The NBA Draft’s early entry deadline came and went at midnight on Sunday. Who were this year’s five biggest winners?
1. Kentucky: It sounds weird to say this, I know, but the Kentucky lost two lottery picks, including a guy that will go top five in the NBA Draft, and they were clearly the biggest winner during the entire early entry circus. It started with Willie Cauley-Stein, who announced that he would be returning to school after undergoing surgery on his ankle. He was a potential lottery pick. Then Marcus Lee returned. Then Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson came back. And, lastly, both of the Harrison twins returned to school.
Five were expected to declare off of Kentucky. Only two did. The key? The Harrisons, who will provide the Wildcats with perimeter depth and justify yet another preseason No. 1 ranking.
2. Wisconsin: The Badgers made a bit of a surprising run to the Final Four in 2014, and they did it as Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky turned into an unstoppable force. His size and ability to score from anywhere on the court made him one of the breakout stars of the NCAA tournament, and while he flirted with the idea of putting his name into the draft, he will return. So will Sam Dekker, who is a potential first round pick at the small forward spot. As a result, the Badgers are going to be the Big Ten favorites and a top five team in 2014-2015.
3. Louisville: Outside of the Harrison twins announcing that they would be returning to school, the single most important early entry decision was Montrezl Harrell’s announcement that he would be back for his junior season. A potential lottery pick, Harrell is going to be the only veteran — and only physical presence — on a big and athletic-albeit-extremely young front line. He makes the Cardinals a Final Four contender. Without him, they’re a borderline top 25 team.
4. Arizona: Aaron Gordon was never spending more than one season on campus. Nick Johnson left and that void will hurt although it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that he went pro. The good news? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski all will be back on campus next season, and as a result Sean Miller will once again have a top five team and the Pac-12 favorite at his disposal.
5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost James Michael McAdoo to the NBA, but they also kept him for two years longer than just about anyone expected. They came out ahead there. The bigger news is that not only did Marcus Paige return for his junior season, but Brice Johnson did as well. With the recruiting class that Roy Williams brings in this season, don’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels give Louisville and Duke a run for their money at the top of the ACC next season.
Three more winners
- Utah: Delon Wright’s decision to return to Utah for his senior season will give him a shot at being an all-american in 2014-2015 and will allow the Utes to be a top four team in the Pac-12.
- Oregon: Joseph Young flirted with leaving for the NBA, but ultimately he returned. He may end up leading the Pac-12 is scoring this season.
- West Virginia: Juwan Staten was a hidden gem at the point guard spot this past season thanks to the play of Marcus Smart and DeAndre Kane. He’ll be an all-Big 12 first team player entering next season.