Emmanuel Mudiay, one of the hottest prospects for the 2015 NBA draft, has chosen to join the Guangdong Southern Tigers on a one-year $1.2 million contract that could damage his future earning potential.
Mudiay's decision to move abroad to play basketball revolves around his shaky NCAA eligibility for the coming year. The Congolese-born point guard has suggested that his choice to de-commit from SMU is about providing for his family, however it comes on the back of concerns that he would not have gained enough credits to meet student-athlete requirements at Southern Methodist.
The $1.2m contract will obviously provide a boost to his bank balance in the short-term but, as other players have experienced, could hurt his position in the draft next season.
Many draftniks have Mudiay projected to be the first selection next year but as Brandon Jennings found out in 2009, this may not come to fruition. Jennings was the number 1 recruit for colleges back in 2008 before his choice to play for $1.6 million in Italy hurt his draft stock. Jennings fell to the Milwaukee Bucks at 10 in that draft, the fourth PG to be taken, behind Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Stephen Curry.
The main factor behind Jennings' downfall was that he played just 20 minutes per game in Italy, coming off the pine to contribute just 5.5 points per game for Lottomatica Roma, rather than being the focal point of a major Division 1 school's offense.
That slide down the draft cost him almost the amount he earned in Italy in his first NBA contract , never mind the fact his limited development might not have been conducive to his second contract, which at $8m per year, is not what an ex-top recruit would be aiming for at his age. Stephen Curry, meanwhile, will be earning over $12m when his contract expires.
It is possible that Mudiay will be success in China, as his talent would suggest he should be. However many scouts will then bring into question whether the level of competition is good enough. This seemingly did not hurt Australian Dante Exum in this year's draft, but if the move to China comes along with a culture shock to Mudiay, he could be falling down the boards of many mock drafters before long.
Mudiay sought the biggest contract offer, but if he wanted to get noticed by scouts he could have chosen the NBA D-League, which unfortunately has not been considered as a viable alternative for those who do not want to go, or can't go, to college. It would be good to see the D-League attempt to attract players like Mudiay, who would at least be able to earn some money.