The Big Ten has become a nice home for some of the best individual talent in college basketball. Over the past half-decade or so, plenty of that talent has taken off for the NBA game before their eligibility has been exhausted.
Many would argue that the 2016-17 season was a down year for the once dominant conference. Others would argue the reputation had more to do with turnover in talent in the conference.
The senior-laden teams of the past few years being replaced by talented, but inexperienced players. Names like Miles Bridges, Caleb Swanigan, Nick Ward, Amir Coffey, Reggie Lynch and Tony Carr have become household names in the past season plus.
Given the league’s heavy emphasis on young talent this past season, plenty of said talent may be looking at futures outside of the college game. We believe there are five players who really are ready and should be making the jump.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Sure there wasn’t a Big Ten title in his first season in East Lansing, but we’re pretty sure there isn’t much for Bridges to prove. He finished the season averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
If it weren’t for the walking double double machine that was Caleb Swanigan, Bridges likely would’ve been in line for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Instead, he settled for B1G Freshman of the Year, All-Freshman and 2nd team All-Big Ten honors.
He’s still mulling over the decision, but for me there should be no decision to be made. Little will be gained by Bridges staying in school for one more season and there is a lot to be lost should he do it.
If Bridges wants to maximize his stock, now is the time to go pro. Should Bridges be making a purely financial decision, there isn’t one to really make. He’s got to go now. Injuries, time to see flaws come out in his game and someone else coming along to take his spot are all things that will decrease his potential earnings at the next level.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
There are some who believe the Purdue big man could benefit from yet another year of college. He at least did the smart thing and declared for the draft without hiring an agent, the same as last year.
The difference this time around? Try having one of the historically best seasons in Big Ten basketball history. All he did was average 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, all while putting up at least a double double in
It is hard to argue that he doesn’t have the game to play at the next level. Swanigan has the outside shot that people his size often don’t have entering the NBA and his bulk is a huge advantage. Perhaps he needs some work on the post moves and continuing to change his body, but those are things that can be worked on individually.
Honestly, his decision may come down to where projections of him end up after workouts for teams happen. Don’t be surprised to see him keep his name in the draft if those workouts go well. We fully believe Swanigan should go, as the college game won’t benefit him much more.
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Yes, we know he has declared for the draft already just like Swanigan, but it is hard to argue that he shouldn’t have made that decision. What Trimble did with a freshman-laden Terps team should impress NBA scouts and general managers come draft time.
Besides, if this past season and his body of work over the last three years in College Park, Md. isn’t good enough for NBA officials nothing he does will be. All Trimble has done is average 16.8 points per game this past season and become just the 15th player in Terps history to be named All-Conference three times in a row (and the first in the school’s B1G history).
Trimble averaged 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for his career. It only makes sense to see him declare and hire an agent after two flirtations with the draft in the past.
Tony Carr, Penn State
Some will scratch their heads at this name being on here, but that is likely because so few actually pay attention to Penn State basketball as the casual fan. However, Carr quietly put together one of the best seasons by a freshman on the year.
The 6-3 guard averaged 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season for a Penn State team that was very competitive. He was clearly a leader of a team full of young talent this past season.
Maybe this isn’t the year to enter the draft as a point guard, given some of the other talent on display, but Carr belongs in the discussion as one of the top point guards in the Big Ten this past season. He’s got the handles, the leadership and the shot to be a success on the next level.
This one is perhaps the least likely to happen on the list, but don’t be surprised to see his name come up in some circles. If not this draft, look for him to be in the picture next season.
Nate Mason, Minnesota
Another junior on our list, and one that has not declared for the NBA draft as of this writing. Mason had one heck of an individual season for one of the best turnaround stories in the country, let alone the Big Ten.
He led the team in scoring (15.2), assists (5.0), free throw shooting (80.8 percent) and steals (1.4). Along with a step up in play from those around him, Mason continued his own personal upward trend. He wasn’t the only bullet in the gun for the Gophers this season, but he was certainly the most dangerous weapon they had.
There’s little indication that Mason will actually declare, but given what we’ve seen from him over the past two seasons, he’s a prime candidate. Much like Carr, it may be a matter of seeing the talent at his position and doing the smart thing and waiting another year.
At least he’ll go in to his senior season with a lot of attention as a returning first-team All-Big Ten selection this past year. That is, if he doesn’t surprise and declare for the draft at this point.