On Monday, Frank Mason, Landen Lucas, and Tyler Self all celebrated their final game at Allen Fieldhouse, as senior night festivities capped off their home careers. In addition, there may have been other Jayhawks that have also played their final home games as well.
In this piece, we’ll look at some of the underclassmen who have big decisions to make after the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign.
Graham briefly stole the show on Monday night, knocking down pivotal three-pointers late in the second half, spurring Kansas’ monster late run to defeat Oklahoma. For the second season in a row, Graham has paired with Frank Mason in forming one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country. For his career, Graham is a 44/41/75 shooter to go along with his 3.5 assists per game. Defensively, he averages over a steal per game and found himself on the All-Big 12 defensive team last season. In addition, Graham rarely fouls. He averages 1.8 fouls per game while logging 29 minutes per game for his career.
If Kansas were to win a national title this season, there would be little left for him to accomplish at the collegiate level. He’s started all but two games for Kansas in the past two seasons and has become one of the most popular faces of the program. If Graham returns, he will become the undisputed leader of a team in search of its 14th straight conference title. Graham’s age plays an interesting role in this decision, as he recently turned 22 years old. Staying an additional year in college isn’t likely to improve his professional stock significantly, and NBA franchises are far more eager to take chances on younger players late in the draft.
According to DraftExpress, Graham is currently ranked as the 49th prospect in next year’s draft, slotting him in the mid-to-late second round. His ability to shoot and create on the offensive end, along with his defensive versatility, makes him an intriguing roster fit for an NBA franchise.
Prediction: Graham declares and signs with an agent.
Incredibly, though a junior, Svi has yet to turn 20 years of age (he’ll do so in June). Mykhailiuk’s development has been one of the more fun stories of the season. His presence on the floor has provided Kansas with even more ways to spread the floor, and he is a significant factor in Kansas’ overall three-point attack, which is currently 8th best in the nation. His three-point percentage of 40 is second on the team to Frank Mason, and even with his recent slump, it is nearly two percentage points higher than his career average.
In just under 28 minutes per game, Svi is averaging 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1 steal. His defensive rating numbers have regressed a bit this season, possibly at the expense of his big increase in minutes played.
As far as professional prospects go, Svi’s current DraftExpress rank is 50, just behind current teammate Devonte’ Graham. His age, size, and shooting ability make him a valuable asset to target in late rounds, especially for a league that is moving more and more to a style that fits his ability to knock down opener threes.
Prediction: Svi declares for the draft but does not hire an agent, returns to KU for 20 year old senior season.
Carlton Bragg Jr.
Bragg entered the year as one of Kansas’ most intriguing professional prospects. However, his regression on the floor combined with off the floor incidents have severely impacted his value as it relates to the 2017 NBA draft.
Bragg is still young and possesses all of the tools needed to make an impact at the next level, but it feels like he’ll need to return to school in order to relinquish some of that lost value. Bragg can and will be an outstanding player, but it feels like we might need to wait another season to see that come to fruition.
Prediction: Bragg returns to KU for his junior season.
Sorry, all. He’s gone. But he’s been an absolute joy to watch in a Kansas jersey.
Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman are two other underclassmen that may test the NBA waters, but both figure to return to Lawrence for the 2017-18 season.
The losses of Mason and Lucas will guarantee a drastically different looking Kansas team next season, and the decisions made by underclassmen will have just as big of an impact. It will be important to remember the opportunity granted by the new NBA draft process. A player is free to declare for the draft and return to school, as long as he doesn’t sign with an agent.
Though a mass exodus of underclassmen isn’t likely, it would severely hamper Kansas’ chances of breaking UCLA’s record of 13 straight conference championships.