Friday, July 1, 2022

2022 NBA Draft: Seven players facing tough stay-or-go decisions before the NCAA deadline to withdraw Wednesday

Following weeks of pre-draft preparation for 2022 NBA prospects — including private workouts, G League Elite camp and the the NBA Draft Combine — underclassmen in the draft are now met with the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline fast approaching on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET. It’s expected to be busy on the decision front as on-the-fence players make their final decisions.

We’ve already seen some major names come off the board and decide to either return to school or stay in the draft and more are coming soon. Stanford wing Harrison Ingram, a projected first-rounder, is one such name that surprised some, announcing last week he was withdrawing from the draft and returning as a sophomore to Stanford in 2022-23. Louisiana Tech big man Kenny Lofton Jr. gave us another stunner in a different direction, as the 19-year-old big who was also in the transfer portal fully committed to staying in the draft after strong showings at the G League Elite Camp and then the Draft Combine.

Still, there are plenty of consequential decisions lurking out there likely to come in a matter of hours or days. The NBA has its own separate withdrawal deadline for early entrants that is slated for June 13 at 5 p.m. ET, but in year’s past almost every underclassmen has decided at or before the NCAA’s own deadline — which means the next few days could be especially noisy.

As we stare down the deadline, here are seven prospects who have yet to decide their stay-or-go fate facing very tough decisions.

Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate (Michigan

There’s been buzz for weeks that Houstan may be leaning in one particular direction here after he declined an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, with rumors rocking around that he may have a promise late in the first round. For someone who probably needed a strong Combine to really move up boards, the rumors certainly make a lot of sense.

But Houstan has not hinted one way or another about his decision, even if his maneuvering around the Combine leads one to speculate in one direction. For Michigan, it’s probably fool’s gold to put too much stock into anything at this point, but history suggests the little things he’s been doing will lead one way or another to him remaining in the draft.

Diabate is another Michigan player with a very challenging choice here. Houstan’s decision seems more cut and dry — if he’s a first-rounder, it’d make sense for him to go — but Diabate’s is one that seems less certain. He’s not a first-rounder right now, but he’s had a good few weeks of the pre-draft process. And no decision for the draft is obviously made in a vacuum, either. Diabate has been very active in the last few weeks working out for teams, and while that’s exactly what the draft process is for, it wouldn’t be surprising if Michigan wound up losing both Houstan and Diabate.

Kris Murray (Iowa)

In slightly more positive Big Ten news, Murray was one of two combine invites who declined to attend — along with the aforementioned Houstan — with speculation stemming from that decision swarming that he may be returning to Iowa.

Murray had a solid sophomore season with the Hawkeyes this past season emerging from a bit player to a rotation player and has physical tools and game to eventually be considered a first-rounder. But he may be best served returning to college for at least one more season to prove with NBA value in an expanded role, which he’d likely get with brother Keegan leaving for a spot likely in this year’s lottery.

Julian Strawther, Drew Timme (Gonzaga)

Gonzaga is losing Chet Holmgren but still awaiting decisions from both Julian Strawther and Drew Timme as the deadline approaches. The former probably has the toughest decision, as he’s considered a late first or early second round prospect. After averaging nearly 12 points and shooting 36.5% from 3-point range last season, he profiles as an interesting NBA role player should he go.

Both Strawther and Timme have real appeal in the NIL market, though, with Timme being arguably the most recognizable name in college hoops and Strawther, should he go back to school, possessing potential to be a true breakout star in college hoops next season with a bigger role. 

Trevor Keels (Duke)

Stay, become the potential No. 1 option for a top-10 team while developing into a potential lottery pick. Or leave and settle for being picked somewhere between 25 and 40. There lies the battle Keels is probably weighing right now. Could go from role player to star for Duke and first-year head coach Jon Scheyer but could also stay in the draft and possibly get selected late in the first round.

I’ve made the case previously that returning to school is probably best for Keels, who could in an expanded role showcase his versatile game and take his talents to the NBA in a 2023 draft where he may be a top-20 lock. But there’s not really a clear choice here between the two. With Duke enrolling four five-stars and reportedly in the mix to land star transfer A.J. Green, the appeal to possibly be a first-rounder is a tough one to pass on.

Dalen Terry (Arizona)

The draft range on Arizona’s Dalen Terry is increasingly one of the more tougher-to-pin than almost any prospect in this draft. Could be a top-20 pick, could go outside the top 40 and neither would surprise me. Hence the conundrum.

Terry was great in his role with the Wildcats last season as a role player who rebounded, nailed 3-pointers and carried a small burden as a playmaker. But Arizona was loaded last season. The production we saw was overall pretty limited, even if he made 37 starts in 37 games. (That’s what can happen when you play next to two potential first-rounders.) 

My hunch is that he’s a first round pick if he stays in the draft. But I also suspect returning to college may thrust him into a starring role at Arizona, at which point his stock could skyrocket for 2023 (similar to how I view Keels). He’s working out for the Pacers on Tuesday before likely doing his final contemplation on staying or going.

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