Updated: May 20
It's late May and after weeks of covering all the transfer portal insanity, things are slowly starting to wind down - sort of.
That's because while most of the heavy lifting is done, and most of the best players are now committed, there are still a handful of elite talents left in the portal. That was heightened this week when Caleb Love was forced back into the portal, with many others going through the NBA Draft Combine this week in Chicago.
Well, with the combine done, who are the best players still available? Let's take a look.
1. Arthur Kaluma, F, Creighton
Kaluma is one of several players on this list who got his name into the portal right at the deadline, while also going through the NBA Draft process. At the time it was thought that Kaluma's preference was to stay in the draft, but after an up and down week at the combine, it might be time to start thinking about a return.
The 6'7 forward has all the tools with elite athleticism, and to his credit, has proven he can do it at the highest level. Kaluma had a breakout late in the 2021-2022 season, including a 24-point performance against eventual national champion Kansas. And even though he didn't have the breakout he'd hoped for in 2023, still averaged 11.8 points and six rebounds on 31 percent three-point shooting.
If Kaluma returns and it all clicks at his next stop, we're looking at a potential Top 20 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Early rumors are that Arizona would be a favorite to land him, although that could change based on what Keshad Johnson (also on this list) chooses to do later this weekend.
2. Julian Phillips, F, Tennessee
Phillips is another player who got his name in the portal right at the deadline, and another player who seems fully invested in going through the NBA Draft process before making any big decisions on his next stop.
The former McDonald's All-American has all the tools at 6'8 with elite athleticism, setting a combine high with a 43-inch vertical leap last week in Chicago. Unfortunately, those tools weren't on full display in Knoxville this past year, for a Tennessee team whose style of play didn't exactly highlight them.
Given that Phillips elected *not* to play five-on-five at the Combine, it's a pretty good indication that he feels comfortable with his draft stock. Despite it, if he returns to college he'll have plenty of suitors. Auburn was believed to be interested, although that might have changed after taking a commitment from junior college wing Chad Baker-Mazara, and Texas could get into the mix as well.
3. Grant Nelson, F/C, North Dakota State
There had been whispers for weeks that Nelson - an athletic and skilled big man from North Dakota State - would enter the transfer portal, and about a week before the deadline it became official.
Like the two players above, Nelson is currently testing the NBA Draft waters, but after an up-and-down week in Chicago, it seems more likely than ever that he could return to college hoops. That's great news for either North Dakota State or a new suitor, after the 6'11 Nelson averaged 17.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds last year as well.
Should he return to school, it feels like a return to Fargo is possible, although Nelson will certainly weigh his transfer options as well. Early whispers are that - not surprisingly - Arkansas could be a landing spot if he stays in college hoops.
4. Ernest Udeh Jr., F/C, Kansas
Sometimes the portal giveth, and sometimes it taketh away, as shortly after Hunter Dickinson announced he was headed to Kansas, Udeh Jr. - a high-upside forward - announced that he would be leaving.
Had Udeh Jr. stayed at Kansas, he felt like the kind of guy who could one day develop into an All-Big 12 caliber player, after showing flashes as a freshman. Instead, he will now leave, and based on the interest, you can tell that the upside is there for the highly-coveted forward. He has already visited Duke, with Kansas State and others in the fold as well.
5. Caleb Love, G, North Carolina
The saga of Caleb Love just won't end.
The 6'4, former McDonald's All-American and 2022 NCAA Tournament hero entered the transfer portal shortly after the season, landing at Michigan. Of course, unless you've been living under a rock for the last week, you know that there was an issue with Michigan's admissions department, and now Love is back on the market.
At this point, we know what Love does well and doesn't. He's an upper-level playmaker that averaged 17 points per game in the ACC this year, but struggles with shot selection as well, hitting just 37 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from three in 2023.
Despite it, the talent is there, and it will be interesting to see what his next step is. Originally from St. Louis, the University of Missouri would make a ton of sense for Love.
6. Keshad Johnson, F, San Diego State
Johnson entered the portal shortly after San Diego State's title game run, and had a quiet recruitment up until about 10 days ago. At that point he announced a final five that included Arizona, Kentucky, USC, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, recently taking visits to Tucson and Lexington.
The 6'8 forward is kind of who he is at this point in his career, really good in some areas and limited in others. He's an elite, upper-level athlete, who impacts the game on both ends, and is an especially good defender, able to guard virtually every position on the floor. Also, don't let the 7.7 points per game fool you, as he played on a deep Aztecs squad that often played 10 or 11 players per night. When called upon, he can put the ball in the basket, putting up 22 in the title game against UConn.
Just about the only thing Johnson can't do is shoot the ball at an elite level (although if he could, he wouldn't be in the portal, but instead likely in the NBA). He will make his college decision this weekend, with Arizona trending for his services.
7. RayJ Dennis, G, Toledo
The MAC Player of the Year, Dennis entered the portal late in the process, after helping the Golden Flashes to an NIT appearance this season.
The 6'2 guard isn't overly big, but has an ability to score from all three levels on the court, averaging 19.5 points per game this season, all while shooting 36 percent from behind the three-point line as well.
His recruitment has been relatively quiet since entering the portal a few weeks ago. He has been linked to Illinois, and could also be a late replacement for Caleb Love at Michigan as well.
8. Tyrin Lawrence, G, Vanderbilt
In what has become nothing short of a devastating off-season for Vanderbilt, Lawrence became the latest Commodore to hit the portal a few days back. He joins former starters Jordan Wright (committed to LSU) and Myles Stute (South Carolina) to leave the program for greener pastures this off-season.
Whoever gets him will add a big, 6'4 guard, who has proven an ability to get buckets against elite competition. He went for 21 in a Vanderbilt win at Rupp Arena in the final week of the regular season, then added 18 in a win over the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament. He also dropped 24 points in an NIT win over Michigan.
Auburn and LSU (where his former teammate Jordan Wright ended up) are believed to be the favorites for his services.
9. Olivier Nkamhoua, F, Tennessee
Nkamhoua is one of the more interesting names in the portal, for a number of different reasons.
This past season, the versatile, 6'9 forward was one of the few offensive bright spots for Tennessee, averaging 10.8 points per game, to go along with five rebounds and two assists per contest as well. That included a 28-point masterpiece in a Round 2 upset of Duke.
Did I mention he did this all coming off major knee surgery a year ago, and wasn't really "himself" until late in the year?
With an extra year of eligibility though, Nkamhoua decided to see what else is out there, and the hunch here is that he will land in a much more offensive-friendly system, especially for a guy of his skill-set.
Arizona was once believed to be a leader for Nkamhou, and he also recently visited Michigan as well. He's also going through the draft process, although doesn't seem to be a legitimaely draftable prospect at this point.
10. Allen Flannigan Jr., F, Auburn
Poor Flannigan was a one-time star at Auburn, who unfortunately was limited by injuries the last two years. After averaging just 6.3 points per game in 2022, he bounced back nicely averaging double-figures a year ago.
The 6'6 lefty hybrid can do a little bit of everything when healthy, and at his best, averaged 14 points on 33 percent shooting prior to injury in 2021.
Flannigan's father recently got hired as an assistant on Chris Beard's new staff at Chris Beard. He is expected to land in Oxford eventually.
Others to watch:
Zyin Pullin, G, UC-Riverside
Aziz Bandogo, F/C, Utah Valley