It’s deadline day for NBA Draft prospects.
Players had until July 7 to withdraw from the 2021 NBA Draft and maintain college eligibility, and that included several from the Big Ten. As of the time of this writing, all but two of the league’s early entrants had made their decisions, and those choices had big repercussions for the race for the Big Ten title.
Let’s dive into some winners and losers from this year’s draft deadline.
Juwan Howard actually lost quite a bit from his 23-5 squad. Grad transfers Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown were one-and-done in Ann Arbor, opting to go pro instead of using their extra year of eligibility. Isaiah Livers also decided against using his extra season and Franz Wagner, a potential lottery pick, went pro as well.
So why is Michigan a winner here? Well, star freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who led the Wolverines in points, rebounds and blocks, announced on Tuesday that he will be back for year two. In addition, DeVante’ Jones, a high-scoring point guard transfer from Coastal Carolina, also withdrew from the draft and will step in as Smith’s replacement in the Michigan backcourt.
Add Jones and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country to a returning core of Dickinson, Eli Brooks and Brandon Johns Jr. and Howard will once again have a team with the talent to compete for a national championship.
I’d be remiss not to mention the Huskers here. I don’t think anyone expected Dalano Banton to exhaust his eligibility in Lincoln, but to get just 27 games from him in a Husker uniform had to be disappointing for Fred Hoiberg and his staff.
Based on how Banton played in the second half of the season, I expected him to test the waters then return to Nebraska for one more season. Instead, Banton performed well enough at the G League Elite Camp, his pro day and workouts with teams to hear the feedback he needed to remain in the draft.
I covered Hoiberg’s options moving forward here. It’s tough to gauge just how big of a loss Banton is at this point, but it’s certainly better to have someone of his unique talents than the alternative.
Shamiel Stevenson also entered the draft, but things never seemed to click with him in Lincoln and it would have been hard to see him playing a more prominent role than he did last season with the additions Hoiberg made tot he roster.
Matt Painter’s star big man, Trevion Williams, pulled out of the draft, and as a result the Boilermakers will be a trendy top-five or top-10 pick for outlets putting together preseason top-25 lists. The 6-foot-10, 265-pound Williams is a tough match-up for opposing defenders with his size, touch and footwork.
Add Williams and a couple other vets in returning guards Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter to a very talented group of underclassmen led by second-year guard Jaden Ivey and second-year behemoth Zach Edey and the Boilermakers should have a chance to make the leap from what was already a good team in 2020-21 (18-10) to a national championship contender this season.
Expecting consensus national player of the year Luka Garza to return for an extra year was probably unrealistic, but Joe Wieskamp returning for a fourth wasn’t. Then he went to Chicago and tore it up, producing terrific athletic testing numbers to go with his prolific career as a shooter in Iowa City.
Factor in CJ Fredrick transferring to Kentucky and the Hawkeyes will have to replace three of their top four scorers from a 22-9 squad. The only bit of good news recently is that Jordan Bohannon has decided to take advantage of his extra season and should be healthier in 2021-22 than he was a season ago.
Split Decisions: Ohio State and Maryland
Each of these teams had their top two scorers enter their names into the NBA Draft pool, and each team had one player return to school fore another season.
First for the Buckeyes, leading scorer Duane Washington Jr. is staying in the draft. Washington’s shot selection and overall decision-making wasn’t always the best, but he was capable of pouring in the points in a hurry when he caught fire.
However, Chris Holtmann did get his best overall player back as forward E.J. Liddell opted to withdraw from the draft following a breakout sophomore season. Holtmann added a pair of transfers from other Big Ten schools in Joey Brunk (Indiana) and Jamari Wheeler (Purdue) to a solid core of returners and the Buckeyes will be a tough opponent even without Washington.
At Maryland, second-leading scorer Aaron Wiggins is remaining in the draft while backcourt partner Eric Ayala will return to Maryland. Mark Turgeon was incredibly active n the tarsier portal this offseason, adding Rhode Island point guard Fatts Russell, Georgetown center Qudus Wahab and three other transfers. The Terrapins finished 17-14 last season, but 2020-21 should be a different story with the talent upgrades Turgeon made and Ayala’s return.
The Illini faithful knew 2020-21 was going to be Ayo Dosunmu’s last season. Adam Miller’s transfer to LSU after one season in Champaign was a different story. Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who had a great freshman year before Kofi Cockburn arrived and relegated him to the bench, announced early he was going pro as well.
Cockburn tested the waters this year as well before announcing on Tuesday that he was returning to college for another season. However, he also entered the transfer portal while he was going through his pre-draft process to keep all his options open. A returns o Illinois is still on that table, but that doesn’t seem likely as Cockburn will likely be the most sought-after player in the country over the next couple of weeks.
Trent Frazier is returning for an extra year, but Brad Underwood is still looking to replace three of his top five scorers, and he lost two assistants to John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky as well. It’s been a tough offseason for the Illini.
Other quick hits:
>> If Cockburn will be the most popular transfer in the country, Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr isn’t far behind. Like Cockburn, he withdrew from the draft but has left his name in the transfer portal and a return to Minnesota doesn’t look to be on the table.
>> Rutgers guard Jacob Young (Oregon), Northwestern wing Miller Kopp (Indiana) and Izaiah Brockington (Iowa State) all withdrew from the draft in order to transfer to new schools.
>> Others staying in the draft: Wisconsin’s Micah Potter, Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers and D’Mitrik Truce; Michigan State’s Aaron Henry.
>> The only players yet to announce their plans is the Rutgers duo of Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. Baker is participating in a workout for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday before making his decision.