For all the times coaches, executives and media members lament college prospects leaving too early to start their NBA careers, there are also instances where returning for another collegiate season winds up costing a player some money.
Take the case of Texas A&M big man Robert Williams. He was projected to be a top 10 pick after averaging a modest 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds as a freshman in 2016-17. Scouts liked his explosive leaping ability at 6'10", 240 pounds, and figured his offensive skills would continue to expand with more drill work and better coaching at the NBA level.
Instead, Williams decided to return to College Station for his sophomore season and looked even more unpolished on the offensive end when he was asked to move out of the post to make room for fellow big man Tyler Davis. Williams put up comparable numbers this past season, averaging 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds, and he did improve his shooting percentage from .558 to .632.
Problem is, most of those shot attempts were alley-oop dunks and putbacks. Williams failed to develop any consistent low post moves last summer, and seemed to be lost playing in the shadow of the more offensively talented Davis.
Still, Williams showed off enough raw athletic ability that he has a decent shot at being selected late in the lottery this June.
The Clippers hold back to back picks at 12 and 13, and there's a chance the Clips could lose veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency (although Jordan will have a difficult time topping his 24.1 million dollar player option for next season). Doc Rivers' team might not be known as "Lob City" any more with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul no longer around as headliners, but adding an explosive athlete like Williams could make sense at that point in the draft.
Is Williams a possible fit for the Bulls? Not likely, unless he somehow falls to the pick they acquired from the Pelicans, which is No. 22 overall. The Bulls could consider drafting a developmental big at that point since both Robin Lopez and Omer Asik are entering the last year of their contracts (Asik has a $3 million buyout for 2019-20), leaving Cristiano Felicio as the only true center on the roster.
Don't be surprised if the Bulls look at a possible international draft and stash prospect (Dzanan Musa or Rodions Kurucs, both small forwards) at No. 22 with so many young players already on the roster.
With the NBA again talking about eliminating the one-and-done rule (perhaps as early as the 2020 draft), players like Williams and Michigan State's Miles Bridges might find themselves getting over-drafted right out of high school based on potential alone. But that's a discussion for another day.
The 2018 draft will provide another lesson that it's dangerous to assume players will automatically get better by spending an extra season or two competing on the college level.