Potential late first-rounder Isaiah Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft


Isaiah Whitehead could have returned to school and been a preseason All-American.

Instead, he'll try his luck with the NBA Draft.

Late on Tuesday night, The Vertical reported that Whitehead will stay in the 2016 NBA Draft. Later, agent Andy Miller announced that Whitehead will sign with his agency in a statement to SNY.tv.

Whitehead had previously been testing the NBA Draft waters under new NCAA rules that allow prospects to return to school after going through the process if they don't like their feedback -- provided they do not hire an agent.

By hiring an agent, Whitehead is eschewing that ability and deciding that he is comfortable with his stock. Currently, that stock is in the late first to mid-second round range right now after Whitehead burst onto the scene in the second half of the 2016 college basketball season.

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Isaiah Whitehead has decided to stay in the NBA Draft USATSI

On the plus side, Whitehead averaged 18.2 points and 5.1 assists per game this season at Seton Hall while leading the team to its first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade. He was the catalyst for everything that happened on the floor, and during Big East play that was largely all good. Whitehead averaged 20 points and 5.5 assists, hit 42.6 percent of his 3-point attempts, and was generally efficient with his play in a way that he hadn't been early in his career.

However, that three-month stretch of play is largely Whitehead's only run of successful play in college, as through Dec. 31, Whitehead had a true-shooting percentage of 45.4 this season after posting a 44.9 rate last season. What NBA evaluators will have to figure out is this: did something actually click in Whitehead, or did he go through a hot shooting stretch that inflated that mark? The reason that's so important is because Whitehead really struggled to finish inside throughout his college career, only shooting 38.7 percent from 2-point distance. That's among the lowest marks for a legitimate NBA Draft prospect over the last decade, which is a scary proposition for teams looking to invest a high draft pick in him.

In some ways, Whitehead may have been better off waiting until after his junior year, consolidating his performance, and showing a bit of improvement in terms of finishing inside the arc. Kris Dunn has always been a better prospect than Whitehead due to his physical tools, but Whitehead could have made a similar leap into guaranteeing himself a first round pick had he performed well next season. Also, Whitehead would have been returning to a Seton Hall team that would have been a top-20 team in the country next season had he come back, giving him the kind of exposure he would have liked.

However, that point is null and void. It's all going to come down to workouts and interviews now for Whitehead. Can he convince teams that he's made a legitimate change in his game? Only time will tell over the next month, but he'll have a shot to go in the first round if he can perform well.

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