In a move that actually is in favor of the student-athlete, the NCAA put forth a new rule that allows college basketball players to take their time in deciding whether or not to stay or enter their names in the NBA Draft. They will have 10 days after the draft combine, which players will be allowed to attend without any penalty as long as they do not hire an agent, to decide whether or not they will enter the NBA.
Players like Ben Simmons that know they will be a top five prospect will enter their names in the draft without going through the process.
This season, the Kentucky Wildcats have more players that should be on the fence than usual. The mass exodus to the pros that we are used should be smaller in scale.
There are some players that I fully expect to return and that will more than likely not test the NBA waters at all. Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and Dominique Hawkins will be returning seniors, Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard, and Charles Matthews will be returning sophomores.
Alex Poythress will be gone no matter what. He has already sent his goodbyes via twitter:
Definitely not the way I wanted this to end but It's been a great 4 years here at Kentucky & it will always be a special place to me where I— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
have made a lot of memories and met some of my best friends in my life. I just want to thank all my teammates, all my coaches, and all the— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
fans for supporting me and being there for me throughout these years. Y'all have made me into a better person and an even better man.— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
Through out the ups and downs, being here has been some of the best times of my life. The lessons that I have learned here at UK I will be— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
UK I will be able to use them for the rest of my life. So I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has been apart of my life here— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
& Thanks BBN! #Blessed— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) March 20, 2016
Alex could technically apply for a medical redshirt year, but with already having his degree, I think it is safe to say Alex will be playing somewhere professionally in 2016.
That leaves Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe, and Marcus Lee with decisions to make. With no insider knowledge and the inexact science of guessing, here is what I expect each player to do.
Prediction: 100% Gone
Why: Murray didn't have to play college basketball in the United States. He had one year of high school eligibility left, then he could have gone straight to the NBA. But he opted to play at Kentucky in order to gain more exposure on the brightest spotlight in college basketball. Jamal Murray is a consensus top 10 draft pick. The NBA has become a league that caters to scoring guards with the emergence of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Murray was one of the top scorers in the nation by the end of the season. His body type and shooting ability makes him NBA ready right now. There isn't much for Jamal to gain if he stays at Kentucky.
It was a pleasure watching Jamal and he gave his all to the program. There wasn't one player more upset with the loss to Indiana that him. Playing for Kentucky meant something to him, but he is an NBA player that needs to take the next step in his career.
Prediction: 75% Gone
Why: A couple of weeks ago, John Calipari was emphatic in stating that Big Blue Nation will have to prepare for a team with a brand new point guard, alluding to the fact that the SEC Player of the Year was NBA bound. He backed off those comments a bit this week, claiming he did not know what Tyler's decision would be. I don't know if Ulis personally asked his coach to say that or if Cal wants Tyler to go through the entire process before making his final decision, but Calipari left the door open for a Ulis return.
NBAdraft.net has Tyler going #36 overall to the Bucks and Draft Express has him in the first round going #26 overall. Of course, Tyler is going to have to fight the doubters because of his size, but he showcased his ability to lead a team and to be the best player on that team this season. In a draft that is considered weak, this is a prime time for Tyler to head to the pros. It hurts me personally, but it would make me extremely happy for Tyler if he hears his name called in the first round of the lottery.
Prediction: 90% Gone
Why: There is a slim chance that Skal listens to his coach and everybody else in the country telling him that he is not ready, but as of now he is listed as the tenth overall pick by Draft Express and NBADraft.net has him as the eleventh pick overall.
The rule of thumb is that if you are projected in the lottery, you need to go. The lottery guarantees you a contract, therefore you are guaranteed money. As bizarre as it may seem to us, the NBA drafts on potential and Skal is not short on potential. At times he was able to showcase a dangerous set of skills that could make him a very good NBA player. But those flashes of greatness were few and far between, leaving fans always wanting more but never getting it.
Skal could be boom or bust for a franchise, but I expect him not to be a college player next season.
Prediction: 60% Stays
Why: Briscoe isn't listed in the first or second rounds of either draft service that I have previously mentioned. He came out of high school with the reputation as a scorer. But that scoring game due to his large size as a point guard and his ability to get to the basket thanks to being so big and so fast. Briscoe is not a good shooter and a jump shot is in high demand professionally. If Briscoe stays and works on his outside shooting, he could indeed become a very good NBA prospect.
The one thing I do see pushing him out the door is the arrival of DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk. Cal will probably not use the three guard lineup next season with players like Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis able to play small forward. But Briscoe is not afraid of a challenge and he isn't afraid of competing. There will be a place for him next season if he does decide to return, and that is what I think he will do.
Prediction: 65% Stays
Why: Lee, like Briscoe, is not listed in the first two rounds of either draft service. While Lee is extremely athletic, he has proven to be undisciplined on defense which led to foul trouble and one-dimensional on offense. He cannot create his own shot and he is under-developed in the post.
Marcus Lee is a great person and I think getting a college degree at Kentucky would be important to him. There will be an influx in big men next season, especially if Marcus Bolden commits in the coming weeks, and Lee may see his minutes once again diminish. But Lee's leadership will be valuable if he remains at Kentucky.
Whatever the choices the young men make, Big Blue Nation will stand behind them and support them as we have all of the previous players that are now in the NBA.
Make your own predictions, dear readers.