To no one's surprise, Providence suffered two possible losses this week for the 2016-17 season, as guard Kris Dunn and forward Ben Bentil both declared for the 2016 NBA Draft.
The two situations are dissimilar after that. While Dunn is hiring an agent and officially entering his name in the draft pool, Bentil is taking advantage of the NBA's new rule that allows players to gauge their draft stock and return to school if it's not to their liking.
It's unfortunate to have to think so pessimistically, but let's operate under the assumption that NBA scouts are high on Bentil, so much so that a draft entry will be hard to pass up. If this is the case, Ed Cooley and the Friars will have no choice but to pick up the pieces, play the hand that they've dealt themselves, and work hard on the recruiting trail to help ease the impact of losing their two best players. Here's a look at what the Friars will look like sans Bentil and Dunn in 2016-2017.
Returning Players/Incoming Transfers
Junior Lomomba, a redshirt junior like Dunn, had the opportunity to follow in former Friar Tyler Harris' shoes, and take advantage of the graduate transfer rule. This would allow him to transfer to any school of his liking without having to sit a year out. Lomomba, however, seems to have every intention of returning next year, and will be the only senior on the Friars' roster. He's a talented defender, but he's very streaky on offense. He'll be a helpful piece, but nowhere near a number one option on offense.
The current sophomore class is likely where Cooley will turn for the most production and leadership. Replacing Dunn at the point will be Kyron Cartwright. The Compton, California native has certainly had his ups and downs, but his late-season play was as encouraging a sign as Cooley could get. He's a high energy player, an above-average passer, and he's improved his jumpshot significantly. He won't be Dunn, but the coaching staff won't expect him to be Dunn either; what they'll expect (and likely get) is a point guard who will be amongst the top half of Big East point guards next season.
Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey are frustrating yet immensely talented players. Bullock had many great moments this year, none more important than his game winning basket against USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Bullock sat out the first two seasons at Providence after an injury and a suspension, so last season's struggles and growing pains were to be expected. With a year of experience, next season could see Bullock ascend to one of the better scorers in the Big East.
Lindsey, like Lomomba, is above average on the defensive end. He flies to rebounds, is long and athletic, and makes for a pretty good small forward or stretch power forward. On offense, he's equally as streaky, and has struggled to find a consistent jumpshot in his two years. All things considered, Lindsey was still better this year than last, and could be a nightmare to guard if his jumper begins to drop.
Incoming transfer Isaiah Jackson, a rising sophomore, will be key in providing depth for the Friars. After averaging 15.5 points and 5 rebounds per game as a freshman at George Mason, Jackson sat out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. He's 6'6", around the same height as Lindsey, and could see time at shooting guard and small forward. He's likely to have an adjustment period going from the Atlantic-10 to the Big East, but his scoring ability should be a huge plus.
This season's freshman class was not as highly recruited as some of Cooley's previous classes at Providence, but they certainly had their moments. Drew Edwards saw his playing time fluctuate throughout the season, but gained Cooley's trust late in the year, and played major minutes in both NCAA Tournament games. He's a good shooter, and will likely be key in improving the Friars' dismal team 3-point shooting.
The same goes for Ryan Fazekas, a 6'8" wing player who shot the lights out prior to his bout with mononucleosis halfway through the season. He struggled with his shot after, and back spasms kept him glued to the bench in the NCAAs. A full offseason to recover and improve, however, and he could be one of the better shooters in the conference. Quadree Smith mostly got his feet wet when the Friars were in deep foul trouble, and must improve on both ends of the court to be a factor next year.
The only player signed to Providence is Maliek White, a 6'2" point guard from Richmond, Virginia. 247Sports rates White as a three-star recruit, ranked 27th at his position in the class of 2016.
If Bentil does leave, Cooley will have to scramble to pick up a few pieces. He did the same last year, adding lesser-knowns like Smith and Ricky Council II after the departures of Harris and Paschal Chukwu, but he'll hope to add talent that can make an immediate impact heading forward. One option could be big man and former Pittsburgh commit Corey Manigault, who recently re-opened his recruiting following Jamie Dixon's departure for TCU.
Manigault is not a five-star, program changing prospect, but he's a three-star like White who could provide a boost to the bench next season. He's 6'8", 230 pounds, and could be a huge piece for Cooley heading forward.
Providence won't be as good as they were the last three seasons, not if Dunn and Bentil both bolt for greener pastures. However, a starting lineup of Cartwright, Lomomba, Lindsey, Fazekas, and Bullock could stretch the floor and give teams fits if they shoot the ball well. Jackson or Edwards could challenge for a spot as well, and Smith and newcomers White and (hopefully) Manigault would provide Cooley solid options off the bench. If Council or rising junior Tyree Chambers show improvement, Cooley could have a little more breathing room.
With all that being said, however, losing Dunn and Bentil will manifest its problems frequently. The Friars will still be very small, will miss Dunn's ability to create open shots for his teammates, and won't have one player who can take the game over and win it singlehandedly.
Overall, it won't be easy to make a fourth straight tournament appearance, but a little luck on the recruiting trail combined with continued improvement will help ease the departure of two of the Big East's best players.