Bossi's Best: Teams most impacted by NBA Draft Combine
The NBA’s Draft Combine begins in Chicago on Wednesday. Over the next few days, NBA hopefuls will be subjected to physical testing, interviews and on-court performance tests. For some invitees like Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba there is no real stress, their spot at the upper end of the Draft is secure. However, for some others like Missouri’s Jontay Porter or Stanford’s Reid Travis, the Combine could go a long way towards determining whether or not to stay in the Draft or return to school.
Players who have not signed with an agent have until May 30 to go back to school and The following is a look at the schools who could be most impacted by Combine results.
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Bill Self and the Jayhawks actually have two players who have entered the NBA Draft without signing with agents in sophomore center Udoka Azubuike and junior wing LaGerald Vick. However, only Azubuike has been invited to the combine and Vick has made it clear that he’s not planning to come back to Lawrence for his senior season.
Though Azubuike is just one player, he could be hugely important to the Jayhawks success in 2018-19 as they look to work in a trio of transfers -- Cal point guard Charlie Moore and Memphis forwards K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson -- with their sixth ranked 2018 recruiting class and returners.
A return to campus by Azubuike would give the Jayhawks arguably the biggest and deepest front line in the country and an anchor in the middle. History says that the Jayhawks will be the favorite to win a 15th straight Big XII title, but having Azubuike back would likely make them an early favorite for the Final Four as well.
The Wildcats currently have three players who have entered the Draft without agents in sophomore big man Wenyen Gabriel and freshmen forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington. Of those three, only Washington and Vanderbilt were invited to attend the combine -- though Vanderbilt has now said he will not attend -- and both appear to be squarely on the fence about what to do.
Due to past injury issues, Vanderbilt is going to be subject to extensive questions about his health while Washington will be looking to either shed the label of undersized power forward or prove that he has more skill facing the rim than he is thought to have. Now, John Calipari is no stranger to dealing with early entrants to the NBA, but if Vanderbilt and Washington don’t get good feedback, the chance to have those guys and possibly Gabriel back on campus would give the Wildcats a front line loaded with talent and depth. If any or all of them leave, the pressure will be on incoming five-star E.j. Montgomery to be ready to roll and for returning sophomore Nick Richards to take a big step forward.
The addition of brothers Michael Porter and Jontay Porter, along with new coach Cuonzo Martin, gave Missouri a buzz that hadn’t been there in a while. Even though former Rivals.com No. 1 Michael missed almost the entire season to injury, the arrival of younger brother Jontay a year early added depth and helped the Tigers make a return to the NCAA Tournament.
Michael Porter was expected to be gone after a year, but Jontay wasn’t. Now, the younger Porter appears to be a borderline first round Draft pick and if he gets feedback that he’ll be taken in the first round, then he’s likely gone. So clearly, this week is going to be a big one for the 18-year-old. Should he get mixed reviews, he could return to Columbia as a potential All-SEC level big men and help the Tigers continue building on the momentum they gained during the 2017-18 season.
Maybe no team in the country is watching what happens at the Combine as closely as Nevada will be. The Wolf Pack was seconds away from the Elite Eight last season and with a good roster in place and five-star power forward Jordan Brown on the way, Eric Musselman’s team could be a legitimate Final Four contender depending on what happens with twin wings Caleb Martin and Cody and forward Jordan Caroline.
At the moment, the Martins are projected anywhere from the middle of the second round to undrafted. Let’s just assume that Caroline returns since he wasn’t even invited to the Combine. If you add either or both Martin twins to the group that will be in Reno next season then we are looking at a potential Final Four contender.
It looks like the Pac-12 could be going through a transitional year in 2018-19 and if Stanford ever wants to make a move back to the top half of the Conference, then this coming season would be the time to do it. They return a pair of really promising freshmen in point guard Daejon Davis and forward Kezie Okpala and bring in a pair of four-star guards in Bryce Wills and Cormac Ryan. What they need to be at their best is a grizzled, reliable All-Conference post player like Reid Travis to return.
Travis isn’t currently projected to be taken in the Draft and has had health questions in the past. If he can convince NBA teams that his game and toughness translate, then he could go ahead and stay in the Draft.
Should he decide to come back to school the next hurdle will be making sure that he comes back to Palo Alto. The redshirt junior has been the center of speculation that he could look to play elsewhere as a grad transfer if he pulls out of the Draft. With Travis, the Cardinal stand a good chance to make their second NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008. Without him, it could be a little dicey.
Let’s get this out of the way, there aren’t likely to be many coaches entering the 2018-19 season on a hotter seat than Steve Alford. His fan base wants more out of him and after the dismissal of popular assistant David Grace (who was almost immediately hired by conference foe Cal) many in the SoCal area that the Bruins have relied heavily on for talent are upset with Alford. That makes the decisions of freshmen Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes very important.
Another freshman, Cody Riley, entered the Draft after being suspended all of his first year on campus, but he wasn’t invited to the Combine and isn’t likely to stay in the Draft. As for Hands and Wilkes, they figure to be big parts of any success or struggles that the Bruins have in the upcoming season.
Hands is the heir apparent to Aaron Holiday in the backcourt and Wilkes is a productive wing who would be a preseason favorite for first team All-Pac 12. If both were to leave, the Bruins would be without their four most productive players next season and would only return 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game of production from a squad that lost in the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Even their third ranked 2018 recruiting class may not be enough to guarantee success if that happens.
Nobody is shedding any tears for Jay Wright and Villanova. The Wildcats have been the best program in America over the last three years and have a pair of National Championships to show for it. But if sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo and freshman big man Omari Spellman come back, then Villanova may enter next season as a favorite to win their third title in four years.
Wrigth and his staff have already protected themselves a bit in regards to DiVincenzo by landing sharp shooting Albany transfer Joe Cremo. But, Spellman would be a bit tougher to replace because of his size, rebounding and ability to protect the rim on one end with his shot blocking and stretch defenses on the other with his jump shooting.