The deadline for early entry players to withdraw from the 2023 NBA Draft has come and gone. In total, 108 players notified the NBA that they would be withdrawing for draft consideration and giving their respective schools a boost by returning for the 2023-24 season.
A handful of players waited until the final hours of the deadline to announce their decision on whether to stay in the draft or return to school. One of them was Purdue big man Zach Edey, who is coming off a terrific season with the Boilermakers that saw him win the CBS Sports National Player of the Year award. With Edey in the fold, Purdue becomes an instant national championship contender and Edey will be a heavy favorite to repeat as the NPOY.
The 2024 NBA Draft is not considered to be as top heavy with talent as this year's draft will be. One of the players on the list who projects as a riser is Grant Nelson. The former North Dakota State big man doesn't have a home yet for next season and elected to enter the transfer portal during the pre-draft process. He already has multiple suitors in line for his services and an announcement on where he will play next season could come soon.
These 10 players will have a chance to improve their stock the most and become potential first-round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft if their respective 2023-24 seasons go according to plan.
Jaden Akins, Michigan State
Tom Izzo got a major boost hours before the early entry withdrawal deadline when Akins and A.J. Hoggard announced they were both returning to school this season. The Spartans return five of their top six scorers this season and have two five-star prospects in Xavier Booker and Jeremy Fears coming into the program. Akins this past season averaged 9.8 points and shot an impressive 42.2% from behind the arch. Akins was considered to be in the mid/late second-round range if he kept his name in the draft. If Akins can improve his playmaking and finishing around the basket this season, returning to MSU will prove to be the right decision. Akins strongest attribute is his ability on catch-and-shoot jumpers. among all college players last season in that department.
Bona injured his shoulder in the Pac-12 Tournament and missed the championship game against Arizona as well as the Bruins' first round game against UNC Asheville. Bona returned to play against Northwestern the following game, but clearly wasn't at 100% and missed UCLA's Sweet 16 contest against Gonzaga. Bona was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and also landed on the Pac-12 All-Defensive team after averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23 minutes per game. Bona will have a larger role with the Bruins this season after the team lost Amari Bailey, Tyger Campbell, Jaylen Clark and Jamie Jaquez Jr. to the NBA Draft. Bona profiles as a high-level defender at the next level and another strong (and healthy) season in Westwood will push him into first-round consideration.
Zach Edey, Purdue
Edey faced an uphill climb to get drafted this summer had he elected to stay in the draft. The reigning consensus national player of the year doesn't profile as an elite NBA talent because of the evolution of the modern NBA. Edey is a back-to-the-basket big man who dominated the college game last season. The 7-4 center averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in his first season as a starter. Edey ranked No. 72 on CBS Sports' big board prior to his withdrawal from the draft. Another season as a full-time starter will certainly boost his draft stock. Edey will have a shot at redemption after his team became the second No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Virginia was the last team that lost in the first round of the tournament as a No. 1 seed and they won the national championship the following season.
Another shocker prior to the deadline was Hawkins and fellow teammate Terrence Shannon Jr. electing to return to Illinois for one final season. Both players were considered to be selected in the early second-round if they stayed in the draft. Hawkins profiles as a two-way forward at the next level and showed flashes of being able to stretch the floor despite only shooting 28% from beyond the arc. Hawkins has already shown an ability to guard every position on the floor and averaged a team-leading 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His versatility as a defender coupled with improved shooting numbers could help him soar into first-round consideration next summer.
DaRon Holmes, Dayton
The 2023 NBA Draft could see only a handful of true centers drafted and Holmes would've been in the mix had he kept his name in the draft. The 6-10 big man worked out with a handful of NBA teams and would've had another with the Sacramento Kings if his flight didn't get canceled. Holmes showed drastic improvements from a strong freshman campaign this past season and averaged 18.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. His ability to finish at the rim is one of the strongest aspects of his game and his 89 dunks last season was second of all Division l players. Holmes shot 14.3% from the 3-point line as a freshman and that number skyrocketed to a respectable 31.6% last season. Holmes making another leap as a shooter from beyond the arch will help his stock tremendously.
Jones made the most of his last minute invite to the G League Elite Camp and was one of only eight players from the showcase to receive an invite to the NBA Draft Combine the following week. Jones showed his ability last season as an elite defensive rebounder and led the nation in that statistical category. Despite very strong showings at both events, Jones elected to return to Weber State. The Wildcats should be an early contender for the Big Sky title and the team returns all five starters. Jones last season averaged 16.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward will need to cut down on his turnovers (3.4 per game last season) in order to take the next step.
Lawrence didn't just pull his name out of NBA Draft consideration last month. He also removed his name from the transfer portal and elected to play another season under Jerry Stackhouse despite receiving heavy interest from Auburn, Georgia, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Miami and Memphis. He averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season and significantly improved his shooting from distance in his third season. He shot 20% from 3-point range during the 2021-22 season and raised that number to 36% on just under three attempts per game. Lawrence received a larger role and nearly doubled his minutes played from 15.1 during his sophomore season to 29 per game last season. Lawrence said at the NBA Draft Combine he 'wouldn't mind' going back to school. He got his wish and will have to improve his numbers to show it was the right decision to come back to school.
Mitchell attempted a grand total of zero 3-pointers during his freshman season at Texas but showed flashes of his shot making from distance during the NBA Draft Combine. The former five-star prospect will need to improve his offensive production and free throw shooting next season in Austin to receive first-round consideration. He received a limited role on a deep Texas roster as a true freshman and only averaged 17.4 minutes per game. His return to school will not only allow him to receive a bigger role but clear up any doubts about his ability to shoot at the next level. Mitchell's biggest strength is his athleticism and his size as a 6-8 forward. Returning to school for his sophomore season should prove to be a great decision for Mitchell's overall development.
Grant Nelson, TBD
Where will Nelson play next season? The former NDSU star is receiving looks from Baylor, Florida State, Iowa and Alabama among others and is the No. 3 ranked player in the college basketball transfer portal by 247Sports. The 6-11 forward is a mesmerizing prospect and will receive a different role wherever he elects to play his final college season. Nelson is a modern day point forward with a very solid handle. He shot 29.4% on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season and will need to improve that number to take his game to the next level. Nelson showed his athleticism during the NBA Combine but coming back for another season and playing well at a larger school will help his draft stock. Nelson would've likely gone undrafted or been a very late second-round pick had he stayed in the draft.
The 6-9 forward will return to Colorado for one final season and will be 23 years old come draft time next summer. He is a versatile forward that's improved his three-point shooting percentage every single season at the school. He shot 39.4% from distance on 3.9 attempts per game last season and that's considered one of his greatest strengths. He will need to improve his defense this season to take the next step as an elite prospect. He didn't receive an invite to the NBA Draft Combine last month, which signaled that his return to school would be likely. Colorado is projected as a top-25 team heading into the season and da Silva projects as the focal point.