Since ESPN's Chad Ford released his NBA Mock Draft 3.0, San Diego State Aztecs fans have been in somewhat of a frenzy. That's because Malik Pope, the freshman who's started the same number of games under Steve Fisher as he played in his final two years of high school, made the list at No. 16.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. No one really thinks he's going to the NBA, right?
Last tweet, my bro #5 on SCTop 10..! #LEAGUEHIM
— The Animal (@1KingZ4) February 18, 2015
Baby snipe is READY @IceBiggie_GBWE !!!! 916 !!
— Xavier Thames (@Xthames2) February 18, 2015
Ok, so a couple people do apparently. Let's argue both sides.
If you're the old-fashioned type and you're breaking out a pen and pad so you can scribble out a Pros and Cons list, taking a look at this salary breakdown for the 2015-2016 NBA season is about all you need to jot down in the former category. If Pope gets picked up at No. 16, he'll be $1,520,300 richer by season's end. If he's making this much noise after two breakout games and a few head-turning dunks, imagine what he can do to his stock when the whole world is watching him during the NCAA Tournament.
Six-foot-10 kids who can dribble and shoot don't come around too often. Pope sat out his junior and senior seasons of high school and wasn't fully incorporated in team practices until last November. To skip some of the most important developmental years of your basketball life and work yourself into this position is straight up freakish -- and he even still has a little bit of rust.
Whether he's ready for the NBA or not doesn't really matter. What's one season in the Mountain West compared to an NBA Summer League, training camp, and all the unworldly strength and conditioning work that goes on in between?
On the other hand, imagine an SDSU starting five consisting of Trey Kell, Zylan Cheatham (check twitter for Vines of his pre-game 360s), Winston Shepard, Skylar Spencer, and Pope as your stretch four.
If you've heard the collective gasp inside Viejas Arena when he touches the ball in the open court, you know how special he's become in the hearts of Aztec fans in his short time here. Another year on the Mesa and he'll be an absolute star on and off the basketball court. The Aztecs would return next season as the conference favorite and who knows, maybe by the time March rolls around they're poised for a Final Four run.
But what's all that do for Malik? There's no amount of defensive instruction from coach Fisher that Pope can't get while in a professional organization. Sure, he's listed as 6-foot-10, 205 pounds, but those are measurements from last summer. Its hard to notice 15 or even 10 pounds on a lanky frame that you never catch a glimpse of from within 20 feet.
The difference between the 16th pick and the sixth pick in the upcoming NBA draft is about $1.5 million per year, which is more cash than I'll probably ever see. It's money that he could very well earn by staying another year in college, but it's also money that can easily be made back after he signs an endorsement deal with Jordan and does a few Samsung commercials.