Given the fact that Aldridge may get drafted higher this year than he will next based off of the relative weakness of this class, it seems like it would financially make sense to jump to the next level. Well, I'm here to tell you:
LaMarcus Aldridge will make less money in the NBA if he leaves now…even if he's drafted No. 1 overall. Even if he's drafted higher this year than next year.
You may be wondering why. How could he make less if he gets top pick money? It's because the big money in the NBA are not found in the rookie deals, it's that second contract.
Players who need time to develop, as is certainly the case with Aldridge, don't make elite level cash, even if they're drafted higher. Take for example Kwame Brown. Brown was drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Wizards and made a lot of money right off the bat. However, after riding the bench for four years due to a lack of maturity and development, Brown is now playing for the Lakers with a 3-year, $25 million deal.
Respectable, but let's compare that to Jason Richardson's 6-year, $70 million deal with the Golden State Warriors. Richardson was in the same draft as Brown, taken four picks later and made less in that first contract, but J-Rich was also NBA ready. He'd led Michigan State to consecutive Final Four appearances and a national title. He had the leadership, aggressiveness, confidence and polished game necessary to make an immediate impact in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge does not.
Let's look at a more recent 2003 draft. First pick LeBron James and second pick Darko Milicic signed similar deals with their respective teams (4-year, $18.8 million for James; 4-year, $16.8 million). Milicic after riding the pine because he wasn't ready will probably get a deal from the Orlando Magic similar to Kwame Brown's. James on the other hand, will likely sign the biggest deal in the history of the NBA when his contract goes up in 2007.
Aldridge has incredible upside. He's a big man with quick feet, good hands, an impressive wingspan and a soft touch on his fade-away jumper. It's apparent that his main flaw is a lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end and with a year or two of coaching and development can come to the NBA and be a beast immediately.
Is there an amount of risk involved in returning? Oh yes, definitely. But, with every investment there is risk and if LaMarcus Aldridge goes to the NBA and sits the bench, he'll miss out on the big money.