Using recent history as a predictor, smart money remains on Marcus Smart to take the money.
That's what talented and highly projected underclassmen typically do.
Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and others did it last year. Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and many more exercised that right in the recent past.
But for every 10 who gladly skate down the professional path, there's an outlier who chooses to forgo the payday and remain an amateur, at least for a year. Ask those in the know, and they insist that's still a viable option for Smart.
So, as a guide, here's four examples of those rare cases, with differing results:
Player: Blake Griffin
Situation: After a stellar freshman season, where he averaged 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds, Griffin was viewed as a consensus top-10 pick, even creeping into the top three in some projections. His eye-popping athleticism screamed future NBA star. But Griffin held out, choosing to return to Norman for his sophomore season.
Quote: “Most college basketball players, their dream their whole life is to play in the NBA, to take it to the next level, take it to that next step. That is something that is hard to turn down. But at the same time, I know personally I wouldn't be content just with going to the NBA and just sitting on the bench watching other guys play." — Griffin said at the time
Result: As a seasoned sophomore, Griffin dominated the Big 12, upping his averages to 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds and easily snatching the National Player of the Year award. He declared for the NBA Draft after OU's season ended in the Elite Eight and was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. He's already a three-time All-Star with a five-year, $95 million contract.
Player: Jared Sullinger
Situation: Throughout that 2010-11 season, Sullinger was the talk of college basketball, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds for the 32-2 Ohio State Buckeyes (ranked No. 1 for a majority of the year). He won National Freshman of the Year (the same honor Marcus Smart recently received) and was projected as a high lottery pick. But Sullinger skipped the immediate payday and returned to OSU, citing a desire to avenge the Buckeyes disappointing Sweet 16 exit and win a national title.
Quote: “That's exactly why he's coming back. He's coming back because his goal is to win a national championship. He's won AAU and high school championships, and he wants to win a national championship.” — Satch Sullinger (Jared's father) to NYTimes.com at the time
Result: Ohio State went deeper in the tournament, eventually falling in the Final Four, but Sullinger didn't show great improvement. He averaged similar numbers (17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds) and showed a propensity for getting his shot blocked at the rim. His NBA stock plummeted, but Sullinger declared anyway, going 21st overall to the Celtics in the 2012 Draft. He's averaging 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in limited time this season.
Stock remained the same
Player: Harrison Barnes
Situation: Highly regarded out of high school, Barnes was solid but not overwhelming in his first season at North Carolina. However, his consistent production (15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds) and NBA body (6-foot-8, 210-pound wing) attracted professional scouts, with many projecting him in the top-10.
Quote: “He really had no wrong decision to choose, but I believe he is coming back to school because he enjoys college basketball, he enjoys the University of North Carolina and he enjoys his teammates. If he had decided to leave for the NBA, that would have been OK, too, because he will always be a Tar Heel. But it will certainly be a lot of fun to coach him again.” — UNC coach Roy Williams
Result: Barnes' sophomore season was a lot like his freshman one, complete with similar production (17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds) and an Elite Eight exit (one win away from the Final Four both years). And in conjunction, his stock essentially stayed the same, eventually landing in Golden State as the seventh pick in 2012. He averages 9.3 points and 4.0 rebounds for the playoff-bound Warriors.
Player: Sam Bradford
Situation: OU lost the 2009 national title game (24-14 to the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators), but a first round payday was already cemented in Sam Bradford's NFL future. He passed for 4,720 yards, 50 touchdowns and won the Heisman as a redshirt sophomore and many expected him to be the first quarterback selected. But Bradford surprised many, announcing his return to Norman for his junior season.
Quote: "I've dreamed about playing at Oklahoma since I was little. My three years here have been probably three of the best years of my life. ... I feel there's no need to cut this experience short." — Sam Bradford
Result: Bradford fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the 2009 opener against BYU, eventually resulting in season-ending surgery. It's the type of serious injury that strikes fear and stirs debate during the “should he stay or go?” scenarios. But this never hurt Bradford's stock. He went No. 1 overall in 2010, signing a six-year, $78 million contract with the Rams.