NBA Draft 2016: Three players with the toughest early entry decisions

Every season, players have tough calls to make regarding whether or not they should stay in college or go to the professional ranks. The new rules stating that players now have until 10 days after the draft combine to make a decision has helped in some regard, but there will still be some tough calls to make over the coming days.

Without delving into personal situations — which obviously play an integral role into whether or not a player stays in college or begins making money to play basketball — let’s take a look at three players who have extremely difficult choices upcoming as to whether or not they will eschew the NCAA and turn their hopes and dreams toward the NBA. These are purely discussions based on where they are as players, and what their situations look like both in college or at the next level.


Isaiah Briscoe
| G |
Kentucky Wildcats
(No. 95 on the
CBS Sports Big Board)

There is no player with a more difficult decision in this NBA Draft than Briscoe. The former high school five-star, No. 1 point guard in the country decided to go to Kentucky following high school to follow in the footsteps of such players like
Tyreke Evans
,
Derrick Rose
, and
John Wall
. However,
Tyler Ulis
returned to school and then late in the process the Wildcats picked up a commitment from potential top-five pick
Jamal Murray
. That left precious few minutes for Briscoe to utilize his natural gifts as a pick-and-roll passing specialist who can get into the paint at will but isn’t particularly useful off-ball due to his lack of shooting ability.

That lack of time at his true position — as well as relatively unimpressive production in the time he did get — tanked his draft stock from being a potential first round pick with a good year to being a where he is ranked now, No. 95. Typically, that would result in a player returning to school and trying to rebuild his stock. However, the problem with that is that Briscoe was recruited over again this offseason, with point guard De’Aaron Fox entering the fold, as well as combo scoring guard Malik Monk, who will have the ball in his hands often. That means Briscoe, again, will be sitting on the bench waiting his turn to get a few minutes here or there at the point, or again starting as a wing due to his stellar defensive play. It also doesn’t entirely make sense for Briscoe to transfer to seek more playing time to help his draft stock, given that he’s already 20 and would then be 22 by the time he could get drafted.

Basically, Briscoe is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he’s not ready for the NBA. On the other hand, is it possible that he could get better experience by plying his trade in the D-League as opposed to likely sitting behind another potential top-10 pick? Just because he’s not Fox or Ulis doesn’t mean he’s not an NBA player. It’s going to be an extremely difficult call with a wide variety of variables, and I don’t think it’s possible to fault him either way.

isaiahbriscoeuk1.jpg

Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe has a tough choice to make. (USATSI)


Malik Newman
| G |
Mississippi State Bulldogs
(No. 50)

Newman was universally considered a top-10 player in the recruiting class of 2015. I had him at No. 11 coming into the season on the Big Board. But Newman’s freshman season under Ben Howland didn’t exactly go as planned, as the 6-foot-4 combo guard only averaged 11.3 points per game while shooting 39 percent from the field and putting up an assist rate eclipsed by his turnover rate.

I don’t know that I’d consider it a lost season for Newman, but it certainly didn’t go as well as he was anticipating when he committed. Simply, the fit between he and Howland just never quite seemed to mesh on the floor. Newman is a free-wheeling creator who takes and makes shots. Howland is more of a scheme-based guy who wants players to run and execute his slower-paced offense. Schematically, it’s just not a great match. However, while that’s the case, Howland is also known as a terrific developmental coach who tends to see players make a rather large leap in their second year.

That leaves a tough call for Newman. Does he take a risk and a chance and breakaway from Mississippi State to improve his game at the next level (likely in the D-League)? Or does he risk further damaging his stock by returning to a Mississippi State team that will be better than it was last season, but also might not be the best place for him stylistically? This is one that will likely be swayed by workouts, if Newman can impress and convince teams that his high school sample is more applicable than what he showed in college.


Cheick Diallo
| F/C |
Kansas Jayhawks
(No. 44)

Diallo had a rough go of it in Lawrence. The 6-foot-9 big man wasn’t declared eligible by the NCAA until December, meaning that by the time he got comfortable things were a bit settled in their front court already. From there, Diallo struggled a bit with knowing plays on offense and being in the right position defensively, which forced coach Bill Self into sitting his highly-regarded freshman for long spurts this season.

That resulted in Diallo only playing 202 minutes as Kansas played its way into the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and the Elite Eight. Basically, teams’ worst fears about Diallo coming into the season were realized: despite a relentless motor and superb athleticism and length, the kid is still just as raw as it gets in terms of his game. He’s not going to be able to get you points by himself, and his defensive instincts still just aren’t quite there yet despite having the length to protect the weak side of the rim and the agility to destroy pick and rolls, much in the same style as
Nerlens Noel
.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get him to even that level, though. Much like
Skal Labissiere
, Diallo has a tough call here. It’s a risk no matter what he does. Does he stay in school and risk passing up an NBA deal if he doesn’t improve next year? Or does he go to the draft and risk going outside of the first round and not getting a guaranteed contract? If he goes, he’ll get some sort of guaranteed money because some team will buy into his size and athleticism combined with his motor. Self could really help him improve next year, though, and big men do often take a couple of years under his tutelage. If you made me say, Diallo is in the best position of these players. However, it’s still not as easy call.

0506diallo.jpg

Cheick Diallo (middle) might be best suited by returning to Kansas. (USATSI)

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