In the end, two of the ACC’s most impactful guards for next season elected to pull their names out of consideration for the 2020 NBA Draft. The deadline passed on April 28 that would allow underclassmen to enter their names in for the 2020 draft.
Initially, it was believed that NC State’s Devon Daniels and Virginia Tech transfer Cartier Diarra — by way of Kansas State — would at least test this year’s draft waters. NC State coach Kevin Keatts said as much about Daniels when he spoke with the media a month ago.
However, the NBA released its official record of early entry candidates late Tuesday night; neither Daniels nor Diarra are on the list. This is potentially significant news.
More on Daniels and Diarra
During his second year on the floor with NC State, Daniels made a sizable jump as a player. The 6-foot-5 Daniels filled up the stat sheet: 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game (3 percent steal rate). Daniels was one of only 10 players in the ACC to average 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal per game this season.
With no Markell Johnson and CJ Bryce, Daniels will take on a larger role in Raleigh next year — assuming he returns for a redshirt senior season.
NC State ATO: Iverson cut for Devon Daniels, side pick-and-roll with DJ Funderburk, roll/replace action from Jericole Hellems — Daniels to Funerburk lob, his 9th dunk of the season. pic.twitter.com/eaaTN7jx7f
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) December 5, 2019
Diarra, on the other hand, is a grad transfer from KSU. He brings size (6-foot-4) and experience (58 starts) to the point guard position. Diarra averaged 13.3 points (48.3 eFG%), 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the 2019-20 season.
While he’s dealt with turnover issues (24.7% TOV rate vs. top 50 teams), Diarra adds some pop to the point guard position, which the Hokies missed after the departures of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson. Playing in the framework for Mike Young’s offense should curb some of those turnovers, too.
Virginia Tech's offense could be fun next season: Jalen Cone (59 eFG% off screens) + Hunter Cattoor (60 eFG%) as movement shooters, Diarra handling, Tyrece Radford (71 FG% at rim, 149 FGA) as off-ball cutter + downhill driver — with Horne (at stretch 5) & Alleyne as floor-spacers
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) April 27, 2020
Regardless, the Hokies are set to put a solid offensive unit on the floor next season: Diarra, movement shooters Jalen Cone and Hunter Cattoor and Tyrece Radford, a menace slashing to the hoop.
Quick Note on Wake Forest’s Sarr
After two full years of development, Olivier Sarr evolved into one of the big offensive big men in the country this season. During his junior campaign, the 7-foot Sarr averaged 13.7 points, 9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. An elite defensive rebounder (25.8 percent defensive rebound rate), Sarr also shot 66 percent at the rim (41 dunks) this year.
For his efforts, Sarr was named third team All-ACC, and finished the year runner-up to North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks for Most Improved Player.
Sarr, however, elected to not enter his name into the NBA Draft pool — even to test the waters. Of the 15 players named to an All-ACC team in 2020, Sarr is one of only three underclassmen that chose to avoid the pre-draft process. Point guards Kihei Clark and Jose Alvarado are the others.
Shortly after the season ended, Sarr gave an interview in which he seemed to indicate a plan to return to Wake Forest. However, much has changed over the last four weeks, including the dismissal of head coach Danny Manning, who helped Sarr’s development.
Sarr can wait to see who the program hires to replace Manning; that’s certainly an option. Whomever Wake Forest hires, though, the first goal must be: retain Sarr. In the meantime, other programs can work to move Sarr, too.
If Wake sticks the hire and keeps Sarr, there’s — very quickly — some positive momentum going forward in Winston-Salem. When’s the last time you could say that about Wake Forest basketball?
John Currie notes that all 9 players Wake Forest signed in 2016, 2017 and 2018 are no longer with the program. "Attrition and retention of our players is one of the factors," he said about Danny Manning's firing.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) April 25, 2020