Examining Upcoming NBA Decisions For Big Ten Underclassmen, Including Michigan Wolverines Basketball’s Isaiah Livers


We’re less than a month away from knowing which college basketball underclassmen will be returning to school and who will be off to the NBA Draft.

The draft date has been pushed back to Oct. 16 and the NBA Draft Lottery is expected to be held on Aug. 25, with the league’s season restart coming on July 30.

As a result of the dates being pushed back, the NCAA gave the date of Aug. 3 or 10 days after the NBA Draft combine, whichever comes first, for players to withdraw their names from the draft and retain their college eligibility.

Below, we’ve broken down the players from around the Big Ten who must make decisions before the deadline (those transferring out of the conference or are undecided on a destination are not included). We look at the impact they had for their team last season, our best (informed) prediction on what their decision will be and more.

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Michigan Wolverines basketball forward Isaiah Livers has less than a month to make an official decision. (AP Images)

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Illinois

Kofi Cockburn

The 7-0, 290-pound center won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award last season, averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He gives the Illini a force down low on both ends of the floor, while also averaging 1.4 blocks per contest.

Ayo Dosunmu

The first-team All-Big Ten standout guard averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per tilt as a sophomore last season. He wasn’t the only reason why Illinois earned itself a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament bracket (even though it never occured), but he was a big chunk of it. Dosunmu hit clutch shots down the stretch in several games, including a game-winner against Michigan at Crisler Center.

The decisions from these two have major implications on what kind of team head coach Brad Underwood has next season and beyond.

Prediction: Neither are projected on many mock drafts. Both will likely return to school, with Dosunmu having a better chance of staying in the draft.

Iowa

Luka Garza

The 6-11, 260-pounder was the conference player of the year and won multiple national player of the year awards. He posted 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season and has scored 20 or more points in 37 career games. Garza showed out against Michigan at Crisler Center, putting up 44 points in a Hawkeye loss. If he returns, Iowa is a top-five team to begin next season.

Prediction: He was the best player in the conference last season, but isn’t showing up very high on mock drafts like many would expect out of a national player of the year winner / candidate. Garza seems like a lean to return to Iowa City, and we expect him to.

Maryland

Jalen Smith

As a sophomore in 2019-20, the 6-10, 225-pound forward put up 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He stretches the floor, is effective on the pick-and-pop and can finish underneath. Smith is a perfect fit for the NBA style of play.

Prediction: He’s made it quite clear his intention is to stay in the draft, as he’s projected to be picked in the first round by just about every expert.

Michigan

Isaiah Livers

The 6-7 forward notched 13.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season as a junior. However, he was banged up for much of the year, missing 10 games due to various injuries.

If he returns to Ann Arbor, Livers will be the leader and a likely captain for head coach Juwan Howard’s club.

Prediction: Livers was looking for a “guarantee” he would be drafted, otherwise he would come back for his senior season. It doesn’t appear he’s gotten that guarantee, and he’s very likely to make the wise decision to play one more year in college.

Michigan State

Aaron Henry

The 6-6, 210-pound wing averaged 10.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. He was inconsistent for much of the season, but came on late in the year to help the Spartans surge and win a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.

Xavier Tillman

The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year posted 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game last season. The two-man game between he and point guard Cassius Winston created problems for opponents.

Prediction: Henry will return for at least one more season to polish his game and show he can take on more of a role within the team’s offense following Winston’s departure. Tillman is likely gone to the NBA, with many mock drafts, including CBS Sports’ latest version, tabbing him as a first-rounder.

Minnesota

Marcus Carr

As a redshirt sophomore last season, the 6-2 guard put up 15.4 points and 6.6 assists per contest on a team that struggled to a 15-16 record to conclude the year. Carr shoots the three-ball at a 36.1 percent clip, but is much more effective when going towards the rim.

Daniel Oturu

The big man was a force down low for the Gophers last year as a sophomore, averaging 2.5 blocks per game while posting 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds. He’s projected a late first-round to early second-round pick in the NBA Draft, and has made his intentions clear that he’ll more than likely be staying in the draft.

Prediction: Carr is almost a lock to be back in Minneapolis, while Oturu is expected to be a pro next season.

Ohio State

C.J. Walker

The Florida State transfer came on last season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.1 rebounds to go along with a team-high 107 assists and 40 steals. His prolific mid-range game made him tough to stop.

Kaleb Wesson

A 6-9 forward, Wesson led the team with 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a junior last season. He can stretch the floor and is a tough guard for the less mobile big men in college basketball.

Wesson signed with an agent that was not approved by the NCAA, thus making him a lock to stay in the draft and not return to school.

Prediction: Walker returns to Ohio State.

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