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Who’s in, who’s out for Arizona in 2020-21?

arizona-wildcats-basketball-leadership-freshmen-veterans-mannion-green-nnaji-2020-pac-12-miller Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

College sports are over for a while due to the coronavirus crisis, so let’s look ahead to the future of Arizona Wildcats basketball and assess which players will return next season.

Obviously this is a fluid situation since there is a chance seniors will receive an additional year of eligibility, in which case we will have to redo this piece. In the meantime, let’s try to predict who’s in, and who’s out for the 2020-21 season.

(Note that transfers James Akinjo and Jordan Brown are not included on this list, neither are incoming freshmen Dalen Terry or Ben Mathurin. We will assume they will be around.)

Josh Green

Brian J. Pedersen: It’s only fitting that Green’s final game in an Arizona uniform was arguably his best, or at least his most impactful. Of the Wildcats’ three projected first round NBA picks, he’s the one I think will make the biggest splash right away in the pros because of his athleticism and tremendous motor. Verdict: Out

Ryan Kelapire: Maybe the way the season ended will make some of Arizona’s freshmen think harder about returning so they can settle unfinished business (shoutout to Sabrina Ionescu), but I think when the dust settles and these guys have some time to evaluate their options, they will realize that going pro is their best route. This is a weak draft and the opportunity to earn millions of dollars is too hard to pass up. Verdict: Out

Nico Mannion

BJP: Mannion’s shooting numbers were not particularly good, even with a little uptick at the end, but none of that matters. What attracts NBA scouts is his floor vision, his ability to run an offense and his finesse in the open court. The pro game has so much more spacing, which will allow him to build off the third-most assists by a freshman in school history (169) and an ability to finish in transition. Verdict: Out

RK: Sean Miller pretty much confirmed in January that Mannion will be going pro, and I don’t expect that to change even though he did not perform as well as expected. Most mock drafts still peg Mannion as a lottery pick, an opportunity he should jump at. The 2021 draft class is strong and Mannion would need to have an outstanding season to avoid hurting his stock. Verdict: Out

Zeke Nnaji

BJP: Based on the way he burst onto the scene in November and December, Nnaji went from relatively unknown to highly regarded in terms of pro talent. That hasn’t changed even as he struggled with double teams and other defensive adjustments, but again those aren’t things he’ll experience as much in the pros. His fire and passion is what will wow NBA teams, and even if he isn’t a lottery pick that means he’ll end up with a team that can bring him along a little more. Verdict: Out

RK: The last six Pac-12 Freshmen of the Year have been one-and-dones, so I expect Nnaji to follow that trend. His motor, athleticism and ability to score at multiple levels will make him an interesting prospect in the pros. The way he burst onto the scene should allow him to sneak into the first round. Nnaji’s makeup reminds me of Chris Bosh—and, no, I am not talking about their hairstyles. While Nnaji could improve his stock by returning for another season (so could Mannion and Green), Miller has typically encouraged first-round-caliber prospects to go get their money. Verdict: Out

Christian Koloko

BJP: The “project” has become the building block for Arizona’s frontcourt, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Koloko was a revelation on defense, particularly his rim protection, and he was fairly good at grabbing rebounds. It’s the offensive game that needs a lot of work, and the best way for that is through game action rather than sitting out a year to go somewhere else. Verdict: In

RK: Koloko will be such an intriguing player next season, as there will be an opportunity for him to assume a big role if he continues to develop as rapidly as he has. As Brian pointed out, there is little doubt that Koloko is the kind of shot-blocker Arizona hasn’t really ever had under Miller. But much of his upside depends on how much progress he can make on the offensive end. He didn’t show much of a mid-range game, his post-game needs polish, and his overall touch around the rim is shaky, so he might be best suited for a Tyson Chandler-like role where his only shot attempts come at the rim. Nothing wrong with that so long as he understands his limitations. Verdict: In

Brandon Williams

BJP: Oh how the Wildcats could have used B-Will this season. Alas, his congenital knee issue didn’t make that possible, instead keeping him out after recovering from another surgery, but still remaining a big part of the team. Given that he sat out the whole year he might be eligible for an NCAA waiver if he opted to transfer, but Arizona needs good guards and he has a starting spot waiting for him. Verdict: In

RK: When Miller was asked about Williams on his radio show last week, he did not exactly commit to Williams being able to play next year, saying he “thinks” the sophomore is on track to return to the court. I’ll assume that Williams will at least try to give it one more go, but also exercise caution that he is probably one more knee flareup from having to hang ‘em up, and that would be a real shame. He was a pleasure to watch as a freshman and should start in 2020-21 no matter what Akinjo’s status is. Verdict: In...for now

Jemarl Baker Jr.

BJP: Arizona wasn’t even supposed to have Baker’s services this year after he transferred from Kentucky, but after getting a waiver from the NCAA right before the season opener he became a huge part of their team. Baker went an inordinate amount of time without a turnover at one point, showing great handles all season long, but his perimeter shooting came and went and his defense beyond being able to poke the ball away left something to be desired. A bigger role in 2020-21 is expected, allowing him to work through things on the court. Verdict: In

RK: Baker’s role will probably depend on Williams’ health and Akinjo’s eligibility. If both those guards are ready to go, Baker can play more minutes off the ball, a better use of his spot-up shooting. If one, or both, of those guys cannot play, then Baker will probably maintain his role as the third guard and backup point guard, unless Dalen Terry is ready for that. Baker’s shooting percentages will be interesting to keep track of. His 3-point percentage was in the high 30s before a late-season swoon caused him to finish the year as 34.3 percent 3-point shooter. If he can keep that number in the high 30s, he might be able to crack the starting lineup. Verdict: In

Ira Lee

BJP: If he didn’t so clearly love being an Arizona Wildcat I’d say Lee was a prime candidate to venture elsewhere for his final year of eligibility, presuming he is able to graduate this summer. But I don’t get the sense that being the guy is as important to him as being part of a group he enjoys contributing to. All bets are off, though, if there’s a coaching change, because why would the oldest returning player that Sean Miller recruited stick around for his replacement? Verdict: In

RK: If Lee wants major minutes in his senior season, he should go elsewhere. But he is one of those rare team-first guys, so I think he sticks around and becomes one of the few four-year players in the Miller era. If Lee can become a graduate transfer or the NCAA passes a rule that allows non-graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year, my answer could be different. Verdict: In