Eli Boettger | @boettger_eli | 03/24/20
The offseason continues as several players have already submitted their intentions to head to the NBA Draft.
A total of 175 players entered their names in the initial draft pool last year with 84 eventually foregoing their remaining college eligibility to head to the pros. As is the case every season, these stay-or-go declarations have a huge impact on the landscape of college basketball.
Here are six schools with the most on the line with forthcoming NBA Draft decisions.
The Wildcats are the only team with three players among NBADraftNet‘s consensus top 25. Freshmen Nico Mannion (No. 12), Zeke Nnaji (No. 21) and Josh Green (No. 22) gave Arizona a massive spark this season, combining to average 42.1 points, 15.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 3.4 steals per game. This equates to 55.1 percent of the team’s scoring, 41.2 percent of rebounds, 55.7 percent of assists and 49.5 percent of steals coming from this trio alone.
Sean Miller probably won’t get all three back. If he can get one or two to return to campus, though, the Wildcats are right back in the Pac-12 hunt.
Gonzaga fans must be salivating over what this Bulldogs team might look like in seven months. Yes, Killian Tillie, Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge are set to graduate, but Mark Few’s team could still wind up as the preseason No. 1 in the fall with a little luck.
The Bulldogs have zero non-seniors on NBADraftNet’s big board as of Tuesday, though junior Corey Kispert and sophomores Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi have palpable draft stock. Is it enough to constitute leaving what could be possibly be Few’s best team ever? I wouldn’t be surprised if the murkiness of the coronavirus-interrupted draft process leads these key contributors back to Spokane.
In a strange turn of events, the 2020 draft lottery projections aren’t smattered with Kentucky freshmen. As of Tuesday, NBADraftNet has just two Wildcats in the top 40 with freshman Tyrese Maxey at No. 16 and sophomore Ashton Hagans at No. 23.
Immanuel Quickley — who could wind up as the team’s most important draft decision after a stellar Year 2 — isn’t even listed on several mocks, including NBADraftNet’s consensus big board. If Quickley were to return, the Wildcats would pair the potential 2021 Naismith candidate with another star-studded recruiting class. Junior Nick Richards, who is 44th on NBADraftNet, is another player to monitor.
Could Jordan Nwora return again? The Louisville forward enjoyed a spectacular season and faces another stay-or-go draft decision. A calf injury last spring impacted his draft prep, and he was immediately regarded as a Naismith candidate as soon as he made his choice to return to school.
Currently slotted as No. 18, one would assume that Nwora is probably gone this time around. He’s not the only Cardinal facing a draft decision, though. Freshman wing Samuell Williamson, who played rather sparingly this past season, is 55th on NBADraftNet’s big board. With sky-high potential, a breakout sophomore campaign could put Williamson in position for first-round draft status in a year.
Tom Izzo would hate to say goodbye to both Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman in the same offseason. Winston is set to graduate and Tillman, who averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a junior, has already submitted his name into the draft process. The Spartans’ ceiling raises significantly if Tillman chooses to go Winston’s route by spurning the NBA to complete his senior year in a Michigan State uniform.
Tillman isn’t the only player to watch. Sophomore forward Aaron Henry started 29 games this past season and has also mustered quite a bit of draft stock of his own. Henry isn’t listed on many mocks, but pro potential is certainly there. Bringing back both Tillman and Henry would be massive for the Spartans.
San Diego State
SDSU’s ’20-21 trajectory rests in the hands of Malachi Flynn. A superstar point guard by the way of Washington State, Flynn was named a second team AP All-American after leading the Aztecs to a 30-2 season behind Flynn’s 17.6 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Flynn checks in at No. 51 on NBADraftNet’s consensus big board. That’s right in the wheelhouse of stay-or-go territory, which could be enough to incentivize Flynn to spend one last year in college in hopes of reaching the Final Four.
Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.
Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member.