College basketball fans and North Carolina Tar Heels fans in particular, were probably happy to hear that freshman sensation Harrison Barnes announced on Monday that he's returning to school. He joins Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Baylor's Perry Jones as freshmen phenoms who passed up multimillion-dollar paydays to play in college for one more year.
But there were plenty of NBA general managers who weren't particularly jazzed to hear the news. One GM told ESPN.com's Chad Ford that without Barnes, Sullinger and Jones, the 2011 draft could be one of the weakest since 2000. (For the curious: Kenyon Martin was the top pick that year, and there wasn't a bona fide All-Star among the crop.)
While that might be bad news for NBA franchises desperate for a playmaker, it's great news for Kemba Walker, who catapulted from No. 9 on Ford's Big Board to No. 5 in light of the recent news.
Duke's Kyrie Irving is still the top-rated point guard, but Walker is No. 2, ahead of Kentucky's Brandon Knight (assuming he declares for the draft). But where a player is ranked and which team ultimately drafts him are usually two different conversations.
Looking at three NBA mock drafts, Walker will be selected anywhere from fourth (Wizards) to seventh (Pistons) to 13th (Suns).
Not surprisingly, draft position plays a huge role in salary. Using the 2010-2011 rookie wage scale numbers, here's how much Walker would make based on the mock drafts above.
* Fourth overall, 3-year salary: $10 million
* Seventh overall, 3-year salary: $7.5 million
* 13th overall, 3-year salary: $5.2 million
So if Washington ended up drafting Walker, he could expect to make between $2.5-$5 million more than if he had been taken by Detroit or Phoenix. And while Walker's ascent up draft boards in recent months has almost everything to do with his performance the last half of the college basketball season (and the Big East and NCAA Tournaments in particular), he will probably make a few million dollars more on his rookie deal because names like Barnes, Sullinger and Jones are returning to college.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, although in Walker's case, he has a history of both.