When Caleb Swanigan selected a college destination two years ago, the McDonald’s All-American forward dragged out the process into late May before finally picking Purdue over Cal and Michigan State.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that his decision whether to remain in the NBA draft also went down to the wire.
Swanigan announced that he is staying in the NBA draft Wednesday evening less than than seven hours before the midnight deadline for early-entry players to withdraw. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is projected to be taken somewhere between 20-40 in next month’s draft.
Never thought I'd be sad to say that I am going to chase my reality in the NBA. Y'all got my love forever. #boilerup
— Mamba Forever (@calebswanigan50) May 24, 2017
The departure of Swanigan drastically alters expectations for Purdue next season.
Had Swanigan become the first AP first-team All-American since Doug McDermott to return to school, Purdue likely would have begun next season as a top 10 team and as co-favorites in the Big Ten along with Michigan State. The Boilermakers instead now appear to be a good team but not a great one, a top 30ish team nationally that will spar with Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and perhaps a few others in the Big Ten’s second tier.
After a solid freshman season playing alongside A.J. Hammons, Swanigan blossomed into the most productive big man in the country last year. He averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, showcasing the ability to dominate in the paint or to knock down jumpers from behind the arc.
What’s preventing Swanigan from being a surefire first-round pick are questions about whether he has the mobility and lateral quickness to defend in space. Opponents consistently hurt Purdue last season by putting Swanigan and 7-footer Isaac Haas in ball screens, forcing them to try to stay in front of smaller, quicker guards off the dribble without fouling.
While losing Swanigan is a massive blow to Purdue, the Boilermakers did learn this week that Haas and versatile forward Vince Edwards are both returning. That duo combined with a sharpshooting backcourt will certainly keep Purdue relevant nationally, but the ceiling for the Boilermakers isn’t quite as high as it would have been if Swanigan made a different decision.
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