The 2016 NBA Draft Combine has come and gone, and players are now going through individual workouts with teams as they look to leave their mark in advance of the 2016 NBA Draft. Teams are looking for someone to jump out at them during the workouts, and who are worthy of having their name called on June 23rd.
Several of the players who are going through the individual team workouts are underclassmen in the NCAA who declared for the NBA Draft early. Some of these players have already signed with an agent, thus ending their collegiate careers, while others are pondering their options and could return to school next year.
The deadline for a player to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to school is May 25th. Some players, like Malachi Richardson (draft) and Abdul-Malik Abu (returning to school), have already made their decisions, among several others.
While others make their decisions, there are five players that, admittedly it’s selfish, would like to see return to school for the 2016-17 season.
Jaron Blossomgame – Clemson Tigers
Arguably nobody had a better showing at the 2016 NBA Draft Combine than Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame (sorry, DeAndre Bembry). Once an alternate for the event, Blossomgame was one of the 70 invitees to the event, and didn’t disappoint. He immediately shot up draft boards all across the country, and his return to school now appears to be in serious doubt.
His decision will either make the Tigers a contender in the ACC, or a team in a bit of a rebuild.
Yes, the Tigers do have transfers Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed eligible this season, both of whom will give the team a boost on both ends of the floor. Donte Grantham, Ty Hudson, and Avry Holmes are also back, but these five players are all unproven and have plenty of room still to grow.
While the returnees and additions are talented, adding a player like Blossomgame to the mix will take Clemson over the hump. Last season, he averaged a team-best 18.7 points per game, while hitting 51.3% of his field goal attempts, and 44.6% of his attempts from three point range.
With the way the combine went, don’t be surprised if Blossomgame opts for the NBA as opposed to returning to school. However, if he does, the Clemson Tigers will be a serious sleeper team in the ACC.
That, and we’d be pumped if we got to watch another year of Jaron Blossomgame in Clemson orange.
Nigel Hayes – Wisconsin Badgers
The 2016-17 season could be a special one for the Wisconsin Badgers, with or without the return of Hayes. Of course, fans in Madison, WI would love to have their star back for one more attempt at the NCAA Championship. After an up-and-down season a year ago, one in which the legendary Bo Ryan sent shockwaves through the college basketball world when retired mid-season, and Greg Gard was promoted to head coach. Early-season struggles went by the wayside, as the Badgers knocked off the #2-seed Xavier Musketeers to advance to the Sweet 16.
If Hayes does decide to return to school next year, the Badgers will return their top nine(!) scorers from the previous year. The starting five will be intact, and the only player leaving is walk-on Jordan Smith. The Badgers will be one of the most experienced teams in the country, and will be a top contender in the Big Ten.
In addition, Hayes could be one of the best players in the country.
Josh Hart – Villanova Wildcats
To put things into simple terms: if Josh Hart returns for the Villanova Wildcats, they have the talent in place to repeat as National Champions.
Kris Jenkins, the hero of the NCAA Tournament finals, has already opted out of the draft and is returning in 2016-17. For Jay Wright, adding Hart back into the mix would be a big boost moving forwards.
The 6-5 guard would bring talent and veteran leadership with him back to Philadelphia. He led the team in scoring a year ago, averaging 15.5 points per game while hitting on 51.3% of his field goal attempts. Plus, with Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono both graduated, Hart returning would get the Wildcats back to the top of the totem pole in the Big East.
Dillon Brooks – Oregon Ducks
The list would be complete with some Canadian flare to it, and one of the best Canadians in the NCAA could give his team a big boost if he decides to return to school in 2016-17.
Mississauga native Dillon Brooks was a key piece in the rise of the Oregon Ducks in 2015-16, helping lead them to the Pac-12 tournament title and a #1 seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Alongside Tyler Dorsey, the Ducks had one of the top scoring tandems in the NCAA. Both players are still considering their options, but there’s a good chance both will return to school next season.
Brooks scored a team-high 16.7 points per game last season, while adding in 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest. Another year for Brooks in Eugene would benefit himself, the Ducks, the Pac-12, and the NCAA as a whole. He is a can’t-miss talent who could put up even bigger numbers in 2016-17 if he opts to return.
Caleb Swanigan – Purdue Boilermakers
The general consensus from NBA scouts and executives around the league is that Caleb Swanigan would strongly benefit from another year of collegiate basketball. He simply doesn’t have the size or skill set to be able to effectively guard forwards in the NBA.
Despite the critiques, Swanigan is still rumoured to be leaning towards signing with an agent and staying in the draft. For the Purdue Boilermakers, having Swanigan back for another year would be a big boost to their lineup, and could keep them in line with the other top contenders in the conference.
He finished third last year in scoring for Purdue, averaging 10.2 points per contest, to go along with 8.3 rebounds. A year back at school would allow for him to work on his body, getting into shape and being able to defend bigger bodies at the next level.
If he puts in the work, he could earn himself a guaranteed contract in the 2017 NBA Draft. Plus, his return would make the Big Ten even more exciting than it’s already shaping up to be.
– T. Bennett