Miller: Pac-12 Early NBA Draft Entrants Analysis

Noteworthy Conference of Champions underclassmen who have declared for the NBA Draft

Posted on April 19, 2020

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

W
ith a shortened college basketball season due to COVID-19, the stars of the Pac-12 had to make decisions about their professional careers in highly unusual circumstances. The murkiness of the NBA Draft process, with the Combine in question, has no doubt played a role in some players holding off on announcing. 
Fortunately, early-entrant NBA rules as revised and implemented by the NCAA Division I Council in 2016 afford underclassmen a number of protections:
  • Declaration for the draft no longer results in automatic loss of college eligibility. As long as a player does not sign a contract with a professional team outside the NBA, and makes a timely withdrawal from the draft, he will retain college eligibility.
  • A player who has hired an agent retains his remaining college eligibility regardless of whether he is drafted after an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
  • NCAA players may participate in the draft combine, and are allowed to attend one tryout per year with each NBA team without losing college eligibility.
  • NCAA players now have until 10 days after the end of the NBA Draft Combine to withdraw from the draft. 

With these rules in mind, let’s look at the noteworthy Conference of Champions underclassmen who have declared for the NBA Draft. The players are arranged in no particular order, with a prediction of where they may end up on draft night.

* * *

Onyeka Okongwu, USC 

USC’s Oneyka Okongwu figures to be an instant-impact pro. | USC Athletics

 

Draft StockLottery Pick
Hired Agent: Yes
Class: Freshman
Position: Forward
Size: 6-9, 245



 

Onyeka Okongwu is the most NBA-ready player in the Pac-12. His size and skill in the paint, along with his free throw shooting and mid-range shot, make him an obvious choice as a Lottery pick. 

He will make an impact on Day One, and has tremendous upside if he is able to develop a three-point game. When all is said and done, Okongwu has the potential to end up as the best player in USC basketball history. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up as a Top 5 pick. 

 

Isaiah Stewart, Washington

Washington’s Isaiah Stewart is a strong finisher around the rim. | gohuskies.com


Draft Stock: First Round 
Hired Agent: Yes
Class: Freshman
Position: Forward
Size: 6-9, 250

 

 



At the college level, Stewart’s size was nearly unmatched, but he may not have that same advantage in the NBA. Comparing him to current professional players, he is similar to Zion Williamson, though he can’t quite match Williamson’s skill level. 

Regardless, Stewart’s ability to finish around the rim and his mid-range shooting make him a strong choice for whoever ends up landing him. Importantly, his upstanding character and responsiveness to coaching will likely ensure that he is a First Round pick with Lottery potential.

 

Zeke Nnaji, Arizona

Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji stands out as a versatile scorer. | Arizona Athletics


Draft Stock: First Round
Hired Agent: Yes 
Class: Freshman
Position: Forward
Size: 6-11, 240

 

 



With a strong all-around game, Nnaji has tremendous upside. He can score down low, has a strong mid-range shot, and can even knock down the occasional three. In addition, his free throw shooting is excellent for a big man. One of his only downsides is his lack of strength, which at times allowed him to get bullied down low. 

Fortunately, that is an easily addressable issue that his professional team will no doubt address. Damagingly, the other glaring issue is his defense, where he seemed to get taken advantage of too often. Still, his offensive prowess makes him a likely First Round choice.   

 

Tyrell Terry, Stanford

Stanford’s Tyrell Terry is a natural leader on the court. | Stanford Athletics



Draft Stock: Second Round
Hired Agent: No
Class: Freshman
Position: Guard
Size: 6-2, 160

 

 

There may not be a purer shoot-first guard in the Conference of Champions than Terry. His ability to drive, hit mid-range shots, and drain threes makes NBA scouts drool. For a true freshman, he demonstrated the willingness to take control of his team and wasn’t afraid of the moment. 

With that in mind, Terry’s NBA future is bright and he likely winds up as a late Second Round pick. However, he may end up coming back to Stanford for his sophomore season if he doesn’t like the feedback he receives. 

 

Josh Green, Arizona

Arizona’s Josh Green is tremendously athletic. | Arizona Athletics



Draft Stock: First Round
Hired Agent: Yes
Class: Freshman
Position: Guard
Size: 6-6, 210

 

 

From the standpoint of pure athleticism, Green has everything an NBA team could want. His defensive instincts are elite, as is his ability to score in transition. 

At times, his shooting was inconsistent, but he has all the tools needed to become one of the best rookies on the defensive side of the ball. When it comes down to it, Green may be the first Arizona player selected, and he could end up being a fringe Lottery pick. 

 

Remy Martin, Arizona State

ASU’s Remy Martin brings intangibles to the guard position. | ASU Athletics



Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Size: 6-0, 170

 

 

Though he lacks prototypical NBA size, Martin’s grit and shooting prowess make him an appealing free agent choice. As such, his leadership and defensive skills position him above some other guards with a height advantage. 

Realistically, Martin is someone who would significantly benefit from a strong Combine performance, and his ability to knock down NBA threes will likely make-or-break his career. Fortunately, his confidence sets him above some younger players, allowing him to make an immediate impact on his future team. 

 

Nico Mannion, Arizona

Arizona’s Nico Mannion is a standout passer and ball-handler. | Arizona Athletics



Draft Stock: First Round
Hired Agent:  Expected to
Class: Freshman
Position: Guard
Size: 6-3, 190



 

If you were to ask NBA scouts their opinion on Mannion, you likely would get two polar-opposite responses. Some view him as one of the best guards in the nation; others see him as extremely over-hyped. From an objective standpoint, his inconsistent shooting hurt him in college, and could hurt him as a pro prospect. 

On the other hand, there is no questioning his passing abilities, which make him a solid First Round pick with Lottery potential. On top of that, his ball-handling skills are elite, and his free throw shooting is proficient. Still, as a high volume shooter, he needs to take a lot of shots to reach his average points per game, which tends to turn off certain NBA scouts. 

 

Chris Smith, UCLA

UCLA’s Chris Smith boasts a wide repertoire of shots. | UCLA Athletics


Draft Stock: Second Round 
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Size: 6-9, 215

 

 

 


Having both a polished offensive and defensive game makes Smith a potential late Second Round pick. With the ability to score from anywhere on the court, and the defensive skills Mick Cronin has honed into his game, Smith should be a well-rounded NBA player. 

Realistically, his ability to come in and play right away is appealing, and he would fit into his future team’s system with ease. Nonetheless, Smith may be only testing the waters, though the feedback he receives could prompt him to take his chances in the Draft.

 

McKinley Wright IV, Colorado

Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV skills make him tough to guard. | CU Athletics



Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Size: 6-0, 196

 

 



There is no doubt that Wright has a professional career ahead of him, it’s just a matter of whether it will start in the G-League or overseas. Nobody doubts his skills or leadership, but his size is a major hurdle. Still, if he were to perform well at the Combine he could sneak in as a late Second Round pick. 

As a junior, he would significantly benefit from another year of college experience to generate better name recognition. Were he to come back, he could lead CU to the top of the Conference, and would be an early-season favorite for Player of the Year.

 

Tyler Bey, Colorado

Colorado’s Tyler Bey has exceptional defensive skills. | CU Athletics

 

Draft Stock: Second Round
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard/Forward
Size: 6-7, 216

 

 



Bey, another player who would substantially benefit from a strong Combine performance, has the skills to make it in the professional ranks. His mid-range scoring, free throw shooting, and ability to finish around the rim make him an appealing prospect. 

His defensive abilities could set him apart, making him a Second Round pick on draft night. As things stand now, it’s likely that Bey keeps his name in the draft as opposed to returning to Boulder for his senior year.

 

Both Gach, Utah

Utah’s Both Gach is a streaky shooter who can take over a game. | Utah Athletics

 

Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Size: 6-6, 183



 

Gach appears to be testing the waters in an exploratory phase of his college career. The feedback he receives should benefit him greatly, setting him up for a much-improved junior season. His shooting went ice-cold in the middle of the conference season, but he rediscovered his touch toward the end of the year. 

The new rule which allows players like Gach to declare, but not lose their eligibility, is a wonderful tool that helps young players know where they stand. In all likelihood, Gach returns to Salt Lake City with a greater understanding of where he needs to improve. 

 

Romello White, Arizona State

ASU’s Romello White is a force around the rim. ASU Athletics

 

Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Redshirt Junior
Position: Forward
Size: 6-8, 235

 

 

 

The upside of Romello White is clear: strength down low, both offensively and defensively. His potential on an NBA roster as a rim-protector is apparent, but he likely is just testing the waters with his announcement. Without much of a mid-range presence, he would be a niche player in certain situations. 

On the other hand, more than a few NBA teams may be willing to sign him as a free agent and develop him in the G-League. Objectively, his professional career has sneaky potential that may surprise a lot of people. 

 

Jaden McDaniels, Washington

Washington’s Jaden McDaniels possesses pure, raw talent. | gohuskies.com

 

Draft StockLottery Pick
Hired Agent: No
Class: Freshman
Position: Forward
Size: 6-10, 185



 

While McDaniels’ college career wasn’t anything close to what he dreamed it would be, his NBA future is one of the brightest in the Pac-12. With a body type and game that is comparable to Kevin Durant, he has lottery pick potential and the ability to make an impact in his rookie year. 

McDaniels possesses a strong mix of outside and mid-range shooting to go along with superior athleticism in his drives and lay-ups, pure raw talent that an NBA staff can sculpt into an elite professional player. And while the Durant comparison is a bit premature, the potential is there for McDaniels to be a truly great player in the league. 

 

CJ Elleby, Washington State

OSU’s Ethan Thompson is always a threat to score. | OSU Athletics

 

Draft StockLate Second Round
Hired Agent: No
Class: Sophomore
Position: Forward
Size: 6-6, 200



Without the normal draft process and the murkiness of the Combine, Elleby’s stock isn’t as high as it could be. As it stands, he is a fringe late-Second Round pick, though his announcement could help drive up his stock as NBA scouts analyze all their options.

His professional upside is apparent: the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, a strong outside shot, and confidence in himself. Unfortunately, he isn’t well-known around the nation, which artificially lowers his stock, even though his skill-level is high enough to hear his name called on draft night. At the very least, Elleby could sign a two-way contract and develop in the G-League.

 

Ethan Thompson, Oregon State

 

Draft StockUndrafted
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Size: 6-5, 195

 

A last-minute entry into this year’s Draft, Thompson is testing the waters for the second year. Possessing ideal size for his position, along with high-level instinctual passing abilities, he is an intriguing developmental prospect for an NBA franchise. On top of that, Thompson is a threat to score and has shown flashes of breakout potential.

If he were to stay in the Draft and leave college a year early, Thompson would likely sign a G-League contract and begin working his way up through the ranks. As such, a final season in Corvallis may be his best option, especially due to his presumed role as the focal point of the Beaver offense. 

Still, the information he gains during the evaluation process should help him become a better player while simultaneously making an impact on NBA scouts.

 

Timmy Allen, Utah

Utah’s Timmy Allen is versatile NBA-caliber talent. utahutes.com

 

Draft StockLate Second Round
Hired Agent: No
Class: Sophomore
Position: Forward
Size: 6-6, 204




A jack-of-all-trades who can score inside and outside the arc, Allen’s size, ball-handling, and scoring prowess are traits GM’s look for in college prospects. As the headman of Utah’s offense, he knows how to be a leader and seems to will his team to victory—two traits that are substantial X-Factors in evaluating early-entry declarants. 

Unfortunately, the lack of a traditional Combine hurts Allen’s stock and limits his ability to make an impact on NBA scouts. Putting that aside, he has a chance of getting drafted if he decides to keep his name in the mix after the June 3rd deadline.

However, the inkling to return to Salt Lake City for his junior year is strong, especially with a more wide-open conference race and a touted incoming Ute freshmen class.If Allen were to return, he would likely be an early-season candidate for the Pac-12’s Player of the Year and may lead Utah to a Top 4 finish in conference play. As such, returning for one more season may be the best option for his future.

 

Alonzo Verge Jr., Arizona State

ASU’s Alonzo Verge Jr. has polished skills around the rim. | thesundevils.com

 

Draft StockUndrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Size: 6-3, 167



There aren’t many players around the country who have an obvious professional future ahead of them, but Verge is one of them. As a pure scorer, he is the type of player that any NBA franchise would value on offense. Not solely an outside shooter, Verge’s smoothness around the rim and penetration skills provide him a well-rounded offensive game. On top of that, Bobby Hurley’s confidence and grit were ingrained into him – invaluable traits that boost his play to another level. 

Still, the timing of his decision and the relative lack of fanfare is likely indicative of his intention to return to Tempe for his senior year. If Verge were to take his chances, he would likely sign a G-League contract and might even appear in a few NBA games his rookie year.

While the pull of a professional lifestyle is appealing, Verge likely comes back to Arizona State as a seasoned veteran, among one of the nation’s most talented freshmen classes.

 

Jalen Hill, UCLA

UCLA’s Jalen Hill is a strong defender and solid shooter. | uclabruins.com
Draft StockUndrafted Free Agent
Hired Agent: No
Class: Sophomore
Position: Forward/Center
Size: 6-10, 245



 

A force in the paint, Hill has an NBA-ready body that puts him into consideration for a two-way G-League contract. As a rebounding machine, he plays strong defense and has touch around the rim on offense. Not to be discounted, Hill’s free throw shooting is surprisingly good for a player his size, giving him a leg-up on some of his competition.

Realistically, most players in the NBA are offered contracts because they fit a needed role, and each team needs big post players that play strong defense. Fortunately, Hill is cut from that cloth and likely fields a handful of potential offers. 

Depending on the type of deal he receives, he may end up as a surprise underclassman who decides to leave college early.




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