2020 NBA Draft

Three Early Entrants Withdrawing From NBA Draft

The list of early entrants for the 2020 NBA draft continues to slowly thin out. According to a series of reports from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, three more players are removing their names from this year’s draft pool and returning to school for one more season.

Clemson forward Aamir Simms has informed Rothstein (Twitter link) that he’s withdrawing from the draft after testing the waters. Simms enjoyed a breakout junior year for the Tigers in 2019/20, averaging 13.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 2.6 APG with a .474/.400/.705 shooting line in 30 games (31.6 MPG). He’ll return to Clemson for his senior season.

A source tells Rothstein (Twitter link) that Vermont guard Stef Smith is also heading back to school for his senior year rather than remaining in the draft. Smith was the Catamounts’ second-leading scorer as a junior, with 14.2 PPG and an impressive .423 3PT% in 33 games (28.4 MPG).

Finally, Nicholls State guard Andre Jones is withdrawing from the draft after testing the waters, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Jones, who transferred after two years at Little Rock, averaged 12.3 PPG and 2.8 APG on .513/.313/.732 shooting in 30 games (24.3 MPG) as a junior at Nicholls State.

None of Simms, Smith, or Jones showed up in ESPN’s list of the top 100 prospects in the 2020 draft class, so their decisions to pull out and return to school don’t come as a major surprise.

Draft Notes: Garza, Walker, Nembhard, Mann

The uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft process may cause Wooden Award runner-up Luka Garza to return to Iowa for another season, writes Myron Medcalf of ESPN.

“I think it all depends on what teams are telling me in these interviews and what they’re seeing on film,” Garza said. “I’m not leaving for an unknown or an uncertain. That’s the one thing about this process, is I need to know for sure there will be an opportunity for me next year (in the NBA) because if I don’t, it’s too risky to leave behind what I have at Iowa. I don’t want to do anything that I’m not sure about.”

The 6’11” junior says he’s not “leaning” either way, but wants an opportunity to prove himself at NBA workouts. He averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds this season, but isn’t projected to be drafted. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Garza 80th on his list of 2020’s top 100 prospects.

“This year is obviously an interesting process with everything that’s going on,” Garza said. “I haven’t been able to work out in front of teams. I think I could prove a lot of things in workouts. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Ohio State guard CJ Walker announced today on Instagram that he will take his name out of the draft and return to school for his senior season. Walker averaged 8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists this year. “After talking to my family and coach (Chris) Holtmann, I have officially notified the NBA that I am withdrawing from consideration for the 2020 NBA Draft,” Walker wrote. “The feedback we received was very helpful and I’m looking forward to getting back to work with my teammates. I love playing in front of Buckeye nation and I can’t wait to finish my degree and my playing career here at THE Ohio State University!”
  • Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard is also leaving the draft, but he won’t be returning to the Gators, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN. With two years of eligibility remaining, Nembhard plans to transfer and may seek a waiver allowing him to play next season. Nembhard hired agent Jaafar Choufani, who is certified by the NBA, so he is free to return to college basketball.
  • Nembhard’s spot in Florida’s starting backcourt will likely be taken by Tre Mann, who has also decided to withdraw from the draft, sources tell Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.

Free Agency Could Be Moved Prior To Draft

The NBA free agent period this year could be moved before the annual draft, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

That would be a momentous shift in the way the NBA operates. The league has traditionally conducted a June draft with free agency beginning approximately a week later.

The matter will be discussed during Friday’s NBA Board of Governors meeting, according to Pompey. Both the draft and free agency are expected to be moved to a later date. The draft, scheduled for June 25, will likely be moved to early September, according to Pompey. Free agency was scheduled to begin on June 30 at 6:00 p.m.

The NFL notably conducts free agency before its annual April draft, allowing teams to determine what remaining needs they have entering the draft. It also facilitates trades during the draft, which can be immediately announced.

The NBA’s method provides rookies with plenty of time to prepare for their first NBA seasons and allows the league to conduct thriving Summer League events. But draft-night trades that don’t involve strictly pick swaps are often not officially announced until after free agency begins and the salary cap is determined.

The decision on when to hold free agency may not be made in the near future, Pompey cautions, since plans to resume this season take precedence. Via an unnamed source, Pompey reports that this year’s draft would occur five-to-seven days after the Finals if it precedes free agency.

The National Basketball Players Association would have to agree to moving free agency before the draft.

The draft lottery and combine have already been postponed.

Draft Notes: Cisse, Kuminga, West, International

Forward Moussa Cisse, a top-10 prospect for the class of 2021, will graduate high school a year early and reclassify to this year with an eye toward the 2021 draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports. Cisse was ranked No. 8 among prospects for the 2021 class. The 6’11” Cisse intends to commit to a top college program next week and has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, Memphis or Georgetown. “I am trying to find the best way to the NBA,” Cisse said.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Small forward Jonathan Kuminga, the top-ranked player on ESPN’s 2021 prospects list, has the option of reclassifying to this year and is considering the G League, according to Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com. Kuminga is “50-50” on reclassifying, but has already narrowed his college choices to Auburn, Duke, Kentucky and Texas Tech, along with the possibility of joining the G League development program. Kuminga has been doing online schoolwork in order to graduate early, Zagoria adds.
  • Marshall guard Jarrod West has elected to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior season, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. A three-year starter with the Thundering Herd, West averaged 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG last season.
  • Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija and Abdoulaye N’Doye rank as the top international prospects in this year’s draft, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. Players who participated in the Australian NBL’s Next Stars program this past season were not included in the rankings. According to ESPN’s latest rankings, Avdija is the top overseas prospect at No. 5 overall with Hayes ranked at No. 9.

Terry Taylor, Jomaru Brown Withdraw From Draft

A pair of early entrants in this year’s draft have decided not to go pro in 2020 after all. Jeff Goodman of Stadium reports (via Twitter) that Austin Peay guard Terry Taylor has withdrawn from the draft, while Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets that Eastern Kentucky guard Jomaru Brown has done the same.

Taylor, who averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG in 33 games (36.6 MPG) in 2019/20, is the second Austin Peay underclassman to withdraw from the draft after testing the waters, joining teammate Jordyn Adams. Coming off his junior year, Taylor has one more year of college eligibility and will automatically be entered into the 2021 NBA draft.

Brown, meanwhile, was Eastern Kentucky’s leading scorer in his sophomore season, putting up 18.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 1.9 SPG in 32 games (29.5 MPG) for the Colonels. However, he struggled with his efficiency, recording a .386/.315/.751 shooting line, and didn’t take great care of the ball, averaging 4.7 turnovers per contest, compared to just 2.7 APG. He’ll be a junior in 2020/21.

The pre-draft calendar initially called for NCAA early entrants to make their decisions on whether or not to remain in the draft by June 3 in order to maintain their college eligibility. That deadline has been indefinitely postponed, but a number of early entrants are still pulling out of the draft class now, as our tracker shows.

Draft Notes: Combine, Haliburton, Francis, Figueroa

If not for the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s draft combine would have taken place last week in Chicago, with dozens of this year’s top prospects congregating for workouts, scrimmages, interviews, and medical tests. Instead, that event has been indefinitely postponed, and it’s unclear what form it will eventually take — if it happens at all.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, league sources still believe there’s a good chance that a “downsized” combine that includes live interviews could take place in August or September. One report earlier in May suggested that such an event might be held within the NBA’s “bubble” location – possibly Walt Disney World – rather than Chicago, though that’s still speculative at this point.

Of course, before the NBA can even line up tentative plans for a combine, it will need to formally postpone the draft, which is still scheduled for June 25. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), some teams expect the draft to be delayed until September, with free agency potentially starting around October 1.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Within his above-linked piece, Berman notes that Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm believes potential top-10 pick Tyrese Haliburton would benefit from being able to interview in person with NBA teams. “On Zoom, you can only impress so much,” Prohm said. “If he was in person, over dinner, or in the facility or ballroom at the combine, he’d knock it out of the park. His spirit and personality will wow people. He’ll move up on the charts on that alone. … His character and maturity is very high.”
  • Richmond guard Blake Francis, who tested the draft waters following his junior year, has decided to withdraw and return to school for one more season, he tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Francis is the third Richmond early entrant to withdraw from the draft pool, joining teammates Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden.
  • St. John’s guard LJ Figueroa has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, a source tells Evan Daniels of 247Sports (Twitter link). Figueroa, who declared for the draft in the spring, will continue testing the waters as he explores his transfer options, tweets Rothstein.

Bulls Notes: Boylen, Loenser, Tanaka, Draft

Although the Bulls‘ ownership group and former executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson have voiced their support for head coach Jim Boylen, they’ve also made it clear to the newly-hired executives in the front office that they’ll allow Boylen’s dismissal if Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley want to go in that direction, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Cowley, who wrote earlier this month that Karnisovas and Eversley are likely leaning toward making a coaching change, notes that the Bulls will have a clearer sense of a timeline for that decision once the NBA makes an announcement on the fate of the 2019/20 season. If the team doesn’t resume play, the front office could be in position to make a call on Boylen sooner rather than later.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • While Boylen’s fate remains up in the air, the Bulls have exercised their 2020/21 option on assistant coach Nate Loenser, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. As Johnson explains, Loenser – whose contract is the only one that required an immediate decision – is well-respected by players and has established a strong reputation for player development.
  • The Bulls aren’t retaining longtime trainer Jeff Tanaka, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Tanaka has been the club’s head trainer since 2014 and was an assistant trainer before that, dating back to 2008. With his contract up, Arturas Karnisovas and the new-look front office decided to go in another direction and intend to bring in someone of their own choosing, per Cowley.
  • The Bulls should be well-prepared for the 2020 draft, according to Cowley, who points out that newly-hired executives Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, Pat Connelly, and J.J. Polk will bring with them intel from three separate franchises. Throw in the research the Bulls’ existing scouts have done and there should be no shortage of information on this year’s prospects as the team sets its draft board.

Warriors Notes: Myers, Draft, Resumption, Mullin

The Warriors project to have the best odds whenever the draft lottery takes place, but they aren’t committed to keeping their pick. General manager Bob Myers confirmed to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area that trying to trade for a more established player remains an option.

“Yeah, we’re going to consider all that,” Myers said. “Now, I don’t know if the headline is going to be that we’re trading our pick. So, be clear that I said ‘consider.’”

Golden State is aiming to get back into title contention after a lost season due to injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Myers admits there’s not a “transformational” player at the top of this year’s draft and Poole states that there’s little difference in talent level between the top pick and No. 5, which is the farthest the Warriors can drop in the lottery. Adding to the uncertainty, the traditional pre-draft evaluation process has been disrupted because of COVID-19 concerns.

The current front office has never been in position to make a top-five pick, so the Warriors are reaching out to other franchises, including the Hawks, whose GM, Travis Schlenk, was a former Golden State executive.

“He said there’s a lot of activity, that it depends on the traffic and how open you are to doing something,” Myers said. “The higher you are, the more optionality you have to make moves. The thing about trading or not is you want to make the best decision possible. The best position might be to draft, or it might be a trade. You don’t know until you see what you can do and what offers you have.”

There’s more Warriors news this morning:

  • It’s not certain that Golden State and the other teams at the bottom of the league will participate in a resumption of the season, but many people in the organization believe it would be beneficial, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. A few practices and games could provide a mini-camp to help prepare the team for the start of next season.
  • Former Warriors star Chris Mullin believes The Last Dance documentary sheds light on how impressive Golden State’s five-run in the NBA Finals was, relays Alex Didion of NBC Sports. “I think it puts into context how great this last five-year period the Warriors have been on,” Mullin said in an interview on KNBR. “That’s a hard thing to endure man, and the way they did it, they did it with some grace and some class and some dignity. I know (Warriors coach) Steve (Kerr) didn’t let the cameras in, but I think as years go by, we’re gonna look back and go ‘Man, that Warriors team of the last five years was a special, special time here in the Bay Area.’”
  • The Warriors have almost no chance of reaching the 70-game threshold for their regional sports network, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Of the 65 games they have played, nine have been exclusive to national TV, so they would need 14 more to meet the target.

Draft Notes: Bailey, Tucker, Wesson, Kalaitzakis

Marquette forward Brendan Bailey has decided to remain in the draft, the university announced in a press release. Coach Steve Wojciechowski delivered the news about Bailey, who entered the draft pool in April.

A sophomore, Bailey played 64 games in two seasons for the Golden Eagles, averaging 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per night. The 22-year-old did a two-year Mormon mission after high school and didn’t join the team until the 2018/19 season.

“After counseling with my family, I have decided to forgo my junior and senior years and pursue a career in professional basketball,” Bailey added. “This has always been a dream of mine and Marquette has helped prepare me to make this dream a reality.  Thank you Marquette, you will always have a special place in my heart.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Butler’s Jordan Tucker has also opted to remain in the draft, announcing his decision on Twitter. The junior forward averaged 8.9 PPG and 3.8 RPG this season. “Playing in the NBA has always been my dream,” Tucker wrote. “… This is a difficult decision, but it’s the one I want to make to be completely focused on my professional goals over the next few months.”
  • Ohio State early entrant Kaleb Wesson has signed with Jelani Floyd of Beyond Athlete Management, tweets Jeff Goodman of GoodmanHoops. Floyd isn’t certified by the NCAA, so it appears Wesson has decided to give up his remaining year of eligibility.
  • Greek guard Georgios Kalaitzakis entered the draft last month, but Panathinaikos is interested in keeping him for another season, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Kalaitzakis, 21, said he wants to go to a situation where he will get playing time.

Draft Updates: J. Harris, Watson, Wiseman

Nevada guard Jalen Harris, who declared for the draft before April’s early entry deadline, has decided to keep his name in the 2020 pool and go pro, according to his father (Twitter link via Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports). Harris published a tweet of his own saying goodbye to Reno and indicating that he’s ready for his “next chapter.”

Harris, who began his college career at Louisiana Tech, transferred to Nevada and had a huge year in 2019/20 as a junior, averaging 21.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 3.9 APG with a .446/.362/.823 shooting line in 30 games (33.0 MPG). He’s not a lock to be drafted, but should be in the second-round mix, ranking 60th on SI.com’s big board and 85th on ESPN’s top-100 list.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Dayton guard Ibi Watson has decided to withdraw from the draft and will return to school for his senior season, he tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Watson elected to test the draft waters this spring after averaging 10.1 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 31 games (22.5 MPG) off the bench for the Flyers as a junior.
  • After Jeff Goodman of Stadium polled 35 NBA evaluators and found that 20 picked James Wiseman as the top prospect in the 2020 class, Goodman asked Wiseman for his reaction. The former Memphis Tigers big man stressed that he’s not concerned about whether or not he’s picked first overall, adding that his focus is on continuing to improve as a player, regardless of where he’s drafted (video link).
  • In case you missed it, our Thursday poll focused on whether Wiseman or another player is the best prospect in the 2020 NBA draft.