2020 NBA Draft: Seven decisions to watch for underclassmen deciding to stay in or withdraw

The NBA Draft calendar was turned on its head when the pandemic threw the sports world into a tizzy. In-person workouts were suspended indefinitely. In-person interviews halted, too.

But the NBA’s decision last week to resume its season in July in Orlando brought with it clarity for the draft, replete with a new withdrawal deadline (Aug. 3), a date for the lottery (Aug. 25), and a date for the draft itself (pending no further pandemic-related interruptions) on October 15.

With the calendar now reset, we must readjust our own expectations and be flexible with the shifting landscape. Who, now, is facing a tough decision on whether to stay in the draft or to return to college? What’s at stake and how will it impact the 2020-2021 college season? How big an impact might these stay-or-go decisions affect the 2020 NBA Draft? 

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Below we’ve addressed those questions with a look at seven pivotal prospects whose decisions we’re awaiting on pins and needles.

1. Tyrell Terry, Stanford

The Cardinal are already trending up after notching their first 20-win season in a half-decade in 2019-20, and Terry’s return would take them up a notch, vaulting them in my estimation into pole position to win the Pac-12. The 6-foot-2 guard is an incredibly versatile shot-maker with deep range and boundless impact who could make that happen. Terry may not be a known commodity after an under-the-radar freshman campaign, but he’s potentially one of the Pac-12’s best talents should he return, regardless of position. Which would be quite an accomplishment on a team that’s welcoming in five-star freshman Ziaire Williams. The potential of those two teaming up could formulate one of Stanford’s best young duos it has ever had. 

2. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Brad Underwood’s best and brightest Illini team came last season when Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn were teaming up as one of the Big Ten’s most impactful young duos. But seeing those two again in 2020-21 may be a long shot … at least right now. Dosunmu said this week he’s “pretty much 100% focused on staying into the draft,” and that he “expects to be on an NBA team next year.” He followed that up, though, by saying, “There’s always that little percent when I left (open to return) because I haven’t signed with an agent yet.” So yes, Illini nation, I’m telling you there’s a chance. Just don’t hold your breath. 

Baylor’s fortunes could hinge on the NBA Draft decisions of Jared Bulter (left) and MaCio Teague.
3 and 4. Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, Baylor

On a Baylor team that didn’t lose a game last season between Nov. 15 and Feb. 18, Butler and Teague were options No. 1 and 2 on offense, averaging a combined 29.9 points per game. So, you can imagine Scott Drew would be thrilled to see them give it another go. Returning to Baylor would also strengthen an already-deep Big 12 in which the Bears would still be the frontrunner not just to win the conference but also, perhaps, to win the whole thing. If they both continue on their current trajectory we could be talking about two top-15 players in the sport — and two of the best in the conference — teaming up for a title run. Hold on to your butts, Baylor fans. Perhaps that magical season cut short by the pandemic can repeat itself, only on a more complete scale. 

5. Isaiah Joe, Arkansas

A knee injury and subsequent surgery cut Isaiah Joe’s season short and capped what was an otherwise disappointing sophomore season after a phenomenal freshman campaign. But having him back at full strength for the Razorbacks — a team that’s firmly inside Gary Parrish’s Top 25 (and 1) for next season — could go down as Eric Musselman’s biggest recruiting win to date. And Joe could benefit from it, too. He was regarded as an elite knockdown shooter before last season’s toll, so elevating his status back to that and pushing his way to the draft would do his stock well. 

6. John Petty Jr., Alabama

Smart bettors are googly-eyed at Alabama this offseason, and with good reason. The Tide are enrolling a potential first-round talent in Josh Primo and will get Herbert Jones back after he tested the waters.  Petty is a knockdown shooter who made 44% of his 3-pointers last season and ranks among the best in the country as a rebounding guard. Should he return I think Nate Oats in his second season has a real shot to take the SEC. 

7. Trendon Watford, LSU

A former five-star recruit, Watford was an impactful freshman for LSU but didn’t quite dominate like a five-star recruit, averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds on a true shooting percentage of 54.9%. Nonetheless, he’s right on the fence of a stay-or-go decision — stay in college and improve to be a college star and potential first-rounder, or go and hope to work into guaranteed money early in the second round? It’s a pickle. If he stays, LSU’s got to be considered top-five material in the SEC. If he goes, he could be one of many vying for a spot in the early 30s of this draft with his size and skill level.

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