The 2017 NBA Draft was this Thursday and the Big Ten once again produced several draft picks, though the number of selections was a bit less than anticipated heading into the night.
Big Ten Lands Three First Round Picks
Last night the Big Ten scored three first round selections, improving from the two first round picks in 2016. When everything was said and done, D.J. Wilson (17th overall), OG Anunoby (23rd overall) and Caleb Swanigan (26th overall) all landed in the first round, managing to secure guaranteed rookie contracts.
All three first round picks also were underclassmen, forgoing the remainder of their collegiate eligibility to go pro. Year in and year out numerous players forgo their remaining eligibility to play professionally, with plenty of those players going undrafted or landing in the second round (contracts aren’t always guaranteed). So while the risk several Big Ten players made declaring early didn’t quite pan out, for these three the decision was worthwhile.
That being said, it was somewhat surprising to see former Wolverine D.J. Wilson become the top Big Ten selection this year. While Anunoby may have slid due to getting injured, Wilson didn’t seem to have much draft buzz until later in the season and many didn’t think of him as the top conference selection. The forward wasn’t a household name prior to this past season, only averaging 6.1 minutes per game in 2015-16. Even this past season his 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game likely went under the radar until the last month of the season for most non-Michigan fans.
Of course having an impressive run through the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament always is a great way to improve your stock. The 6’10” forward brings plenty of size to the table and his ability to shoot from outside is definitely a strength teams in the NBA value.
Sleepy Second Round
After landing three first round selections, the Big Ten didn’t see much action in the second round of the draft. Former Hoosier Thomas Bryant became the fourth player from the conference selected (42nd overall), heading west to the Lakers. After that, though, the rest of the night included plenty of selections, but none from the Big Ten. That was a somewhat surprising development considering that...
Numerous Big Ten Stars Went Undrafted
Nigel Hayes. Melo Trimble. Peter Jok. James Blackmon. Bronson Koenig.
All of these players were household names in the Big Ten. All of these players went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The reality is being successful in college doesn’t mean that much when it comes to the draft (to some extent), with teams putting more emphasis on potential and raw talent over what players accomplish on campus. That’s why a guy like Caleb Swanigan can be one of the top players in the nation, but end up as a late first round selection (and was also projected as a second round guy). So seeing a ton of the conference’s top players not land in the draft is somewhat inevitable.
That being said, it was a bit of a surprise to see teams not take a feeler on guys like Nigel Hayes or Melo Trimble. It’s particularly unfortunate for Trimble, as he was a draft pick if he had declared after his freshman season. Instead he tried to improve his stock and ended up going undrafted. Then you have guys like Blackmon, who declared early in all likelihood because the chances of them improving their stock after one more season was unlikely.
While going undrafted, it’s not the end of the world. The second round doesn’t result in guaranteed money and now these guys can try to find the best fit as undrafted free agents. Now they’ll have to try to impress teams in the Summer League and try to earn a training camp invite, though a good number of the undrafted players will likely end up in either the NBA G League or somewhere overseas.
The Draft is Tricky
Continuing from the last section, when to declare for the NBA Draft is definitely a hit-or-miss affair. For guys like Nigel Hayes and Melo Trimble, sticking around on campus for additional years ultimately led to them falling out of the draft when everything was said and done. Then of course you have your annual underclassmen who declare and end up going undrafted as well. In those situations you have to question what their intentions were, as some probably want to start a professional career (NBA or overseas) over being unpaid at the collegiate level, but there’s still risk involved.
That of course leads to Miles Bridges. The Michigan Spartan would have been drafted tonight, with a high possibility of being a lottery pick. Instead he opted to return to East Lansing. Now the question is just how much can Bridges improve his stock and, considering how things panned out this year for several other players that previously returned, people will be curiously watching to see if Bridges decision ultimately pans out. Returning for your sophomore season can work out, look no further than Caleb Swanigan, but there is definitely a high amount of risk for his decision to come back in 2017-18.