The 2022 NBA Draft takes place later this month and the Big Ten is expected to be well represented in the event, with several players receiving serious First Round consideration. Many of those players will also come from late Draft decisions.
So, now that we know who is going, what should fans make of the league’s late NBA Draft decisions? Let’s take a look.
NBA Draft Deadline Decisions:
-Max Christie (Michigan State Spartans) — NBA Draft
This was a decision that seemed like it could go either way, even in the final weeks. Max Christie had a wonderful freshman season in East Lansing, but found himself in the no man’s land of Draft evaluations, hinging right around the end of the First Round and the beginning of the Second. Ultimately, Christie opted to take his shot at the next level.
For Michigan State, this is going to be a pretty tough departure. Christie wasn’t the team’s best player last season, but he figured to be next season. And his departure also leaves a thin spot even thinner, as Gabe Brown and Julius Marble are also gone. Fans will be left hoping players like Jaden Akins and Malik Hall can elevate their games. Otherwise, there aren’t a ton of options on the wing to replace his minutes.
-Moussa Diabate (Michigan Wolverines) — NBA Draft
After Michigan’s surprising run to the Sweet 16, Wolverine fans expected the team to get some serious NBA attention and Moussa Diabate certainly fit the description. He arrived as an elite recruit and performed pretty well in his freshman season, starting the entire season for the Wolverines and providing a big impact down the stretch. His most impressive performance came on the road against Iowa in February where the forward finished with 28 points and eight rebounds. The win went a long way toward Michigan’s NCAA hopes.
While Diabate’s departure wasn’t surprising, it will leave a serious mark on Michigan’s wing group, especially with Caleb Houstan (addressed below) also heading to the NBA. Nearly all of Michigan’s minutes at the three and four spots came from those two and Brandon Johns, who is also departing this offseason. That leaves a huge void in Michigan’s lineup. Terrence Williams should be able to take some of those minutes, but there’s little telling who will play alongside him. Look for Jace and Jett Howard to get some time.
-Jacob Grandison (Illinois Fighting Illini) — Return and Transfer
When Jacob Grandison announced he would be foregoing the Draft and returning to college, it seemed like it could be a positive sign for Illinois. However, that didn’t end up being the case, as Grandison opted to transfer to Duke.
The “good” news for Illinois is that Grandison’s departure will likely have little impact on the team’s hopes this season. With Matthew Mayer and Terrence Shannon’s arrivals on campus, there likely wouldn’t have been many minutes available for Grandison anyway. Having him as a bench option would have been nice, but it’s not a significant loss.
-Caleb Houstan (Michigan Wolverines) — NBA Draft
Like Diabate, Caleb Houstan’s profile rose significantly with Michigan’s run to the Sweet 16 in March. While it’s unclear where Houstan will land in this year’s Draft, he’s clearly hoping that rise could land him somewhere in the First Round.
Houstan’s departure will be evaluated similarly to Diabate’s above. However, we should also note that Houstan led Michigan in three-pointers last season. And considering the Wolverines finished 194th nationally in three-point percentage, getting a shooter like Houstan back would have been a welcome sight. Juwan Howard will now have to find that shooting elsewhere. Don’t be shocked if Michigan looks into the portal.
-Caleb McConnell (Rutgers Scarlet Knights) — Return
While most of the attention on Rutgers was focused on Geo Baker and Ron Harper (and rightfully so, they had wonderful careers), a player who often fell under the radar was Caleb McConnell. However, don’t be confused. He had a wonderful season and could be set up to be one of the league’s best two-way players this season.
Frankly, with so much roster upheaval, it’s still a bit unclear how Rutgers’ lineup will look next season. However, McConnell’s return should significantly boost the team’s hopes. He has All-Big Ten potential on the wing and should have pretty proven players alongside him in Aundre Hyatt and Clifford Omoruyi. The backcourt remains a question, but that’s a heck of a start.
-Kris Murray (Iowa Hawkeyes) — Return
While relatively expected, Kris Murray’s return should have a significant impact for the Hawkeyes this season. He was inconsistent throughout last season, but showed a lot of upside and had a few explosive games, including 29 points in a win over Indiana in January and 19 points in a road win over Michigan in March. Both opponents ended up having pretty solid seasons and Murray did damage against both.
Murray will almost certainly move into his brother, Keegan Murray’s spot. And while it’s unfair to hold Kris to Keegan’s standard, they certainly have similar builds. Hawkeye fans will be hoping Kris can find consistency this season and expand his game even further.
-Pete Nance (Northwestern Wildcats) — Return and Transfer
This is another decision that ended up being less meaningful than when fans initiated heard the news. Pete Nance had announced his intentions to transfer before his Draft decision was known, but there were certainly fans holding out hope he would change his mind. Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Most are circling North Carolina as his likely destination.
Nance’s departure leaves things pretty uncertain for Northwestern upfront. He and Ryan Young played most of the minutes at the five and both are now gone. Expect Chris Collins to look to rising sophomore Matthew Nicholson to fill in most of the minutes.