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NBA Draft 2018: Some Gonzaga players have decisions to make

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Before we can even fathom next year, we need the dust of the NBA Draft to settle.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For a Gonzaga Bulldogs franchise not use to the likes of early departures, the growth of the program has one unintended consequence: Players leaving for the NBA Draft.

Right now, the players around the nation you would expect to have their names announced are throwing their names into the ring. Gonzaga in total has only sent six early entries into the NBA Draft, starting with Adam Morrison in 2006. Three of those six have come in the past two years: Domantas Sabonis in 2016, and Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss in 2017.

Both Collins and Sabonis were no brainers. They spent much of the season parading about on most mock draft boards, and were drafted high enough that it was a near guarantee they’d be leaving.

This season, the Zags are in the NWG territory. We have some players that could make the jump, and it is just as easy to see them stick around for another year. Here they are in no particular order:

Killian Tillie

The Gonzaga forward was probably the most consistent player to appear in mock drafts as the year progressed. He averaged 19.8 points per 40 minutes on a 66.9 true shooting percentage, and he shot 47.9 percent from three. Offensively, Tillie’s game is perfectly suited for the stretch big man that exists in the NBA. He shoots the ball well, can handle the quick pass, and has a certain knack for getting to the hoop. Tillie’s biggest knock will come on his slender frame. Sometimes, he doesn’t take the ball to the rim with enough aggression as needed, and struggles to finish against larger bodies. In the NBA, it will be a sea of larger bodies, and he’ll need to add some weight.

After Tillie’s WCC Tournament performance, where he shot 13 of 14 from long range and averaged 24 points along the way, it really seemed like he was playing his way into the late first round. But a lot of work can be done during the NCAA Tournament, and Tillie was not able to capitalize. He only scored a total of nine points in two games, shooting 3 of 12 from the field and missing all of his four three point attempts. He sat out Gonzaga’s loss to Florida State with a hip injury. All the momentum Tillie was building for an early exit seemingly disappeared in a heart beat.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tillie throw his name into the ring without signing an agent. He loses nothing by doing that, and it allows the scouts to get another good, solid look at his potential. If he can convince a team to draft him somewhere in the late first round, then Tillie is probably gone. If he is moving his way down to the tiers of the second round, he could stand for another year of seasoning, and most importantly, being one of the major offensive focal points for Gonzaga in the post.

Rui Hachimura

When his name is eventually called, Hachimura will become the first Japanese-born player to make the NBA in decades. Hachimura’s evolution has been a long time coming. Before he even stepped foot on the court for Gonzaga, he needed to learn a little bit of the English language. That is why, despite all of the hype, Rui averaged a measly 4.6 minutes per game his freshman season.

His numbers for his sophomore season are not going to wow any SB Nation NBA blog commenters. He averaged 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, but translated to per 40 minutes, it’s 22.5 and 9.1--all the while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor. Still, despite all of the growth, Rui is still a less seasoned player than most would probably like him to be at this point. Throughout the season, Rui was just as liable to go off for 20 points as he was to score five points.

His 25 point outburst against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament was the perfect display of what can go right, when it all goes right. Rui was a menace in transition, and his natural athleticism was on full force with four blocks. He followed that up with a nice 16 point and nine rebound effort against Florida State. NBA.com listed him as one of the players that best helped his draft stock in the first week of the tournament.

He still has plenty to improve upon, however. Rui hasn’t shown NBA three range yet, hitting just five threes this season. He also still needs work on defensive awareness and moving off the ball on the offensive end. Another year of college seasoning would do wonders for Rui. At the same time, the NBA Draft is all about potential. For NBA scouts, that is what makes Hachimura such a tantalizing figure. There is so much potential within that body, but someone needs to mold it and form it in the correct fashion.

Josh Perkins

Surprise! Perkins is getting his named placed here just because we are operating in the NWG school of thought. Perkins has now been here a Bulldog for four years. He has graduated school, in the traditional sense. His name will not be called on draft night unless he shows up to the combine and shoots 100 percent from long range. By all accounts, he should be back next season.

But the old, by all accounts, phrasing didn’t include playing in Europe, where a lot of Gonzaga (and other college players) are making a nice (and paid) career for themselve. The broken down model of the NCAA is slowly crumbling around itself, and money talks rather loudly, especially after not getting paid properly for your services. As much as we should expect Perkins to return for his fourth and final year, the NBA is no longer the only path post college like it was ten years ago, so there is a legitimate chance he can leave early.