Ranking the importance of Big Ten NBA draft decisions

  • 05/04/2016 11:07 am in

The NBA draft combine takes place next week in Chicago and the deadline for players who haven’t hired an agent to withdraw from school is now just three weeks away.

Ten Big Ten underclassmen have opted to test the draft waters without hiring an agent and each decision will have an impact on shaping next season’s conference race.

Here’s our look at each decision and a 1-10 ranking of each in terms of importance to next season’s Big Ten hierarchy.

(Note: Three underclassmen have hired agents and will not be returning to school: Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis and Maryland’s Robert Carter and Diamond Stone.)

10. Corey Sanders, Rutgers – Sanders is expected to return to school and play for new head coach Steve Pikiell, which would be a wise decision. But his decision will have very little impact on next year’s Big Ten race as the Scarlet Knights are nowhere close to contending after a dismal 7-25 season. With no invite to the combine, Sanders would be wise to return for his sophomore season.

9. Trevor Thompson, Ohio State – After an underwhelming sophomore season in Columbus in which he averaged 6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, Thompson isn’t exactly a game-changer for the Buckeyes. He was inconsistent and got dominated by some of the league’s other elite big men. The importance of him returning to school certainly increased when freshman Daniel Giddens opted to transfer, but Ohio State is unlikely to win the Big Ten next season regardless of his decision.

8. Andrew White III, Nebraska – White is crucial to Nebraska, but the Huskers are still rebuilding in the years after their surprising 2014 NCAA tournament appearance. If he doesn’t return to Lincoln, Tim Miles loses his best player and is probably headed for another Wednesday appearance in the Big Ten tournament. If he returns, Nebraska can likely improve upon a disappointing 6-12 league campaign last season.

7. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana – Blackmon Jr. seems to be using the process just to gain direct feedback from NBA teams as he wasn’t invited to the combine or even selected as an alternate. That’s a pretty strong indication of where he stands in terms of his draft stock right now coming off of an injury. If he leaves, it would mean more minutes for incoming freshman Curtis Jones, who is a top 50 recruit that is expected to be in next season’s rotation for the Hoosiers.

6. Vince Edwards, Purdue  Edwards is another player who is using the system to his advantage to gain feedback from the NBA, which is a smart move. His chances of actually getting drafted are meager, but with Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons moving on, his return to West Lafayette is pivotal to Purdue’s success next season. The Boilermakers have no comparable player on the roster at his position if he decides to stay in the draft.

5. Peter Jok, Iowa  The Hawkeyes are going to take a step back next season, but if Jok leaves, it could be a giant tumble. He’s without a doubt Iowa’s best returning player and will be in the mix for first team All-Big Ten honors if he can build on a strong junior season. Like several others on this list, he was not invited to the combine. So unless he’s just itching to play professionally somewhere, he’ll likely be back in Iowa City.

4. Troy Williams, Indiana – This is where the list gets a little more interesting. The top four players on this list all received combine invites. Williams is a player who can likely solidify himself a spot in the draft somewhere with a strong combine showing and the fact that he’s graduating this month makes him a stronger candidate to stay in the draft. While he would certainly boost Indiana’s upside if he returns to school, the Hoosiers have OG Anunoby there to soften the blow if Williams bolts.

3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue  Swanigan is talking like a guy who is ready to go to the NBA, but is the league ready to welcome him? The combine and individual workouts are going to determine that. Right now, the DraftExpress and Chad Ford rankings suggest that Swanigan needs another year of school. If he leaves, Edwards probably slides to the four and Purdue becomes a little less deep on the frontline. If he returns, the Purdue frontline should once again be elite with Swanigan, Edwards and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas.

2. Melo Trimble, Maryland – Trimble was a bit of a disappointment as a sophomore after earning preseason Big Ten player of the year honors, but he’s still an elite college point guard. Those aren’t easy to find and if he leaves, Maryland is going to miss him and will have to rely on Jaylen Brantley and freshman Anthony Cowan. But if he comes back? The Terps are probably a top 25 team with Trimble, Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Kevin Huerter, Brantley, Cowan and a solid, but unspectacular, frontcourt of Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky.

1. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin – If Hayes returns – and he has said that is the plan – the Badgers are in the discussion for Big Ten favorite heading into next season. His return would mean every notable player from a team that won 12 league games and reached the Sweet Sixteen would be back in Madison. If he leaves, it’ll be mean more responsibility for Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson and Alex Illikainen.

(Photo credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images North America)

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  • Kyl470

    Can’t really argue with the list, but I would put JBJ up a little higher I think. If IU loses Troy and JBJ that’s roughly 30 points a game you are going to have to find a way to replace. We have to remember that IU doesn’t really run a post friendly offense so I don’t know if you can really expect a guy like Bryant to have a big increase in his points. We all love OG, but I’m not sure if he is ready to be a focal point in the offense.

  • Sizzle

    If Nigel Hayes does indeed leave for the NBA, which would surprise many people given his comments, his mother’s wishes, and his current draft projection (despite his invite to the Combine), I still don’t think it would “mean more responsibility” for a player like Alex Illikainen, whom is noted in this article.

    As it stands, and given the staff’s liking of Andy Van Vliet, Illikainen has been talked-about, among Wisconsin fans, as a prime RS candidate his sophomore season. It is atypical, but there is some precedent in the Wisconsin program, as Jordan Hill also had a RS season after his first-year on campus.

  • NC Hoosier

    There are only two decisions on the list that matter, numbers 4 and 7.

  • Outoftheloop

    OG is ready for anything on a basketball court! 35 minutes/game, 20+ points/game, 10 rebounds/game, OG can do it!

  • TomJameson

    I think the expectations as listed here are pretty sound considering they are only guesses and opinions. VERY educated “guesses” though, so a ton more weight than most of our opinions.

    JBJ is much expected to come back, he is only doing the smart thing and getting as much info & feedback as possible.

    Troy is probably gone, especially since invited to a combine. BUT … there is always that (insanely held on to) hope that he might return. I doubt it, but still holding on to that hope. If he comes back I’ll say “I told you so”! Hahahaha

    I think this past season IU became a little bit more “post friendly”, and IMHO, methinks it will become more so this season. Way too many talented big men playing to not be.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    scary to think how good wiscy is gonna be next year if NH stays. TB, you better have the two dates circled on your calendar after the way happ owned you that last game. i want revenge, buddy! don’t let me down

  • CreamandCrimson

    No one in the B1G averaged either 20 points a game (Valentine led the way at 19.4 ppg) OR 10 rebounds a game (Woodbury led with 8.5) in 2015…technically OG “can” do it but “ready” to do it? That seems more than just optimistic or hopeful thinking (in my opinion).

  • BL

    Sky’s the limit for OG but agree 20 and 10 is a little salty; especially with so many kids on the roster that can score. Last year in the BIG, YF, TW and TB went 18 n 3, 12 n 5 and 11 n 6, respectively. If JBJ stays and TW goes, love to see JBJ, TB and OG go 15 n 4, 15 n 8 and 12 n 7.

  • BL

    and OG gets NH. Probably the reason NH goes 🙂

  • Fifer39

    JBJ is more important to IU than TW next year. Some established options for Troy’s minutes next year but no other pure scorer or consistent perimeter threat other than JB.

  • Hoosierkamp

    Agreed…. Jbj is real important

  • ForeverIU

    You guys have no sense of humor. Loop can be funny, when he’s not on my heels, LOL.

  • ForeverIU

    Hey Loop, if Priller had listened to you he’d be in the NBA by now. LOL.

  • marcusgresham

    I graduated with a guy who went to IU Southeast and was mostly a benchwarmer there. He decided he wasn’t going to play his senior year and another friend of ours begged him to declare for the NBA draft just so his name would be in every paper in the country.

  • BL

    Hey, I wouldn’t put it past him. Honestly, If I were coaching OG, that would be his goal.

    One vote for the old avatar.

  • dwdkc

    Wish I’d thought of that. Just think of the reaction at the pickup games before you start up–“yeah, I declared for the draft a couple years ago but decided I’d rather be a plumber”