One of the toughest decisions, for every college underclassmen that is rated highly by NBA Draft board sites is whether to stay in college or to put their name into the NBA Draft.  The deadline for declaring for the draft is April 23rd. Due to changes in the NCAA rules, the player can retain their eligibility to play in college, as long as they don’t sign with an agent, and if they decide to pull their name out of the NBA Draft by the NCAA’s May 24th deadline.

To accommodate that deadline, the NBA has expanded their May Combine to include underclassmen with remaining NCAA eligibility. These two rule changes will allow a great number of players to evaluate their draft status, and to return to college if they don’t feel their draft status warrants their staying in the draft.

In my opinion, unless a player has the knowledge or feedback that they will be a first round choice, then in most cases they would be better served by returning to college. In many players decisions, there is one underlying factor that has made players stay in the draft, when maybe they shouldn’t. That reason being the thought process that permeates many NBA front offices, that younger players with potential are better that more mature and ready to help talent. It develops from the logic that mature talent that may not have as many years in them, and or have as much future development to raise their value to their club in future years.

This thought process may come from the mentality that comes from teams searching for “The Next” great player for each club, in a league that has more increasingly become a star’s league, rather than a team league. The majority of NBA teams draft to potential more times, than just to their need. Looking at the artificial “Bling Effect” it has with fans, not what makes the best sense when building a winner. In some cases, it is just a P.T. Barnum approach to potentially putting butts in the seats, rather than W’s on the board. Need is important to many clubs, don’t read me wrong, but many times they draft a player who in two to three years may fill that need, not a player who would fit it right away. Even though, a more mature complete player may give them the ability to win sooner.

Maybe that is why, based on three different mock drafts (ESPN, NBADraft.Net, CBS Sports.com), that there are just two seniors among the projected three mock first round draft projections. They were 6-8 PF Wesley Iwundu (Kansas State) and 6-2 Monte Morris (Iowa State). While, in the second round, only eight other seniors, including “College Player of the Year” Frank Mason 6-0 PG (Kansas), Final Four star Sinderius Thornwell 6-5 W/PF (South Carolina), Josh Hart 6-5 SG (Villanova), 6-5 WF Jamel Artis (Pitt) and a quartet of power forwards in Alec Peters 6-9 (Valparaiso), Isaiah Hicks 6-9 (North Carolina), 6-8 Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin) and Moses Kingsley 6-10 (Arkansas) are currently projected to be drafted in round two as it stands now, prior to the NBA Combine.

So that is why we are going to take a look at the underclassmen who have made their decisions to date, those still looking to decide, and the few players who have decided to stay in college. We will break them down by Lottery Picks, First Rounders, Second Rounders, and Potential Non-Drafted (Back to School) based on the above-mentioned draft projections. In this column, we will look at the players most likely to be drafted in the first round, then in installment number two of this story we will take a look at underclassmen, who will most likely be selected in the second round or could go undrafted. So, with that in mind, here is our breakdown of the NBA Draft First Round underclassmen list:

Vying for Number One: This trio of talented Freshmen are all potential number one picks depending on who wins NBA Lottery:

Markelle Fultz 18 Frosh PG 6-5 185 Washington

He has reportedly hired an Agent and will go to Boston or Phoenix depending on their draft order. He is a player in the Westbrook mold, great athlete and scorer who can run show, biggest question is can he become a point like Westbrook?

Lonzo Ball 19 Frosh PG 6-5 195 UCLA  

He has reportedly hired an Agent and will go to Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix or Miami if they can find way to move up in draft. He has a Jason Kidd type game, great passer who can make everyone around him better. He needs to improve defensively and work on following Kidd as a player who takes game over when its crunch time. Tools are there, still needs to get tougher!

Josh Jackson 20 Frosh WF 6-8 202 Kansas

He just entered his name in the draft, so he hasn’t hired agent yet, but it’s no doubt that he could sneak in and steal top pick as Boston, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix all love his athletic gifts, and ability to make an impact on both ends of the court. He is a more complete version of Andrew Wiggins who was the #1 pick in 2014…His defensive skills give him an edge!

Lottery Picks: Players that are projected to be among first 14 players picked in the draft. These players should be early entries

Jayson Tatum 19 Frosh WF 6-8 204 Duke – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and will be one of first players picked after the top three. The Knicks covet him, as do Orlando and Dallas. He has all the tools on offense to be a Grant Hill type scorer and has the length to develop into defensive stopper. He needs to add strength to get to level skills promise!

De’Aaron Fox 19 Frosh PG 6-4 171 Kentucky  – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and based on his destruction of Ball and UCLA in tourney has jumped up a number of spots in the draft. He has Orlando, Minnesota, and Sacramento salivating over his explosive quickness and ability to score in traffic. He needs to develop more consistent long range jumper, but that won’t stop him from going early in lottery.

Dennis Smith 19 Frosh PG 6-2 190 NC State  – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has become one of top guards in the draft. He has early interest from Philadelphia and Dallas. He has solid handles, can score from three to rim, is an excellent passer who will get down and dirty on “D” too!

Malik Monk 19 Frosh SG 6-3 185 Kentucky – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and is ready to take his high octane offensive game to the NBA. He has loads of interest from Orlando, Minnesota, New York, and Phoenix, so don’t expect him to last too long on night one of the draft.

Lauri Markkanen 19 Frosh PF 7-0 230 Arizona – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent, so look for Sacramento, Minnesota, or Denver to take him in lottery. This offensively minded big man can score from three on trail or attack bigs off the dribble in mid-range or post and score going left or right. He needs to add some strength, but fits proto type of new style NBA big man.

Jonathan Isaac 19 Frosh WF 6-10 205 Florida State – Top 10 Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and is all in on the draft. He has Philadelphia, Sacramento, and New Orleans interested in his length at the wing and ability to block shots from help side an intriguing possibility!

*Miles Bridges 19 Frosh WF 6-8 230 Michigan State – Top 10 Pick

This talented and powerful wing forward has a lot of Draymond Green in his game  and is willing to get his hands dirty on the glass and blocks offensively. He is a surprising athlete that Charlotte, Miami, and Minnesota hope enters the draft.

Frank Ntilikina 18 PG 6-5 180 France – Lottery Pick

He hasn’t declared for draft at last word, but this big ands rangy point guard has great range on jumper, and couples that with excellent court vision and basketball I.Q. that has Sacramento and Dallas both have scouted heavily.

Zach Collins 19 Frosh C 7-0 230 Gonzaga – Lottery Pick

The last in trio of players who haven’t announced for this year’s draft, but has Detroit salivating after his great performance in the NCAA tourney! He can score from three, attack off the dribble, and finish through contact. He crashes glass and is an efficient shot blocker. He needs to add strength to become force at next level, but no doubt he will compete every night out!

Harry Giles 18 Frosh PF 6-10 222 Duke – Lottery Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has interest from Denver, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Utah. They love his length and offensive tools that make him a potential big-time scorer if he can add strength  and avoid the injury bug he’s had up to now in his career.

Jarrett Allen 18 Frosh C 6-11 227 Texas – Lottery Pick to Mid-First Round (replaces Robert Williams in Lottery)

This long and active shot blocker moves into lottery replacing Williams, he is a dominant rim protector in the making who needs to add strength to finish his package. He has looks coming from Charlotte and Chicago.

*Bridges and Ntilikina have yet to announce for the draft, but reportedly are leaning toward doing so…stay tuned!

One Lottery Pick who has already decided to go back to school:

Robert Williams 19 Frosh PF 6-9 237 Texas A&M – Returning to School

He has decided to go back to school and disappointed Charlotte, Chicago, and Minnesota who had shown interest in him.

First Round Picks: Players who currently are likely to be drafted in the “First Round” in June!

OG Anunoby 19 Frosh WF 6-8 235 Indiana – Lottery Pick to Mid-First Round (Injured Knee)

He has reportedly hired an Agent. He was injured in January, and will have a big ? on his health heading into draft, but work he did for Hoosiers prior to injury had Indiana Pacers salivating…so we expect him to go when they pick if not before.

TJ Leaf 19 Frosh PF 6-9 215 UCLA – Mid-First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has Miami, Atlanta, Portland and Indiana all interested in his solid offensive game that features range on his shot, good feet around the hoop, and nose for ball off the glass. With added strength he will be solid four man for years in league.

Justin Patton 19 Frosh C 7-0 235 Creighton – Mid-First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has Denver, Portland, Sacramento, and Atlanta all interested in his athletic gifts and length that allow him to board, block shots and get shot off of opponents on block or in face up. Raw talent with huge upside.

Edrice “Bam” Adebayo 19 Frosh PF 6-9 240 Kentucky – Mid-First Round Pick

One of the physically most imposing talents in the draft, he has a body that Milwaukee, Portland, Brooklyn, and San Antonio all watching his ability to show that he can rebound and score in the paint. He is a raw power man in the Elton Brand mold!

Luke Kennard 20 Soph SG 6-5 187 Duke – Mid-First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has seen interest from Utah Oklahoma City, and Houston. He is one of top wing shooters in class with J.J. Reddick type game.

John Collins 19 Soph PF 6-10 235 Wake Forest – Mid-First Round Pick

This long and athletic big man, has shown the ability to score facing on the blocks and is a good defender in the paint that San Antonio and Portland have interest in.

Ivan Rabb 20 Soph PF 6-10 215 California – Mid-First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent. This skilled offensive big man, needs to get stronger and be more aggressive on both ends, but his offensive gifts have Brooklyn, Indiana, Detroit and L.A. Lakers showing interest.

Justin Jackson 22 Junior WF 6-8 193 North Carolina – Mid-First Round Pick

He rose in the draft due to his aggressive play in NCAA tourney. He has deadly mid-range game and if jumper from beyond arc gains consistency look out! Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Charlotte and Miami all like his length on the wing.

Johnathan Motley 21 Junior PF 6-9 230 Baylor – Late First Round Pick

This athletic and aggressive rebounder and inside scorer has range to 18-feet and can attack bigs off dribble and finish with highlights. He has interest from Utah, Chicago, and Toronto.

Ike Anigbogu 18 Frosh C 6-10 250 UCLA – Mid-First Round Pick

This raw, but physical shot blocker and rebounder can flat out get on the glass, outlet and run floor like forward. He has long way to go offensively, but already has interest from Toronto, Chicago, and Brooklyn.

Tony Bradley 19 Frosh 6-10 250 North Carolina – Mid-First Round Pick

This raw shot blocker and intriguing athlete, needs to add strength and work on his shot (side roll), but he isn’t afraid to mix it up and protect the rim. He is getting looks from L.A. Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets.

Moritz Wagner 19 Soph PF 6-11 240 Michigan – Mid-First Round Pick

He just declared for the draft, hasn’t taken on an agent, and is just beginning to explore interest. He was consistent in NCAA tourney, rebounded and finished in the paint out to 15-feet. He has early interest from Utah to date.

*Isaiah Hartenstein 18 PF 7-0 230 Germany – Mid-First Round Pick

He looked good at times in Nike Hoop Summit, has good touch and showed he can board and pass the rock. He will need to continue to get stronger and more aggressive. He has interest from Portland, Brooklyn, and Milwaukee.

Terrance Ferguson 19 SG 6-7 186 Australia – Mid-First Round Pick

He has an Agent and is one of the best shooter’s in the Draft. He has length and quickness to develop into a good defender. He has serious interest from Atlanta (looking to replace Kyle Korver), Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Orlando.

*Rodions Kurucs 19 W/PF 6-9 190 Latvia – Mid-First Round Pick

This skilled combo forward can stroke jumper to arc, create off the dribble or post and pop from blocks. He will need to get stronger, but has length and skills that Orlando, Toronto, and Utah have shown interest in.

Hartenstein, and Kurucs have yet to announce for the draft, but reportedly are leaning toward doing so..stay tuned!

Late First Round Picks: This is where the struggle begins, as we see 4-5 spots available for this list of fifteen-plus players (you do the math), so over half of this group will fall into the second round, unless they really bust out at the combine or in team workouts!

Caleb Swanigan 19 Soph PF 6-9 246 Purdue – Late First Round Pick – Big-time college scorer and rebounder tore up Big Ten and oozes potential at next level that Utah and Golden State have interest in.

Andrew Jones 19 Frosh P/SG 6-4 175 Texas – Late First Round Pick

Athletic and quick combo who can knock down three, create drive or pass. He has size NBA likes at point and has Brooklyn already checking him out.

D.J. Wilson 20 Junior PF 6-10 240 Michigan – Late First Round Pick

Just entered the draft yesterday, and showed he can block shots, board and finish in traffic in NCAA tourney. He has touch on jumper that makes him more versatile. Look for interest to pick up now that he is officially in draft.

Donovan Mitchell 20 Soph SG 6-3 200 Louisville – Late First Round Pick

Strong and aggressive lead guard is getting serious looks, especially if top three or four points are gone. He has looks from L.A. Lakers, Detroit, and L.A. Clippers to potentially fill future needs at point.

Tyler Lydon 20 Soph WF 6-9 205 Syracuse – Late First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has Orlando, Denver, and Atlanta showing interest in late first pick.

Allonzo Trier 21 SG 6-5 198 Arizona – Late First Round Pick

Physical scoring guard with range to three needs to shoot it with consistency to go with his NBA ready body. He has drawn some interest from Charlotte at this point.

Bonzie Colson 21 W/PF 6-5 225 Notre Dame – Late First Round Pick

This physical tweener can flat out rebound with bigs and is able to finish through contact, as he showed in NCAA’s. Shot range is good, but can he guard on perimeter and versus 6-10-up inside talents. Questions to be answered in workouts!

Jawun Evans 20 Soph PG 6-0 188 Oklahoma State – Late First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and is committed to draft. He has strong body, surprising quicks and is solid passer off dribble. He is a little streaky with shot and will need to perform well in combine and workouts to solidify first round spot.

Kostja Mushidi 18 SG 6-5 210 Belgium – Late First Round Pick

Solid wing shooter who can handle and create to go with his international competition experience. He already is getting interest from Portland.

*Jordan Bell 22 Junior PF 6-9 225 Oregon – Late First Round Pick

Long and bouncy shot blocker and dunking machine gets interest from his ability to create highlights. He may need to hone offensive game to stay in the first round.

Dwayne Bacon 21 Soph SG 6-6 205 Florida State – Late First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and has shown in spurts an ability to knock down jumper, score off dribble and finish around the hoop. He is already hearing from Brooklyn.

Kyle Kuzma 21 Junior PF 6-9 225 Utah – Late First Round Pick

This skilled face up four man, has range, can create drive versus bigs, and can finish with either hand on the blocks. He has a Nick Collison type game that may solidify him in combines and workouts as a first round pick.

Semi Ojeleye 22 Junior P/WF 6-7 235 SMU – Late First Round Pick

This athletic, skilled and strong combo has tools to score from 18-feet to the rim. He handles and creates, is good passer and if he can extend range to arc, he has similarities to Kawhi Leonard something that Portland has taken notice of.

Edmond Sumner 21 Junior P/SG 6-5 190 Xavier – Late First Round Pick

He has reportedly hired an Agent and will look to show that his length, strength, and ability to score are the real deal in combine and workouts.

*P.J. Dozier 20 Soph P/SG 6-7 185 South Carolina – Late First Round Pick

This long and skilled combo can flat out knock down open jumper and is a surprising passer in transition. He’s more of a two and if he can add strength could be a steal late in first round. Workouts will be key for him!

*Chimezie Metu 20 Soph PF 6-10 220 USC – Late First Round Pick

This long and gifted shot blocker has really improved his offensive game and improved his shot to face and drive. He may still need to add strength, but could intrigue in workouts if he comes out as expected.

 At last check, Bell, Dozier, and Metu hadn’t declared for draft, but are expected to put a toe in water.

 All in All, that makes forty-five players (45) that have been mentioned as potential round first round picks. Considering that there are only 30 first round picks it, definitely makes it tough to know whether to stay or go, but over the next month prior to the May 24th withdrawal deadline many of these players will have to make that decision.  Note: If they’ve hired an Agent, then that decision is made regardless of whether they get drafted or not. We will follow those decisions as we move toward that date.

 Well, that’s our first cut look at the underclassmen with a chance to be drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft…coming up next is a look at the second round, and the players who may go undrafted, right here at TheBasketballChannel.net.