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NBA draft early entry deadline winners and losers

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The deadline to for college underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school with their eligibility intact came and went at midnight on Wednesday night, with a number of critical decisions being left until the final day.

You can find a full list of the decisions that were made here.

You can find an updated preseason top 25 based off of those decisions here.

Here, we will be breaking down the winners and losers from the deadline. One note, since I know that it is going to be brought up: No, we are not going to consider a team like Duke a loser because Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish all went pro. Duke knew what they were getting into when they recruited them. We are also not listing teams like Texas as a loser here. No, they didn’t recruit Jaxson Hayes expecting him to be a one-and-done, but it became pretty clear pretty quickly that he was going to be a lottery pick. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at which coaches are celebrating this Thursday morning and who asked for an extra shot of Jamesons in their morning coffee.

WINNERS

LSU: It’s hard to believe, but it is true — the biggest winner heading into the post-deadline days is LSU, and that is despite the fact that Tremont Waters and Naz Reid both left school. Skylar Mays is back. Javonte Smart is back. Marlon Taylor is back. Emmitt Williams is back. And while it has nothing to do with the NBA draft, not only is Will Wade back, but he’s back — the Tigers landed five-star recruit Trendon Watford last week.

A month ago, Wade was suspended and it looked like everyone on the roster was going to be gone. The Tigers seemed like they were destined to be back in the basement of the SEC next season. Now they are a borderline top 25 team. That is a massive turnaround.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals will be a top ten team next season Jordan Nwora announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school, which likely puts him in the mix for first-team all-ACC and ensures that Chris Mack’s second season in charge of the Cardinals will be as relevant as his first.

MARYLAND: The Terps lost Bruno Fernando early on in the process, but they also had the benefit of spending the last month knowing that Jalen Smith had not even put his name into the draft. That was big, but not quite as big as the news that Mark Turgeon got on Wednesday evening, when star point guard Anthony Cowan announced that he would be pulling his name out of the NBA draft pool and returning to school.

This is massive for a number of reasons. For starters, Cowan is going to be among the names in the mix for preseason All-American teams, and getting back a star player — particularly when he is your starting point guard — is always going to be a big deal. But the impact is magnified for the Terps, who are going to have a very young roster outside of the senior Cowan. Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo and Smith are all sophomores.

They probably would have been a tournament team without Cowan. With him? They’re a contender in the Big Ten and a potential preseason top five team.

THE BIG EAST: When it comes to players pulling their name out of NBA draft consideration, I’m not sure how this could have gone much better for the Big East.

The biggest winner in the league is Seton Hall. The Pirates found out on Wednesday evening that Myles Powell will be returning for his senior season, which is absolutely massive. Powell might end up being the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, and he is one of the most dangerous scorers is all of college basketball. His return makes the Pirates a borderline top ten team heading into the season.

Xavier is returning all four of their guys that declared — Quentin Goodin, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs and Tyrique Jones — they look like a top 20 team. The same can be said about Creighton despite the fact that they are losing Martin Krampelj. Marquette brought back Markus Howard, which gave them the league’s Player of the Year but cost them the Hauser brothers in the process. Providence returned Alpha Diallo who, when paired with the young talent on that roster, gives the Friars the look of a tournament team.

Villanova didn’t have much to worry about. St. John’s was going to need a full reset the second that Chris Mullin was fired. We’re looking at a league that could have has many as five top 25 teams. That is half of the conference.

THE ATLANTIC 10: After a year where it looked like the Atlantic 10 was going to fall behind the rest of college basketball, the league is back this season, with as many as three teams that have the potential to be ranked.

It starts with VCU, who did not actually have anyone declare for the NBA draft but who does get back essentially the entire roster from last season’s No. 8-seed. They are going to go toe-to-toe with Davidson for the Atlantic 10 title, as the Wildcats got word that both Kellan Grady and Jon-Axel Gudmondsson — who may be the two-best players in the conference — will be returning to school.

And then there is Obi Toppin, who will be returning for his sophomore season at Dayton, who returns a ton of talent while adding a number of talented sit out transfers. It is going to be a wild race in that league this year, and there will be three teams at the top that we are going to have to pay attention to on a national scale.

GONZAGA: It sounds weird saying this about a team that lost Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell Jr. and Brandon Clarke to early entry, but two of those three were guaranteed to go as soon as Gonzaga beat Duke in the Maui Invitational. The best case scenario for the Zags was that they would find a way to get one of Killian Tillie or Norvell back, and it turns out that Tillie will return, along with Filip Petrusev. That counts as a win in my book.

KENTUCKY: Like Gonzaga, Kentucky lost a number of players to early entry, but for my money, they are still a winner on this list. That’s because they returned both E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards, giving them some talent, depth and versatility in their frontcourt. They also return Ashton Hagans, who did not even declare for this year’s draft.

KANSAS: It looked like Kansas was going to be one of the biggest winners of this entire process, as both Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes withdrew from the draft. But minutes after he officially withdrew, Grimes announced that he will be entering the transfer portal. I still think that Kansas should be classified as a winner — Dotson’s presence was the most important thing for them next season — but they are more of a back-end top ten team that a potential top five team without Grimes.

UTAH STATE: The Aggies are going to end up being one of, if not the best team from outside the top seven conferences next season as they return basically their entire roster from last season’s MWC champs. The best player on their roster — Sam Merrill — never even declared, but the guy that did — Neemias Queta — pulled his name out. For my money, Craig Smith has a top 20 team in Logan for next season.

OHIO STATE: I’m not quite sure what Ohio State’s ceiling is going to be next season given the fact that they are essentially losing their entire backcourt, but I do know that it would be significantly lower had big man Kaleb Wesson opted to keep his name in the draft. They’ll probably find themselves in the back-end of the preseason top 25 polls.

FLORIDA: The Gators got word on Wednesday afternoon that Andrew Nembhard will be returning to Gainesville for his sophomore season. With Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson back, and with Scottie Lewis coming into the program, suddenly the Gators have one of the better young cores in college hoops.

CINCINNATI: The Bearcats got a huge boost when they learned that Jarron Cumberland would be returning for his senior season. He will be the most dangerous scorer in the American next season, and will be a major boost for John Brannen as he tries to bridge the gap from the Mick Cronin era.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs will lose Lamar Peters, which is going to sting, but with Nick Weatherspoon returning along with Reggie Perry, a former five-star prospect that did not withdraw from the draft until this week, Ben Howland looks to have another NCAA tournament team in Starkville.

OTHER WINNERS: Indiana, N.C. State, Alabama, TCU

LOSERS

MICHIGAN: Without question, there was no program in the country that has fallen further from where they were projected to be on the morning after the national title game and what the expectations for the program are today. The Wolverines looked like they had a chance to be a top five team heading into the 2019-20 season, but that was when likely-second round picks Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Iggy Brazdeikis looked like they could all end up returning to school.

That was also before the coach that had built the program back into a national power, John Beilein, had up and left in mid-May for the Cleveland Cavaliers. At this point, there is no guarantee that Wolverines will even be a top five team in the Big Ten.

MEMPHIS: Rayjon Tucker, a potential grad transfer that had committed to play his final season for Memphis, has opted to keep his name in the NBA draft and turn pro. It’s probably the right decision — he’s 22 years old and more or less a finished product at this point — as he has a chance to get drafted and should be able to find a way into a two-way contract even if he isn’t. But frankly, I think this is a bigger blow to the Tigers than people will realize. Tucker is really the only guy that was on the roster that was going to be a veteran. Memphis will enter next season with a ton of talent, but just two five-star freshmen, three non-freshman scholarship players and outsized expectations.

Put another way, I think that the Tigers will be good and are headed back to the NCAA tournament, but I don’t think this is a team that should be ranked in the top 15.

AUBURN: The draft deadline was not fun for Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, as he saw he two best returnees head off to the professional ranks despite the fact that neither of them are a lock to be a first round pick. Chuma Okeke’s decision makes some sense. He tore his ACL during the NCAA tournament, and there was no guarantee that he would be healthy enough at any point next season to play. Returning to school would have effectively been a two-year decision, and he did enough to prove himself worthy of being picked somewhere that he can get a guaranteed deal.

Jared Harper is probably a bit more frustrating. He did have a terrific G League Elite Camp performance, which earned him a spot in the NBA Combine, and frankly, there isn’t all that much more he can prove at the college level.

TENNESSEE: I don’t think anyone was really all that surprised when Grant Williams announced that he would be leaving his name in the draft. He’s a likely first round pick coming off of an All-American season. Jordan Bone, however, was a surprise. He had a chance to be one of the best point guards in the country had he returned, and there is no guarantee that he’ll make an NBA roster.

MINNESOTA: The Golden Gophers got hit pretty hard on deadline day, as Amir Coffey announced that he will be remaining in the draft. With Jordan Murphy already graduating, Minnesota is losing their two-best players. They do have a nice young core returning, but Coffey was going to be the star that they can build around.

IOWA STATE: Part of the reason that there were rumors of Steve Prohm leaving Iowa State for one of the open SEC jobs this offseason was due to the fact that it looked like his Cyclone program would be in for some turnover. The good news? He did get Tyrese Haliburton back. The bad news? Talen Horton-Tucker, Lindell Wigginton and Cameron Lard are all following Marial Shayok and Nick Weiler-Babb out the door. It will be a rebuilding year in Ames.

THE PAC-12: It’s weird to say this, but the Pac-12, at the same time, found a way to become relevant again and still managed to be the league that was one of the biggest losers from the early entry withdrawal deadline.

Both things can be true, I promise.

UCLA got crushed by early entries this year, but that wasn’t exactly unexpected. Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Moses Brown are all gone, but we more or less knew that was going to be the case heading into the season. What we didn’t know was that both Louis King and Kenny Wooten would leave Oregon. The Ducks went from being the favorite to win the league to being a borderline tournament team with Pritchard back.

Washington will likely find themselves in the back end of the AP preseason top 25 poll thanks to the additions of Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart, but they could have been a favorite to win the regular season title had Jaylen Nowell returned. We knew early on that Luguentz Dort was going to be leaving Arizona State, but his departure still hurts. The same can be said about USC and Kevin Porter Jr. And while it is not much of a surprise at this point, Stanford will be losing KZ Okpala, who is remaining in the draft.

GEORGIA: Tom Crean had a chance to sneak up on a lot of people this season when it looked like he was going to be able to pair top five prospect Anthony Edwards with the underrated Nic Claxton. Unfortunately for Crean, Claxton opted to leave his name in the draft, leaving the Bulldogs without much depth on their roster.

SYRACUSE: We all expected that Tyus Battle would be out the door this year — hell, it was surprising that he didn’t bounce last season. What hurt Syracuse was when Oshae Brissett opted to leave school. And to a point, I get it. Jim Boeheim is really good at winning games at the college level, but the way that he goes about doing it is not exactly the best way to showcase the talent of a college player. It is going to be something of a rebuilding year for the Orange.

HOUSTON: The Cougars took a significant hit on Wednesday, as Armoni Brooks confirmed that he will be keeping his name in the NBA draft. That means the Cougars will be losing their three best perimeter players off of last season’s team. Kelvin Sampson is terrific, but that is going to be a lot to overcome, and should probably drop them out of the preseason top 25.

YALE: The Elis would have been the favorite to win the Ivy League again this season had they returned Miye Oni, a potential late-first round pick, for his final season. Instead, Oni went pro and Harvard was the program that got the good news, as Bryce Aiken opted to return to school. So not only will Yale take a hit, but their biggest rival returned the guy that will now be the best player in the league.

OTHER LOSERS: West Virginia, Iowa, Vanderbilt, Nebraska

WE’RE STILL WAITING ON: Virginia

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.