With Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges declaring for the NBA Draft earlier this week, Villanova fans will now have to sit and wait to find out who else might be moving on from the Main Line. Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, and Eric Paschall have all shown they have the skills to play at the next level one day, but now they have to decide if the time is right to take that next step. Luckily for them, that decision is a lot easier now than it used to be.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a really tough call for someone in their late teens or early twenties. They’re making a decision that will impact them for decades, so it’s not one you want to get wrong. What makes it easier is that players now have a lot more time and information to choose what’s best for them. This is one of the rare instances where the NCAA and NBA deserve a lot of credit in doing what’s best for the players.
For those of us not on the inside of this process, let’s break down the steps and stages that go along with “testing the waters” of the NBA Draft. It starts with retaining amateur status. Basically, you can’t hire an agent. We know that Brunson and Bridges have foregone their final years of eligibility because they’ve both signed or intend to sign with agents during this process. But as long as you stay clear of the money end (I know, let’s just not even get into it), a player can go through the entire process and then decide to return to college.
The first date to know was April 4th, two days after Villanova won the National Championship. Between then and this Saturday, April 14th, players who are thinking about leaving college early for the draft can request feedback from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. This group is made up of NBA officials and executives that can provide insight on the player and where they think they may go in the draft. Usually, negative feedback here would encourage a player to simply return to school before they even declare. But if they like what they here, the next step is to officially throw their name into the hat.
The next milestone date is Sunday, April 22nd. By the end of that day, any player with college eligibility remaining that wishes to enter the draft must submit a written letter saying as much to the NBA offices. The league takes the next day to verify and finalize everything before releasing that official list to teams on Tuesday, April 24th. At that point teams can start contacting, interviewing, and working out players on their own. This is another time period in which players can get feedback on where teams think they are on their draft boards, and what they need to work on in the coming weeks.
To prepare for these workouts, players can work with members of their college coaching staff for up to four hours per day and twenty hours per week. Normally, these type of workouts would not be allowed for college players and their coaches during the offseason. Players are also allowed to accept trips to workout for a team in its city, as long as they are 48 hours or shorter and the team is financing the trip. These practices and trips can occur up until the player removes themselves from the draft.
At the end of that week, Friday April 27th, official invitations for the NBA Combine are sent out to around 70 players that have a chance at being selected in the draft. That gives those invited about two and a half weeks to prepare for the event, which will take place in Chicago from May 16-20th. It usually consists of drills, scrimmages, and interviews with talent scouts, coaching staffs, and executives. Players that are invited are not required to participate in all of the activities, or even come at all. In recent years, some of the higher lottery picks have either held individual events, or sometimes no skill events at all. We’ll have to wait and see how projected lottery pick Mikal Bridges elects to approach it.
After the conclusion of the NBA Combine, players have a little over a week to continue with workouts, evaluations, and gathering information to help them make a final decision. By the end of the day on Wednesday, May 30th, any player wishing to return to college and maintain their eligibility must remove themselves from draft consideration with the NBA offices. Otherwise, it’s three more weeks until the draft itself on Thursday, June 21st.
So to summarize, here’s a quick list of all the dates involved:
- April 14th - Deadline for submitting evaluation request to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
- April 22nd - Players with remaining college eligibility must declare for the NBA Draft.
- April 24th - Teams may start contacting college eligible players who declared
- April 27th - Player invites for the NBA Combine are released
- May 16-20th - NBA Combine in Chicago
- May 30th - Deadline for college eligible players to remove themselves from the NBA Draft.
- June 21st - NBA Draft
Long story short, it could be another month and a half until we know what Villanova’s roster will look like next season. As for how likely these players are to go, it depends on who your sources are. The important thing to note is that there are no guarantees in the process, and that can be the hardest part about the decision.
The good news for these guys is that they have a great support system to help make the right choice. Jay Wright has been through this a lot recently, and has the contacts and relationships around the league to get good feedback on his players. Former Villanova players a littered throughout the league as both players and coaches, and they can also offer guidance and advice. And to their credit, the NCAA and NBA have really done a lot in the past few years to elongate this process and provide more opportunities for feedback.
Everyone involved wants what’s best for the player, and that’s the way it should be. We all want what’s best for these guys that we just cheered on to a National Championship. Obviously it would be great for them all to return and go for back to back titles. But if the NBA is the right choice for them and it looks like they’ll get that opportunity, then I believe Nova Nation will support that decision and continue to cheer for them at the next level.
Just please don’t go to the Knicks. Please.