With the 2018-’19 college basketball season wrapping up this weekend after the Final Four, the focus will soon shift to the offseason and what’s to come in the season ahead. Many will wonder how rosters will shake out, who will earn starting jobs, and who might take their chances at the next level.
And things will be no different for the Big Ten. With the success of the league this season, there will be a plethora of questions about each team and where they could be heading in the months ahead. The biggest of these questions will be about the league’s NBA prospects. Who might end up declaring and heading to the pros?
Well, let’s take a look at each of the league’s NBA prospects this season.
2019 NBA Draft Early Entry Big Ten Prospects:
-Giorgi Bezhanishvili (Illinois)
Let’s be honest. Although Bezhanishvili had a great season for the Illini, much of his hype he is now receiving is based on his low preseason expectations. Nobody expected him to be one of the better big men in the league, so his rise shocked many. With that success, he’s now getting a tad bit of NBA buzz. Still, even though he had really had a nice season, Bezhanishvili is at least a year away from having legitimate NBA potential.
-Ignas Brazdeikis (Michigan)
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year figures to have one of the biggest decisions in the league this offseason. Depending on whether Brazdeikis returns, Michigan could either be a preseason top five, or fringe top 25 team. He was very arguably the best player for the Wolverines this season and fans are hoping he stays around for at least one more go around.
Right now, Brazdeikis is considered to be a second round prospect. He’s projected 37th in the NBADraft.net consensus mock draft and seems to be a top 50 option. More simply put, he would probably get drafted, but he’s not a guarantee to go above the last few picks. As such, returning for another season with the Wolverines seems like the most likely decision right now.
-Amir Coffey (Minnesota)
There are a few players that sit in Coffey’s position on this list. He’s an upperclassmen that’s had some great moments on the court, but not enough to be considered a major NBA prospect. At this point, I wouldn’t expect Coffey to get drafted if he decided to take his talents to the next level this offseason.
But with that said, Coffey sits in the position where he has to wonder whether his stock will improve with another season in college. That’s a decision he has to make for himself. He needs to decide whether finishing his degree and/or collegiate career is worth (likely) sacrificing a year of his professional career. There’s simply no way to evaluate that. However, based upon his projections, expect him back for another year.
-Tyler Cook (Iowa)
Like Brazdeikis, Cook currently projects as a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft. As such, taking his chances at the next level is a bit of a risky proposition. However, unlike Brazdeikis, Cook isn’t an underclassmen. He’s about to be entering his senior year in Iowa City. Cook also previously flirted with declaring early.
At this point, it seems pretty likely Cook will declare and take his shot at the NBA. It’s unlikely that his stock will rise with another year at Iowa, which removes some of the incentive to return. Nonetheless, it’s by no means a guaranteed decision. We will have to wait and see.
-Anthony Cowan (Maryland)
At one point, Cowan looked like a serious early NBA prospect. However, his profile doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did earlier in his career. Thus, expect Cowan to come back for his senior season with the Terps.
-Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois)
Now, this is an interesting decision. Despite arriving at Illinois with mixed expectations for his first year, Dosunmu tore it up this season and soared up on NBA big boards. Many now think he stands a very reasonable chance at getting drafted this summer, should he decide to declare. Some even think he could end up going in the first round.
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to get a read on this one. While getting drafted would be nice, Dosunmu seems like he could improve his stock even more with another season. However, returning would put him under the microscope. And would the Illini put a good enough squad around him to give him a shot to improve his NBA profile? There is no easy answer here. Fans will have to hold their breath.
-Carsen Edwards (Purdue)
This one is pretty easy. Edwards just had one of the best postseasons in NCAA Tournament history and is starting to get some first round hype as a result. There’s no way that Edwards could improve on what he did this season at Purdue. Expect him to go pro and hear his name called in this year’s NBA Draft.
-Bruno Fernando (Maryland)
Unlike Edwards, Fernando could probably improve on what he did this season. However, he’s currently projected as a first round pick and is getting some NBA Lottery discussion. As such, departing seems like the clear decision. Expect Fernando to go pro this offseason.
-Romeo Langford (Indiana)
There probably won’t be much drama here. Langford was projected as a one-and-done when he arrived in Bloomington. Nothing seems to have changed since then. Expect the Hoosier to head to the NBA this offseason.
-Charles Matthews (Michigan)
From an evaluation standpoint, Matthews sits in a similar position as Cook. Both have one year of eligibility remaining and are projected as second round picks. However, Matthews played really well this year and another season probably wouldn’t boost his stock much, if at all. As such, expect the Wolverines to head to the NBA this offseason.
-Jordan Poole (Michigan)
With all due respect to Poole and his game, I’m not sure where the chatter on this one is coming from. Poole has struggled with inconsistency and needs to expand his game offensively, particularly in involving teammates. He needs at least another year at the college level to improve his (already solid) game.
-Isaiah Roby (Nebraska)
This is another one of the more interesting decisions for the Big Ten this offseason. Roby had an up and down season and now widely projects as a fringe second round pick. Should he go pro, he would certainly get a shot in the Summer League, but he’s not a guaranteed draft pick. Moreover, the entire situation is a little bizarre now that Fred Hoiberg has taken over in Lincoln.
Generally speaking, Roby would probably be better served in coming back for another season. But what would that look like? Tim Miles is gone and the Huskers are losing three other starters, and could very reasonably lose more considering that the program is in the midst of a the coaching transition. As such, who knows what to expect here. My gut says he’ll return.
-Jalen Smith (Maryland)
A player who has quietly rose up the NBA boards over the last few months is Smith. He really had a productive second half of the season for the Terps and is now projected as a second round pick. His upside is certainly attractive to a variety of NBA teams.
However, with another season, Smith could very well end up going on a similar track to Fernando. He would also likely get more touches with Fernando at the next level. As of now, expect Smith to come back for another season.
-Lamar Stevens (Penn State)
For those of you who missed it, Stevens already announced that he would be returning for the Nittany Lions next season. Most expect him to really provide a boost for Penn State.
-Xavier Tillman (Michigan State)
Maybe I’m a little ahead of the curve on this one, but the player who seems to have been forgotten in this Michigan State postseason run is Tillman. He has been fantastic over the second half of the season and is a huge reason why the Spartans are in this year’s Final Four. It seems likely Tillman will be back for next season given his lack of hype, but he has all the makings of a player who could emerge into a prospect next season.
-Nick Ward (Michigan State)
During his three years in East Lansing, Ward has been a really solid player for the Spartans. He’s had his ups and downs, but he’s really helped the team upfront. Given his producitivity, Ward has also long been rumored to be an NBA prospect.
With all that said, I don’t think Ward is a serious NBA prospect at this point. He’s a quality college player, but he likely wouldn’t be drafted if he declared this summer. The question is whether he would be interested in playing overseas or in the G League. If so, he might declare. Otherwise, expect him to be back.
-Mike Watkins (Penn State)
Perhaps no player on this list suffered more from inconsistency last season than Watkins. In 27 games of action last season, Watkins had 12 games with an offensive rating below 100. Fans won’t be shocked to learn than that the Nittany Lions were just 3-9 in those games. More simply put, a little more consistency from Watkins and Penn State might have had a real shot at the postseason.
While many are talking about Watkins as a pro prospect, it’s hard to look at the stats above and think he’s ready for the next level. As such, expect him to come back for another season with the Nittany Lions, barring some desire to move on that doesn’t come across on paper.
-Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State)
Despite having a really productive season, Wesson is probably at least a year away from having a serious shot at the NBA. Expect him to be back for another season with the Buckeyes.
-Aaron Wiggins (Maryland)
There quite a few similarities between Smith and Wiggins for the Terps. Both had really nice freshmen seasons and are now garnering some NBA Draft hype. However, Wiggins has gotten even less hype than Smith. As such, expect him back for at least another year.
-Cassius Winston (Michigan State)
It’s pretty remarkable to think that the Big Ten Player of the Year has gotten so little hype in this year’s NBA Draft. But even if it is a bit bizarre, that’s honestly the situation. Winston isn’t really getting any major NBA attention and it doesn’t seem likely he will get more in the weeks and months to come. Unless he wants to play over in Europe next season, expect Winston to be back for another go around.