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Early NBA Draft decisions means ACC will look a lot different next season

The country’s best conference will send a lot of talent to the NBA this June.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Andrew White III (3) takes a jump shot as Louisville Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell (45) defends during the first half of a game at the Carrier Dome.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is all about potential. It doesn’t matter if you’re ready right now. It’s what can you do for an organization in two or three years.

As of now, eight players from the ACC have declared early for the NBA Draft with the intentions of signing an agent, meaning they will forfeit their remaining college eligibility: Dwayne Bacon (Florida State), Harry Giles (Duke), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State), Tyler Lydon (Syracuse), Austin Nichols (Virginia, though he was dismissed very early), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Florida State), Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State) and Jayson Tatum (Duke).

Giles, who was a top two player in the 2016 recruiting cycle, didn’t have the season most expected — but the potential is there. The freakish athleticism, natural offensive game and long build is all very intriguing, and that’s why he’s a projected lottery pick.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Duke vs Troy Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

And then you look at Tyler Lydon’s case - is he ready for the NBA? To that I would say it’s all about potential, and can he get that much better if he comes back for his junior season? He may develop more as a player, but he could depreciate in value and it would make him a year older — something that scouts would definitely take into consideration. Lydon looked at the risk vs. reward, and realized it was his time to go.

As for ACC players that have declared for the NBA Draft but have not hired an agent yet: Deng Adel (Louisville), John Collins (Wake Forest), Jaylen Johnson (Louisville), Donovan Mitchell (Louisville) and Omen Yertseven (NC State).

This, to most people, is the way to go. The agents will always be available, so why not leave the door open to return to college?

For example, if Lydon (or any prospect) signs with an agent and either gets hurt or doesn’t impress the NBA scouts like they were supposed to, where does that leave them?

For projected lottery picks — Tatum, Giles, Smith, among others — it makes perfect sense. But for players like Lydon, who are projected to be drafted in the mid-to-late first round, it may have been smarter to hold off on an agent until you get some sort of first-round guarantee, which is similar to what Malachi Richardson did last year with the Sacramento Kings.

But again, it’s all about potential.

Every year and every fanbase has the same argument about whether certain players are ready. Lydon isn’t an NBA player right now, but organizations are looking at what he’ll be in three years, and that’s appealing. He’s a versatile forward who can play different positions, run, hit from anywhere and rebound. And that’s before he hits an NBA weight room.

It’s the new norm and it’s something that everyone has to get used to. As our own Kevin Wall wrote, history says Tyler Lydon’s decision can work.