Sandro Mamukelashvili

Jared Butler, Aaron Henry Among Prospects Withdrawing From Draft

A pair of early-entry prospects who were ranked within the top 60 on ESPN’s big board have pulled out of the draft in advance of Monday’s withdrawal deadline.

Baylor guard Jared Butler was one of those two players, announcing in a Twitter video on Monday morning that he has decided to return to the Bears for his junior year. Butler explained his decision in a conversation with ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

“After going through this process, making an important decision for the rest of my life, I truly felt like I couldn’t go wrong with either decision,” Butler said. “It came down to making the most out of my development as a player and as an adult. In the end I felt like coming back to school would set me up in both aspects in a way that I couldn’t deny. Even though the opportunity to reach my dream of playing in the NBA was readily at hand, I think next year it will still be there, possibly even with greater opportunities.”

Butler emerged as Baylor’s leading scorer in 2019/20 as a sophomore, averaging 16.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 30 games (30.4 MPG). He also showed improvement on his outside shot, making 38.1% of 6.7 three-point attempts per contest. He came in at No. 46 on Givony’s top-100 list at ESPN.com, making him a strong candidate to be drafted had he decided to go pro.

Meanwhile, Michigan State swingman Aaron Henry has also decided to withdraw from the draft after testing the waters, as Givony writes in a separate story. Henry had been the No. 55 prospect on ESPN’s big board.

Henry’s numbers as a sophomore in 2019/20 were somewhat modest — 10.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.9 APG in 30 games (29.1 MPG). However, Givony describes him as a “long, athletic wing with strong two-way potential” and points out that he’s in position to take on a larger role for a Spartans team that won’t have Cassius Winston back next season.

“Cassius leaves big shoes to fill. He was asked to do everything for Michigan State,” Henry told ESPN. “I’m hoping to step into a bigger role with the ball in my hands. Things will definitely look different. Everyone is going to need to step up and be a piece to the puzzle. NBA teams want to see me in a bigger role. They want to see me be the man on a team. I’m not afraid of that. Let’s get to it.”

Here are a few more early entrants who tested the waters and have now pulled out of the draft ahead of Monday’s withdrawal deadline:

Draft Notes: Hart, Hayes, Nnaji, Mamukelashvili

Fresno State guard Niven Hart has decided to keep his name in the 2020 NBA draft, forgoing his remaining college eligibility and going pro, he announced on Twitter.

Hart, who was a freshman in 2019/20, put up modest numbers in his first and only college season, averaging 8.7 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 26 games (17.7 MPG) off the bench for the Bulldogs. He did show some consistency from beyond the arc, knocking down 39.8% of his three-point attempts. However, he doesn’t appear on experts’ big boards for 2020, making him a long shot to be drafted.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Appearing on the Envergure podcast (French video link), agent Yann Balikouzou indicated that his client Killian Hayes will interview with the Timberwolves and Warriors, but doesn’t expect to talk to the Cavaliers, since they’re unlikely to draft a guard (hat tip to Darren Wolfson).
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji had an interview with the Rockets and is meeting with the Warriors this week, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
  • Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com passes along updates on a pair of draft prospects, writing that Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili has met with nearly 20 NBA teams, including the Knicks, and tweeting that Louisville big man Steven Enoch has interviewed with 23 teams, including the Nets and Knicks. Mamukelashvili, who is still testing the draft waters, remains undecided about his plans for 2020/21, Zagoria notes.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic takes an early look at the top wings in the 2021 draft class, starting with Oklahoma State commit Cade Cunningham and G League prospect Jalen Green.

Draft Notes: Bey, Hall, Mamukelashvili, Jones

Colorado’s Tyler Bey has signed with an agent and will remain in the draft, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. Bey declared for the draft in late March. The 6’7” Bey is a potential first-round pick. He’s currently ranked No. 35 overall by ESPN and No. 8 among power forward prospects. He posted 13.8 PPG and 9.0 RPG with 1.5 SPG and 1.2 BPG in 31 games (29.0 MPG) in 2019/20.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Josh Hall will bypass college and remain in the draft, according to Evan Daniels of 247Sports. The 6’9” Hall had signed to play with North Carolina State next season but has hired an agent and will pursue pro opportunities. He’s eligible for this year’s draft because he graduated for high school last year, did a post-graduate season year and is 19 years old.
  • Seton Hall junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili has a dozen video interviews lined up with NBA teams but could still return for his senior season, Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com reports. He declared for the draft in March without hiring an agent. Mamukelashvili averaged 11.9 PPG and 6.0 RPG this season but missed seven weeks due to a fractured wrist.
  • Mason Jones declared on a Twitter post he’s not returning to Arkansas, Goodman relays in another tweet. The junior guard averaged 22.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.6 SPG in his final year with the Razorbacks. The 6’5” Jones is ranked No. 77 overall and No. 14 among shooting guards by ESPN.

Draft Notes: Hayes, Mannion, Warriors, Mamukelashvili 

Killian Hayes, who skipped college basketball to play professionally in Germany, might be the answer the Knicks are looking for at point guard, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Hayes was born in Florida, but has spent much of his life in France, where his father was a pro.

“He’s got good size for a young point guard, close to 6’5″, and he’s got a feel for the game,’’ said former Sixers general manager Brad Greenberg, who has spent several years coaching in Europe. “He’s used to having the ball in his hands and playing in a ball-screen offense. A very nice feel.’’

Hayes, who turns 19 in July, is ranked 10th in ESPN’s latest list of draft prospects and is the third point guard on the board behind LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton. Under the current standings, the Knicks’ pick could be as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 10.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Arizona’s Nico Mannion makes sense for the Suns if they opt for a point guard in the draft, contends Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. Cluff rounds up draft projections for Phoenix, which is currently slotted at No. 10. Ricky Rubio is under contract for two more years, but he’s 29 and the Suns may be looking for his long-term replacement.
  • Despite an adjusted pre-draft schedule that has already resulted in the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and the Nike Hoop Summit, the Warriors believe they will be prepared whenever the draft arrives, according to Wes Goldberg of The San Jose Mercury News. Assistant general manager Larry Harris said the team was about 90% done with its evaluations when the sports world was shut down last week, adding that everything else would have been “finishing touches.”
  • Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili plans to declare for the draft without hiring an agent, reports Adam Zagoria of NJ.com. The 6’11” junior averaged 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season. “It’s a great opportunity to see where he is at and where we go from here,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. “The draft process now helps kids make educated decisions and we are looking forward to going through the process with him.”