Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
LSU junior guard Brandon Sampson's departure for the NBA draft is a better idea than it appears on the surface.

Why Brandon Sampson’s decision to try NBA draft is right choice

Alex Hickey

SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryLSU@bigahickey or by email to Alex at

Question of the Day: Wednesday, April 11

LSU guard Brandon Sampson is hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA draft. Needless to say it was a surprise move coming from a player who didn’t crack the starting lineup on a team that went to the NIT.

It also raises an obvious question.

Is Brandon Sampson making a mistake by leaving early for the NBA draft?

On the surface, the answer is a seemingly obvious yes. Sampson isn’t getting drafted. Antonio Blakeney, a better scorer with a more refined game, didn’t get drafted last year.

But there is more to this case than meets the eye.

Sampson averaged 18.9 minutes per game this season, and with heralded guard Ja’Vonte Smart arriving at LSU next season, those numbers were going to get crunched even further. Sure, Will Wade occasionally might put together a four-guard lineup. But next season’s front court is solid. Newcomers Kavell Bigby-Williams, Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams will get serious minutes. If Wade wants his best five on the floor, it’s often going to be that trio plus Smart and Tremont Waters.

Sampson is doing the smart thing here. The best choices for his future were either declaring for the draft or going the transfer route and starring for a smaller program as a senior.

In his case, that most likely equates to a season of toiling in the G-League, the NBA’s version of Triple-A. But the goal of the G-League is player development, making it more likely that Sampson will get the attention he needs to grow his game to an NBA level than he would have gotten as a bench player at LSU.

Though he made an ideal sixth man — Sampson is capable of getting hot in a hurry — the Tigers will be fine without him. Senior Daryl Edwards already is the team’s best defensive player and could be a dangerous weapon off the bench with more consistency as a shooter. Brandon Rachal also showed spurts as a freshman, and is perfect for the spark-plug role that teams need when things are stagnant on the floor.

And then there’s the fact LSU now has another scholarship to add to a signing class that’s already in the top five nationally. Look for Wade to find a junior college or graduate transfer to fill Sampson’s void.

LSU fans should wish Sampson the best of luck in his future endeavors. Both parties involved may end up finding this decision beneficial.

To see prior answers to our Question of the Day, we have you covered.