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What Maryland basketball’s 2018-19 lineup looks like in every draft decision scenario

The Terps’ outlook depends on the approaching decisions of Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

For the third NBA Draft cycle in a row, Maryland basketball will be waiting to find out whether or not it will lose a core player to the pros. In 2016 and 2017, this process ended with Melo Trimble and Justin Jackson returning to school. But the tension has doubled this spring, as both Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter have until May 30—one more week—to announce their decisions.

It’s been a busy offseason for the Terps. Jackson declared for the draft again despite injury question marks that might now keep him off the board on draft night. Dion Wiley left as a grad transfer. Maryland added 2018 recruits Serrel Smith and Trace Ramsey, but didn’t gain anyone else. Fernando and Huerter both declared for the draft in April and took part in the NBA combine last week. Right now, it seems like both could go either way.

Maryland’s outlook for 2018-19, of course, hinges on these two decisions. The Terps can return as many as four starters from this past season or as few as two. Let’s look at the four scenarios that can come to life in the next week.

Note: These lineup projections do not reflect any potential additions or subtractions outside of Huerter and Fernando choosing to stay or leave. If extra scholarships open up, expect Mark Turgeon to try filling those spots.

If both players return...

PG: Anthony Cowan Jr.
SG: Darryl Morsell or Aaron Wiggins
SF: Huerter
PF: Jalen Smith
C: Fernando

Bench: Wiggins/Morsell, Ivan Bender, Joshua Tomaic, Schnider Herard, Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith, Trace Ramsey

Here’s the obvious dream scenario for Terps fans. This team would have both a veteran nucleus and plenty of young talent. It’s reasonable to expect Fernando to make the same strides forward as Cowan and Huerter did as sophomores, and those two would return as upperclassmen with a year of leadership experience on and off the court.

Having the “big three” of returning double-digit scorers would then allow Wiggins and Smith, as well as the rest of the freshman class, to ease themselves into the college game as high-upside role players. That’s an opportunity seldom given to Maryland freshmen of late—Fernando, Morsell, Cowan, Huerter, Jackson, Diamond Stone and Trimble all started at least 20 games in their rookie seasons.

The Terps have landed on a handful of way-too-early top-25 lists, and bringing back two potential first-round picks in 2019 would generate plenty of buzz. Maryland would also be among the favorites in a Big Ten that’s losing some of its biggest stars. It’d be perhaps the deepest squad Mark Turgeon has had at Maryland, and between the returning pieces and a foreign trip in August, this group would also have the most experience playing together.

If Fernando comes back...

PG: Cowan
SG: Morsell
SF: Wiggins
PF: J. Smith
C: Fernando

There’s still plenty of talent and enough size here, but losing a player like Huerter means increased roles for a handful of young players. Wiggins and Morsell are both in this lineup, and the Terps will absolutely need Ayala and Serrel Smith to chip in regularly. The option to go with a bigger lineup—think Joshua Tomaic at small forward—remains present as well.

The player whose role changes most significantly here is Wiggins, who’s now presumably a regular starter as a true freshman. Wiggins was the best player on the floor at last month’s Capital Classic, which is noteworthy, but obviously doesn’t mean he’ll dominate the college level. He’s got the shooting touch, explosiveness and rebounding skills, and Maryland would love to get plenty of production out of him next season. It’d just be preferable not to rely on it.

If Huerter comes back...

PG: Cowan
SG: Morsell/Wiggins
SF: Huerter
PF: J. Smith
C: um ... Ivan Bender/Schnider Herard?

While Huerter brings a greater variety of skills to the table, losing Fernando might do more immediate damage to the Terps. With Fernando in the pros, Michal Cekovsky graduated, grad transfer target Tariq Owens at Texas Tech and Herard not eligible until December, Maryland is staring at a size problem that could be fatal in the Big Ten.

Small-ball lineups can definitely win games, but it’s still important to not be physically overwhelmed against the biggest and strongest teams. Turgeon gave Sean Obi high-leverage minutes at center this season because he had to. But Fernando turning pro would leave the Terps with no conventional centers whatsoever until Herard (6’10/250) becomes eligible. Smith stands 6’10 but still weighs just over 200 pounds; the 6’9 Bender has been more of a finesse player his entire career; and Tomaic is primarily a stretch-four.

In this scenario, Maryland almost certainly adds another big man in the summer. But it’ll be just about impossible to replace Fernando’s production.

If both players leave...

PG: Cowan
SG: Morsell
SF: Wiggins
PF: J. Smith
C: Bender/Herard

Let’s just say Turgeon will have to make use of the three scholarships he’ll have open if both Fernando and Huerter leave College Park. And that Smith and Wiggins will need to become stars right away if Maryland wants to make more noise than it did in 2017-18. It’s unclear how much Turgeon’s future with the program would depend on this group overachieving, but he’d rather not find out.