Rivals Roundtable: Players that will be missed most next season
The Rivals Roundtable returns with a look at players who will be missed most or perhaps not as much as you might think next season.
1. Which departing college player will be most difficult to replace next season?
ERIC BOSSI: I see a lot of big-time players leaving programs and I see a lot of programs prepared to at least somewhat replace their outgoing stud. What I don't see is any way that Arizona can possibly replace what it is losing with the departure of DeAndre Ayton – not to mention wings Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier. Yes, Arizona has former five-star big man Chase Jeter waiting in the wings after sitting out a transfer year. But, to expect Jeter to come anywhere near replacing Ayton's 20 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game is asking an awful lot. Sean Miller and the Wildcats are at a serious crossroads here. Not only are they losing Ayton and their next five leading scorers, but the program has been involved in the wrong type of headlines all year leaving Arizona with a recruiting class that currently consists of well, nobody. Good luck with that.
COREY EVANS: Listen, I am one of the biggest fans of Jahvon Quinerly. The five-star senior guard is one of the most skilled prospects at the point guard position that I have seen over the past five years and he should be aided in the backcourt by national title GOAT Donte DiVicenzo and soon-to-be sophomore guard Collin Gillespie, but it is going to be so difficult to replace Jalen Brunson. The definition of composure at the most important spot on the floor, Brunson became the sixth winner of the Naismith Player of the Year award and won the national title in the same season. His averages of over 18 points, five assists and three rebounds will be difficult to replace but the more pressing void that will be left is the leadership and intangibles that he brought to the Main Line.
DAN MCDONALD: I'll go with Devonte Graham on this one. He's been the heart and soul for Kansas for a few years now and always stepped up in the biggest spots for the Jayhawks. Bill Self has never struggled to replace talented players, but it's the intangibles more than the talent that will be hardest to replace with Graham.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Even with Duke's phenomenal recruiting class coming in, it's going to be nearly impossible to replace what Marvin Bagley did for that team this year. Sure the Blue Devils still have Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier but Bagley's dominance in the post was textbook, averaging a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds per game. Coach K is the winningest coach of all time for a reason and I have no doubt he'll find a way to make it work with the group coming in but there will definitely be some hurdles down low.
2. Which school is going to replace which big-name departing player better than fans might expect?
ERIC BOSSI: He hasn't announced that he's leaving just yet, but odds are that Moritz Wagner is going to enter the draft and that the Michigan big man will become a first-round pick and a millionaire. The Wolverines look to be in pretty good shape to replace him. The first guy that most will look at is five-star Canadian recruit Ignas Brazdeikis. Bringing a skilled offensive player such as Brazdeikis onto campus will certainly ease things, but he's really more of a combo forward than a big man like Wagner was. That's why I'm looking at Brandon Johns – who ironically enough is from East Lansing, the home of Michigan's rival Michigan State – to maybe be a bit better than expected off the bat. He won't be quite the shooter that Wagner is, but he should be physically ready, has skill and looks primed for a very nice career in Ann Arbor.
COREY EVANS: Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a big enough name to fit here? The Kentucky freshman surprised many by solidifying the point guard position in Lexington. Instead of a multi-year layover at UK, Gilgeous-Alexander is likely gone for the NBA Draft this spring and while it will be difficult to replace his offensive efficiency, and better yet, his defensive dominance on the basketball, the Wildcats will enroll one of the best point guard prospects in the 2018 class, Immanuel Quickley. Better yet, the five-star recruit is an even better shooter out to the 3-point arc, an asset that was dearly missing on last year’s Kentucky roster. He is just as stingy of a defender and a quicker athlete that is a dominating presence out of high ball screen sets. The Wildcats should also be a little more experienced and older next year, which should allow for Quickley to settle into his new confines of the Wildcats’ offense as a playmaking point guard who could take the Wildcats further than Gilgeous-Alexander did this past season.
DAN MCDONALD: Chris Chiozza was a huge piece to Florida's puzzle this year averaging roughly 11 points, six assists and four rebounds per game along with being the team's leader. As a junior, he played a huge role in helping the Gators surprisingly make a run to the Elite Eight. As he departs, though, Florida has a five-star point guard coming to Gainesville to replace him in Andrew Nembhard. The No. 16 overall player in the 2018 class is a true facilitator that will make others around him better, but he's also plenty capable as a scorer himself. He'll be an instant impact player for Mike White.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Troy Brown is leaving Oregon and not a lot of people are surprised by that. Fans knew coming in he was a five-star guard who was most likely going to be a one-and-done player. What's exciting is the player coming in to replace him might be contributing much more to the Ducks than Brown did this year. Five-star Louis King has been out most of his high school senior year due to a meniscus tear in his knee. However, what we saw from Lou last summer was a wing who could knock down the three with ease and play a little bit of the two-guard position when needed. He's long, athletic and runs extremely well in transition. With the addition of Will Richardson, Bol Bol and possibly Brandon Williams, Oregon might be the team to beat in the West next year.
3. Which big-name player considering the NBA should return to college for another year?
ERIC BOSSI: My answer here may come off as talking out of both sides of my mouth, because, well, I am to a certain extent. I've probably been the biggest proponent of Missouri freshman big man Jontay Porter testing the NBA Draft waters and from the conversations I've had with NBA decision-makers, there's a very good chance that he would be selected in the latter part of the first round. NBA guys like his size, his defensive numbers, the way he rebounds and his potential as a five-man who can stretch defenses from the perimeter. However, Porter isn't a big-time athlete and given that he won't turn 19 until November he would most likely be the youngest American in the draft should he stay in. Another year at Missouri to keep working on his body and play a bigger role on offense could transform him from a fringe first-rounder to a lottery pick.
COREY EVANS: Let me change the wording of this question with who should have returned to college but already decided to hire an agent, as Trevon Duval would have been better off using another year of development under the tutelage of Coach K to better his standing within NBA personnel’s eyes. The top-ranked point guard prospect in the 2017 class found better footing as the season went on in Durham but still, if you cannot make shots, or at least provide for a threat from 15-feet and out, your value at the highest levels of basketball is going to be undermined severely. Duval kicked the season off by making five of his first 32 perimeter attempts and completed the year shooting 29 percent from 20-feet and out. I get it with Duval; here you have an explosive point guard, standing 6-foot-3 with a plus-5 wingspan, quick-twitch abilities, and a good head on his shoulders. However, too many times opposing defenses didn’t even guard Duval in the half-court setting, denying usually open driving lanes for Grayson Allen and Gary Trent, or doubling the post on Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter. Duval is dynamic off the ball screen but at the NBA level, defenses will simply go under each pick set and eradicate Duval’s primary strength. Another year at Duke would have given Duval another chance to improve his efficiency and strengthen his chances going in the first round of the NBA Draft.
DAN MCDONALD: Josh Okogie from Georgia Tech should really consider coming back for one more year. With one more year to work on his game with some more help on the perimeter at his disposal with five-star guard Mike Devoe coming in, Okogie could have a really good year and make his way comfortably into the first round. Word I'm getting right now is he could sneak into the first round this year if things go really well for him over the next month or so, but next year he could work his way closer to a lottery pick with a strong junior season.
KRYSTEN PEEK: There were a lot of people scratching their heads when LiAngelo Ball decided to declare for the draft. Maybe not so much as a head scratcher but more of an eye roll in the "Here we go again with the LaVar show" kind of reaction. I know the way the NBA is shifting, it's a shooter-friendly league and we all know that all three Ball brothers like to let it fly. But when you look at the competition he and his little brother LaMelo have had overseas, it just doesn't seem like enough. I don't even think he should have left UCLA let alone chose to play ball overseas in Lithuania. This draft class is too strong and I just don't see a spot for him on any NBA roster this year.