The 2019-20 Oregon men’s basketball roster is currently looking pretty sparse. The Ducks team that pulled off an inspired late season run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 has largely dispersed.
Two seniors moved on, three players left the program for the NBA Draft and two Ducks have transferred.
The latest Duck to fly away? Shot-blocking phenom, Kenny Wooten.
On Sunday night, Wooten took to Instagram to announce he will forgo his junior season and stay in the NBA Draft.
Wooten’s decision is an interesting one and of course he could still change his mind, ultimately he has until May 29 to declare for the NBA Draft or return to Oregon.
The 6-foot-9 rim protector’s athleticism is undeniable. In his two seasons at UO, Wooten ranks third all-time in Oregon history for blocked shots with 166, earning back-to-back All-Pac-12 Defensive team honors. His defensive contributions late in the 2018-19 season propelled Oregon’s push to win the Pac-12 Tournament and dance to the Sweet 16.
So is he trying to strike while the iron is hot? Wooten has not returned a message seeking comment and the school has not confirmed a final decision from Wooten.
NBC Sports NBA Draft Analyst Rob Dauster would advise Wooten to return to school.
“The concern I have is two-fold,” Dauster said. “For starters, if he’s not catching and dunking, he really can’t do anything offensively. He had 33 assists in 70 college games. That’s fine when you’re Clint Capela, but - and I don’t have official measurements for him yet - Wooten is roughly three inches shorter or so.”
“The other question is if he’s going to end up being as defensively versatile as someone like Jordan Bell. You watch what Jordan does in this Golden State defense, and he’s switching and trapping and swarming and all over the place on the perimeter in addition to being the athlete/dunker/shot-blocker. I don’t know if Wooten can do all of that. I think he’s far less mobile and fleet a foot.”
Wooten was not invited to the NBA Combine and isn’t on ESPN’s board for the top 100 players for this year’s NBA Draft.
Of course, Wooten can develop and improve his weaknesses at the professional level, but it appears that would likely happen in the NBA G League or as a two-way player.
“He is 21 already, so if he wants to start earning money, I get it, I just think that coming back, adding some semblance of an offensive repertoire and improving on where he struggles defensively could get him to a point where he could get a guaranteed contract in next year’s draft,” Dauster said.
“But, frankly, that isn’t a guarantee either.”
Since the exodus of Ducks from the program, Oregon has yet to add a player eligible to play this season. UO has only three players from last year’s team (if senior Payton Pritchard comes back) with a total of six eligible scholarship players (Duquesne transfer Eric Williams must sit this year).
I don’t doubt coach Dana Altman, who has become a wizard at piecing rosters together in crunch time. However, if Wooten changes his mind and has a consistent junior season exemplifying offensive growth and defensive versatility… It’d be beneficial for Oregon and likely Wooten’s draft stock.