Rivals Roundtable: Assessing the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline

Friday is roundtable day at Rivals, and this week’s installment comes with a built-in theme. The NBA Draft withdrawal deadline came and went on Wednesday and gives our analyst duo of Rob Cassidy and Jason Jordan plenty to discuss.

Below, Cassidy and Jordan dig into a trio of questions dealing with Wednesday’s draft deadline and discuss surprising decisions, departing players they’d have liked to see return to college for another year and which prospects may have helped themselves most by deciding to do so.

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1. WITH THE NBA DRAFT WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE NOW PAST, WHICH PLAYER’S DECISION SURPRISED YOU MOST?

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Cassidy: I was thrilled to see UConn’s Alex Karaban decide to return, as he almost certainly would have been selected had he decided to remain in the draft. Karaban’s decision isn’t only a good sign for the Huskies, but a good one for the health of college basketball which seems to be benefiting as a whole from the NIL era. Karaban now gives himself a chance to be one of the top players in the country during the upcoming season and could massively help his draft stock if he picks up where he left off late in his freshman campaign.

Jordan: If we’re talking just basketball, then for sure it’s Bronny James; though, obviously, his decision hinges on his father and that storyline next season. Other than that, Caleb Love’s decision to come back surprised me. Mostly because of what I was hearing about how much he desired to be a pro now. He’s coming off a strong season, averaging 18 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the Wildcats, but, clearly, the feedback wasn’t as favorable for the sometimes erratic shooting guard. He’ll win in NIL, but I’m curious as to how much his actual NBA Draft stock will rise next season.

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2. WHICH PLAYER THAT DECIDED TO STAY IN THE DRAFT WOULD YOU LIKE IDEALLY LIKE TO SEE PLAY ONE MORE SEASON OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL.

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Cassidy: For me, It’s Bronny James. The first son of the most famous basketball player on Earth has somewhat unfairly become such a polarizing figure that it seems like the only two opinions anyone seems to have about him are that he’s “a nepo baby that has no chance of ever being an NBA caliber player” or “a surefire NBA contributor that is ready to impact the league today.” I think there’s room for nuisance and remain somewhere in the middle.

Bronny has some projectable skills on both ends of the floor that translate well to the NBA, but I maintain that another year in college would have allowed him to add polish and take a massive step forward from what was a relatively underwhelming freshman season at USC. I think a second college season could have eased this transition and allowed him to change the narrative that now surrounds his standing as a draft entrant. James played just 25 college games, and I’m a firm believer that he could have taken the next steps, both physically and from a skill standpoint, if he got 30 or so more games in a lower-pressure environment than the one he’ll face as a professional.

Jordan: Cosigning Bronny James, but since you took that one I’ll go with MemphisDavid Jones. This would’ve been the award year for him for sure after pumping in 21.8 points a game last season. The 6-foot-5 scoring guard seemed to be primed to challenge for All-American and potential Player of the Year honors in the AAC. He would’ve turned in a special season for Penny Hardaway with key transfers PJ Haggerty and Tyrese Hunter. Jones would’ve likely improved his draft stock by coming back next season as well.

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3. WHICH PLAYER THAT RETURNED TO COLLEGE AFTER TESTING THE WATERS DO YOU THINK WILL IMPROVE HIS DRAFT STOCK MOST IN THE UPCOMING SEASON?

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Cassidy: My real answer is probably Karaban, but I’ll go with JT Toppin in the interest of not being a repetitive bore. Toppin made some waves with NBA scouts during his draft process but ultimately decided to return to college, where he’ll play next season for a Texas Tech team that could surprise some people in the Big 12. The 6-foot-9, floor-stretching forward has qualities that feel extremely translatable to the professional game. So if his production in the Big 12 resembles what he did at New Mexico, where he earned Mountain West Rookie of the Year honors last season, we could be talking first-round by this time next year.

Jordan: Alabama’s Mark Sears for sure. He capped off last season with a five-game run that saw him post 24.2 points a game while shooting 45.5 percent from three, so, yeah, I get why he threw his name in the hat for the NBA Draft. Still, with that momentum, he can build on that hype and show consistency and growth over a season and certainly improve his stock for next year’s draft.



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