Laurynas Birutis

Draft Updates: Wagner, Eastern, Hlinason, Birutis

Michigan center Moritz Wagner is going pro, announcing his decision over the weekend with an essay on The Players’ Tribune. Within an in-depth piece explaining his decision, Wagner indicated that he’ll hire an agent, forgoing his final year of NCAA eligibility.

A 6’11” junior, Wagner was a key piece of a Wolverines squad that made a run to the NCAA Final Four this year, losing to Villanova in the title game. For the 2017/18 season, Wagner averaged 14.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG with a shooting line of .528/.394/.694. He’s considered a top-50 prospect by ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, coming in at No. 48 on ESPN’s big board.

Here are more draft-related updates:

  • Purdue guard Nojel Eastern didn’t play a major role for the Boilermakers during his freshman year, averaging just 12.6 minutes per game in 37 contests. Nonetheless, he’ll test the draft waters this spring, entering the 2018 pool without an agent, according to a press release from the program.
  • Icelandic big man Tryggvi Hlinason is declaring for the 2018 NBA draft, a source tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The 7’1″ center hasn’t played much for Valencia in Spain this season, but comes in at No. 75 on Givony’s big board of 2018 prospects and is considered a potential second-round pick by NBA teams.
  • Lithuanian center Laurynas Birutis has entered the 2018 NBA draft, his agent confirmed to Givony. “The NBA has always been my dream,” Birutis said. “Therefore, I would like to try my chances there. This was not a difficult decision, because I want to try to compete against the best players in the world.” Birutis is just 20 years old, but is having a productive season in Lithuanian, averaging 15.1 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 25 MPG for BC Siauliai.

Northwest Notes: Hill, Favors, Workouts

Keeping Gordon Hayward in Utah is the top priority for the Jazz this offseason, but re-signing him alone isn’t going to help the team climb in the Western Conference standings, Benjamin Mehic of the Deseret News writes.

The team must also shore up its point guard position. George Hill will be a free agent this summer and the team will have trouble finding a top-notch point guard replacement should he bolt. Hill has expressed a desire to return, as Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors mentioned in the team’s offseason preview. However, many players say flattering things about their current team as they head into free agency only to leave for another club.

If Hill is lured away, the most likely option for the Jazz is promoting Dante Exum to the starting unit, though that could hurt the team in the win column since Exum hasn’t quite proven himself in the league yet.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

NBA Confirms 182 Early Entrants For 2017 Draft

With the deadline for early entrants to enter the 2017 NBA draft now behind us, the league has officially released the list of this year’s early entry candidates, and it’s a long one. According to the NBA’s announcement, 182 players have declared early for the draft — 137 college players and 45 international prospects. That’s a new record.

As was the case a year ago, NCAA rules changes allow underclassmen to “test the waters” before officially committing to the 2017 NBA draft. NCAA early entrants can withdraw their names any time up until May 24 while maintaining their NCAA eligibility, as long as they haven’t hired agents. That means that prospects testing the waters can take part in the NBA draft combine from May 9-14 – if invited – and they can work out for individual teams in the coming weeks.

International early entrants can also withdraw their names from the draft pool within the next several weeks. The final draft list will be set after the early entrant withdrawal deadline for international and other non-NCAA players passes on June 12.

A year ago, a whopping 162 NCAA and international players declared their intent to enter the draft early, but 91 of those players eventually withdrew. This year should follow a similar pattern, so the group of eligible draftees for 2017 figures to be reduced significantly by June 12.

Listed below are the current early entrants, according to the NBA. Players whose intent to declare wasn’t previously reported on Hoops Rumors are listed in italics.

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