NBA Draft Decision Day Winners and Losers: Wisconsin wins, USC loses
Oregon and Nova also came away as winners, while Stanford and Seton Hall both had a rough day
This day has been coming from the moment the NCAA instituted its new rules in January allowing student athletes to test their draft stock and get feedback from the NBA provided they don't hire an agent.
Decision day. Deadline day. Whatever you want to call it, it's been a pretty interesting insight into how the rules have worked in regard to helping NCAA basketball players make a decision as to whether or not they feel they are ready to move on to the next level and the professional ranks.
As always when there are tough decisions to be made, there are going to be winners and losers. Here's a quick rundown on some of the more important decisions over the last few days, and how it will positively or negatively affect either the player or college basketball next season.
The players themselves
As I wrote about at the combine, the players are almost unanimously in favor of this rule, regardless of whether they tested it or not. And thus far, it seems to have had the intended result. Through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, at least 45 players have tested their stock and announced their return to college next season, likely giving them a nice insight into what they can do to improve their games and a second look from NBA scouts. This rule has given them a chance to give the sometimes information-less players more information, and that's a positive thing.
No team got better news from a single player than Maryland did when Melo Trimble announced that he would return to school for his junior season. Maryland loses four other starters off of its Sweet 16 team this season -- Robert Carter, Jake Layman, Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon -- so it would have been basically a full-scale rebuild had Trimble decided to stay in the draft. Now, with Trimble there and a talented recruiting class incoming, the Terps will firmly have their sights set on returning to the NCAA Tournament and continuing this great run under Mark Turgeon. Trimble himself will look to rebound his stock after a late season swoon in his play caused by an injured hamstring and some confidence struggles. If he can get it back together, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him land in the first round in 2017.
Dana Altman and company got superb news on Wednesday, as Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey announced that they would be returning to school for their junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. The Ducks are genuinely a national title contender with those two in the fold. Chris Boucher decided not to test the process and will return for a second senior season after getting a waiver. Dylan Ennis may get another year of eligibility. Casey Benson and Kendall Small return, plus they bring in some solid recruits in M.J. Cage and Payton Pritchard. Without Brooks and Dorsey, this might have been a bit of a rebuild. But with them, they're probably the Pac-12 favorites.
Josh Hart gave coach Jay Wright and staff a great message on Tuesday when he tweeted out the phrase "one more year" to signify his return to the collegiate ranks. Hart was the best all-around player on Villanova's national championship team this season, with the ability to slash, hit shots from deep, rebound, and defend. He would have had a shot to be picked in the second round, but ultimately decided to pass on the opportunity to try and improve his stock and potentially lead the Cats back to the promised land.
Clemson Tigers/Brad Brownell
Seriously, did any coach get any better news than Brownell on Wednesday? Firmly on the hot seat, there was one player that Brownell needed to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth in 2016: Jaron Blossomgame. The Tigers and Brownell got the good news that Blossomgame will return around mid-day, and that'll put them directly in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth when they need it most. Blossomgame might end up being the ACC's player of the year in 2017 after passing up the chance to get drafted anywhere from the late first to late second round.
Purdue certainly still has some question marks in the back court after Kendall Stephens transferred and they picked up the occasionally injured Spike Albrecht, but there will be no such concerns in the frontcourt. The Boilermakers will have Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards back in the fold to pair with Isaac Haas. Edwards and Swanigan are the ones who declared for the draft. Swanigan very much considered staying before making the call to depart and return to West Lafayette. Edwards' stock was never quite as high as Swanigan's this time around although it's my view that he's the better long-term prospect due to his height, length, shooting and passing ability. Regardless, Purdue should be poised to make a run to the top of the Big Ten again if it can get solid guard play.
Nigel Hayes may not have had the best junior season or best NBA Draft Combine, but his return to the fold is still massively important to a Badgers' team that will have aspirations of winning the Big Ten. Hayes was the team's best player last season despite his rough shooting percentages, averaging nearly 16 points and six rebounds per game. If he can work to improve his shooting and efficiency, he'll have a chance to rise back into the first round of the draft, as his positional versatility is highly coveted by today's NBA.
Bentil has decided to keep his name in the draft after testing his NBA stock. He's got to be considered a winner here as his feedback seems to place him near the end of the first round or in the second round, which makes him likely to get a guaranteed contract next season. Given that his measurements were rather questionable heading into the process and could have tanked his stock a bit, it's nice that one of college basketball's best stories this season should end up being selected in the draft after a year of rapid improvement.
It's pretty hard to find a bigger loser through the pre-draft process in its entirety than the Trojans following the departures they've seen. First, point guard and leading Pac-12 assist man Julian Jacobs announced that he will sign with an agent and forego his season. He may or may not get selected. Then today, Nikola Jovanovic, the team's starting center, leading rebounder, and second leading scorer, decided to announce that he will also remain in the draft. The team is now down two starters from a team that made the tourney a year ahead of schedule in 2016. They still have a shot to be pretty good, but they've gone from potential top-15 team to outside of the top 25 because two players who probably will not be selected in the draft decided to leave school.
Seton Hall Pirates
There was no more singularly important player testing the pre-draft waters than Isaiah Whitehead was to the Pirates. He was the driving force behind their run to the Big East Tournament championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade, and he's now not going to be around next season after deciding to stay in the draft. Whitehead was legitimately one of the five best players in college basketball during the second half of last season, and would have been a preseason All-American next season. Now, he'll have a chance at being a late first round pick, and the Pirates will fall from being a top 15 potential team in the preseason to outside of the top 25. Kevin Willard's team will still have a good shot without Whitehead to make the Big Dance, but losing Whitehead is definitely difficult.
I wrote as the pre-draft process started that Newman had one of the toughest decisions of anyone. Return to a place where you weren't necessarily a great fit, or go pro and hope that a team likes you enough to select you in the second round. Well, apparently that decision isn't quite done yet. Newman decided to withdraw from the draft, but is apparently considered attending school elsewhere next season. This has basically been an impossible decision from the jump, and it's going to be interesting to see what Newman decides to do in the end.
Much like Newman, Lee was in a tough spot. Return to Kentucky where you've been recruited over, or stay in the draft and go unselected. Lee chose door number three, as the 6-10 forward will return to college and transfer to another school, electing to sit out a year so that he can get playing time as a senior. The environment at Kentucky is ruthless in terms of the necessary talent level needed to see the court regularly, and while Lee was a valuable piece, there are just simply some better players there. The NBA is even more unforgiving in terms of skill though, and Lee will need to improve his game before moving on to the next level if he wants to play in the NBA.
Ed Cooley is going to have one heck of a job ahead of him next season, as he not only lost Kris Dunn to the draft, but he also lost Bentil when the 6-8 forward decided to keep his name in the draft on Sunday. Bentil averaged around 20 points and seven rebounds last season, becoming the Robin to Dunn's Batman as the Friars went to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. Given that they may have been the most productive duo in college basketball last season, there is no coach who will have more to replace in a singular twosome than Cooley will without those two around. Bentil is considered a late first to early second round pick.
It's good that Jerod Haase is getting there this season and has some rope to play with in terms of his job, because he just lost his team's best player from last year. Rosco Allen averaged 15 points per game, and has decided to enter the 2016 NBA Draft despite very little in the way of evidence that he will be picked. Having said that though, he's 23 and was born in Hungary, so he'll have quite a robust market overseas if what is expected happens in terms of his draft stock. It makes sense for him to go given those factors. Still, Stanford losing Allen is a blow, and it'll hurt them next year.
UC Irvine/College Basketball
College basketball as a whole lost a fun piece of its puzzle on Wednesday as Mamadou Ndiaye decided to turn professional and keep his name in the draft. The 7-foot-6 center has been superb for coach Russell Turner since getting to Irvine, and he's also one of the nicest, most genuine people that you'll speak to in all of college basketball. It's tough to see him sticking in the NBA at this stage despite his 8-foot-3 wingspan, but hopefully he'll find a home for his particular, unique set of skills somewhere.
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