2014 NBA Draft: What early entry decisions are we still waiting for?

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source: AP
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Today is the day after the NCAA’s April 15th deadline for players to enter the NBA Draft.

It’s also the day after the most irrelevant deadline in American sporting culture.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday as two of his players, Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, declared for the NBA Draft. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matter.”

What that means is that while the NCAA’s official early entry deadline has passed, college coaches — including the self-serving ACC coaches that moved the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline up two months — still have to wait 11 days to hear about the potential pros on their roster.

Here are the 14 guys we’re still waiting to hear from:

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, Duke: Most expect both Dukies to be headed to the NBA, but, ironically enough, it seems more likely that Parker, a top three pick, would return that Hood, a mid-first rounder. Duke is already looking like they will be one of the top three teams in the country heading into next season without either of these two. That’s what happens when Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen join the likes of Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson. The one thing that team would be missing, however, is a big wing that can score. If either player returns, Duke could end up being scary-good next year.

Kentucky’s guys: Julius Randle and James Young are both expected to leave. Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress are both expected to return. The two that are major question marks are Andrew and Aaron Harrison, neither of whom are projected as guaranteed first round picks. Kentucky is going to once again have an overwhelming front line next season, but where they are going to struggle is in their back court. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are both excellent recruits, but they’re not the kind of instant impact players that you typically find with Kentucky freshmen. They’re four-year guys. And they’re also the entirety of the Kentucky perimeter attack next season. If the Harrisons return, it would give those two a chance to develop while spending more time playing a role. Either way, Kentucky is going to be a top five team entering next season.

Mitch McGary, Michigan: The Wolverines are losing Jordan Morgan (graduation), Jon Horford (transfer), Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III (NBA). They will bring back Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, a trio that will give them one of the best perimeters in the country, McGary would be the rock in the paint. With him back, Michigan is a top 15 team. Without him, they’re borderline top 25. He’s currently projected as the No. 31 pick, according to Draft Express.

DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright, UConn: With both Daniels and Boatright back for their senior years, UConn would likely enter the season as the favorite to win the American. But coming off of a national title and with their stock as high as it is going to be, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both leave.

Jordan Adams, UCLA: The Bruins had a promising recruiting class this season, but with Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine both going pro, losing Adams, who is projected as a late-first round pick this season, would leave them without a veteran scoring presence.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons has the talent to be a lottery pick and the attitude to spend his career in the NBDL. He’s projected as a second rounder, according to Draft Express. Purdue will be in major rebuilding mode without him.

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson: McDaniels turned out to be one of the ACC’s best athletes and most versatile defenders. I’m not sure the Tigers are a tournament team next year with him, but they certainly aren’t without him. He’s projected as the No. 20 pick in this year’s draft, according to Draft Express.

Six more names to keep an eye on:

  • Khem Birch, UNLV
  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin, LSU
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.