So the countdown begins.
Unlike the last two years, where we have had daily updates on the likes of A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan, we are quietly waiting until May 24th at 5pm. That is the deadline for Purdue’s trio of big men to decide on if they will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft or return to West Lafayette. Things have been much quieter this year. The prevailing theory is that both Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards will return, while Caleb Swanigan will head off to the NBA.
But when will we know?
It will be a few days at least, but I would suspect that we start to know something by the end of the week. Our guys are still interviewing and working out for teams yet. Here is what I could dig up on each.
Haas is almost certainly returning. If this were the NBA of as recent as 10 years ago I’d imagine he would be a hot commodity. Unfortunately, in this era of pace and space there is not a lot of demand for a lumbering 7’2” 300 pound center that doesn’t have much range and struggles defensively. I fear that even after next season there isn’t a great NBA future for Haas. He is an excellent college player. He’s going to have a good senior year and finish in the neighborhood of 1,500 points for his career. He can even head over to Europe and thrive in the right system and make good money. Unfortunately, his game is a dying breed in the NBA.
Still, you cannot teach size, and Haas is a big dude that can be physically imposing at the basket. In the first half of the Kansas game he made the Jayhawks pay for their lack of size until Kansas made adjustments to simply deny him the ball. If you get him one on one he will score. An NBA team might be willing to take a chance on him and see how he can develop with pro coaching.
I have not seen any projections at all where he would be drafted, however. It would be shocking if he didn’t return.
Chances at Returning: 97%
Like Haas, Edwards was not invited to the NBA combine, but this is the second time around for Vince. The mercurial senior-to-be had a season where when he was good, he was really good. When he was bad, he was a ghost. That’s where the Vince vs. Vincent narrative came from.
For the uninitiated, the Vince vs. Vincent narrative is as follows: Before the season it came out that he wanted to be referred to as Vincent, not Vince. I developed the theory that Vincent was Vince’s evil twin that sucked at basketball and locked Vince in the basement of Stewart Center. So when he was struggling, it was Vincent on the court, not Vince.
Yeah, I have been doing this too long.
Anyway, Vince has worked out for Minnesota, Memphis, and Boston. It seems like he could definitely use another year in college, and Purdue could use him. As one of the few players that can create his own shot, Vince gives us a versatility that we don’t have in other guys. I think we can survive as a Big Ten contender without Swanigan and still be a top 25 team. Without Swanigan AND Edwards, however we’ll take a big step back.
There have been rumblings and rumors that Vince would be fine playing overseas. He also does have a young son, so the prospect of making money to support his family, even in Europe, is there.
I really think if Vince returns he can evolve into a draft pick next year. He has the talent, and with an all-Big Ten type of season as his ceiling he can play his way into the NBA. He could average something like a 15-7-3 and be Purdue’s leader, which would showcase his talents very well.
Chances at Returning: 85%
Yesterday Biggie worked out for the Pacers. This is after he went to the combine, but did not participate in 5 on 5 scrimmages. He looked even trimmer than he did during the season and showed off his NBA three-point range. He has workouts scheduled with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and Orlando Magic on Monday, so the earliest we could know anything is Monday evening.
The fact we are still waiting, however, could be a good sign for Purdue.
By now we know everything. He was the Conference Player of the Year, an All-American, and a finalist for National Player of the Year. He took home just about every honor he could (except for getting absolutely robbed for the Karl Malone Award) and even in the blowout loss to Kansas the general consensus was that he was gone. There was no chance he was coming back. At the time I thought there was a less than 1% chance he would play for Purdue again, and we would hang his All-American banner in the rafters while wishing him well.
But maybe it is not so simple anymore.
Yes, he took the advice of NBA teams to heart and even admitted yesterday that it has been a humbling experience:
Compared to a year ago, Swanigan seems more at ease with the positives of either decision he might make in the next 10 days. His breakthrough performance and the Boilermakers' accompanying team success didn't hurt. However, the 2015 Indiana Mr. Basketball attributed the new perspective to his maturation and "losing a sense of entitlement."
I may be crazy, but I think there is a better chance of him returning after this year than there was last year, if that makes sense. Last year Caleb was aloof and it seemed as if he couldn’t wait to get out of West Lafayette. It almost seemed like he grudgingly returned because it was the best option, even though he didn’t want to admit it.
Now? Now there is this:
"Any kid that wants to play in the NBA hears something like that, you should take it as an opportunity," Swanigan said of a potential first-round grade. "At the same time, guys like (Tim) Duncan, guys like Klay Thompson, Steph (Curry), they spent three years in college. So there's no rush. It's more of me feeling sure that team is serious about me and actually has a plan for me."
Swanigan has been slipping down draft boards. He is in the 25-45 range, and that can mean a huge difference in terms of his contract. Only a first round pick would be a guaranteed contract. If he does come back and secures a first round spot next season it delays another year until that big first free agent deal, but it also gives him even more money up front with the rising rookie scale. Next year’s draft is not expected to be as deep, either.
Still, there are risks in staying. What if he is not as dominant as projected? If he returns the ceiling is National Player of the Year. Anything less than repeating this season would seem like a step back, but what more could he really do? He averaged 18.5-12.5-3.1, which are absurd numbers. Could he pull a Big Dog? When Glenn Robinson won National Player of the Year in 1994 he threw up a 30.3-10.1-1.9. That’s absolutely insane, and it is a major reason he was the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick.
No one would expect that, but what about a 20-15-4? That, plus a National Player of the Year Award and a Final Four berth would definitely raise some eyebrows, but would NBA scouts be upset that he rebuffed them this year when many told him his time is now?
Logically, I think Biggie is gone. Not a soul would blame him for leaving, either. He’ll get drafted and make a roster out of sheer force of will and work ethic. Given his background, I wouldn’t blame him one bit for leaving and even making the NBA league minimum next season.
He has said he wants to get his degree, however, and it has been reported that he could finish it in three years. I think he had a lot more fun this season, and as he mentioned, it is not totally unheard of for players to come back even when they could easily leave. Look at what Florida’s core did after winning a national title in 2006. Tim Duncan and Steph Curry came back when they could have stayed in. Even this year Myles Bridges easily could have left and gotten drafted ahead of Biggie, but he came back to Michigan State.
While logically I think he is gone, I have a strange gut feeling he is coming back. His comments yesterday seemed to open the door even wider. His lowering draft projections have that light behind said door flickering. Six weeks ago I thought there was less than a 1% he was coming back. Now?
Chances at Returning: 25%
So what does all this mean? Well, here is what one uninformed blogger thinks:
If all three are gone
Suddenly Purdue goes from experienced and deep to young and shallow. We would have only Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline, P.J. Thompson, and Carsen Edwards back as players that played much last year. There would be no experience in the post, and we would struggle to even make the NCAA tournament.
If only Haas returns
If only Haas comes back we’re still a decent NCAA Tournament team. That should be the bare minimum goal each season for this program anyway. Haas gives us an imposing presence few teams can match and there is enough returning on the perimeter to give the newcomers time to integrate. We’ll be deeper, but there will still be questions like the health of Jacquil Taylor and how much the freshmen can do early.
If only Haas and Edwards return
This team should still be a top 25 team and at least contend for the Big Ten title. Michigan State is going to be very good, but we will have four senior starters and the newcomers can slide into supporting roles quite nicely. contending for the Big Ten then becomes a matter of defending home court and seeing if our freshmen do a better job of acclimating to college than MSU’s. Reaching the same benchmarks of a Big Ten title and a Sweet 16 from the 2016-17 would be achievable, but tougher, Anything else would be a pleasant surprise (hey South Carolina and Syracuse made runs to final Fours with crapier teams). If the newcomers come in and contribute more because of the Taiwan trip, even better.
If all three return
Then it becomes quite simple: We have the most hyped season since 2009-10 and 2010-11 and the goals from those years are the same: a Big Ten title and Final Four appearance. The sky is the limit then. We would vault to the preseason top 5 most likely and have a couple epic battles with Michigan State for Big Ten supremacy. From there, any thing less than a top 2 seed and a trip to San Antonio would be a disappointment.
Karma and the basketball gods owe us big time for Rob’s knee. In 8 days they might start repaying that debt.