The 2016 NBA Draft is coming up this Thursday on June 23rd and the new eligibility rule which allows players to test their draft process by entering their name and withdraw it by a set date, a first for the NBA.
When the league announced this rule change this spring, I was happy to hear that the league had decided to change their policy but knew that the change would take time to be accepted and that there could be backlash at both levels. However, in the first year with this new rule in place players are allowed to go through the draft process prior to the eligibility deadline to see if they indeed are ready to make the jump to the next level.
This year’s draft is short on marquee names outside out of the top 10, such as Ben Simmons of LSU and Brandon Ingram of Duke, who are projected to be selected by the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers respectively. Simmons could make history if he is selected by the 76ers at No. 1 overall due to the fact that LSU did not qualify for the 2016 postseason.
I see this new rule as an aide to players who want to evaluate their abilities following successful postseason performances, such as Yale’s Makai Mason, who led the Bulldogs to their first tournament win since 1954 with their first round win over Baylor with a 31 point performance on 9-for-18 shooting field goals and 11-for-11 free throws is likely what pushed Mason to pursue his draft options.
Heralded California freshman forward Ivan Rabb took a different approach to his draft prospects. Rabb was one of the top high school basketball recruits in the country going into the 2015-16 college basketball season. After a productive freshman year (12.5 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game) he decided to return to the Golden Bears after much speculation if he would join teammate Jaylen Brown in the draft.
Villanova guard and NCAA Tournament hero Kris Jenkins is another draft prospect who rethought his future not only after winning a national championship but making the game winning 3-point shot for the Wildcats against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the title game in April.
There have been plenty of student-athletes who have tested the draft waters and chose to remain in the draft after working out for teams and thus losing their eligibility to return to the college ranks. Ben Bentil, who teamed with Kris Dunn at Providence to lead the Friars two rounds deep into the 2016 Tournament, as Bentil averaged 21.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds game on the season.
Isaiah Whitehead of Seton Hall also chose to remain the draft after a successful 2015-2016 season in which he averaged 18.2 points per game, 5.1 assists per game and 3.6 rebounds per game. However, the Pirates were eliminated in the first round by the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Chinanu Onaku had a solid season for the Louisville Cardinals during a season in which the team did not participate in the postseason after the university went with self-imposed sanctions after an NCAA investigation. I see Onaku fitting the mold of former Detroit Piston and four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace.
These three players by statistics alone project into two different categories: player to build around and role player. These two categories are synonymous with the NBA and the NFL. I see Bentil and Whitehead as potential building blocks for franchises, along with Oakland’s Kay Felder, Iowa’s Peter Jok and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl while Onaku likely projects to be solid role player given his 2015-2016 season statistics.
A third category with the draft being only two rounds and only 60 picks available is a high likelihood that many of the players that chose to remain in the draft will go undrafted and pursue other options such as playing overseas to achieve their dream of playing professional basketball. Teams could also find a diamond in the rough such as Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, Wes Matthews, Avery Johnson and Udonis Haslem. All of whom carved out their own niche in the league.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright is proposing for underclassmen to have access to agents during the draft process. As of now, coaching staffs and families are responsible for scheduling workouts and interviews with teams and travel expenses. However, I feel if if there were to be an addendum added to the new draft rules it could lead to confusion in understanding of these new rules. The NCAA and Commissioner Silver adjusting the draft eligibility rules is a step in the right direction. To think of changing them again so soon could possibly change the relationship between the NBA and the NCAA once again after finding an area of common ground.