Watford, the No. 73 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, was a consensus top-20 recruit and McDonald's All-American in high school. He averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for LSU, being named to the Freshman All-SEC Team.
"I am announcing my decision to declare for the NBA draft," Watford told ESPN in a text message. "Thank you to all who have supported me throughout all the years and a special thanks to my family and friends who have been along this journey."
LSU tied for second in the Southeastern Conference, but saw its tournament and season canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The last four weeks have been tough," Watford said. "Not being able to compete with my brothers for a SEC championship and possibly a national championship hurt, but I do understand this pandemic and know our health comes first. I'm currently in Baton Rouge right now just quarantining, staying out of the way, and practicing social distancing while trying to stay in shape as much as possible."
Teams are intrigued by Watford's combination of size and shot-creation ability. He has ideal measurements for an NBA power forward at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan, and his ability to grab defensive rebounds and ignite LSU's fast break played a major role in its high-powered offense, which ranked third in the country according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index. He has excellent touch around the basket, shooting 55% from 2-point range this season.
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25, but following worldwide suspensions of basketball activities amid the coronavirus outbreak, NBA teams are lobbying the league office to postpone the date to August in order to salvage the pre-draft process, ESPN reported Friday.
"I really don't know what the draft process will look like," Watford told ESPN. "I'm just hopeful that things will return to normal somewhat and I can get a chance to audition and work out for teams. If not then I will be focused on handling the interview process as best as I possibly can with the outcome of being a first round pick. I really want to go through the process because you dream about these things as a kid. I think I would raise my stock also. I'm still hopeful that we will have a combine and some workouts.
"In the meantime, the thing we all can do to help this situation is take it serious and practice social distancing. That's the simplest thing but also the most effective. People are really losing their lives and loved ones so you can't be selfish in that aspect. You may wonder why this would happen during this moment of my career, but it's way bigger than that."