Evans Seven: Teams with most on line with NBA Draft decisions
Last week, we took a look at which high school recruits will be leaned upon more heavily next season due to NBA departures. In this week’s The Evans Seven, we examine teams that will be most affected by the decisions of players who may or may not pull out of the draft by the May 29 deadline.
A five-star prospect in the 2018 class, Quentin Grimes looked to be a one-and-done recruit for Bill Self. Grimes could still remain in the draft, but latest whispers have circulated around his return to Lawrence. He does not have a great body of work, though, as he averaged just over eight points last season, all while shooting 38 percent from the floor.
The issues are that the Jayhawks’ backcourt may be even more crowded next season if Devon Dotson returns and KU signs five-star guard RJ Hampton. Grimes never found his footing last year and might see a bench role if the Jayhawks do attain the services of Dotson and Hampton. However, his return would also allow for Grimes to produce with greater efficiency and in a more clarified role, thus bettering his draft stock next year.
EJ Montgomery is the more talented of the two and John Calipari would definitely love to have him back, but Nick Richards is the most important of the duo. Keeping the Wildcats’ roster construction in mind, a glaring hole at center remains despite a bevy of versatile forwards that could fill Montgomery's role. Nate Sestina will complete his college career in Lexington and there is optimism for what he could accomplish but UK also saw an up-and-down year from Reid Travis and the Bucknell grad-transfer is not the talent that the former Stanford product was.
Richards has much to weigh as he will be 22 years old by the next year’s draft rolls around and has yet to average more than six points or five rebounds in either of his two college seasons. For Kentucky’s sake, though, Richards is a big body that can rebound and alter shots, assets that not many on its current roster can claim to do, which would be the perfect complement to the wealth of perimeter firepower set to enroll.
Not many reworked their body or game more than more than Jordan Nwora in recent years. The Louisville standout stuck with the program throughout the coaching change and because of it, saw his numbers improve across the board. Posting more than 11 points and four rebounds from his freshman to sophomore seasons, Nwora was thought to be all but gone to the NBA. However, after suffering with an injury at the NBA Combine and being unable to work out for teams, his decision to remain in the draft became that much more difficult.
He could return to Louisville, better his defensive prowess and shine further as the face of the program that should be a top-four outfit within the ACC next season. If not, he will test his chances in June, which would force Louisville to rely more heavily on Jaelyn Withers and Aidan Igiehon in the frontcourt, and also make Samuell Williamson’s enrollment that much more vital during his freshman campaign.
With Anthony Cowan, Maryland is a legitimate Final Four team that would rely heavily on the senior thanks to his toughness, talent base, and plethora of experience. Having started every year game of his college career, Cowan returning would make for one of the more accomplished guards that the program has seen this century.
If he decides to make the move to the NBA, the Terps’ ceiling would be diminished immediately as there is no plug-in who could match Cowan's productivity. Jalen Smith’s return was a giant boost earlier this spring and while they will lose Bruno Fernando, a top-25 recruiting class and improvement from Darryl Morsell, Serrel Smith, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala brings plenty of optimism. However, without their facilitating agent that can coordinate a half-court offense, Maryland’s Final Four chase would be curtailed before the games even began.
If Rayjon Tucker pulls out of the draft, he will enroll as a graduate transfer at Memphisn after spending his junior season at Arkansas-Little Rock. Tucker averaged over 20 points and six rebounds last year, shooting 41 percent from three.
Tucker enrolling at Memphis would make a steadying force for arguably one of the top-five most talented teams in the nation next season. Without him, Penny Hardaway would be relying on a bevy of underclassmen with little to no college experience. If he does not enroll, another scholarship would open that the Tigers could use on RJ Hampton, and an even greater dependence would be placed on freshmen Lester Quinones, DJ Jeffries and Precious Achiuwa.
One of the more mystifying names in this year’s draft, the public has yet to gain a sense of who Jalen Lecque is. The breakout performer on the 2017 travel circuit, Lecque entered the spring with his biggest offer coming from Iona before completing the summer with blue bloods chasing him. Lecque finished his prep career at Brewster Academy this winter and committed to NC State, though he may never arrive in Raleigh.
Attempting to do what Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons recently achieved, leaping directly to the NBA without the use of college, Simons is of the proper age and a year removed from his high school’s graduation. He is an elite level athlete that finished with the top vertical leap at last week’s combine and has continued to evolve into the point guard spot. If he does not enroll in Raleigh, Blake Harris and Braxton Beverly must be ready to step up, and the enrollment of Rivals150 guard Dereon Seabron should provide for further production in the backcourt.
After losing Ty Jerome, DeAndre Hunter and Kyle Guy, Virginia is hoping to hold onto Mamadi Diaite. Losing him would be a gut punch for the Cavs. They are expected to take a step back compared to their consistent but also legitimate national championship aspirations within the past five years but with no Diakite, their chances of even competing for a top-four finish within the ACC might be out of sight.
Tony Bennett is going to Tony Bennett, that is work his tail off in putting the pieces into the proper spots so that success can be achieved. However, talent is a necessity and without Diakite, who will likely go undrafted next month, Jay Huff and Kadin Shedrick, two unproven centers, would have to step up and in a major fashion. Diakite holds the keys to just how good or how average the Cavaliers might be next year.