Lockout would discourage early entrants

Would Harrison Barnes jump to the NBA if a lockout threatened next season? AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Our own Larry Coon did a great job of looking at some of the potential ramifications of a lockout next summer.

Here's another one. It could utterly destroy the 2011 NBA draft.

"We're really worried," one NBA GM told ESPN.com. "The lifeblood of any draft is the underclassmen, and our scouts are hearing that many of them won't declare if there's a chance of a long lockout next year. Why go into the draft if you won't be paid and won't be allowed to play? Better to go back to college."

Dick Vitale would be happy, but a number of NBA executives are legitimately concerned. This year, the first 22 players selected in the draft were underclassmen. In our most recent 2011 Top 100, only two of the top 25 prospects are college seniors.

No one is going to get too excited if Duke's Kyle Singler and Morehead State's Kenneth Faried are the two top players in the draft -- well, except Singler and Faried.

Even agents are sweating it.

"I think it's a big reason why NBA owners may think twice about a lockout," one prominent agent said. "Most of the young kids that opt out are looking for the money and the ability to play in the NBA. They don't have a nest egg to live off. A few will come, but a lot are going to say, 'Another year of college can't hurt me.'"

The concerns aren't held by everyone, however. "I think people are overreacting," one team executive said. "Some of these kids will be able to get money from agents, endorsements or whatever. They aren't going to starve. If they're ranked high, they take a big risk by going back to school. A lockout that lasts an entire year is a worst-case scenario. Losing a month or two of ball won't kill them."