Handicapping Gonzaga's NBA explorers

Wrote recently here about how the NBA “tournament” in Orlando later this summer (and fall) will affect collegians exploring the league’s draft Oct. 15.

So here’s what I’m hearing about the three Gonzaga players – Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev – who have entered their names in the draft, plus a handicap on whether they’ll stay or go:

Kispert – He’s popularly seen as the most likely of the three Zags to be drafted, probably in the second round. GU’s second-leading scorer in 2019-20 (13.9 ppg), he can shoot from deep (.438 on threes) and has a strong, mature body. His athleticism is a mixed bag; he’s a fairly explosive leaper but struggles with lateral quickness.

Kispert has conducted himself well in Zoom interviews with NBA teams.

I’m told he has let it be known he’s seeking an assurance from an NBA team of a guaranteed contract. Normally that means being selected in the first round, but there are cases of some second-round picks who get guarantees.

Here’s the problem with that scenario: Kispert will have to decide by Aug. 3 whether he’s staying in the draft, which at that point, will still be 10 weeks distant. In normal times, that gap would be only about three weeks. So it’s highly unlikely an NBA team would commit to a guaranteed contract 2 ½ months before the draft.

I’m thinking Kispert is a four-year Zag. I’d put his likelihood to return at 85 percent.

Ayayi – Word is, when Ayayi declared, he told the Zag coaching staff he was coming back. In other words, this would be a fact-finding mission.

That makes perfect sense. He’d be unlikely to be drafted.

Ayayi, as a redshirt sophomore, made a quantum improvement, and if he takes another significant step next season, he has a chance in the NBA. As it stands, his chief asset – he’s an excellent rebounding guard – wouldn’t be enough to excite the NBA. While he hit some big shots, his three-point percentage of .345 is only average. He had a three-week, six-game stretch in February when he hit double figures only once.

I’d make his chance of returning 80 percent – only that low because he’s from France and the possibility of playing in Europe might enter in.

Petrusev – Of the three, Petrusev is the wild card. He’s given varying signals as to his intentions, alternately indicating his return to GU is likely but also holding out the possibility of playing in Europe.

He averaged 17.5 and 7.9 for the Zags and was the WCC player of the year. My sense, though, is that some of that pre-eminence stemmed from the fact the conference doesn’t have a lot of players who are physical matches for a 6-foot-11 player with some skill. I saw him get his career-high of 31 points at Santa Clara on 14-of-18 shooting, when the Broncos simply couldn’t find anybody to match up with him. That goes away at the next level.

If Petrusev is destined to be a perimeter threat as a pro, he has yet to prove it; he attempted only 11 threes last season.

He’s the toughest call of the three, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes either way. Let’s call it 55 percent likely to return.