Though rosters continue to change, selecting the top players heading into the following season is a practice that is always encouraged.
Players still have until May 24 to decide whether to remain in the NBA Draft class or return to school, but we have a good idea of what we can expect over the next few weeks.
So here’s a quick preview of the top five Pac-12 returnees for the 2017-18 season.
1 - Allonzo Trier, Arizona
He shocked many by deciding to return for his junior season, but star guard Allonzo Trier is set to guide Arizona to a Final Four in ‘17-18.
Trier missed the first 19 games of the season last year due to a PED suspension, but he shined once he rejoined the Wildcats. Leading UofA in scoring for the season, Trier finished in double figures in all but two of his 18 games, including 20 points and four assists in the Pac-12 championship victory over Oregon.
Arizona will have to bounce back from losing Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons to the NBA Draft and Kadeem Allen to graduation, but Trier should begin the season as a player of the year candidate on a top five team.
2 - Reid Travis, Stanford
Though Stanford didn’t have the most memorable season, going just 14-17, junior forward Reid Travis turned in nine double-doubles and led the Cardinal in scoring and rebounding.
Now a senior, and with two 4-star guard recruits soon to round out the lineup, Travis should be even more of a force down low. He’s a menace on the boards, gets to the free throw line, and is a high usage player. At 27% usage last season, the Minneapolis native will be second in the Pac-12 in usage among returning players.
With a bolstered backcourt, defenses won’t be able to bog down on Travis as much as this past season. Travis will be dominant again, and could be a darkhorse Pac-12 POY candidate.
3 - Kyle Kuzma, Utah
Assuming Kyle Kuzma returns to school, he should be expected to pair with Utah State transfer David Collette to form the conference’s best frontcourt. Currently a fringe 2017 NBA Draft prospect at 66th on DraftExpress’ prospect rankings, Kuzma would be taking a risk by staying in the draft pool.
Scoring 2.8 more points and grabbing 4.2 more rebounds than any other Ute last season, Kuzma will be leaned on significantly in ‘17-18. Kuzma should lead the Utes in scoring, as he finished in double figures in 26 of his 29 appearances last season.
As long as Utah has a guard that can feed Kuzma in the post, the Utes will have a consistent go-to guy on the offensive side.
4 - Chimezie Metu, USC
The most exciting and athletic player in the Pac-12 is USC’s Chimezie Metu. According to Synergy Sports, Metu finished fourth in the country last season in dunks per game at 2.5. Metu also led the Trojans with a 64.1% field goal percentage in attempts around the rim, and converted 33 putback attempts, according to Hoop-Math.
It goes without saying, but Metu is fantastic around the rim. Able to run the floor, attack the basket and finish alley-oop lobs, Metu will continue to make USC must-watch material in ‘17-18.
The Trojans return almost everyone from last year’s Sweet 16 squad while adding 4-star wing Charles O’Bannon Jr., which should take pressure off Metu, who possessed the ball on 22.7% of USC possessions last season.
5 - Rawle Alkins, Arizona
He will fly under the radar with the return of Trier and consensus 5-star recruit DeAndre Ayton, but Rawle Alkins is yet another talented Wildcat who will make ‘Zona the Pac-12 favorite next season.
The 21st overall recruit from the class of 2016, Alkins was arguably the most consistent Arizona player last season. Alkins was one of the Wildcats’ many perimeter threats, knocking down the second-most triples on the team last year while connecting on 76 at-rim attempts, also the second highest Arizona total.
Alkins isn’t exceptional in any one facet of the game, but is just a solid all-around player that any coach would gladly welcome to his team. Look for Alkins to make even more of an impact next season, especially if he can bump up the defensive pressure.
Also considered (no specific order): Dusan Ristic (Arizona), Tra Holder (Arizona State), Payton Pritchard (Oregon), Tres Tinkle (Oregon State), Drew Eubanks (Oregon State), Dorian Pickens (Stanford), Aaron Holiday (UCLA), Thomas Welsh (UCLA), De’Anthony Melton (USC), Jordan McLaughlin (USC), Elijah Stewart (USC), Bennie Boatwright (USC), David Collette (Utah), Matisse Thybulle (Washington), Malachi Flynn (Washington State)
Assumed to enter NBA Draft/already signed with agent:
- Markelle Fultz, Washington
- Lonzo Ball, UCLA
- Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
- Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
- Ivan Rabb, Cal
- TJ Leaf, UCLA
- Jordan Bell, Oregon
- Dillon Brooks, Oregon
- Kobi Simmons, Arizona
Who are your top five returning Pac-12 players for the 2017-18 season? Leave a comment below or tweet at @boettger_eli and @PacificTakes. All stats used in this article, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Sports Reference.