Evaluating early-entry decisions
A few of the no-brainers: Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Alec Burks, Morris twins
Tennessee's Tobias Harris and Michigan's Darius Morris face a difficult decision
The surprising early entries: Cory Joseph, Jereme Richmond and Hollis Thompson
The NBA released its official early entry list for the 2011 NBA draft on Thursday. DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony analyzes each player's decision to toss his name into the hat.
* At the time of publication, the player was not planning on hiring an agent, leaving the option of pulling out of the NBA draft by May 8 and retaining college eligibility.
RELATED: Early entries from the college ranks
Keion Bell, SG, Junior, Pepperdine
Bell, one of the top scorers in college basketball, was dismissed from Pepperdine midway through the season. Since sitting out a full year by transferring is not an attractive option, he will likely pursue a future in professional basketball.
Alec Burks, SG, Sophomore, Colorado
The top-rated shooting guard on most NBA teams' draft boards, Burks is a likely lottery pick who could be picked extremely high due to the lack of depth in this draft, particularly at his position.
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Sophomore, Texas
A likely top-20 pick, Hamilton is coming off a strong season, making it understandable that he would elect to strike while the iron is hot.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Freshman, Duke
A surefire top-three pick and the front-runner to be taken first overall, Irving had very little to accomplish by coming back for his sophomore year, especially considering he already suffered one somewhat-serious injury.
Terrence Jones, SF/PF, Freshman, Kentucky*
A likely lottery pick despite seeing a sharp decline in production over the second half of the season, Jones' decision became easier with each projected lottery pick that elected to return to school leading up to his announcement.
Enes Kanter, PF/C, Freshman, Kentucky
Kanter never played a game for the Wildcats, as he was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving more than $33,000 in impermissible benefits while playing for a Turkish club team. But he's still one of the best bigs in the draft and a projected top-10 pick.
Brandon Knight, PG/SG, Freshman, Kentucky*
Potentially a top-five pick after a strong NCAA tournament run, Knight had a lot more to lose than gain by returning for his sophomore season.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, Sophomore, San Diego State
Leonard would have had a tough time helping San Diego State replicate the season they just had, making it more than understandable that he would decide to cash in now. He's a likely candidate to be invited to the green room for draft night.
Marcus Morris, PF, Junior, Kansas
The leading half of the strongest and most productive frontcourt in college basketball, Marcus Morris will enter the NBA ready to produce, and will almost certainly be sitting in the green room in New Jersey.
Markieff Morris, PF, Junior, Kansas
Markieff Morris saw his stock rise as dramatically as virtually any player in the NCAA in the second half of the season. He is firmly in the first round at this stage, and could be picked as high as the late lottery depending on workouts and positional needs.
Willie Reed, PF, Sophomore, Saint Louis
Caught in a bizarre maelstrom involving sexual assault allegations (from which he was eventually cleared) that eventually led to academic issues from which he was unable to recover, Reed was forced to enter the draft and hire an agent this month. There are conflicting reports as to what actually happened over the last year at the conservative Jesuit school that led to this point, but there's little doubt that Reed is an intriguing prospect who teams will be interested in learning more about both on and off the court over the next two months.
Chris Singleton, SF, Junior, Florida State
Slowed somewhat by injuries as the season progressed, Singleton's physical attributes and defensive prowess still make him a popular name among NBA scouts, making him a near-certainty to be picked up somewhere in the first round.
Klay Thompson, SG/SF, Junior, Washington State
It's tough to fault Thompson for electing to cash in coming off a very productive season, as he is rated by most teams as the second-best wing player in a very shallow draft (particularly at his position).
Tristan Thompson, PF, Freshman, Texas*
Thompson is a 20-year old freshman with a limited skill-set, but he has many fans around the NBA. He risked setting the bar a little too high for himself had he elected to return for a sophomore year. And the 2012 draft will be extremely strong, particularly at the power forward position.
Nikola Vucevic, C, Junior, USC
Vucevic has the unique option of playing (and continuing to develop) at the top level of European basketball next season thanks to his versatile skill-set and Montenegrin passport, and thus could be a very good option for teams trying to plan ahead in advance of an NBA lockout.
Kemba Walker, PG, Junior, UConn
As a potential top-five pick coming off an NCAA title and having graduated in three years, Walker has accomplished everything there is to accomplish at the college level.
Derrick Williams, PF, Sophomore, Arizona
A surefire top-three pick and potentially the No. 1 overall selection depending on how the ping-pong balls drop, Williams went out in style after carrying Arizona on his back for a deep NCAA tournament run.
DeAngelo Casto, PF, Junior, Washington State
Casto dropped out of school to pursue playing professional basketball next season in order to support his family. The drug charges against him were ultimately dropped.
Ashton Gibbs, PG/SG, Junior, Pittsburgh*
Coming off an extremely efficient season as one of the most prolific three-point shooters amongst draft-eligible prospects, Gibbs may have a difficult time replicating his junior season with the amount of talent Pitt loses next year. Still, the allure of proving his mettle as a primary ballhandler may convince him to return for his senior campaign.
Troy Gillenwater, PF/C, Junior, New Mexico State*
Gillenwater was again one of the top 25 per-minute scorers in the NCAA this season, but did so in relative obscurity on a sub-.500 New Mexico State team. Already 22 years old, it's tough to say what another season would do for him as a 6-7 power forward with limited athleticism and off-court red flags.
Tobias Harris, PF, Freshman, Tennessee*
Harris was one of the most consistent freshmen in college basketball, playing in a turbulent environment that will now feature a new head coach next season. Likely a first-round pick, but with the potential to move up (or down) next season depending on how he performs, the 18-year old Harris has a difficult decision ahead of him.
Tu Holloway, PG, Junior, Xavier*
The Atlantic 10 player of the year was as productive a college player as they come, seeing nearly 39 minutes per game, but remains a borderline prospect due to his average physical tools. Does he try and up his professional standing next season with a deep NCAA tournament run?
Tyler Honeycutt, SF, Sophomore, UCLA
Honeycutt was under heavy pressure to return after an up-and-down sophomore season, but ultimately decided fairly early on to enter the draft and hire an agent. His stock varies dramatically from team to team, making his performance in private workouts and the NBA combine crucial.
Scotty Hopson, SG/SF, Junior, Tennessee*
Hopson has been an enigma since he stepped foot on campus in Knoxville, and this season was no different. NBA teams have to like his physical tools and overall talent, but many questions remain about his intangibles and the likelihood of him reaching his potential.
Reggie Jackson, PG, Junior, Boston College*
Jackson started off the season as an afterthought, but quickly emerged as one of the most productive guards in the NCAA. His ascension caught many NBA teams off guard, though, and it might be tough to say on May 8th whether he was seen enough by key decision-makers to guarantee himself a spot in the first round. Jackson's talent is obvious, and the fact that Boston College is losing so much talent might ultimately convince him to stay in and work his way up draft boards.
Reggie Johnson, C, Sophomore, Miami*
One of the most productive rebounders in the NCAA but still very much a work in progress both physically and skill-wise, Johnson could be viewed by some teams as an intriguing long-term project to work with. A few years away from being ready to perform consistently at the NBA level, Johnson is likely at best a second-round pick, which may force him to return for at least one more season at Miami.
Malcolm Lee, SG, Junior, UCLA
NBA teams have been waiting for some time for the former McDonald's All-American to take the next step in his development, something that has been slow to happen, partially due to the constraints of UCLA's rigid offense. Lee decided to take advantage of the shallow draft class and hope that the considerable pro success enjoyed by many fellow Bruin alum will convince an NBA team that he has more to offer than he was able to show under Ben Howland.
Travis Leslie, SG/SF, Junior, Georgia
Arguably the most explosive player in this draft class, Leslie did not progress quite as much as some NBA teams may have hoped this season, particularly as a perimeter shooter and ballhandler. Nevertheless, he decided to enter the draft and hire an agent, and is projected as a borderline first-round pick at this stage.
DeAndre Liggins, SG/SF, Junior, Kentucky*
A top-rated high school recruit who took a little longer than expected to make the transition -- partially due to coaching changes -- Liggins blossomed late in the season and is known as one of the best perimeter defenders in this group. He may not have shown quite enough to secure himself a spot in the first round, though, which could force him to return to Kentucky for his senior season.