Predictions for the Most Important NBA Draft Decisions Yet to Be Made
The deadline to declare for the NBA draft (April 27) is approaching, and a handful of high-profile players have yet to make their decision. And that's just at Kentucky!
Big Blue Nation definitely has plenty of reason to sweat out these last few days of dilemma with the Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress still undecided. The other impactful decisions yet to be made include Michigan's Mitch McGary, UConn's DeAndre Daniels, Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie and UNLV's Khem Birch.
This is a look at what each guy is weighing, and I looked into my Magic 8-Ball for predictions on whether they stay or go.
Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress, Kentucky
The one Kentucky-related reason that could cause Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress to seriously think about leaving is how crowded the frontcourt will be at UK next year.
Assuming both return, John Calipari will have six players (Johnson, Poythress, Marcus Lee, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Karl Towns) battling for two spots.
For Johnson, he should feel good about his chances to start and play a good share of the minutes because he ended up beating out Cauley-Stein for the starting spot last year. For Poythress, he is the one guy who could slide to the 3, and more minutes will be available there now that James Young has left for the NBA.
So maybe playing time should not be as much of a concern as it should have been for Lee.
As for the NBA, Johnson is intriguing because he's a legit low-post scorer with size. He could still use some more seasoning, and it's just a matter of whether he prefers to develop at UK or get paid while he's developing.
Poythress has gotten by at UK on his athleticism, and that's why he would get drafted. He could be a good energy guy off the bench in the league. It would be nice if he showed some more consistency to his game and improved his jumper.
In the end, there are more reasons to stay than reasons to go for both.
Prediction: Both return to UK.
Mitch McGary, Michigan
In hindsight, Mitch McGary made a mistake coming back to school last year when he was projected to be a lottery pick after a great tourney run as a freshman. Of course, no one could have foreseen that McGary would injure his back and miss most of his sophomore season.
If McGary were to return, you would think it would be to show NBA teams that he can stay healthy and show that he still has the potential of that March 2013 version of himself. Michigan coach John Beilein, however, told MLive.com that McGary's decision will be based on basketball and not the injury.
So now that we can assume this is a basketball-related decision, here are the main pros and cons of staying.
Pros: After losing Jordan Morgan (graduation) and Jon Horford (transfer), Michigan is short on proven big men. McGary will have every opportunity to play heavy minutes and be a big part of Michigan's success. With Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin still around, there's enough talent to still be a really good team.
Cons: By returning, McGary would give scouts another year to critique his game, and sometimes, the longer you stay, the more they pick you apart. Because of what McGary did his freshman season, there's still the potential and promise in the NBA's eyes that he could play like that in the league. He's also getting healthy enough where he should be able to prove himself in workouts.
And even though Michigan should have a solid team, it's hard to see the Wolverines competing for a national title now that McGary's buddies, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, are gone. That might contribute to him following their path.
Prediction: McGary declares.
Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
The Harrison twins are waiting on feedback from the NBA before they make their decision. Aaron Harrison Sr. told Fox 26 in Houston that he sent the paperwork in last week.
The twins are both intriguing to the NBA because of their size—both are 6'5"—but inconsistency this past season, particularly shooting the ball, and a lack of foot speed have to be concerns for NBA teams.
Both twins are not that quick laterally, and that could especially be an issue for Andrew Harrison against NBA point guards. Their size helped them compensate on the college level, but it's another battle in the NBA.
They both shot just over 35 percent from deep, which is respectable but something they could improve on as sophomores. Aaron Harrison will need to be able to consistently knock down perimeter shots to find a place in the league.
When that paperwork eventually comes back to the Harrisons, it'll probably say something like this: Fringe first-rounders who would be best served with at least another year of seasoning.
It's a deep draft. The Harrisons would be smart to return.
Prediction: Both return to UK.
DeAndre Daniels, UConn
DeAndre Daniels will be able to make an informed decision, especially with Kevin Ollie's ties to the NBA.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford currently lists Daniels at No. 35 in his Top 100 (subscription required). Based on that projection, Daniels is a borderline first-round pick.
Daniels obviously helped himself with his play in the NCAA tournament, and he projects at the next level as a big wing. He's played the 4 at UConn, and there may be some questions as to whether he can defend wings. He also could drive past 4s at the college level. Will he be able to do that in the league?
What NBA teams have to like is the fact that he shot well from outside all season—41.7 percent from distance—and he proved himself as a shot-maker in the tournament.
He could return to UConn, where both he and Ryan Boatright—also still undecided but likely to return—will see their roles increase with Shabazz Napier no longer around.
Could Daniels improve his stock? Possibly. That and the chance to play one more college season are the reasons to return. Or he could cash in on a great tourney run. It's not like he has anything left to prove after winning a championship, and typically when that happens, most guys cash in.
Prediction: Daniels declares.
Khem Birch, UNLV
Khem Birch is a borderline draft pick and would be smart to return. Of course, what Birch is today may not change a lot next year.
Birch is a great shot-blocker—he had 124 blocks as a junior—and a good energy guy who is athletic enough to play at the next level, where he will be asked to play defense and rebound.
I could say that Birch needs to improve his game on the offensive end, and that is true. It would be nice if he could add some more post moves and improve his back-to-the-basket game—he scored only 0.789 points per possession on post-ups last season, according to Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required).
But even if Birch improved some in that capacity, it's unlikely he'd ever use that in the NBA. He is what he is. And that's a borderline NBA player.
The best reason to return is UNLV has a nice roster next year with a good recruiting class coming in that includes highly rated shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. Birch can improve his game, possibly lead his team to the NCAA tournament and try his luck in a draft that is not expected to be as deep as this one next year. And getting his degree on top of that couldn't hurt.
Prediction: Birch returns to UNLV.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
It has been quiet in the Spencer Dinwiddie camp since ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman reported on April 1 that Dinwiddie is "leaning heavily toward leaving for the NBA," according to multiple sources.
Dinwiddie tore his ACL in mid-January, and it's not the best-case scenario for a fringe first-round pick—as Dinwiddie is—to go through the draft process without the ability to work out at full strength for teams.
The concern for how he returns, however, might not be what you'd think.
"I don't think his stock changes," an NBA general manager told Goodman. "Guys come back from torn ACLs all the time—and it's not as if he was super-athletic."
The draw to return to Boulder is the fact that the Buffs return their entire rotation. If they stay healthy, they could make a run next March, and that would only help Dinwiddie's stock.
The fact that he was once thought to be a heavy lean and has still yet to announce suggests there could be some second-guessing going on.
Prediction: Dinwiddie returns to CU.