Can players delay their draft decisions?

Update: Despite what Perky Plumlee told the Durham Herald-Sun Monday, Mason Plumlee is indeed going to return to the Blue Devils for his senior season, according to a report from CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman Tuesday afternoon. An official announcement is expected later in the day.

I'm going to leave this post up, because the general stuff about the draft deadline is still relevant, I think, even if it doesn't directly apply to Plumlee. One wonders if Plumlee and his family realized there wasn't much to be gained by drawing the decision out until the April 29 NBA deadline, simply because there are few good pathways to knowledge about draft stock in the current configuration.

Below is the original post.


Technically, today, April 10, is the NBA draft deadline. Put more accurately, April 10 is the NCAA's NBA draft deadline, the product of a proposal forwarded by ACC coaches in recent years, since approved and enacted by NCAA committee leadership, to move the draft decision date up to the last day before the start of the spring signing period. Why? So NBA hopefuls have to make up their mind in time to give coaches a heads up on whether or not they can sign that next big thing to a college scholarship.

It's an unfair rule ... and it didn't take long for pretty much everyone to find the loophole. Cue Mason Plumlee's father, Perky Plumlee, as told to the Durham Herald-Sun:

“That date is meaningless to us,” Perky Plumlee said. “Mason’s got a very difficult decision to make. The fact that the NBA and NCAA got their rules crossed up, that’s not our fault. It’s not our responsibility. As far as I’m concerned, he has until the 29th to make his decision. He has my blessing to take all the time he needs.”

How is this possible? Because the NBA's draft deadline date is actually April 29, and players who don't sign with an agent and don't submit paperwork to enter the draft before April 29 can indeed maintain their collegiate eligibility. Perky Plumlee has given Mason Plumlee -- who looks like a late first-round pick at this point -- his blessing to do exactly that, so that's what Mason is going to do.

But what about the blessing of Plumlee's coach, Mike Krzyzewski? Because even the April 29 deadline, like the rule itself, is a bit deceptive. As Draft Express's Jonathan Givony explained in an excellent primer on the new rule in March:

Since the NCAA bars third parties (even family members) of college players from reaching out to NBA teams to discuss their draft stock and the NBA itself has strict no-contact rules regarding the way teams can communicate with players who are not officially draft-eligible (before the early-entry list is released in early May), the only way an underclassman can gather information about his draft stock is through his college head coach. Furthermore, the head coach is only allowed to talk with the principal basketball operations executive from each team (ie: the general manager), according to NBA rules, and the underclassman may not participate in or be present during any such conversation.

Instead, the most a player can do is request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a group of 20 representative executives chaired selected by the NBA League Office. A player can request an evaluation from the committee no later than April 3, and is supposed to receive that evaluation no later than April 6.

And so all the power of the draft deadline process was shifted to the collegiate head coach's hands. This is where trust comes in: A player and his family, particularly one in Plumlee's tenuous fringe-first-round neighborhood, have to trust that Coach K is accurately and impartially inveighing what he's hearing from NBA scouts and general managers about a player's draft status. The only other option is covert, private outreach on the part of the family, which runs a huge risk of ineligibility if any improper contact with NBA league officials is discovered by the NCAA.

Players were once allowed all the way up to the last few weeks before the draft to obtain information about their draft status, information that was far more accurate -- because the draft changes quickly, almost to the minute. And three months out, no one knows what's going to happen. Now, it's up to the undergraduate committee, a few real days of legitimate information gathering, and the player's college coach, who is not exactly a perfectly impartial party.

So you can forgive Plumlee and his family for wanting to take as much time as possible with the decision, even if that decision will come down to what they're hearing from Coach K and what's being written by draft gurus like Chad Ford and Givony. It's a mess, and there are no good routes forward. But for Plumlee and other prospects like him, this is probably the best.