Oregon Ducks Basketball Even Better Next Year? Maybe.
Processing what just happened in Arizona may take a little while, but Oregon’s coaches are undoubtedly ready to turn the page and get on with continuing to build the program. With a little luck like they had last year, the 2017-18 Ducks could have even more depth, experience and talent. It’s incredible but true. We’ll take the stance that everyone is coming back because it’s entirely possible. If anyone decides to stay in the NBA Draft, not declare and go to the camps, but stay in the NBA Draft, we’ll update this article.
Oregon vs the NBA Draft
Last year, the Ducks had to wait for the NCAA to give eligibility back to both Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher through the appeal process. Oregon got its wish twice. This year, they’ll be seeking three victories. Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey will undoubtedly declare for the NBA Draft, go to the camps and then wait to be told where their likeliest draft spot would be.
As noted here over and over, if they’re not going to be first-round picks, they shouldn’t go. No guaranteed contract, second-round picks almost always wind up in Europe, and while the 2017 draft may be the deepest since 1984, the 2018 draft may be the softest in 15 years. If so, all three would move from about the 35-45th pick to a first-round pick somewhere around 15-20th overall.
With the guaranteed contract comes three years of practicing against NBA veterans, a franchise investing in a player’s improvement and time to adjust to the NBA game. Here’s hoping they get good advice and don’t hire agents unless they’re sure they’re going to go at least 25th.
Of the three, only Bell has shown up on any first-round draft board of any kind. And even at that, he came in at 29th to the San Antonio Spurs. A tremendously good fit for him, but rolling the dice that you’ll be one of the last three to four players picked in the first round is a huge gamble. He’s also the one who might impress the most at the pre-Draft camps, and the one with the most upside still. If any one player goes, I suspect it might be Bell if he does well in the camps.
Oregon’s Growth Has Been Earned Over Time
Casey Benson, Bell and Brooks have now played 113 college basketball games. That includes three conference tournaments, an NCAA Elite 8, a Final Four game and on the road in Spain, Hawaii, and at Baylor, UCLA, Arizona, Brooklyn and Kansas City in what amounted to a road game against Kansas in the Elite 8. That’s a whole lot of basketball together. A whole lot of experience. Everyone wonders why Oregon’s so mentally tough? That’s a big part of it.
Three years in all of those environments knowing all you have is each other and everything you’ve worked on. If Bell and Brooks come back they’ll be playing in game 145 or so when they get to the Pac-12 tournament together. Not much they won’t have seen.
Throw in two years with Dorsey, this year’s experience with Payton Pritchard, Kavell Bigby-Williams, and Keith Smith and Oregon would have roughly 480 total games among all players starting next season. By March, they’d have about 700 games of experience among all of them. You can’t coach your players to have experience, you just have to have gone through it together. They will have.
Troy Brown, Abu Kigab and VJ Bailey will all show up in Eugene this summer hoping to make an immediate impact.
Brown is a five-star player who can play three spots in Oregon’s defense. He’s quick enough to play the perimeter and big and strong enough to play the post in Oregon’s match-up defense. Yet another guy who doesn’t have to have the ball in his hands to impact the game. Much like Brooks, Bell and Ennis were this year.
Brown will be a huge interchangeable part in Oregon’s game next year and almost certainly a starter, taking Ennis’ spot in the lineup.
Kigab may be a role player in the mold of how Smith was used this year. Off the bench in a supporting role. And like Smith, he has a ton of length and athleticism, and he’s another guy they could put at the top of the zone press to disrupt offenses.
Bailey is really an off-guard but can play some point in Oregon’s offense, as well. He’s an explosive player and may remind Duck fans of Andre Joseph in some ways.
Paul White is a tremendous athlete at 6′ 8, and the Georgetown transfer plays like Mike Moser. Long, athletic, he finishes on the break and can shoot it from deep. The length of a group with Bell, White, Smith, Cage and Brown could be devastating on defense. Brown has the ability to play the point, and Smith the off-guard/wing spot. Coach Dana Altman will soon be dreaming with the defensive depth and options he might have.
Who stays or who goes? With three key players all set to declare for the NBA draft and see where they might go before deciding to return or not, Oregon’s season next year hangs on the quality of advice each gets from GMs and scouts. Agents will tell them they’re ready so they can make money off them. What GMs and scouts say is what matters.
Transfers? Roman Sorkin has been rumored to want to return to Israel to play professionally. That would open up one spot. Smith isn’t going anywhere and the only other possibility would be Cage who isn’t going anywhere either. Sorkin leaving or any of the big three reaching for the pros would open up another scholarship.
Brandon McCoy, the 5-star center being wooed by Oregon, Michigan State, Arizona, San Diego St. and now reportedly Purdue as well, would occupy that last scholarship spot if and when one opens in the next few weeks. McCoy playing alongside Bell, Brooks, Dorsey and Brown and Pritchard would make Oregon a favorite for the Pac-12 and another Final Four.
McCoy is a 7′ shot blocker with back-to-the-basket skills who could guard the rim along with Bigby-Williams and possibly Bell again, as well. Oregon’s front line would be as deep and talented as any in the nation once again.
Your Watercooler Notes
Here are the key dates for potential NBA Draft participants. The Portsmouth Invitiational April 12-15. NBA Combine May 9-14 (Chicago). NBA Draft June 22nd.
Players have 10 days after the NBA combine to withdraw from the NBA draft. This year that’s May 24th. Until this year a second declaration for the NBA draft made players ineligible to return to the NCAA. That rule has been changed. Players may now declare as many times as they’d like until they hire an agent. This is why Brooks and Dorsey chose to declare last year and likely will this year.
All players are allowed one tryout with one team along with attending the the NBA Combine in May.
Oregon has a full roster right now. What’s most likely is Sorkin transferring to another school or returning to Israel to play professionally.
Altman may add another big man via transfer again if Sorkin or someone else leaves, and McCoy doesn’t choose Oregon. There are several names that have been rumored for awhile now. More on this in the coming weeks if this looks like it’s coming to fruition.
Every current player on the Oregon roster is on track to graduate on time or early. Academics are winning on Altman’s roster.
Oregon plays in the PK80 tournament next November in Portland. Three of the Final Four teams from this year and 16 total Nike schools will play in two side-by-side tournaments. Two tournaments are necessary because the NCAA prohibits teams from the same conference playing in pre-season tournaments of any kind.
Oregon and Phil Knight’s other alma mater, Stanford, are the two schools representing the Pac-12. It’s widely believed to be the best collection of teams outside the NCAA Tournament in college basketball history. Georgetown will be there with new coach Patrick Ewing, as will North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Connecticut, Butler, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Portland and Portland State, Arkansas and Michigan State.
Altman will play host to his mentor, Lon Kruger, during the PK80. The Oklahoma head man is the only coach in history to take 5 different schools to the NCAA tournament.
Oregon’s recruiting pipeline is full. Sixteen 4- or 5-star players have 2018 Oregon offers and show medium or high interest in the Ducks. Six of those are 5-stars include the nation’s best player, Marvin Bagley, a 6′ 11 player from Southern California.
Top photo credit: from Video