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Ranking

Best, worst and most head-scratching decisions

2018-04-25 10:36:30


6:34 PM ET
  • Jeff GoodmanESPN Insider
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    • Joined ESPN as a college basketball Insider in June 2013
    • Previously wrote for CBSSports.com and FOXSports.com

The NBA's official underclassman list was released and there are a total of 181 college players who have declared for the June 21 NBA draft.

Last year there were 137 underclassmen who declared, with 73 eventually withdrawing, leaving 64 eligible on draft night.

There were several no-brainer decisions this year: freshmen such as Duke's Marvin Bagley III, Arizona's Deandre Ayton and Texas' Mohamed Bamba will be among the first selections in June and were never going to stay in college beyond one season.

Many players have already decided to sign with an agent, forgoing their remaining college eligibility. However, the majority have decided to test the NBA's draft process, which allows them to attend the combine (May 16-20 in Chicago) and team workouts and maintain their eligibility as long as they don't sign with an agent. The NCAA deadline for them to withdraw is May 30.

We'll go through the smart decisions, the baffling ones and the college coach who has the most to lose over the next five weeks or so.

Best decision

Jalen Brunson. Villanova's point guard will leave with his degree (after three years), a Wooden Award and a pair of national titles. Brunson won't be a lottery pick, but he could be a first-rounder. He won't get bigger and likely won't get much faster, so the only thing he could probably do with another year at Villanova is hurt his draft stock.

Biggest mistake

Justin Jackson. A year ago, the 6-foot-7 Maryland forward was considered a guy who could play his way into the first round in this year's draft. However, his season ended due to a shoulder injury after 11 games and now one NBA executive told me he wouldn't be shocked if Jackson goes undrafted. But Jackson has signed with an agent, instead of returning to the Terrapins and showing NBA guys he is worthy of a first-round pick.

Most surprising

 

 

Arkansas' talented big man Daniel Gafford and Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura did not even test the process. Gafford, a 6-foot-11 freshman who averaged 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, would have likely been selected in the first round, maybe even in the lottery. The same can be said for Hachimura.

Coach with the most to lose

Boston College's Jim Christian. His backcourt of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman both declared without an agent. Robinson is a potential first-rounder while Bowman is projected as a possible second-rounder who could go undrafted. If those two return, BC could be an NCAA tournament team. If they both leave, Christian could have a repeat of the 2015-16 season, when the Eagles went 0-18 in the ACC, which could mean the end of Christian's tenure in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Another coach sweating it out

Villanova's Jay Wright. He's not sweating all that much since he just won his second national title in three years, but it could be a complete rebuild if both Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo join Brunson and Mikal Bridges in leaving early for the NBA. That would leave Phil Booth as the lone returning starter from this year's national championship squad.

Ultimate wild card

Brian Bowen. There's a lot to unpack with Bowen, who likely won't know whether he will be cleared by the NCAA to play next season in time for the deadline. Bowen is a mystery to most NBA personnel, who haven't seen him play in more than a year. He's a likely second-rounder who might be able to play his way into the first round if he has a strong showing at the combine and in team workouts.

Mystery men

Mitchell Robinson, Billy Preston and Anfernee Simons. Robinson was slated to play at Western Kentucky, but the 7-foot forward left the program before the season and worked out on his own. Preston never played a game at Kansas, and had a short stint playing professionally in Bosnia. Simons signed with an agent after a post-grad year at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida).

Most difficult call

Hamidou Diallo. On one hand, the Kentucky wing could use another season in college to improve his perimeter shot and his decision-making. On the other hand, there's a chance Diallo could get buried on the roster if he came back with a new set of talented freshmen coming in (Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro). Diallo decided to sign with an agent, and it will be interesting to see whether he gets a guaranteed contract.

Another difficult call

Trevon Duval. It wasn't all that long ago that some had Duke's highly touted point guard pegged as a lottery pick. Now it'll be interesting to see where Duval winds up going, and there's a chance he slips into the second round. But the difficult part for Duval was that Tre Jones was coming to Durham, North Carolina, which meant Duval might have lost some minutes.

Say what?

Purdue freshman guard Nojel Eastern averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists and decided to declare for the draft (without an agent). I'm all for getting feedback from NBA folks, but Eastern should just have coach Matt Painter call a couple of NBA guys with him in the room because it's unlikely he'll get a combine invite and more than a workout or two. And there is some downside: How his teammates react to him and the fact that the NBA allows a player to declare only twice.

Here's a more complete rundown of the players who have declared their intentions:

Declared and signed with agent

No-brainers

Deandre Ayton, C, Fr., Arizona

Marvin Bagley III, PF, Fr., Duke

Mohamed Bamba, C, Fr., Texas

Keita Bates-Diop, PF, RS Jr., Ohio State

Mikal Bridges, SF, Jr., Villanova

Miles Bridges, F, Soph., Michigan State

Jalen Brunson, PG, Jr., Villanova

Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Fr., Duke

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Fr., Kentucky

Aaron Holiday, PG, Jr., UCLA

Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Fr., Michigan State

Kevin Knox, PF, Fr., Kentucky

Michael Porter Jr., PF, Fr., Missouri

Collin Sexton, PG, Fr., Alabama

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Jr., Michigan

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Fr., Miami

Robert Williams, PF, Soph., Texas A&M

Trae Young, PG, Fr., Oklahoma

Smart move

Rawle Alkins, SF, Soph., Arizona

Tony Carr, PG, Soph., Penn State

Eric Davis Jr., SG, Jr., Texas

Trevon Duval, PG, Fr., Duke

De'Anthony Melton, SG, Soph., USC

Malik Newman, SG, Soph., Kansas

Zhaire Smith, SF, Fr., Texas Tech

Need another year

Deng Adel, SF, Jr., Louisville

Bruce Brown Jr., SG, Soph., Miami

 

Troy Brown, SG, Fr., Oregon

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Fr., Kentucky

Brandon McCoy, PF/C, Fr., UNLV

Chimezie Metu, PF/C, Jr., USC

Shake Milton, G, Jr., SMU

Landry Shamet, PG, Soph., Wichita State

Ray Spalding, PF, Jr., Louisville

Gary Trent Jr., SG, Fr., Duke

Allonzo Trier, SG, Jr., Arizona

Lagerald Vick, SG/SF, Jr., Kansas

Testing the waters

Players from major programs with tough calls to make

Tyus Battle, SG, Soph., Syracuse

Donte DiVincenzo, G, Soph., Villanova

Jerome Robinson, G, Jr., Boston College

Omari Spellman, PF/C, RS Fr., Villanova

Austin Wiley, C, Fr., Auburn


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