The 5 most important players yet to decide to withdraw or stay in the NBA Draft
Here are the five singular judgment calls keeping coaches and fans in limbo
The Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA Draft order is officially set.and the
College basketball, meanwhile, is about to endure more significant changes in the coming days. The NCAA's deadline for players who are testing the waters of the draft process to decide whether to leave or return to school for good is May 24 -- 10 days after the completion of the NBA pre-draft combine. There are still 15-20 true Division I difference-makers that have not pulled the trigger yet, and many coaches are anxiously in wait-and-see mode.
The infrastructure of college basketball will be tweaked in the coming week based off the decisions. These are the five most interesting and probably five most important.
Caleb Swanigan , Purdue Boilermakers
Really, it's Caleb and then everyone else. He's by far the best college player who has not made a decision. Swanigan was a top-three player in college basketball last season. Rare is the case, in the past two decades, where a top-three college basketball player has decided to return to school after such a monstrous season. It would be a boon to the sport if he opted to come back.
The fact he has not officially signed with an agent and put his Purdue days behind him is a surprise to me, but then again, he's clearly not getting feedback yet that indicates he's a sure thing for a top-25 pick. (Why that is, I have no idea either.) Swanigan coming back to Purdue would mean he'd be a near-consensus pick for preseason national player of the year. He would immediately validate Purdue as a top-15 team, and thanks to the return of Isaac Haas , Purdue would have one of the best frontcourts in college hoops. Plus, Swanigan coming back, if it were to actually happen, might induce Vincent Edwards to do the same. A lot riding on this decision, but I think we've seen the last of him in a Boilermakers uniform.
Tony Bradley , North Carolina Tar Heels
Bradley Braves isn't a household name by any means, but he's got such a tough call here because he projects as a nice pro player vs. what little we saw of him last season. If he goes, he's going to get picked in the top 40, I have to believe. That's tempting, and he's absolutely going to be picked off potential. But if he returns, he could play himself into being a top-20 player in college hoops, and if that happened, he'd probably be a lottery lock in 2018. More money, weaker draft, so what do you do?
Bradley's decision could be helped by the fact that Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson have already announced they're returning to Chapel Hill. If Bradley cares about being a UNC legend, him coming back for a sophomore season would put UNC's chances at repeating officially on the table. Bradley would become the guy in the paint, as Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have graduated. The Tar Heels would have to be considered one of the five or six best teams in college basketball entering the season if he comes back.
Hamidou Diallo , Kentucky Wildcats
Such a fascinating call, because the general public has no idea who this kid is or how he plays. The only ones who've seen him in person are college coaches, writers who cover the summer circuit and basically anyone who attended his AAU games the past two years. There's a lot of myths around Diallo at the moment, which is something he should probably parlay into his decision. For Diallo, the combine might have been a life-changer. He tested well, and at this point he might be worth a first-round pick.
So does Diallo opt to never play a college game and bolt to the NBA if a team gives him a first round guarantee? It might the better call. If not, he returns to Kentucky and will be part of a preseason top-10 team that will be the youngest John Calipari has ever coached. What he does next season in Lexington is certainly to be determined, because UK will have Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt Commodores both coming in and capable of averaging 15 points. Kentucky would be much better suited with Diallo than without, but at this point I think Cal is prepping for him not to return.
Rawle Alkins , Arizona Wildcats
I'm very in on Alkins having a breakout season if he comes back. He averaged 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in a talented Arizona team that won 32 games. Alkins would again be part of a loaded Wildcats squad, but I think he'd wind up being second on the team in scoring (behind Allonzo Trier ). Alkins had a good showing at the combine. He's a terrific athlete and in a fun spot: He's set up to be a tangible impact player at the college level, or he could take his chances with the NBA and trust that his athleticism and acumen will keep him in the league.
His decision is particularly important for Arizona because, if he doesn't come back, the Wildcats will have to aggressively pursue Brian Bowen, one of two five-star players still uncommitted. It's fair to deduce that Bowen is, in part, waiting to see what Alkins does before making his move.
Deng Adel , Louisville Cardinals
This one's a biggie. Louisville already lost Donovan Mitchell to the NBA, something that was anticipated, but still stings. The Cardinals' chances at being a preseason No. 1 team went out the window when Mitchell made it official (this after Jaylen Johnson made his choice to leave U of L). But in Adel, Louisville could be a Final Four hopeful so long as he returns.
Adel would have a good shot at averaging between 15 and 18 points for the Cards next season. He's a lean wing, a 6-foot-7 multifaceted offensive threat. Louisville could really use him. I think he comes back. If it happens, the Cardinals will have Ray Spalding , Quentin Snider , Anas Mahmoud , V.J. King and Ryan McMahon all returning as well. Without Adel, I wouldn't rate Louisville as a top-20 team. I think he means that much. Rick Pitino's team will again be near the top grade on defense. Offensively, Adel is the critical element.
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