Teams hope to find replacements for early-entry departures
With the early-entry deadline passing, it's time to look at some possible replacements for NBA-bound players.
While there are still literally hundreds of transfers left to be hashed out, the time to really look toward the next college basketball season occurs in the days following the NBA Draft deadline. And that deadline came on Sunday night, when the final few names sent in their paperwork and gave up the rest of their college eligibility.
While the complete list won’t be known for a few days – there’s always a couple random guys that put their names in for whatever reason – all the notable players have made their decision. Gary Parrish will look at the winners and losers, but it’s also time to look at the next step for the schools losing big names. Where will they turn? Is someone ready to fill the void?
First, the schools that lost more than one player to early-entry:
UCLA – Lost: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine
Adams changing his mind and deciding to enter the draft late on Saturday night really changed the Bruins for next season. With him in the fold, Steve Alford would have had one of the best pure scorers in the country, a player capable of getting baskets in a variety of ways. Now, UCLA is without three of its top four scorers – including the irreplaceable Kyle Anderson. Former UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton will be counted on as a ball-handler and a scorer, and much of the offense will fall on his shoulders. Rising sophomore Bryce Alford also will take on more responsibility, and UCLA will likely go with a bigger lineup – led by five-star recruit Kevon Looney in the frontcourt.
Michigan – Lost: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas
It won’t be easy to replace all three players, even though McGary only played eight games this past season and Robinson III was up and down for the first two-thirds of the season. Moreover, with the losses of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford down low, John Beilein is looking at a difficult task. This is now Caris LeVert’s team, as the rising junior will look to build off his breakout sophomore season and become a go-to-guy. Rising sophomore Zak Irvin will also have to be more consistent on the wing. Up front, there aren’t many options – and freshman Kameron Chatman will have to make an impact right off the bat.
Kansas – Lost: Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins
Losing two of the top three picks in the draft is never easy, but Bill Self is perfectly suited to overcome the departures. To replace Embiid, Self is bringing in big man Cliff Alexander – a different type of post player, but one that will be ready to put up 15 and 10 right off the bat. Alexander is going to be a dominant force from day one. Self is also still involved with top-five prospect Myles Turner. And on the perimeter, top-10 recruit Kelly Oubre steps in for Wiggins. One NBA scout called Oubre the most talented player in the class, and his development at both ends of the floor will make the transition much easier for the Jayhawks.
Arizona – Lost: Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson
The Wildcats will be a top-five team despite the losses – as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski all decided to return to Tucson. In terms of replacing Gordon and Johnson, Sean Miller will look first to Hollis-Jefferson to take on a bigger role. He has as much versatility as Gordon, and his ability to make things happen off broken plays and loose balls is impressive. Incoming freshman Stanley Johnson will occupy Nick Johnson’s former spot in the starting lineup. He’s not a similar player, but he’s consistently productive and is strong enough to get to the rim and finish against most defenders.
Duke – Lost: Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker
The Blue Devils were prepared to lose both players, and before Kentucky saw a handful of NBA prospects return to Lexington, they were the No. 1 team in our preseason rankings. Even without Hood and Parker, Duke likely doesn’t slide past No. 2 come October. Mike Krzyzewski brings in the nation’s best recruiting class, and the lineup will have a different look than last season. There won’t be like-for-like replacements, as Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor sliding into the lineup will push other players into Hood and Parker’s spots in the lineup. Jones will be one of the best point guards in the country, and Okafor is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
Kentucky – Lost: Julius Randle, James Young
The “lost” list was expected to be much longer, but since Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee decided to come back to school, Kentucky will be the preseason No. 1 team in the country. John Calipari has two top-10 recruits ready to replace Randle: Trey Lyles and Karl Towns. Both are very good offensive players, capable of stepping out and knocking down shots or scoring with their backs to the basket. The wing will be more problematic for Kentucky, as Poythress will have to make the full-time transition to the 3.
Syracuse – Lost: Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant
Heading into the season, I’m not sure how many people thought the Orange would be losing both players to the NBA early. However, Ennis became one of the best point guards in the country and Grant blew up as a sophomore. And now Jim Boeheim will have to rely on unproven freshmen and role players. The only point guard on the roster is incoming freshman Kaleb Joseph, a player who was expected to have a year of development behind Ennis. Joseph is very talented, but his pure point guard abilities are still raw. Up front, there is no shortage of options – but who will step up? Look for rising sophomore Tyler Roberson to get the first shot, although DaJuan Coleman’s return from injury and the maturation of incoming freshman Chris McCullough could impact how Boeheim uses his lineup.
Missouri – Lost: Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson
The Tigers also lost their head coach, so there are some major questions in Columbia heading into the 2014-15 season. Missouri relied very heavily on Brown, Clarkson and Earnest Ross, who used up his eligibility – and now all three are gone. Rising sophomore Wes Clark will be the primary ball-handler next season. He played well in spots last season, but was also suspended for the two NIT games due to a violation of team rules. In terms of scoring, there isn’t much help for the Tigers. Baylor transfer Deuce Bello is more of an athlete than someone who can create his own shot, while incoming JUCO recruit Kevin Punter might look elsewhere for his next stop. Freshman Namon Wright can fill it up in a hurry, and he might take on a bigger role than originally expected.
UNLV – Lost: Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith
The Runnin’ Rebels were positioned to withstand one of their two big men leaving, but both players departing puts Dave Rice in a tough position. There just isn’t much interior talent on the roster. Incoming freshman Goodluck Okonoboh is a dominant shot-blocker, but his offense is still developing. Rising sophomore Christian Wood showed flashes of being a pick-and-pop four – although he needs to add strength to be a full-time starter. Both players would be well-suited to have a year to develop. But outside of those two, there isn’t much in the way of post players. Five-star prospect Dwayne Morgan might have to play some power forward as opposed to his natural spot as a 3.
And now a quick look at six schools that lost one huge name to the pro ranks – and could have trouble replacing him:
Arizona State (Jahii Carson): The Sun Devils’ offense revolved so much around Carson, and Herb Sendek has to hope either freshman Tra Holder or JUCO transfer Garry Blakes can run the show from day one.
Colorado (Spencer Dinwiddie): We already got a taste of how much the Buffaloes missed Dinwiddie when he was injured the last two months of the season. Freshman Dominique Collier will have a lot of pressure on him.
Indiana (Noah Vonleh): The Hoosiers played well late in the season, but the loss of Vonleh is a major hit in the frontcourt. Indiana looked for big men replacements throughout the class of 2014, but nothing really popped. The Hoosiers’ post play will be lacking in 2014-15.
North Carolina State (T.J. Warren): Warren did everything for the NC State offense, and now he’s gone – leaving Mark Gottfried in some trouble, scoring-wise. Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey can shoulder some of the load, but it’s some big shoes to fill.
Oklahoma State (Marcus Smart): Combined with the losses of Markel Brown and Brian Williams, the Cowboys are primed to take a step back next season. JUCO transfer Jeff Newberry is likely first in line to get the rock.
Xavier (Semaj Christon): The Musketeers will have options, but no one is going to be as dynamic as Christon. He was a playmaker who could get into the lane whenever he wanted. Freshman small forward Trevon Bluiett has to be a scorer.
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