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Don't be surprised if Indiana players test NBA Draft stock with new rules after NCAA Tournament run

Caleb Swanigan's declaration for the NBA Draft might have initially raised some eyebrows, but his move comes under a new set of rules that encourage players to enter the draft. Including a likely trio of Indiana Hoosiers.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday evening, Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan caught some fans off guard by declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft.

The second-half of the tweet is the important part, and really it's nothing new. The process has always involved the caveat that if a player does not hire an agent, they can return to school (and Swanigan's situation is extra unique as his father is an agent, but that is the exception, obviously).

However, beginning this season, the rules have been altered even more to allow underclassmen a better chance to assess their draft status. In previous years, underclassmen could declare for the draft, but would have to make a final decision to stay in the draft or return to school in April, the day before the signing period.

Starting this year, the rules allow underclassmen to stay declared, participate in the NBA Draft Combine and one workout with a team before having to make a decision. Officially, players will have up to 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine to determine whether they want to remain in the draft or not.

Players can also enter the draft multiple times as opposed to recent years, giving them a chance to test the waters and gauge their stock multiple seasons while having the chance to return to school each time.

What does all this mean for Indiana and Tom Crean? In recent days since the win over Kentucky, both Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby have drawn some interest of NBA scouts and analysts, namely ESPN's Draft Insider Chad Ford who detailed both players in his "Stock Watch" piece on Monday (subscription required.)

First, on Bryant:

Bryant might lack elite athleticism, but, man, he has been good. He outplayed Kentucky's bigs on Saturday, hit a key shot in the final minutes of the game and then topped it off with two clutch free throws.

Bryant's length, soft touch, and motor make him an attractive prospect in the No. 12 to No. 20 range if he declares for the draft.

And, on Anunoby:

Anunoby is the real sleeper prospect to emerge from the first two rounds. He played sparingly in the first half of his freshman season but has been coming on lately. You could argue he has been Indiana's best player in the tournament.

His combination of elite athleticism, length, NBA body, defensive versatility and shooting ability make him a very attractive 3-and-D prospect. He's raw -- and not ready -- but his defense on Jamal Murray led more than one scout to declare he could be a defensive star in the NBA right now.

It's unlikely he'll declare for the draft, but if he keeps having big performances for Indiana? Who knows? With so little upside in the second half of the first round, to see Anunoby in the No. 15 to No. 25 range is not out of the question.

Add all this up and there is a very likely chance that Bryant, Anunoby and even Troy Williams will declare for the draft come this spring. Draft Express list of the top 100 prospects currently lists Bryant as the #23 prospect and Williams as the #83 prospect while projecting Anunoby to go 19th in their 2017 mock draft.

In a recent podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical, Crean talked about the notes he keeps on each of his players based on what NBA General Managers and scouts say about players, comments he shares with the players themselves.

However, there's nothing like first-hand knowledge that can be attained during the Combine and in a team workout.

It's nearly certain that at least one of the trio of Bryant, Anunoby and Williams will declare for the Draft at season's end, whenever that may be. There is a fairly decent chance all three of them do so. However, as long as they don't hire an agent, this should not be regarded as an "end of the world" scenario.

It may create some angsty moments as Hoosier fans will be forced to wait as far as late May to find out if the trio will return, but just remember their declaration does not mean they will not be part of the team next year. The new rules encourage borderline prospects to test the waters and there's no reason any of Bryant, Anunoby and Williams shouldn't do just that.