UK Men's Basketball

New NBA Draft rules could have opposite effect of what NCAA intended, analyst says

UK guards Tyler Ulis, left, and Isaiah Briscoe, center, are considered second-round picks, according to the latest mock draft from DraftExpress.com.
UK guards Tyler Ulis, left, and Isaiah Briscoe, center, are considered second-round picks, according to the latest mock draft from DraftExpress.com.

The announcement earlier this year of a new timeline for underclassmen exploring the NBA Draft was met with generally positive reviews from basketball observers who hailed it as a victory for those players as they contemplate a life-changing decision.

DraftExpress.com analyst Jonathan Givony is firmly in that camp, calling the new guidelines “phenomenal” in an interview with the Herald-Leader on Wednesday.

Givony also says the changes, which go into effect starting with this year’s draft, will take awhile for all involved to get used to.

“It’s going to be madness, chaos,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging for the NBA teams, and it’s going to be challenging for the colleges. It’s going to be challenging for the players, and it’s going to be challenging for all of these agents who will be guiding these guys behind the scenes.

“Every single one of these guys is going to have one or multiple people trying to push them here or there.”

In a nutshell, the new rules will allow college basketball players to enter their names in the NBA Draft without risking future college eligibility. Once a player declares for the draft, he can participate in the NBA combine — if invited — and work out individually for NBA teams, thus gaining valuable feedback on his draft status while trying to decide whether to stay in college or move on to the pros.

Instead of the previous withdrawal deadline of mid-April, players will now have until 10 days after the combine — that’s May 25 this year — to withdraw from the draft and retain complete college eligibility.

The idea is that college players will get better feedback directly from NBA personnel and use that information to make more informed stay-or-go decisions. The implication is that some will return to college rather than go pro and get drafted later than anticipated.

The feedback that players receive will surely be more beneficial, but it might not have the effect many are expecting.

Givony used Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield as an example of a guy who might not be playing college basketball this season if the new rules applied to his past.

At this time last year, Hield was projected as a mid-second-round pick. He decided to stay in school. If the new guidelines were available to him last year, Hield would have had nothing to lose by entering his name in the NBA Draft and going through the evaluation process to get a better picture of his stock.

“If he had the ability to, he would have entered last year and maybe someone would have convinced him to stay and be a second-round pick,” Givony said. “Instead, he came back.”

Hield is a frontrunner for national player of the year honors and projected as the No. 11 pick in this year’s NBA Draft (and he’s the only senior in the lottery).

UK freshman Jamal Murray is projected as the No. 8 overall pick and is almost certain to leave for the NBA after this season. Despite the protestations of armchair general managers across the commonwealth, freshman Skal Labissiere is also projected as a one-and-done lottery pick and expected to enter and stay in this year’s draft.

Isaiah Briscoe, Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee are in different situations. Briscoe and Ulis are considered second-round picks by DraftExpress.com, and Lee is ranked just outside the cutoff for the second round.

UK Coach John Calipari acknowledged last month that “just about every player on your team should declare for the draft” to get a sense of their stock from NBA personnel. Briscoe, Ulis and Lee will surely do just that.

And once a player gets a taste of NBA life — a final destination for anyone who bothers to declare — it might be tough to turn back, especially for someone like Briscoe, who made it clear when he came to Kentucky that he hoped to be a “one-and-done” talent.

Givony envisions scenarios where players who have always dreamed of playing in the NBA get involved with the process, and — instead of feeling like they have to be guaranteed first-round status — instead become “comfortable” with the notion of simply being on a team and graduating to professional basketball.

“I don’t think the NCAA really thought this thing through,” Givony said. “They said they think it’ll cause guys to return to school. I think it’s going to have the opposite effect. I think the floodgates are going to open. Once you unleash guys and let them into workouts, and agents and training and all of that stuff, I think it’s a slippery slope.

“And I don’t see a lot of guys coming back after that.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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