New Orleans, Kentucky headline draft night winners

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On draft night there are winners and there are losers. While no championship title is given away based on who a team picks, the draft goes a long way towards determining whether or not a ring is possible.

Below are some franchises, college programs and draftees who did well for themselves on Thursday night.

Three NBA franchises

1. New Orleans
The Hornets knew who the face of their franchise would be on the night they won the lottery (Davis), but landing Rivers at 10 is a nice addition on the perimeter. He can learn under Jarrett Jack with the goal being to pair Rivers up with Eric Gordon down the line. And in Darius Miller at 46 the Hornets get a guy who is well-versed when it comes to doing the little things it takes to help a team win.

2. Sacramento
Thomas Robinson being on the board when the Kings came up at five was a definite win for Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins is on the verge of making an all-star team (he’ll be taking part in Team USA’s Olympic training camp next month), and the Kings will make every effort to bring back restricted free agent Jason Thompson as well. Robinson will be able to compete immediately from a physical standpoint, and that tandem would allow him to progress at a reasonable rate.

3. Portland
Lillard definitely helps at the point, but the reason for Portland here is the fact that they were able to get Meyers Leonard at 11. With LaMarcus Aldridge returning to the floor there won’t be much pressure on Leonard to be a premier offensive threat. He can defend and rebound, and Leonard’s done a good job of improving his body since the college basketball season ended. And Will Barton, if under control, could prove to be a steal at 40.

Three college programs

1. Kentucky
John Calipari’s program had six players drafted, which is a record, as is the fact that two Kentucky players were taken with the top two picks. That makes 15 draftees (11 in the first round) in three seasons in Lexington. Think those numbers will come up in conversations with some of the nation’s top recruits?

2. North Carolina
If measuring programs based on the number of players selected in the top 20 picks of the draft then Roy Williams’ program has some bragging rights of its own. Four Tar Heels were taken in the first 17 picks of the draft, and while that was the end of their night that’s a nice haul for any program.

3. Weber State
Vanderbilt has an argument as the Commodores saw two players drafted in the first round for the first time in school history. But Randy Rahe saw the face of his program, Damian Lillard, go with the sixth pick in the draft to Portland. And for a program from a one-bid league like Weber State, that’s a nice line to add to the resume.

Three players

1. Dion Waiters (Cleveland)
Whether or not Waiters pans out in Cleveland isn’t the point here. Many who discussed the lottery guarantee that Waiters supposedly held in the weeks leading up to the draft thought it was coming on the back end (Phoenix). But fourth overall? That’s quite a jump financially for the Syracuse product, who was one of the best players in the Big East last season despite not starting a game.

2. Austin Rivers (New Orleans)
Anthony Davis will be the face of the franchise since he’s the top overall pick, but why can’t Rivers join him on the marquee? Rivers’ game seems to be better suited for the pro level, and when you’re the son of a successful NBA head coach it isn’t as if you’re walking into the league “blind” either. There will be an adjustment period (watching veteran Jarrett Jack should help some) for Rivers, but he’s more than capable of being a factor for the Hornets.

3. Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City)
Sure Jones III took a loss financially by returning to Baylor for his sophomore season, but from a basketball standpoint that decision paid off in a big way. He’ll join the reigning Western Conference champs under little (if any) pressure to produce right away, and his athleticism will fit in well on a team that needs some offensive help inside.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.