In the face of an unprecented NBA Draft season, two Michigan men’s basketball players are staring down the same difficult decision.
As the dominoes begin to fall around the world of college basketball, junior forward Isaiah Livers and freshman wing Franz Wagner have yet to decide whether they’ll be returning to Ann Arbor next fall or entering the NBA Draft. For each player, there’s a strong case to be made for both routes.
In Livers’s case, entering the draft provides an opportunity to pawn his stellar offensive performances from November and February into an NBA contract. On the flip side, missing 10 games due to three different injuries and shooting a combined 14-for-47 from the field over the Wolverines’ last four games might put a dent in his stock.
“I trust that Isaiah will confide in me as well as his parents to help him evaluate what the best decision for his future is,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said on a teleconference Thursday. “I will do whatever I can to give him my honest opinion. Right now, we haven’t had a true discussion yet.”
Wagner, meanwhile, could become one of the more intriguing prospects if he declares for this year’s NBA Draft. At just 18 years old, his long 6-foot-9 frame and two-way game could be attractive to NBA teams looking for help on the wing.
Wagner missed the Wolverines’ first four games after fracturing his right wrist during a fall practice, but by the end of the season, he was the team’s best offensive player. He averaged 16.6 points on 62 percent shooting over Michigan’s last five games, raising the question of whether he may be NBA-ready in the process.
“Franz and I have had a brief conversation about testing the NBA waters,” Howard said. “We haven’t had an in-depth discussion at all yet. His name has been mentioned as far as a guy who could possibly test the NBA waters. I know he’s going to make the best decision for himself and his family.”
Between Livers and Wagner, it shouldn’t come as a shock when one or both opt to at least test the waters. Recent NCAA rule changes permit both to return to Michigan following the NBA combine if there is no financial arrangement with an agent, provided they terminate the relationship with the agent after the process.
With the NBA season currently suspended, however, questions about the draft process remain unanswered. Livers and Wagner would each benefit greatly from a chance to boost their stock at the combine or individual team workouts leading up to June, but it’s unclear whether that will be possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At the very minimum, getting feedback is an effective way to implement feedback next season, putting each player in a better position for 2021.
But for now, like the rest of the basketball world, Livers and Wagner remain uncertain.
“They have been proactive in making sure that all of the communication and information the NBA is sending us, they are aware of it,” Howard said. “They will communicate with their parents and family members to make the best decision where they feel they’re headed for their future.”