We have now learned that the top four scorers from last season’s Indiana Hoosiers basketball team have all declared for the NBA Draft. Junior guards James Blackmon, Jr. and Robert Johnson, as well as sophomore center Thomas Bryant will not hire an agent allowing their possible return. Sophomore forward O.G. Anunoby, however, will hire representation and therefore officially leave the Hoosiers program. This potentially leaves head coach Archie Miller with a huge void in many critical areas.
The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 24, as the NBA draft combine will be held May 9-14 in Chicago.
Let’s take a look at how important each potential loss is for Indiana next season.
Johnson’s departure was the biggest surprise, and is not currently listed on any of the top draft boards. The 6’3” junior averaged 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, but was inconsistent throughout the year. He ended the season with single digit scoring in seven of the last ten games, including being held scoreless in 26 minutes during a 75-74 loss at Minnesota. Johnson shot a respectable 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from three point range.
While extremely athletic and a solid defender, Johnson is the most replaceable of these four players. More than likely he will return to Indiana, and should provide strong leadership alongside returning forward Collin Hartman.
While Anunoby’s departure hurts the Hoosiers talent-wise, it is the least surprising of the four declarations. The incredibly athletic forward was thought to be a lottery pick before a knee injury in mid-January ended his season. The 6’8” 235 lb phenom is seen as a perfect blend of size and athleticism. Assuming the knee injury concerns don’t linger, he is a lock as a first round pick.
However, given he only played 16 games this season he only rates as the third most important loss for Indiana. Anunoby only shot 31.1 percent from three point range and 56.3 percent from the foul line. His scoring was also inconsistent, and his aggressive nature sometimes led to foul trouble.
Anunoby provided so much as an all around player, that his departure certainly hurts the Hoosiers on the court. However, he is not a player than anyone thought would be in a Hoosiers uniform at the start of next season.
Losing the leading scorer from your team is always a problem. James Blackmon was named third team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches this past season. He averaged 17.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Blackmon was great from long range as well, and his 3.0 made three pointers per game led the Big Ten conference.
Blackmon also missed time during the season due to injury, yet still scored 20 or more points 11 times on the year. He has not hired an agent, so the door is left open for his return. Draft projections see him as a borderline second round selection.
If James Blackmon is in an Indiana uniform next season, coach Miller will be thrilled to have one of the top all around scorers in the nation on his 2017-2018 roster.
Without a doubt, the biggest void would be left by sophomore Thomas Bryant. Finding a 6’10” 255 lb player with as high a motor as Bryant is almost impossible. Bryant made third-team All Big Ten twice, both as a freshman and a sophomore. He has started all 69 games he has played, showing his durability. Bryant averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, and even made 38.3 percent of his three-point attempts (23 of 60).
Bryant provides Indiana with an interior weapon that most other Big Ten teams simply do not have. By not hiring an agent, he leaves the door open for a critical return for the Hoosiers.
Bryant is ranked by most draft websites as a second round pick. His return would give coach Miller a huge centerpiece to build around for next season.
The potential four player loss to the NBA draft for Indiana will scare all Hoosier fans. It would be difficult to envision Indiana contending for the NCAA tournament next season after losing their top four scorers to the draft. Anunoby, however, is the only definitive loss. Here’s hoping that Johnson, Blackmon, and Bryant realize that with Hartman’s return, a deep NCAA Tournament run is very possible next season.
The Indiana faithful hold their collective breaths until May 24th.