Arizona loses Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson to NBA Draft, but Wildcats will still be stacked

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Don't cry for Arizona. The Wildcats are set up for another big year even after losing arguably their two best players to the NBA.

Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson made it official Tuesday by announcing they will enter the 2014 NBA Draft. Gordon's decision had been a formality since January when the freshman forward started rising up draft boards to become a consensus lottery pick. Johnson's decision was slightly less certain as a 6'2 shooting guard, but the junior decided there was no better time to make the leap to the pros than after his breakout season as Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Gordon could go as high as the top five, and likely won't fall out of the top 10. At 6'9, 225 lbs., Gordon does just about everything at an elite level other than score the ball. It's rare for a player to get drafted so high with such an unrefined offensive game, but Gordon brings enough to the table that even his 42 percent free throw rate will be overlooked.

What does Aaron Gordon contribute at the next level? Mainly size, strength, athleticism and defense. Gordon evolved into arguably the best defensive stopper in college basketball over the course of his freshman season, capable of locking down speedy guards like San Diego State's Xavier Thames in the Sweet 16 or defending bigger post players. His shooting will be a main point of emphasis as he enters the NBA, but Gordon should be able to get 10-12 points per game on rebounds and tip-ins thanks to his frame and leaping ability.

Johnson is unlikely to be a first rounder, but the guard has the elite athleticism required to make it in the league. If he can refine his three-point shooting or spend more time on the ball as a point guard, it will go a long way towards his development.

It speaks to the power of Sean Miller's program that even while losing the conference's best player and best freshman, Arizona still projects as a top 10 team in 2015. If there's one thing the Wildcats will have next season, it's plenty of size.

Arizona returns 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski, 6'8 power forward Brandon Ashley and 6'7 wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. They'll be joined by McDonald's All-American Stanley Johnson, who projects as a poor man's Jabari Parker. Johnson lacks Gordon's athleticism, but he's a skilled player and very good shooter. He should fit right in at Arizona.

T.J. McConnell will be back again at point guard to run the show after a year of experience playing high-major ball. It all sets up to make Arizona one of the favorites again. That means Ashley needs to stay healthy, Hollis-Jefferson needs to develop a more consistent offensive game and Johnson needs to live up the hype. Should that all happen, you'll see the Wildcats deep in March once again.

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