Fourteen Big 12 basketball players declared as early entrants for the 2019 NBA Draft. But not all early entrants are created equal.
Some will never put on their school’s uniform again. Others will be back on the floor come November.
The NCAA and the NBA have made the rules a bit more flexible for this draft. Players who have declared for the draft can hire an agent, but they don’t automatically forfeit their college eligibility by doing so. They can return to school as long as they announce their intention to return to school by May 29 and sever ties with their agent. They can also participate in the NBA Scouting Combine next month, if they’re invited, which is another change from previous scouting cycles.
So who’s staying, who’s coming back and who’s on the fence? Here are my thoughts on each player.
Headed for the Pros
Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech
There is really no chance he’s coming back. After leading the Red Raiders to the National Championship game and earning Second-Team All-America honors, Culver is basically a lead-pipe lottery pick at this point. It’s a weak draft overall and Culver’s stock will never be higher. Going back to Lubbock next season to try and finish the job sounds like the perfect story, but it would probably cost Culver money to do so.
Jaxson Hayes, F, Texas
If this were a deeper draft, Hayes might be coming back for a second season. But his long frame, athleticism and vast potential has NBA scouts intrigued. Plus, ESPN.com considers Hayes its No. 9 overall prospect. Unless something goes wrong with either his physical (remember the bone bruise he sustained in the Big 12 Tournament) or the feedback he gets from NBA scouts, he’ll likely be the next one-and-done in Austin.
Dedric Lawson, F, Kansas
Lawson is No. 45 on ESPN’s top 100, so he may end up being just a second-round pick. But I think he’ll remain in the draft field because he’s probably as polished as he’s likely to be for the NBA. Plus, an additional year with Kansas is unlikely to push him any higher than the late first round. To me, he was the best back-to-the-basket forward in the Big 12 and if he shows more consistency from the 3-point line, he could nudge into the first round because that’s what NBA scouts are looking for from forwards these days.
Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State
Tucker probably should have been the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, as opposed to Hayes (who won the coaches’ vote) as he had a more consistent season. Horton-Tucker is another player that I believe would benefit from another year in school. But at No. 21 on ESPN’s Top 100, it’s hard to see him returning to Ames as long as the scouting process goes his way. He’ll probably end up a late first-round pick and find himself on an NBA title contender next season.
Silvio De Sousa, F, Kansas
De Sousa probably won’t find his way into the NBA. But he could find his way into foreign ball. While he and Kansas are appealing his suspension for the 2019-20 season, and he’s made it clear if he wins the appeal he’ll return to Lawrence, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll win the appeal. So declaring for the NBA Draft gives him a chance to prove himself to scouts in a way that he was unable to last season.
On the fence
Sagaba Konate, F, West Virginia
Konate went through this process last year and returned to Morgantown. NBA scouts gave him a list of things to work on. But with just eight games last season, did he do enough to show scouts he’s ready for the NBA? Assuming he gets an invite to the NBA Combine, I think that’s crucial to his decision-making. He could end up as a second-round pick or he could end up undrafted. If it’s a lean toward being undrafted he might be better served returning for his senior year.
Cameron Lard, F, Iowa State
There are two pieces at work here. First, there’s the scouting evaluation, which could prove favorable to him because the talent is there. Then, there’s the off-the-court issues, his loss of playing time and whether he even feels he could return to Ames after all of that. It’s likely Lard will go undrafted. To me, he’s better off taking one more year at Iowa State, if that’s possible.
Lindell Wigginton, G, Iowa State
Wigginton has an NBA future, regardless of whether he stays in this draft or goes back to Ames. Scouts liked his game last year when he was the center of Iowa State’s offense. They’ll like him even more after seeing him accept a bench role on a team that won the Big 12 Tournament title. The question is whether he gets drafted. Hopefully he’ll have a good feel for that by late May. My bet is he comes back because, at the moment, he’s not part of ESPN’s Top 100.
Should come back for another season
Devon Dotson, G, Kansas
ESPN has Dotson ranked in its Top 100, but outside the two-round draft. To me, he tracks like Devonte Graham, and Graham needed four years to work himself into becoming a second-round pick. Dotson will get favorable scouting feedback, but ultimately he’ll return for a second season because, like all of Kansas’ early entries this year, he needs to improve his long-range jumper.
Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas
I was more surprised that Grimes declared than Dotson. Like Dotson, Grimes is in ESPN’s Top 100 but not within the Top 60, the latter of which would indicate he’d probably be selected. Scouts are going to tell him to go back to Kansas for another year and improve his 3-point shooting, which would complement his emerging mid-range game.
Xavier Sneed, G, Kansas State
Sneed declared just under the deadline. Based on the reporting around his decision, it’s pretty clear Sneed sees this as an opportunity to be evaluated by NBA scouts, but it’s highly likely he’ll return to Manhattan for his senior year. He is not among ESPN’s Top 100 players.
Desmond Bane, G, TCU
Bane’s season finished with a flourish for the Horned Frogs. He was their leading scorer and could continue to climb up TCU’s list of all-time leading scorers if he returns for his senior season. That seems likely. He’s not among ESPN’s Top 100 and he could improve his stock markedly with another season in Fort Worth.
Kouat Noi, F, TCU
Noi’s length and 3-point shooting ability is going to intrigue NBA scouts. But there’s a lot of that in the NBA and a lot of that in his draft. Listed outside the ESPN Top 100, he’ll probably return to Fort Worth for one more season with feedback to improve his game closer to the basket.
Jaylen Fisher, G, TCU
Fisher has hired an agent. But his playing ability isn’t the problem. Teams will probably shy away from him due to his six surgeries in college. With his name now in the transfer portal, it’s unclear if he would return to the Horned Frogs for one final season, transfer to another school or test the waters overseas or in the G-League. But the NBA is unlikely to come calling.
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