This is not what Syracuse fans want to think about right now. The silver lining to SU’s recent woes has been the Dior Johnson commitment for 2022. Not only was the plan for Johnson to shine on the Hill, but also for him to bring fellow premier prospects with him. The reasonable fear is that Johnson and others will forego college to play in the NBA’s developmental G-League out of high school.
ESPN’s 1st and 13th ranked prospects Jalen Green, a combo guard, and Isiah Todd, a power forward, are paving the way for Johnson, a verbal commit to the Orange. The revamped G-League development program will pay each prospect $500 thousand to train with NBA veterans and play exhibition games against G-League teams, foreign national teams and NBA academies. Previously, high school players would have made just $125 thousand in the G-League.
The league hopes this will be a more attractive alternative for players who want to earn money out of high school. 2019 five-star recruits R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball played in Oceana’s National Basketball League before declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.
Johnson is ranked 13th on ESPN’s 2022 Recruiting Database. He has not commented on the prep-to-pro revolution beyond retweeting a story about the increased salaries.
The most obvious way this could affect Syracuse is losing Johnson and any other recruits he might bring with him. On the other hand, high-caliber high school players foregoing college means they also won’t be suiting up for the top-tier rival programs like Duke, Florida State and North Carolina. The Orange recruit for the system, not solely for talent. Therefore, if Syracuse can bring in lengthy players to highlight the zone, and other ACC programs struggle to fill a talented roster, SU might benefit from what seems to be a death sentence for the NCAA as we know it.
That trend might have already begun. Green had Florida State towards the top of his list.
However, the true impact this will have on Syracuse and the rest of college basketball comes down to whether or not the G-League prepares prospects for the NBA better than college. The answer will be determined on the night of the 2021 NBA Draft. If Todd and Green fall on the draft board, then maybe the $500 thousand is not worth the risk of skipping college in the long run.
Ironically, Darius Bazley was ranked 13th on ESPN’s 2018 Recruiting Database before skipping Syracuse. He skipped the G-League as well, and prepared for the draft all year. The former five-star was selected 23rd overall, and averaged a modest 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in his rookie season. Bazley still has plenty of time to blossom into the star everyone expected him to be, but his stat line shows that the prep-to-pro track is still unproven.
The good news for Syracuse is that they only have to worry about Johnson. No other SU target is regarded as a possible G-Leaguer out of high school. Other schools are in a much worse position than the Orange because the domino effect is supposed to begin soon. Expect more high school players to skip school and cash in soon.