With the current roster USC basketball has, the Trojans could make a legitimate run at a Final Four…next year. USC only has one senior and has another strong recruiting class coming in. But the Trojans will be one scholarship over the limit, so how that shakes out is anyone’s guess.
Will one of the role players decide to search for a more prominent role elsewhere? Will one of the upperclassmen seek more playing time through a graduate transfer? Or could someone declare early for the NBA draft? That hasn’t been a concern in several years at USC with only one draft pick in the last six drafts.
Nikola Vucevic left after his junior season in 2011, shot up draft boards to No. 16 overall and has since become a budding under-the-radar star for the Orlando Magic. Vucevic was the 62nd former Trojan to be drafted, including four that were selected from other schools after transferring, and the 11th first round pick.
Prior to Vucevic, USC had five underclassmen drafted in a three-year period from 2007 to 2009, including a pair of one-and-done top 10 picks in two-time All-Star DeMar Derozan and O.J. Mayo. Under Andy Enfield, USC could follow that three-year trajectory, but it would probably be best if that started after next season rather than this year.
Taking a look at a couple of mock drafts, neither DraftExpress or NBAdraft.net has a Trojan being selected in the 2016 draft, though both have USC being a part of the 2017 draft. DraftExpress predicts freshman Chimezie Metu will be selected late in the first round with the No. 29 pick in 2017 while NBAdraft.net has Bennie Boatwright being picked at No. 23 overall and Julian Jacobs going in the middle of the second round at No. 48 overall.
On their current top 100 big board, NBAdraft.net has Bennie Boatwright at No. 30 after not being in the rankings in their previous update, but sees him in the 2017 draft. Jacobs comes in at No. 91 on the same list, down four spots from the previous rankings.
DraftExpress isn’t as high on the Trojan players as no one is in their current top 100. But DraftExpress also breaks down the top players in each NCAA class. Jacobs is ranked No. 74 among college juniors while Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin are both ranked in the sophomore class at No. 44 and No. 52, respectively. USC’s fabulous freshmen are No. 32 (Metu) and No. 59 (Boatwright) in their college class.
If any of the current Trojans were to enter the draft this year, they run a big risk of being undrafted and having to try to fight their way through the NBA Development League as Dewayne Dedmon successfully did. Of course, they could also be selected and never play in a game as often happens with second round picks who are unable to make the final roster. Of the 58 players selected in the NBA Draft out of USC, only 27 have played in an NBA game. The list of 31 players that never got into a game is packed with talented players, including 2002 Pac-12 Player of the Year and second team All-American Sam Clancy.
Even though the Trojans have the strongest collection of talent in several years, there is no one on the current USC roster yet that is lock to be an NBA star and therefore no one that is a lock to make a roster next season. Instead, it would be best for everyone involved if USC’s top players all returned to try to make a deep postseason run that would gain the team and the individuals more notoriety.