Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell will declare for the 2017 NBA draft but will not hire an agent, preserving his final two years of eligibility.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN first reported the news about Mitchell. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino confirmed the report Wednesday, adding Deng Adel and Jaylen Johnson would also be entering their names early but not hiring agents, per Jody Demling of Cardinal Authority.
Mitchell, a sophomore, is viewed as a potential late first- or early second-round pick. ESPN's Chad Ford currently has him as the No. 29 overall player on his big board. Neither Deng nor Johnson were ranked in Ford's top 100.
Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game this season, emerging as Louisville's go-to scorer.
"I think I played well," Mitchell told Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "There are many things I feel I improved on from freshman year. I do feel as though I have other things to work on as well and I will heading into this summer."
The Cardinals went 25-9 on the season and were a No. 2 seed but were upset by seventh-seeded Michigan in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Visibly upset after the loss, Mitchell told reporters his focus was on coming back in 2017-18 and winning a national championship at Louisville. With a few days of reflection, Mitchell said it was best to at least test the waters and see how he's viewed by NBA scouts.
"I want to see if I can improve my draft stock and I am still not 100 percent leaving," Mitchell said. "I just want to be able to see where I stand in the draft and if I can improve in any way."
The depth of this class ranks among the best in NBA history, particularly for underclassmen. Nineteen of Ford's top 20 players are still teenagers, and the one player who isn't (Kansas' Josh Jackson) is a 20-year-old freshman.
In some seasons, Mitchell's explosive scoring prowess and defensive tenacity would make him a top-20 lock. The 2017 class is strong enough that he could slide out of the first round if he shoots poorly in workouts or measures below his listed 6'3" frame.
It would be a major surprise if either Deng or Johnson did not withdraw their names. Neither were on most team's radars during the regular season, and their top-end projection would be at the end of the second round. This is likely just a move to get them in front of NBA scouts at the combine and put their names on radars going forward.
The three will have until May 24, 10 days after the conclusion of the combine, to decide whether they will keep their names in the draft. New NCAA rules put into place last season allow underclassmen who do not hire agents to enter their name as many times as they want without losing their eligibility, provided they do not hire representation.