By: Mychal Hunter
The deadline to stay or withdraw from the NBA draft came and went at midnight last night and there weren’t many surprises, but that doesn’t mean it lacked drama.
Lets take a quick look at the winners and losers of the draft decision process.
The Cardinals received the best news possible yesterday evening when sophomore forward Jordan Nwora declared that he would return for the 2019-20 season. Nwora had been projected to go late in the first according to most mock drafts. Jordan seemingly fits the current NBA as a player who can shoot it from deep, rebound and finish with authority at the hoop. If he is able to progress even further during the upcoming season he could potentially land in the lottery of the 2020 draft.
Steven Enoch will also return next season for the Cardinals after testing the waters. Enoch lived up to the potential he displayed in international play last year after transferring from UConn following the 2016-17 season.
V.J. King will not be returning for the 2019-20 season. The former five star prospect had decided to pursue professional opportunities.
The Cardinal’s roster now represents one of the best in the country. Coach Chris Mack returns six of his top seven scorers along with one of the best recruiting classes in the entire country. They have size, shooting, depth, versatility and coaching. This is a top 5 preseason team.
North Carolina State
Some may call me crazy for putting the Wolfpack in the winners bracket, but I think they experienced the best possible outcome. Jalen Lecque was gone before he ever arrived, that is a fact. Once he knew he could go it was a foregone conclusion. But Markell Johnson is returning and that good news far outweighs the bad from Lecque. Imagine if they had both decided to stay. Yikes.
The truth is, State is built to handle the loss of Lecque. Jalen was tremendously athletic and would have provided plenty of highlight real plays, but he wasn’t a guy that was going to lead you to the final four or a Dennis Smith Jr. type talent.
Markell Johnson on the other hand is currently the best point guard in the ACC for my money. Teamed with Braxton Beverly, CJ Bryce and Devon Daniels again along with potentially immediately eligible transfer Thomas Allen, I feel pretty good if I am a Pack fan.
The front court is the concern now.
Mamadi Diakite coming back is a pretty big deal, no doubt. It was quite obvious that he really wanted to go, but will now receive the opportunity to be a focal point for the defending champs and really make a name for himself. In terms of that decision, the Wahoos won.
However, losing a trio of Hunter, Guy and Jerome is nothing short of devastating. While no coach in the country is seemingly more able to scheme his way past losses such as those, Tony Bennett has a real task in front of him. That trio was responsible for 76% of Virginia’s three pointers made last season and 58% of their free throws.
The slow down, grind it out style will mitigate the Cav’s deficiencies next year, but at the end of the day somebody needs to be able to make shots.
This is another program who lost the battle (tee-hee) a while ago. Tyus Battle realllllllly wanted to go pro last year, but just didn’t get the feed back he desired. He then returned to Syracuse and did pretty much the same things he did last year.
Oshae Brissett also really wanted to be a OAD last year, but was presumably told he needed to work on his shooting. He returned to Syracuse and proved that he indeed could not shoot. I am not sure much would have changed had he returned for his junior season.
While both players have a long road to the NBA ahead of them, they are both high end college basketball players that Syracuse is better with than without. The Orange will now heavily rely on Elijah Hughes, who was much better than expected last year, and a bunch of youngsters, albeit talented youngsters.
So there you have it. I could have put Virginia Tech in that losers bracket since Kerry Blackshear Jr. withdrew from the draft, but still intends to transfer. I think we all knew he wasn’t coming back to Blacksburg regardless of what he decided on the draft.