The early entry deadline for 2023 NBA Draft hopefuls passed on Sunday night, setting up big decisions for the players who are preserving their NCAA eligibility while . Players have until 11:59 p.m. on May 31 to withdraw from the draft if they wish to return to college, which sets up an anxious few weeks for players and programs determining what their futures will look like.
Williams and Keels wound up as second-round draft picks with Williams landing a multi-year contract with Oklahoma City and starting 36 games as a rookie. Keels, by contrast, appeared in just three NBA games, concluding the season on a two-way contract with the Knicks and facing a somewhat uncertain future.
Returning to college allowed Timme to become Gonzaga's all-time leading scorer while leading the Zags to the Elite Eight and capitalizing on name, image and likeness opportunities. Murray, meanwhile, solidified his standing as a likely first-round draft pick with a huge year for the Hawkeyes.
So who are the players we believe would benefit from returning to college for the 2023-24 season after going through this year's NBA Draft process? Our writers weighed in for this week's dribble handoff.
I'm choosing to answer the question presented in the most literal sense and going with Tshiebwe because I really do believe he could benefit more than any other early entrant to the 2023 NBA Draft by returning to Kentucky and capitalizing on another year of name, image and likeness opportunities.
Do I think he's likely to improve his NBA Draft stock with a fifth season of college basketball? No. But considering the former CBS Sports National Player of the Year isn't projected to get picked by most, it's reasonable to assume Tshiebwe will be able to make more money next season at Kentucky than he'd be able to make playing basketball literally anywhere else in the world. If I were him, I wouldn't walk away from that. -- Gary Parrish
Jordan Walsh (Arkansas)
Eric Musselman is more comfortable with significant roster turnover than maybe any coach in the sport. He's lost players a year earlier than anticipated basically every spring since he got to Arkansas. Add Walsh to the list that's vulnerable to exit.
Walsh, a freshman, is a former five-star prospect who had a good debut on an Arkansas team that was stop-and-go for much of the season. They upset Kansas in the second round to make the Sweet 16, then were punched out of the bracket by eventual national champion UConn. In the Razorbacks' three NCAA Tournament games, Walsh had more fouls (10) than rebounds (7). He averaged 6.0 points in the Big Dance, down from his season average of 7.1.
Walsh is an NBA prospect, for sure. He has the physicality and defensive upside to make him a treasured off-the-bench specialist down the road. But he's not there yet, I don't think. And with an increased role as a sophomore, Walsh could boost his pro stock with another year under Muss, who of course has an NBA background that could serve him well. Should Walsh return, I think he'd grow into a top-50 all-around player in college hoops next season, with top-15 upside strictly as a defender.
And if he comes back, Arkansas would return another NBA prospect in Trevon Brazile, not to mention the clutch transfer get in Houston's Tramon Mark. The Hogs would be a borderline top-10 team in that scenario. -- Matt Norlander
Jaden Akins (Michigan State)
The Spartans marched into the second weekend of this year's NCAA Tournament -- which as a No. 7 seed, they really had no business doing -- thanks to the technical brilliance of coach Tom Izzo and a roster that was cohesive and experienced enough to click at just the right time. That could change in 2023.
Michigan State enrolls a top-five incoming recruiting class, its highest-ranked class since 2016, which is flush with talent and on paper surrounds Akins with weapons upon weapons that will not just push him, but better accentuate what he does well. The addition of top-30 recruit Jeremy Fears, a lead guard with wiggle who plays selflessly, could be an upgrade on the backcourt that benefits Akins as he continues to develop.
Akins showed flashes of making a leap from role player to borderline star down the stretch of the season with his smooth, left-handed release a nightmare for defenders to try and stop. He can get to his spots with ease and has grown into one of the better 3-point shooters in the conference while making strides as an on-ball creator.
More time on the ball, which could be in the cards with roster turnover, may benefit Akins next season. And playing next to an elite playmaker in Fears could do wonders to spotlight for NBA teams what he does well. Akins' catch-and-shoot profile from last season was in the 96th percentile among college players, so we know he has skills that can translate up, but improving upon his finishing around the basket and sharpening some finer points of his game -- which he could very well do on a roster that looks to be even more talented -- may wind up boosting his stock even higher for a re-run into the 2024 NBA Draft. -- Kyle Boone
Chris Livingston (Kentucky)
Livingston entered Kentucky as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2022 and showed plenty of promise on the defensive end while starting in 26 of 34 games for the Wildcats. But the 6-foot-6 wing has plenty to work on offensively before he can be considered a safe bet to get selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. He averaged just 6.3 points per game on 30.5% 3-point shooting during his freshman campaign didn't show much shot-creation acumen.
With another loaded freshman class coming to UK and the potential return of star big man Oscar Tshiebwe, it's possible that Livingston would remain only a role player offensively. But within that role, it would still be possible for him to demonstrate marked development in his shooting and offensive versatility. If he does, he could become a first-round pick in 2024 since his size, athleticism and defensive ability are all working in his favor.
Ultimately, if he decides to jump now, it's easy to imagine Livingston as a second-round pick or undrafted free agent who winds up on a two-way contract. But with another year of offensive refinement, the calculus could change dramatically for Livingston, who has all the ingredients of an eventual NBA rotation player. -- David Cobb