If it’s Saturday, no matter how late, it must be the roundtable. Where I ask my fellow writers their opinions on a subject and we share with the class.
With Zach Edey putting his name into the NBA Draft while maintaining eligibility, what does your gut say he is going to do?
Before I start, I want to make it clear I have no insider info on this one. I have no news on if he’s coming or going or the internal machinations of what his thinking is. I’m going based on what I read and my gut.
I think Zach Edey wants to stay. I do. I think he had a great time this year with his teammates, with his coaching staff, and being showered with praise (as awkward as that might feel for anyone). I think being the big man on campus (in more ways than one) is a dream for everyone. With NIL there are reports that Edey pulled in just under a million dollars this season. With the added hurdles due to him being Canadian it seems like, if reports are true, a working visa could clear up a lot of hassle and make it easier for him to pull in even more money. I think he goes through the process but ultimately decides to run it back and avenge the FDU loss.
Edey is in as strong of a position for a college player wanting to leverage their NIL into some meaningful dollars to put off a professional career early in this history as anyone could possibly predicted. He was growing into a national sort of brand last year and his return next season could easily see him being used in marketing and promotional campaigns across all of Canada and the United States. Last season, Edey garnered between $850-$900k in NIL money and it stands to reason as the returning NPOY and being a unique human being at 7’4, he will likely make more than that next season.
The NBA rookie contract for 2022 for the 30th pick saw them make a guaranteed $1.8 million and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see Edey start to scratch that level of compensation thanks to NIL. We all know that Edey isn’t going to be a first round pick this year or even next year (without some massive showing from behind the arc) so those contracts in the second round are not guaranteed. Yes, some of those guys have gotten guaranteed money for one to two years but the NIL money is guaranteed for Edey and knowing he is grabbing $1 million in NIL is probably enough to keep him at Purdue for one more season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Edey end up making $2 million in NIL money.
At the end of the day though, there isn’t a bad decision for Edey to make because he is a very young player still and an NBA team is going to take a shot with him as his ceiling still hasn’t been reached. I think he can still improve his mobility and his outside jumper is an intriguing aspect in the PNP and PNR of the NBA today. For me, I just think it makes way too much sense to go for the more secure NIL money that is sitting on the table for Edey. We’ve seen he can be a brand in Canada and that could mean lots of money for him there.
Zach’s a smart dude with a great support system. I think they’ll all get together after the his NBA work outs, see that he’s going to be a mid to late second round pick and return to Purdue to continue working on his game. Right now, Purdue or Europe are his best basketball options.
I think during the season i thought it was a sure fire bet he was gone. There really was not much more he could prove and while that is still kind of true my gut is saying he comes back. I think he could make some roster in the NBA but they will probably want him to expand his game and while Painter hasn’t always been the most flexible coach, I would assume he would allow Edey to work on that. And if Kravitz’s article was correct that he made close to 1 million in NIL, then he could come back and make more at Purdue then he will probably get in the NBA right now. Especially if they can get his visa changed.
Another thing that kind of stuck to me is he didn’t dismiss Purdue in his interviews. I remember Carsen saying right after the tournament that there was no way he was coming back. So if Edey is leaving the door open and maybe feels he has some unfinished business after March Madness was cancelled this year, then we may just get another season out of our NPOY.
Whether Zach wants to come back will come down to what he wants from his career. But in the past, purely from an economic perspective, staying for another year could not possibly make sense. By staying another year, not only were you forgoing a year of paid play over unpaid play, but you were undoubtedly diminishing your draft stock. God forbid a player drop from the guaranteed deals of the first-round picks to the not structured, non-guaranteed 2nd round. Because of this, despite my driving love of Purdue and general apathy towards the NBA, I could never fault someone for going when the chance presented itself.
However, this is 2023. And in 2023, college athletes can make money on use of their Name, Image, and likeness. And in an era in Indiana sports when the Colts haven’t won a playoff game since 2018 and the Pacers haven’t been a real contender since Paul George left, Zach Edey might legitimately be the most recognizable face in Indiana sports (being a giant definitely doesn’t hurt). With the rookie minimum in the NBA being around $1 Million, it is easily conceivable that an NIL package could be put together in excess of those numbers. Should Purdue’s NIL programs take significant strides, there is no reason that Zach Edey shouldn’t be the highest paid player in the history of college basketball, as strange of a sentence as that may be.
The risk shouldn’t be ignored. By staying, Zach’s draft stock would fall. Make no mistake, he cannot improve his draft stock by staying, regardless of whether he develops a shaky jump shot or not. Having said that, if he wasn’t going to be drafted in the first round anyway, then after his potential rookie deal expired, unless he had carved out a role for himself with a team, that’s the end anyway. So if that year of NBA development vs. college development wouldn’t make the difference between a significant second NBA contract or not, then it’s conceivable that staying for a senior year could change his economic outlook for the better.
My point in all of this is that it’s an unprecedented time in college basketball, where financially speaking, it’s not at all obvious that leaving for the NBA would actually result in more earnings in the long term. So from that perspective, could I see Zach coming back? Absolutely. But this is all coming from the mind of a guy who works more with numbers than people, and that all really depends on what Zach really wants: to have a better shot at a decent NBA career, or have a chance to be the greatest college basketball player of all time.