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Keeping an eye on 10 early-entry NBA Draft decisions

Illinois v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

With the Atlanta Hawks not participating in the NBA’s Orlando bubble, the 2020 NBA Draft is front page news on a daily basis for the franchise. In this space, we’re diving into dozens (upon dozens) of prospects with an eye toward October but, as August arrives, many draft hopefuls have interesting decisions to make.

Monday, Aug. 3 is the NCAA’s deadline for prospects to “withdraw from the postponed 2020 NBA draft and retain their eligibility.” While the NBA’s official deadline for withdrawal is much later, any prospect that would like to continue their college basketball journey must decide whether to stay or go, leading to Aug. 3 as a pivotal date for many.

It has to be noted that, well, college basketball could be impacted by COVID-19 and that is a lingering concern with any decision like this. Still, several prospects already made the choice to withdraw and return, indicating it is still an option many will consider.

With that as the backdrop, it’s time to glance at ten prospects who will be making this choice in the coming hours, all while remembering that the Hawks hold the No. 52 pick — and the potential to hand out Two-Way contracts — in 2020.

*Note: Prospects are in alphabetical order

  • Jared Butler, Baylor — Butler could be a late-first round pick as one of the more interesting on-ball guards available. He isn’t big, but he’s strong and projects as a quality defensive prospect in the backcourt. Butler isn’t a “pure” point guard, though, and evaluators are split on his projection in this class.
  • Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois — Dosunmu’s teammate, Kofi Cockburn, could also be on this list, but most agree he is likely to return and he is more of a college-first player. Dosunmu is seemingly on the fence, after a big-time performance this season vaulted him up some draft boards. Like Butler, it wouldn’t be shocking at all if Dosunmu snuck into the top 40 in October. On the flip side, there is a chance he could be undrafted if teams don’t buy into his shooting after a 30 percent clip from long range this season.
  • Isaiah Joe, Arkansas — Joe is one of the best shooting prospects in the entire draft. He knows how to play off the ball, has a quick release and possesses real NBA range immediately. Everything else is a bit of a toss-up, including his physical profile as a prospect that needs to get stronger. There are rumblings that he could return but, if he stays in, NBA teams will almost certainly be intrigued by his shooting.
  • Corey Kispert, Gonzaga — Kispert isn’t a terribly sexy prospect, but he’s a 6’6 wing that can shoot and defend. That is a pretty strong archetype, especially when considering he’s already 21 years old and may not benefit a ton (from an NBA perspective) from another college season. Gonzaga does have the allure of real national title contention next season, but Kispert is a player that should be drafted if he leaves. In fact, the Hawks should take a long look if he’s on the board at No. 52 overall.
  • John Petty, Alabama — Petty is a knock-down shooter and that is his primary appeal to NBA teams. The 21-year-old stands at 6’5 and, while he’s not a tremendous athlete, Petty is certainly draftable in Atlanta’s range if a team prioritizes his ability to stretch opposing defenses.
  • Yves Pons, Tennessee — At 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, Pons is a tremendous athlete that projects as a plus defender at the professional level. Offensively, his projection is a little less clear, but Pons would likely garner an NBA look — either in the second round or on a Two-Way — if he declares. There is a lot to like, and he would make sense for Atlanta at No. 52.
  • Chris Smith, UCLA — For more on Smith, PTH’s Wes Morton shed light on the talented forward earlier in the cycle. It is worth noting that, despite playing three years of college basketball, Smith is actually younger than at least two “one-and-done” freshman in the 2020 draft.
  • Tyrell Terry, Stanford — Honestly, the Hawks probably won’t be in a position to draft Terry, even if he stays in the 2020 class. The 6’2 guard is potentially a first-round pick and, at the very least, he’s likely to be off the board in the top 40 as one of the best shooting prospects available.
  • Xavier Tillman, Michigan State — Candidly, I have Tillman as a top-20 overall prospect. It just appears that the NBA isn’t quite as high on him. His decision might be the most prominent on the entire board, unless you count Iowa’s Luka Garza, who will probably be undrafted if he declares. On the floor, Tillman profiles as a quality rotation big man for a long time. He’s a tremendous defensive player that was thoroughly dominant at the college level in back-to-back seasons. Tillman might enjoy college and elect to stay as a result, but NBA teams are making a mistake if they let him slip out of the top 40.
  • Trendon Watford, LSU — Watford was a big-time recruit for Will Wade, but he slipped down boards this year. He is still a draftable player, with mainstream rankings in the 50’s and 60’s, but there is a chance he could benefit from a return to college as more of a centerpiece for the Tigers. In the end, though, he’s 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan and a significant pedigree. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Watford stays in the draft.

Stay tuned.