Florida Gators point guard Andrew Nembhard will withdraw his name from the 2020 NBA Draft but seek a transfer from Florida instead of returning to Gainesville, as first reported by Jeff Goodman of Stadium.
Nembhard had entered himself into the 2020 NBA Draft on the last day he could do so in late April, but hired an NCAA-approved agent to preserve his eligibility should he decide to withdraw from the draft pool. It was the second straight year that Nembhard declared for the NBA Draft, following the same action in 2019.
But this time, he won’t be coming back to don the Orange and Blue.
Whether that will prove to be a major loss for Florida remains to be seen.
Nembhard improved his scoring numbers as a sophomore by almost three full points per game, but most of the rest of his statistical profile remained static. And his limited athleticism — at 6’5”, he’s a physical guard down low and has the ability to handle larger wings if necessary, but his foot speed is average at best for his position — has always made things like improving his shooting and playmaking key to his professional prospects.
As a sophomore, though, Nembhard’s three-point percentage dropped from 35 to 31 percent, keeping him firmly in the realm of average, and his assist and turnover rates improved only very marginally. He entered the pre-draft process very unlikely to be drafted, and exits the coronavirus-disfigured version of it as the same player — much as was the case in 2019, when he had a chance to go through most of it before withdrawing.
But that player — despite his flirtation with the NBA last year, an extended stint playing for the Canadian national team last summer that kept him away from Gainesville, and persistent whispers this year that he was bound for a departure, likely to the professional ranks, no matter how the season ended — has led Florida for the last two years, ones that each featured 20 wins and ended in the 2019 NCAA Tournament and would have done the same in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. And yet those campaigns left many fans aggrieved about a lack of consistent high-level play from the Gators.
Still more complaints have been lodged about Florida’s apparent lack of up-tempo play, with the theory being that the Gators might be better or more efficient at a faster gear than the one where Nembhard, a ball-dominant guard who prefers to take things slow, is most comfortable. (The converse — that Nembhard’s skills would be better-suited to an offense more deliberate than the one Mike White most prefers — was also floated, if less often.)
Those fans will get a chance to see their theory put to the test in 2020-21, as Cleveland State transfer Tyree Appleby and sophomore Ques Glover will likely end up with the lion’s share of the minutes at point guard for Florida. Neither player shares Nembhard’s preference for slowing things down, and the roster’s only other potential primary ball-handler — combo guard Tre Mann, who is still exploring the 2020 NBA Draft in his own right — isn’t exactly a stranger to pushing the pace.
It’s possible, then, that Florida parting ways with its steady veteran point guard might be the best thing for both parties. The Gators upping the tempo slightly might get offensive efficiency back to the levels enjoyed when Chris Chiozza was a junior and senior; Nembhard playing in a rigidly structured system might maximize his skills.
If that doesn’t happen, this could be remembered as a fork in the road for other reasons.