte Hornets just a few days before the May 31 deadline. During these meetings or workouts, players can seek guarantees from franchises and as the new salary cap
We’ll never really get a clear understanding of what went on behind the scenes. But, we do know that for college basketball players like Mintz, this current landscape is a game of leverage. Specifically, it’s a multi-entity dialogue between an institution, the NBA and the player.
Players can weight a potential guarantee from a NBA team, or the NIL opportunities offered in college. It’s no longer just about where they get picked, it’s about the financial incentives or security. Look at Mintz or what played out with Purdue and Zach Edey, who announced his decision to opt out of the draft around two hours before the deadline.
College players are seeking the best option available to them. Can a school like Syracuse pour in enough NIL to maintain a commitment, or will an NBA team simply offer the better deal?
Judah Mintz had a great Draft Combine.Judah finished the first game with 9 Pts and 7 Asts in only 17 Minutes and finished the second game with 13 Pts in only 19 Minutes.Judah was efficient as well shooting 64% from the field through both games.Judah also played great defense. pic.twitter.com/x8FkNK8MWr— KJ (@Kjpistons) May 19, 2023
Syracuse fans will face this situation following the upcoming 2023-2024 season. Both Mintz (42nd overall) and Notre Dame transfer J.J. Starling (35th overall) project to be early-to-mid second round picks in the 2024 draft. Both will deal this incoming landscape next spring, especially with the NBA’s new financial world just now setting in under the new CBA.
That matters across the board both for the players and the schools. Mintz’s return easily lifted the Orange’s ceiling for the upcoming year. Even with losing Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards to the transfer portal, bringing Mintz back meant Syracuse possesses a legit go-to, offensive player. As for Mintz, Starling and other college players, the goal is capitalizing on whatever opportunity is out there - whether by improving one’s own draft stock like Mintz or seeking out more guaranteed money from the universities.
And, when the spring of 2024 comes, Syracuse fans will find themselves in a similar situation as they did in May. Expect this to be the new norm.