Here are the college teams that benefitted the most from — or were hurt the most by — NBA Draft early entry decisions.
The deadline for early entrants in the 2023 NBA Draft to withdraw and return to college came and went at midnight as May turned into June with the big news centering around, well, the big men.
The last two National Players of the Year, Oscar Tshiebwe and Zach Edey, took their decisions down to the wire, opting for different paths that immensely affect the prospects of both Kentucky (negatively) and Purdue (positively). Coleman Hawkins also dragged his decision out as long as possible, using his leverage as a play to get an increased NIL offer from Illinois before announcing his return, per reports.
Last season, NIL largely kept a lot of fringe first-round prospects in school. Only first-round picks are guaranteed contracts in the NBA, so the option to get paid while still playing obviously has made the prospect of staying in college much more enticing — especially when, in some cases, players can make more in NIL money than they would in a professional salary.
Fewer of those fringe picks opted to return this year, but NIL still played a major role in established veterans like Edey opting to run it back.
Which teams benefitted the most from those deadline decisions, and who is really hurting now? Let’s look at the winners and losers from the 2023 NBA Draft early withdrawal deadline.
This simply boils down to the fact that Edey announced his return for another season. Everything the Boilermakers do runs through the reigning National Player of the Year, and their prospects of earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament came down to getting their star back. This is great for college basketball, too. Edey will be the face of the sport the same way Oscar Tshiebwe was at the start of last season. Now, he and his Purdue teammates will have to deal with the demons of their loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, but there was no way Matt Painter’s squad could take a step forward without Edey. Purdue will be a consensus top-10 team.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Let’s stay in the Big Ten because Illinois was easily the second-biggest winner of deadline day. Coleman Hawkins and Terrence Shannon were both expected to leave for the NBA Draft at one point this offseason. Heck, both had the Illini faithful in the dark up until Wednesday night when they announced their respective returns to Champaign. Brad Underwood now returns three of his top four scorers, with Hawkins and Shannon giving Illinois the firepower to hang with the very best teams in the conference.
Michigan State Spartans
OK, one more from the Big Ten. Neither AJ Hoggard or Jaden Akins was projected to be drafted, so Michigan State isn’t returning anyone it expected to lose, but those two players give the Spartans the makings of a national title contender. Malik Hall and Tyson Walker announced their returns in April, too, meaning Tom Izzo now has all but one regular rotation player (Joey Hauser) back to go with a top-10 recruiting class. Remember — this group was an overtime and a Markquis Nowell masterclass away from facing FAU in the Elite Eight, and the Spartans are hoping to make it even further in 2023-24. The return of Hoggard and Akins makes that possible.
Creighton has endured some ups and downs with the transfer portal this offseason, yet the Bluejays won big at the early entry deadline as both Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander announced their intentions to return earlier this week. With Baylor Scheierman announcing his return last month, Greg McDermott returns his three leading scorers and arguably his three most important players. The foundation is now in place for the Bluejays to build upon last season’s success. Creighton should be among the nation’s best teams once again.
Tristan da Silva announced his return early Wednesday afternoon, a decision that now solidifies Colorado as a breakout team to watch in 2023-24. The Buffs have missed the NCAA Tournament each of the last two seasons. Now with top-10 prospect Cody Williams joining da Silva and fellow All-Pac 12 talent KJ Simpson, Tad Boyle’s squad is expected not just to make it to the Big Dance, but to advance. There was some second-round buzz for da Silva given his size (6-9), skill and versatility (39.4 percent on 3-pointers). Now, he will enter the season as one of the favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Florida Atlantic Owls
On one hand, Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin weren’t expected to be drafted, so their return to Boca Raton doesn’t come as much of a surprise. On the other hand, the talented duo just led FAU on a historic Final Four run — the kind of run that has spurred fringe players to leave in the past, figuring their stock might not be as high next draft cycle. The return of Davis and Martin solidifies that Dusty May will return virtually all of last season’s squad for another go-round. The Owls check in at No. 13 in our way-too-early Top 25 rankings, and they have a real shot at being a top-10 team for most of the 2023-24 campaign as they set out to prove last year was no fluke.
If not for the country’s top recruiting class, this offseason would be an outright disaster for John Calipari. After losing four players to the transfer portal, Kentucky has now lost Oscar Tshiebwe and Chris Livingston to the NBA Draft. That comes on top of Jacob Toppin leaving at the end of March and the swirling rumors that Antonio Reeves may depart as a grad transfer. The Wildcats only have seven scholarship players on the roster as of June 1, and none of them were in the regular rotation last season. It looks like Kentucky is going to rely almost exclusively on freshmen, and in a year when the overall recruiting class isn’t a strong one, that will likely be a problem. Tshiebwe did not have much to gain by playing another season of college basketball — he was an established presence with four years under his belt — but the prospect of losing both Livingston and Reeves really hurts. Those players would’ve been leaders on the 2023-24 team.
All was not lost on Wednesday for the reigning champs as Tristen Newton announced he was returning to school for his fifth season, but losing Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson Jr. certainly solidifies the Huskies on the wrong end of things. Yes, Donovan Clingan is more than ready to step into Sanogo’s role in the middle, but let’s not pretend losing the Final Four MOP makes a team better. Meanwhile, Jackson was in a real swing position as a borderline first-round pick, and given how crucial he was to everything the Huskies did on both ends last season, it’s clear UConn got worse with his decision to stay in the draft.
I am not one to doubt Scott Drew given his track record and how he has built that Baylor program from virtually nothing. That said, losing Adam Flagler to the draft leaves the Bears in a position to potentially have a true rebuilding season for the first time in a while. Jalen Bridges did withdraw, but he might be headed to play professionally in Australia instead of returning to Waco. If that happens, Baylor will have to replace its top four scorers and six of its top eight, with only two newcomers — five-star freshman Ja’Kobe Walter and VCU transfer Jayden Nunn — looking capable of handling big roles right away. Getting Flagler back would have given the Bears the stabilizing veteran force this roster is lacking.
It’s not time to panic for Northwestern given that Boo Buie is back for another year, but losing Chase Audige to the NBA Draft likely means the Wildcats take a step back in 2023-24 instead of building on last season’s success. Yes, Audige’s shot selection was sometimes perplexing, but he is an elite perimeter defender who can create his own shot. Northwestern hasn’t had very many athletes with Audige’s skill set in its basketball history, so it’s hard to say goodbye to one so soon. (Of course, that versatility is why NBA teams are high enough on Audige that he stayed in the draft.) Expect Northwestern to slide back toward the bottom of the Big Ten due to this decision.