Evans Seven: Teams hurt by NBA departures - and how they reload
While questions remain as to when the NBA Draft will be held, schools have begun to answer a number of their roster needs for next season. In this Evans Seven, we take a look at seven programs that have been hurt the most by early NBA departures and how they have gone about replacing that talent.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
1. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Who they will lose: Just about everyone. Dontaie Allen sat out last season while rehabbing from a torn ACL, which means Keion Brooks is the lone contributor from last year’s roster that will return. EJ Montgomery and - more importantly - Nick Richards will leave a major void down low, and practically all of UK’s backcourt is gone, too. Kentucky won't have defensive stopper Ashton Hagans or do-it-all guard Tyrese Maxey. The Wildcats will also be without arguably the most improved player in America last season, Immanuel Quickley.
How they reload: Kentucky never has an issue securing elite talent, and that means another prestigious class will enroll in the fall. The incoming talent is headlined by BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke, two five-star wings who won't have any problems scoring the ball. Devin Askew is a mature facilitator who will be UK’s heartbeat, while Cam'Ron Fletcher, Lance Ware and Isaiah Jackson should help in the frontcourt. Creighton grad-transfer Davion Mintz brings an experienced body to the perimeter, but until the Wildcats land a 5-man, their chances of being a national title contender won't be as high as they have been in previous years.
2. DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Who they will lose: The beat goes on in Durham with another batch of one-and-dones set to leave the program for the NBA. Vernon Carey's departure is a massive blow to Duke's interior because of his dominance and efficiency in the paint. Cassius Stanley’s athleticism and electricity will be missed, but so will Tre Jones’ facilitating, playmaking and defensive acumen. While Carey was the top producer, Jones was the head of the snake that will be sorely missed at Duke next year.
How they reload: Finding a serviceable point guard was a must for Coach K’s program, and the Blue Devils hit it out of the park with Jeremy Roach. One of the top winners from the high school ranks, Roach is now healthy after tearing his ACL 18 months ago. Jalen Johnson is slated to be Duke’s go-to scorer next season, and he will be supported by former travel teammate Jaemyn Brakefield and rebounding force Henry Coleman. Mark Williams is a sneaky one-and-done candidate down low, while DJ Steward has the makings of the next multiple-year standout for the Blue Devils. If cohesion is not an issue, Duke has a chance to cut down the nets in April.
3. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Who they will lose: Kofi Cokburn has always been respected for his intimidating prowess and sheer production around the rim, but questions continued to circulate around how great he would be at the college level. That was put to bed quickly with the utter dominance he displayed at Illinois. Odds are he returns for his sophomore season, but there is a strong likelihood Ayo Dosunmu will move on to the NBA. In doing so, a major portion of Illinois’ offense will be gone, which will be difficult to replace by a single freshman in the fall.
How they reload: If there is a freshman that is capable of being up to the task of being the lead guard it is Illinois signee Andre Curbelo. He might not have the lofty ranking of Adam Miller - another tremendous recruiting win by Brad Underwood and his staff - but Curbelo's toughness, desire to compete and intangibles are off the charts. Curbelo and Miller should create one of the best freshman backcourts in America next year. Trent Frazier and Da'monte Williams will complement their abilities, and Coleman Hawkins is the perfect complement to Cockburn if he returns because of his versatility and perimeter shot-making.
4. ARIZONA WILDCATS
Who they will lose: Sean Miller had a fairly strong sense when he successfully recruited Nico Mannion and Josh Green that both would spend just one year in Tucson. That was accurate, but he didn't necessarily think Zeke Nnaji, a five-star prospect who is the definition of a late bloomer, would also follow the two out the door after a freshman season during which he was one the most efficient interior producers in the college game.
How they reload: The jury is still out on who will be filling in for those three standouts. Jordan Brown, a Nevada transfer and former McDonald’s All-American, sat out this past season. While he won’t produce the numbers that Nnaji did, he should be a serviceable body down low. Missing on Ziaire Williams hurt and it places a heavy burden on landing four-star wing Kerwin Walton this spring. Incoming freshmen Dalen Terry and Benedict Mathurin will play their part on the perimeter, as will Seattle grad-transfer Terrell Brown. If Brandon Williams can return healthy and James Akinjo is ready to go on day one Arizona may not be as talented as last year but its depth may be better.
5. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Who they will lose: Alabama is not a program that is used to seeing its top talent leave early for the NBA Draft, but this could be the new reality for Nate Oats. It's no longer about stashing and developing, which became the norm for Oats at Buffalo. If the Tide recruit the way they are hoping, they may need to become more accustomed to replenishing their cupboard earlier than expected.
Kira Lewis is all but gone, and he will leave a massive void at the lead guard spot, while John Petty and Herb Jones have also entered their names in the draft. Jones could be back for another year but, either way, the Tide will lose at least two of their primary sources of offense from last year.
How they reload: If you haven’t been paying attention, Alabama has been on a roll this spring. While the offseason began a month earlier than expected due to the coronavirus outbreak, that hasn’t hampered Oats’ efforts on the recruiting front, as he landed four impactful commitments for next season within a matter of two weeks.
Yale graduate-transfer Jordan Bruner was a huge addition, as was four-star guard Josh Primo. Junior college shooter Keon Ellis and Rivals150 forward Darius Miles add depth, as does four-star forward Keon Ambrose-Hylton. If Jahvon Quinerly steps up from the get-go next year, the Tide have a chance play deep into March.
6. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Who they will lose: Devin Vassell, a long and wiry wing relied upon in the shot-making department, and Patrick Williams, a former five-star prospect who was the glue of FSU’s team, will be in the NBA a year from now. Replacing Vassell, a two-way producer, and the tough-minded Williams will not be easy.
How they reload: Florida State is hoping that Naheem McLeod will be eligible in the fall, but it will also enroll another 7-footer in Quincy Ballard. However, the greatest production will come from top junior college wing Sardaar Calhoun, who will get first dibs at Vassell’s minutes and scoring.
The most important incoming player, however, may be Scottie Barnes, who is the epitome what Leonard Hamilton wants from his frontcourt standouts. Barnes is expected to take on point guard duties on the offensive end, but has the strength, length and size to guard the center position.
7. WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Who they will lose: It was miserable winter for Washington. When everyone was on the floor, the Huskies looked like a Pac-12 favorite. But after Quade Green was ruled ineligible around the semester break, UW crumbled and finished last in the league and 15-17 overall.
Things won’t be easier next year with Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, two former top-10 prospects, no longer in Seattle. Stewart leaves a massive hole down low, while McDaniels’ what-if abilities should make things much easier for opposing teams to game plan against the Huskies.
How they reload: Not quite sure just yet. Maybe Washington takes a step back, because the talent on paper does not match what it was last season. However, it should not be minimized how important Green was when he was on the floor. If eligible, Green has the chance to raise the play of those around him. Currently no freshmen will enroll, but J’Raan Brooks, a former four-star recruit who sat out last season, should help, and Naz Carter and RaeQuan Battle should be better than they were last year. The Huskies won’t be a top team in the Pac-12, but they should be a more consistent team.