College basketball is, more often than not, impacted by which players leave for the NBA Draft and which players return. As one-and-done culture permeates basketball, having experienced players is essential for a team’s success, even the supposed one-and-done factories like Kentucky and Duke.
The Pac-12 is filled with NBA talent, so it makes sense that the 2017 draft cycle and players’ respective decisions have impacted the Pac-12 significantly. We can take a look at which Pac-12 teams are impacted the most.
Returning all kinds of talent
The Arizona Wildcats are losing lots of talent in the NBA Draft as Lauri Markkanen (PF - Fr.), Kobi Simmons (G - Fr.) and Chance Comanche (Center - So.) are all leaving early, but those losses were expected and even planned for. It’s the talent that’s returning and the talent coming into Tuscon that Arizona is excited about. Allonzo Trier was Arizona’s best player last year, and even though he was a likely first round pick, he chose to come back for another season. Trier, along with two-way center Dusan Ristic and crafty point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, will have plenty of support as Arizona is bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in all of college basketball — starring mega-recruit DeAndre Ayton — and figure to be a preseason favorite. (That recruiting class, which continues to get better, doesn’t even include Chase Jeter, the former five-star recruit who’s transferring from Duke).
USC doesn’t have the same volume as talent staying put or coming in, but they have an excellent team that’s returning all their key pieces from a promising season. Ultra-talented big men Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu tested the draft waters, but decided to return. Guards Shaqquon Aaron and Elijah Stewart are also coming back. USC also has Jordan McLaughlin, a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate, and Derryck Thornton, another former top recruit who transferred from Duke, ready to lead the Trojans to heights they haven’t seen since the glory days of O.J. Mayo.
Including the Beavers here is partially a joke — they went 5-27* last season, lol — but they’re benefiting greatly from Drew Eubanks not being invited to the NBA Draft Combine. Eubanks, a well-rounded big man, was practically committed to enter the draft, but because of the snub, he’s returning to Corvallis to lead what should be a surprisingly solid team. The Beavers also have Stephen Thompson, his brother Ethan Thompson, a top-50 2017 recruit, and Tres Tinkle, who was just awarded medical hardship and another year of eligibility.
*They did beat Utah, though, which is apparently impossible for the Buffs nowadays.
Losing all kinds of talent
While Arizona was expecting to lose three standout players to the draft, the Oregon Ducks have been hit by a freight train of draft news. The Ducks are losing Pac-12 Player of the Year* Dillon Brooks (F - Jr.), Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Bell (F - Jr.), and March Madness hero Tyler Dorsey (G - So.), all of whom are expected to be second round picks. The Ducks are returning a few solid players and are bringing in Dana Altman’s best ever recruiting class, but losing three stars is brutal for them, especially so considering Bell and Dorsey’s entries were somewhat of a surprise.
*Friendly reminder that Derrick White was better and more efficient than Brooks even though White had to carry his team every night while Brooks had fantastic support. Also, Brooks isn’t very good, imo.
UCLA is losing more first round talent this offseason than some teams in the Pac-12 have ever produced. They’re losing the name you know (Lonzo Ball, G - Fr.), the name you should know (T.J. Leaf, F - Fr.) and the name you don’t know now but certainly will when he’s a top-20 pick (Ike Anigbogu, C - Fr.). They’re also losing Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton to graduation, and no one knows what’s going on with Prince Ali. At least they still have Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday and are welcoming in a top recruiting class.
Utah is here because Kyle Kuzma (F - Jr.) has been one of the most surprising first round prospects in this draft cycle*. Utes fans probably expected him to leave after this season, but his athletic testing and subsequent NBA interest made him a lock to hear his name called relatively early. Even though Utah is losing Kuzma to the draft and guard Lorenzo Bonam to graduation, they’ll be fine because Utah basketball is always fine.
*Derrick White is the most surprising first round prospect.
Colorado lost a ton of talent this offseason, but it was mostly to graduation. George King tested the draft waters but will return. No one expected King to leave, but it’s a sigh of relief that he’s coming back to lead the Buffs’ offense.
Cal Golden Bears
Ivan Rabb (C - So.) was always going to leave, so Bears fans shouldn’t get too hung up, especially when they have bigger problems at hand.
If you live for dumpster fires, you must love following UW basketball. The Huskies wasted presumptive No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz in an abysmal 9-22 season, Malik Dime slapped two CU students in one motion (lol) and got suspended for a while, coach Lorenzo Romar was fired, No. 1 recruit Michael Porter Jr. decommitted and went to Missouri, and to top it off, five-star recruit Trae Young decommitted and went to Oklahoma (lucky you, Jon the Editor). At least Noah Dickerson didn’t transfer?
Stanford benefits from all but one starter returning, but none of those players were remotely likely to leave. The only news-worthy thing to come from Cardinal basketball these days is Reid Travis being awarded an extra year of eligibility.
This wasn’t much of a surprise, but the Sun Devils are happy star guard Tra Holder didn’t leave early for the draft like Jahii Carson did three years ago.
Nothing is ever happening with Wazzu basketball. Please stop bothering me.