College basketball players testing their professional stock has placed their NCAA programs in a sort of waiting period. Some have argued that it's unfair for college players to leave their programs in limbo, while others believe it is a worthwhile endeavor to allow college kids to get more accurate readings of their draft stock.
Personally, I tend to fall on the side of it being good for these kids to get the information. But undoubtedly, these decisions will have an affect on the college basketball landscape next season. After all, most of the prospects on the NBA Draft's early entry list are the best players on each of their teams.
Some are more valuable to their respective current collegiate situation than others, though. Players' decisions like the upcoming ones for Josh Hart, Chinanu Onuaku and Jaron Blossomgame will undeniably have massive impacts next season. Particularly, in the case of Blossomgame, his choice could be the difference between whether or not Brad Brownell gets another season beyond the 2016-17 campaign.
But even more than Blossomgame and others, there are three players I'm currently looking at who could really swing the fortunes of their teams and of college basketball as a whole.
It took people until March to realize it, but Whitehead was one of the 10 best players in the country over the last three months of the college basketball season. Over that period, Whitehead averaged 20.2 points and 5.6 assists per game with a 54.8 true-shooting percentage while leading Seton Hall to a Big East Tournament championship. Basically, he finally fulfilled his potential of leading the Pirates' program back to the promised land of college basketball.
Now, coach Kevin Willard and company are in the midst of a waiting period to see where Whitehead's draft stock will fall. He's right in the mix along with a group of about 30 players jockeying for a spot at the back end of the first round. On the plus side, Whitehead has improved as a shooter, begun to limit his turnovers a bit more, and become a good defender. On the downside though, he really struggles to finish inside the arc and kind of falls in between the point guard and off-guard positions. Whether or not he returns will be dependent on how he performs in pre-draft interviews, in workouts, and at the combine in Chicago.
And until that gets determined, Willard and company will be on pins and needles. With Whitehead, the Pirates are probably a top 15 team entering the season next year as they return everyone outside of Derrick Gordon. Without him though, the Pirates will have to make up a lot of offense and will do that from outside of the top 25 to start the season. Pretty major difference there for the Pirates with or without the Brooklyn product.
Last season, Trimble was expected to take college basketball by storm, become an All-American, and lead the Terps on a deep NCAA Tournament run. However, Mark Turgeon and company ended up falling just slightly short of that goal, and it had a bit to do with Trimble.
While the 21-year-old sophomore did do a lot of things really well for Maryland last year -- he improved immensely as a distributor and became a bit more of a reliable defender -- unfortunately he ended up regressing from his terrific freshman season. Despite slightly upping his usage on a team with more weapons, Trimble really struggled with his jump shot, which ended up affecting other aspects of his offensive game. He didn't seem nearly as confident when attacking the paint, and drew fouls at a lower rate this season than last. His true-shooting percentage plummeted from a staggering 62.8 to 56.6 mark this season and his turnover rate rose.
Still, it's a credit to Trimble that we're talking about a season where he averaged nearly 15 points and five assists a game as a bit of a downturn. He's terrific in the pick-and-roll, and would seem to be the kind of guy that NBA teams would like to have as an offensive weapon, at the very least off the bench. He's in that same mix with Whitehead right now, among a large group battling for around 10 spots at the end of the first round. If he chooses to stay in the draft, Maryland will need to start over as they'll lose all five starters on their Sweet 16 team this year. If he returns to Maryland, the Terps will be a projected NCAA Tournament team.
Ben Bentil | F | Providence (No. 40 on the Big Board)
Bentil isn't necessarily as high-profile as Trimble or Whitehead, but he has just as good of a chance to land in the first round when things are all said and done. The Friars' forward was one of the major breakout players in college basketball this season, averaging 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds while helping Kris Dunn lead Providence to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That performance led to Bentil declaring for the draft, likely a couple of years before Providence coach Ed Cooley expected when he recruited him.
Cooley will be in a bit of a tough situation if Bentil leaves, as there was arguably not another two player combination in the entirety of college basketball as vital as Bentil and Dunn were to their team. Losing both to the NBA in a single season would mean that Providence would enter a bit of a rebuild after making three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. If he doesn't return, it's hard to see Providence making it four years in a row. If he does, that's very much back in play. What the decision will come down to is how Bentil performs in workouts and at the combine. Particularly, Bentil's measurements will be vital. Is he actually 6-9? Exactly how long are his arms, and do they make up for a potential lack of height? Will he test explosively enough to have better potential at finishing inside, as he struggled there occasionally this season?
Bentil has quite a few questions, but like the two players above him he's right in that mix near the end of the first round. His offensive ability in the pick-and-roll/pop should translate, as should his mobility both on offense and defense. Also, Bentil will interview well with teams, as he's a thoughtful, intelligent kid who works extremely hard at his game. He'll need to show that he can provide better ability on the glass and defensively, but there is definitely a place for a guy like Bentil if he can do that. There's also definitely a place for him in college basketball if he can do that, too, and Providence fans will likely be hoping they get to see him do it again next season.