Posts tagged with Nba Draft

Cliff Alexander shows improvements at workout

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

After one disappointing season at Kansas, forward Cliff Alexander appears to be making the best of his uphill climb toward an NBA career.

When your college basketball résumé includes such numbers as 7.1 points per game, 17.6 minutes per game and eight games missed due to an NCAA investigation, there isn’t much with which to impress the organizations you’re hoping agree to offer you a contract.

The 6-foot-8 1/2 big finds himself engrossed in the pre-NBA Draft process with his stock in a deficit. As a projected second-round pick, he’ll have to spend the next several weeks wowing coaches and management at workouts to sneak his way into the first round of the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn.

Training in his hometown of Chicago recently, Alexander spoke with Slam’s Rodger Bohn about the challenging road in front of him. He also said his one-season stop in Lawrence wasn’t a total loss.

“I learned a lot of knowledge from Coach (Bill) Self,” Alexander told Slamonline.com. “I learned the history of basketball and was just a sponge to everything that he told me.”

While Alexander often struggled to stay on the floor for Kansas, Self complimented the freshman forward on several occasions during this past season for being one of the more coachable players on the team.

That trait should help the young post player, now that his sole focus turns to showcasing his abilities as a player. Alexander acknowledged in the Slam interview he needs to improve his ball-handling and develop a more consistent jumper. Still, the 239-pound big man thinks he has more to offer, and his best attributes will help his cause.

“I’m going to surprise teams with my physical ability,” he predicted. “I didn’t really get a chance to show that at Kansas. A better Cliff Alexander, that’s all.”

To that point, Bohn reported Alexander looked best during drills that relied on his strength and athleticism, as shown in the highlight video put together by City League Hoops.

The big guy definitely has himself in outstanding shape, so give him credit for that. Probably the most impressive thing about the whole ordeal Alexander went through, which hurt both KU and his standing as a draftee, is that he responded the best way imaginable. It looks like he’s channeled his frustrations into making himself a more appealing player.

Although, Alexander is only putting up practice jumpers in the video — without the pressure and fatigue of in-game situations — those look good, too. The same goes for his footwork, which is one of the many aspects of his overall game he’ll have to continue to develop in order to successfully implement such maneuvers against NBA defenders.

Those finishes at the rim stand out, as well. Alexander isn’t exactly explosive when he leaves the floor, as far as the speed with which he gets to the rack, but he consistently finishes with strength — and throw-downs.

Some have claimed Alexander could only play center in the NBA because of his skill set, and his lack of height makes him undesirable. Actually, what position he plays — power forward or center — will depend solely on a team’s needs and style. In the right situation, he could come off the bench at either position.

In a list of the top 10 power forwards available from NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Alexander ended up just outside, in the realm of honorable mention.

Here are the prospects Aldridge ranks ahead of him:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

2. Kristaps Porzingas, Latvia

3. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

4. Myles Turner, Texas

5. Bobby Portis, Arkansas

6. Kevon Looney, UCLA

7. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

8. Jarell Martin, LSU

9. Chris McCollough, Syracuse

10. Jordan Mickey, LSU


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Stock watch: Lottery possible for Oubre, but Alexander seemingly destined for 2nd round

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Now that the NBA Lottery and Draft Combine have concluded, the landscape for the 2015 draft began to come into focus a little more this week.

We know that Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia won the rights to picks 1, 2 and 3, but we also now have the exact order for the entire first round. That information is more important to one-and-done Kansas wing Kelly Oubre Jr., than his KU teammate, big man Cliff Alexander, of course.

Since Oubre officially declared for the draft, his name has been thrown out as an option in the later half of the lottery, most often in the 10 to 14 range.

Here’s a look at the order for the first 14 picks, keeping in mind it’s difficult to come up with a scenario in which Oubre would go much higher than No. 8 overall:

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1. Minnesota

2. L.A. Lakers

3. Philadelphia

4. New York

5. Orlando

6. Sacramento

7. Denver

8. Detroit

9. Charlotte

10. Miami

11. Indiana

12. Utah

13. Phoenix

14. Oklahoma City

Who knows which NBA front-office types and/or coaches will become enamored with Oubre’s skill set in the weeks to come, but he said at the combine he wants to prove he is one of the top talents in this rookie class.

Alexander, meanwhile, has much more work to do, just to validate himself as a player who is worth a late first-round pick. Last week he claimed there is more to his game than some may realize.

Many websites posted updated mock drafts with the lottery order in place. Check out where the following sites predicted Oubre and Alexander will end up (some sites don’t include second-round projections).

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 15th 39th
MyNBADraft.com 15th 38th
DraftExpress.com 10th 41st
DraftSite.com 20th 41st
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 17th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th N/A
BleacherReport.com 15th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 12th 37th
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 35th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

— SF, 6-foot-7, 204 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 14th

Current high: 10th (DraftExpress.com and Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 20th (DraftSite.com)

Stock assessment: Slightly slipping. Oubre hasn’t dropped too far since we last checked in on the mock drafts, two weeks ago. His average position then was 13th, and at 14 he’d still end up in the lottery — and become the 14th player from Kansas to get picked in that range in a span of 16 seasons.

Five of the 10 prognosticators listed above think Oubre will go that early, with Miami and Indiana standing out as popular destinations for the long, lean small forward. Three different mocks sent Oubre to Atlanta, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed this season.

Toronto, Milwaukee and Utah also could land Oubre, according to some forecasts.

If Miami, which owns the 10th pick, indeed is interested in Oubre, it sounds like he’d be ecstatic to join the organization. As detailed by the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser, Oubre sat down for an interview with Heat president Pat Riley at the combine.

“It was great,” Oubre said. “He’s a legend who has coached greats in the past, and seeing what he knows about the game of basketball is something I would never take for granted. I listened to every single thing he said. I asked him a couple questions, also, to see if I could pick his brain for things I need to know about my future.

“One of the things that stuck out to me was he said, ‘If you want to play for us, you’ve gotta be in the best shape of your life.’ I like to run and gun. If I’m running, I’m scoring in transition, and that’s what I do best.”

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 37th

Current high: 29th (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 41st *(DraftExpress.com and DraftSite.com)*

Stock assessment: Falling. More mocks listed Alexander as a first-round pick last time around, and his average spot has dropped six spots since then.

Only one of the seven above projections that included the second round had Alexander going in the first, and it was 29th overall — the next-to-last pick in Round 1 — to Brooklyn.

Potential second-round suitors for the project power forward included Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia and (again) Brooklyn.

The good news for Alexander is it sounds like he’s entering this pre-draft process with realistic expectations. At the combine, he told zagsblog.com he kind of expected his stock to take a hit because of the way his one season at KU turned out.

One un-named scout told zagsblog.com, though, teams are less interested in Alexander because he has “limited upside” and he would be undersized in the NBA as a center.

“It is a shame that the NCAA ruled him ineligible at the end of his freshman year,” the scout said, “because he really needed at least one more year of college. He is a D-League guy no matter where he gets drafted.”


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


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Joel Embiid aids Sixers brass at Draft Combine

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Joel Embiid has yet to play a game in the NBA for Philadelphia, but the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft already has dabbled in coaching, scouting and interviewing prospects.

During the final week of the 76ers’ 18-64 season, coach Brett Brown let the one-and-done center from Kansas draw up a play in a timeout.

Thursday in Chicago, Brown and the Philadelphia brain trust had Embiid in tow at the Draft Combine. The 21-year-old 7-footer watched this year’s crop of incoming rookies run through drills and scrimmages and even sat in on interviews with potential draftees.

None by Jeff Goodman

The Sixers’ head coach told the Philadelphia Daily News he thought bringing a young player with the franchise’s decision-makers was a unique and great idea. On-76ers-Meetings-With-Prospects-At-Combine

"He gets a chance to talk to the guys who may be his future teammates,” Brown said. “He gets to listen to the answers to the questions that we ask, whether it be about their character, work ethic, whatever it may be.”

Philadelphia’s coach went on to call the 7-footer from Cameroon the franchise’s cornerstone.

“We want him being involved in our decisions moving forward,” Brown told the Philadelphia Daily News. “We're all in this together, and Jo knows that he is a very big piece for all of us moving forward. The more we can get him involved in everything is just better for everyone. I think this is the first time anyone has done anything like this."

Embiid didn’t attend last year’s combine, which has become common practice for the elite rookies in each class. CSNPhilly.com’s John Gonzalez reported the young big man asked Brown and Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie if he could tag along this week.

“I think that for him to come here to Chicago and share in the selection and opinions of people that we may draft is an impressive quality that he has shown us,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com.

The agenda also included non-combine activities, such as individual workouts and weight-lifting sessions for Embiid, but the highlight of the trip to Chicago had to be sitting in with his bosses as Philadelphia’s contingent interviewed his potential future teammates.

As you might imagine, the participation of Philly's player/coach/scout caught some prospects off guard. But Arizona’s Stanley Johnson told CSNPhilly.com the addition Embiid’s presence helped him feel at ease.

“It was fun because I got to have some dialogue with him,” Johnson said. “Jo Jo is always playing around. You know that.”

The fun-loving big man, Texas one-and-done Myles Turner shared, brought that same approach to his interview.

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“His first question was: Why didn’t you go to Kansas?” Turner said, laughing.

Brown enjoyed every minute of keeping his young center involved as the Sixers put potential draftees on the hot seat.

“I just think it's healthy,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com, “and I think it's got to be accumulative effort that we're putting out there where these guys have a say in the design and the growth of their own program."


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Kelly Oubre Jr. reveals lofty NBA goals at Draft Combine

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For Kelly Oubre Jr., leisure time is a thing of the past.

With each passing day, the one-and-done Kansas basketball product inches closer to his NBA dream. The future had to feel tangible this week, as the 19-year-old attended the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Oubre spoke with NBA TV about the pre-draft process and said he has a lot of work to do each day, because he wants to put himself in position to reach his full potential and become an impactful player in the league.

“I’m hoping to show people I’m more than just a basketball player. I’m a student of the game,” Oubre said. “I take pride in showing everybody every aspect of the game.”

The 6-foot-7 wing revealed he studies some of the league’s current greats, such as Houston’s James Harden, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Ideally, he’d like to one day emulate aspects of all of their games and be able to score on offense while also standing out as a “lockdown” defender.

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Once a team selects Oubre, who projects as a late lottery pick, he wants to one day be a part of taking that organization to the NBA Finals.

Such sentiments are the types he wants to get across to team executives and coaches in the many interviews he’ll go through, to accompany his workouts, in the weeks leading up to the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn. Oubre knows he will have to demonstrate his maturity and prove he is ready — both physically and mentally.

In Oubre’s one season at KU, his adjustment to a new level of competition didn’t start too smoothly. Bill Self only played him single-digit minutes in five of the Jayhawks’ first seven games. Though ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com coming into college, Oubre didn’t become a permanent starter for Kansas until the 10th game of the season, in late December.

“That whole process was a learning experience for me,” Oubre said. “When I was sitting on the bench at Kansas it was pretty much opening up my eyes (to see) the world doesn’t revolve around myself. I have to abide by a team’s process, and pretty much I did so.”

That rough stretch as a freshman, he added, proved to be a breakthrough event in his evolution as a player.

“I just thank Coach Self and the coaching staff at Kansas for allowing me to learn, because I came in as a highly recruited athlete and he humbled me, pretty much,” Oubre said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half of the man I am today.”

Although Oubre, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in his one season at KU, admitted he could’ve benefited from a second year with the Jayhawks, he thinks the open-court style of the NBA will play to his strengths.

“I just believe I can compete at the highest level,” he said. “My determination and my drive and my work ethic is second to none. I believe that. And I believe I can make a heavy impact at the next level.”

http://instagram.com/p/2HGK6Yqb8x/

College basketball analyst Clark Kellogg offered an assessment of Oubre’s abilities, upon the conclusion of the NBA TV interview, and said the confident young swingman has a bright future if he honors the process of learning and developing.

“I like his stroke,” Kellogg said. “He shoots it easily from deep, and with confidence.”

Kellogg agreed Oubre should be able to take advantage of his athleticism in the open court:

“He can play, it’s just a matter of refining.”

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Oubre understands in order to attain the lofty goals he has set for himself, he’ll have to work maniacally. But he said the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid, had some advice for him about how to approach the weeks ahead.

“He just told me to enjoy it,” Oubre shared. “This is the only time in your life you’re gonna be able to do this, because you’re not getting any younger. So just have fun. I’ll always remember that.”

None by NBA Draft


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Stock watch: Early draft projections vary on Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

For the second year in a row, two Kansas basketball freshmen have left the program as one-and-done college players to chase their professional dreams and enter the NBA Draft.

Unlike in 2014, when Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid both proved to be top-three picks, it isn’t easy to project where Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander will go in the two-round, 60-pick extravaganza on June 25, in New York.

Between now and then, the two Jayhawks have almost two months worth of workouts, interviews and pondering in front of them, as they try to improve their draft stock and anticipate the day that will set them off on their NBA journeys.

The NBA Draft lottery, which determines the order of the top 14 picks, isn’t until May 19. Only Oubre has a shot to land in that range, it appears, and there is no guarantee he will get picked that soon.

Here are the 14 teams that missed out on the playoffs, and their odds for obtaining a top-three draft pick in the lottery, courtesy of Tankathon.com. Remember, the better a team’s odds, the less likely said franchise will be a landing spot for Oubre.

Minnesota, 64.3%

New York, 55.8%

Philadelphia, 46.9%

L.A. Lakers, 37.8%

Orlando, 29.1%

Sacramento, 21.5%

Denver, 15.0%

Detroit, 9.9%

Charlotte, 6.1%

Miami, 4.0%

Indiana, 2.9%

Utah, 2.5%

Phoenix, 2.2%

Oklahoma City, 1.8%

Some mock drafts out there have Oubre, a wing, as a late lottery pick. None of the prognosticators think Alexander, a post player, will sniff that range. Check out some various projections:

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 11th 35th
MyNBADraft.com 10th 30th
DraftExpress.com 12th 27th
HoopsHype.com
(1st round only)
11th N/A
DraftSite.com 21st 54th
Chad Ford, ESPN.com
(1st round only)
9th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th 27th
NetScoutsBasketball.com 24th 29th
BleacherReport.com 13th 25th
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 10th 32nd
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 30th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 8th 26th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) heads to the bucket against Iowa State guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (13) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) heads to the bucket against Iowa State guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (13) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum. by Nick Krug

— SF, 6-foot-7, 204 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 13th

Current high: 8th (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 24th

Stock assessment: Oubre’s 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 44.4% shooting in his one season at Kansas don’t scream lottery pick, but it looks like he has a serious chance of landing in the top 14.

He struggled to adjust to the college game initially at KU and didn’t become a regular starter until late December. The learning curve will be even more difficult to navigate in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean general managers and scouts are going to pass on him.

Oubre’s 7-foot-1 wingspan makes him an intriguing prospect, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Even if it takes a year or two for the young wing to feel comfortable attacking on offense in The Association, he is athletic enough and has the right instincts to come off the bench and defend on the wing.

Here is a snippet of what DraftExpress.com has to say about the 19-year-old small forward’s offense:

“Offensively, Oubre's most NBA-ready attribute is likely his jump shot, as he has soft touch, natural scoring instincts, a nice follow-through and smooth mechanics when in rhythm. He was a little bit streaky at times (36% 3P%) as a freshman, partially due to shot-selection issues, but he has a nice foundation in place to make this part of his game a dangerous weapon with repetition.”

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 31st

Current high: 25th (BleacherReport.com)

Current low: 54th

Stock assessment: In the best-case scenario for Alexander, some team at the end of the first round will take a chance on him and give him a guaranteed contract. If he slips into the second round, any team that drafts him neither has to commit to him longterm nor pay him anywhere close to first-round money (the last pick of the first round, No. 30 overall, receives more than $900,000 a year).

The 19-year-old big man, of course, finds himself in this predicament because he never really caught on in Bill Self’s rotation at KU, and then couldn’t even showcase his talents in the final eight games due to an NCAA investigation.

Before the off-court issues popped up, it seemed Alexander had figured some things out for himself when he put up back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts vs. Oklahoma and at Texas. But the freshman fell by the wayside again soon afterward.

If any good came of the 6-foot-9 post player’s tumultuous freshman season at Kansas, it’s that it should motivate him. Self often said after Alexander began sitting out that he worked harder than ever at practices in the final weeks of the season. If Alexander can carry that over to workouts in front of NBA executives and coaches, and impress the right people, he could get a chance in the league to show his full potential. Something he never achieved with the Jayhawks.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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Stock Watch: Wiggins favorite to go No. 1 after Embiid’s latest injury

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

For months, all interested parties assumed Kansas University basketball products Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, as well as Duke's Jabari Parker, would go in the top three picks of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Late last week, serious doubt surrounding that theory appeared out of nowhere with the news that 7-foot Embiid had a stress fracture in the navicular bone on his right foot, which required surgery and at least four to six months of basketball-less recovery.

Now the center whose name many began pencilling in as Cleveland's choice at No. 1 could drop out of the top three, and some have suggested Embiid could fall as far as the bottom half of the top 10.

The fall of Embiid actually helps his KU teammate Wiggins, who could be Cleveland's new favorite choice, given Embiid's back and foot injuries during the past year.

In the Consensus Mock Draft put together by NBA.com's Drew Packham, Wiggins goes No. 1 to the Cavaliers, and Embiid falls to No. 3 and Philadelphia.

Using Packham's hub of mock drafts, as well as a couple others, we can see that Wiggins is a popular choice for Cleveland, but predictions regarding Embiid vary quite a bit more.

Andrew
Wiggins
Joel
Embiid
DraftExpress.com 1st 4th
MyNBADraft.com 2nd 4th
NBADraft.net
1st 3rd
DraftSite.com 1st 3rd
NBA.com 2nd 6th
ESPN.com 2nd 6th
SportsIllustrated.com (*posted June 18) *2nd *1st
SportingNews.com 1st 6th
SheridanHoops.com 1st 4th
NBADraftInsider.com 1st 6th
NetScoutsBasketball.com (*posted May 23) *2nd *1st
BleacherReport.com 3rd 6th
FoxSports.com (*posted June 16) *2nd *1st
CBSSports.com 1st 3rd

The clock is ticking in NBA front offices, and we can stop worrying about mock-ups come Thursday night, in Brooklyn, New York. Until then, here is the latest on the Jayhawks' stock.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles for the ball with San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles for the ball with San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

(All information uses only mock drafts posted since news of Embiid's foot injury)

Stock assessment: It seemed as recent as a week ago people were willing to look past Embiid's back injury, which kept him out of postseason games at Kansas. Now that his navicular bone is in the early stages of a lengthy healing process, his longterm health is under far more scrutiny. With multiple debilitating injuries popping up in the past six months alone, some NBA executives could be scared of wasting a high draft pick on a player who could spend more time on the injured list than the court.

Average mock draft position: 5th

Current high: 3rd (in three mock drafts)

Current low: 6th (in five mock drafts)

Overall movement: Falling — Embiid's seemingly limitless ceiling appeared to make him too good to pass up on at No. 1. His footwork, athleticism and ability to protect the paint made him the most coveted commodity to enter the NBA Draft since Kentucky big man Anthony Davis went No. 1 to New Orleans two years ago. Now the graceful (when healthy) big man is listed by oddsmakers at Bovada as the third-most likely No. 1 pick (12 to 1 odds) on Thursday, behind favorite Wiggins (1 to 2) and Parker (7 to 5). Soon we'll know which NBA franchise is willing to gamble on Embiid, and trust he can still have a prosperous career in the league.


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

(All information uses only mock drafts posted since news of Embiid's foot injury)

Stock assessment: Embiid's loss is Wiggins' gain. The wildly athletic Canadian arrived at KU as the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and now he could be back atop Cleveland's big board. If Embiid and Wiggins have one thing in common besides their year at KU, its their upside. With a clean bill of health and the kind of speed and leap-out-of-the-arena ability that are difficult to find, Wiggins could turn into a better pro player than Parker, even if Parker is more ready to contribute right away.

Average mock draft position: 1st

Current high: 1st (in seven mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in one mock draft)

Overall movement: Rising — Seven of the 11 current mock drafts examined here have Wiggins going No. 1. That could mean he begins his NBA career in Cleveland. Or it could mean some other team who covets a young player with a bright future offers the Cavs some sort of trade package to land Wiggins. Philadelphia is thought to covet Wiggins, and the 76ers might be willing to trade up two spots from No. 3 to make sure they can get him.


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Stock watch: Wiggins or Embiid — the debate continues

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

With three weeks to go until the big night in Brooklyn — the 2014 NBA Draft — a player's stock can potentially rise and fall on a daily basis. As Kansas University products Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid vie for the top spot, held by Cleveland, the debate continues on whom the Cavaliers should select.

In the world of the NBA Draft, few know the intricacies of the map quite like ESPN expert Chad Ford. As of this particular moment in the process, he has Wiggins as the No. 1 prospect on his "big board" — posted Wednesday at ESPN.com. Embiid comes in at No. 2.

So, why exactly should Wiggins be considered a better choice, when Embiid has drawn comparisons to all-time great Hakeem Olajuwon? Ford addressed that question, and much more, on SportsCenter.

"Embiid may have the biggest upside of any player in the draft, but there's questions with players with upside: Will he develop into the type of player that he needs to be? There's still some concerns about that back. Cavs doctors will get a look at Embiid in the next couple of weeks and be able to go over that back with a fine tooth comb. But when you talk about big men and back problems, it always gets a little scary at the top of the draft. That's why Wiggins is No. 1. He has that similar upside to Embiid, but there are fewer question marks about him."

Kansas player Joel Embiid, right, and Andrew Wiggins try to tie up Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown during the second half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas player Joel Embiid, right, and Andrew Wiggins try to tie up Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown during the second half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

There are plenty of Wiggins critics, who don't think he is worthy of the top choice, though. Ford said the unconvinced wonder whether the Canadian phenom will develop the complete skill set needed to be an elite perimeter player in the NBA.

"He needs to improve his jump shot. He needs to tighten up his handle a little bit. And does he have that killer instinct of a Kobe Bryant or a Michael Jordan? There was times that he was passive at Kansas. Will he be that alpha dog at the next level? If the answers to any of those questions is yes, then Wiggins is, I think, clearly the best prospect in this draft."

Ford concluded his spot with a potentially interesting tidbit. While it has been assumed for months that Wiggins, Embiid and Duke's Jabari Parker would go — in some order — in the top three picks, and all compete for the No. 1 slot, Ford thinks Dante Exum, a 6-foot-6 point guard from Australia, could be in the mix as well.

You never know. Last year, Cleveland surprised everybody by selecting UNLV forward Anthony Bennet No. 1 — ahead of No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo (Orlando), Nerlens Noel (6th, Philadelphia), Ben McLemore (7th, Sacramento), Trey Burke (9th, Utah) and eventual rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams (11th, Philadelphia).

Watch the full SportsCenter segment with Ford below.

None by Chad Ford


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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Stock watch: The pros and cons of drafting Embiid or Wiggins

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

We know — with near absolute certainty — that Kansas University basketball products Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will, in some combination, get selected in the top three slots of the 2014 NBA Draft.

What we don't know for sure is how Cleveland's, Milwaukee's and Philadelphia's front offices view each of the lottery-picks-to-be, and their top-three contemporary, Duke's Jabari Parker.

If you've seen Embiid and Wiggins play, you probably have your own theories about which one-year Jayhawk should go higher, and which will have a more productive career.

In that way, we are no different than scouts, general managers and CEOs within various front offices.

To get a sense of how greatly opinions differ on Embiid and Wiggins, check out a Grantland piece by ESPN's Ryen Russillo. He spoke with a general manager, an assistant GM and a director of scouting about the two KU players, Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle.

Each evaluator opened their thoughts on Embiid with an "if." And that, of course, had to do with the 7-footer's health.

Medical records and testing will show more, but the big man sure looked smooth in a workout in Los Angeles last week.

The Wiggins questions presented by the evaluators with whom Rusillo spoke tend to revolve around his ball-handling, ability to take over and whether he will be a better pro than Parker (because they essentially play the same position).

Thanks to Drew Packham at NBA.com, we can easily get a look at what many draft prognosticators think of Embiid's and Wiggins' chances. He created a hub of mock drafts, and we added a couple to it to get a clearer picture of where the Kansas duo could land.

Andrew
Wiggins
Joel
Embiid
DraftExpress.com 1st 3rd
MyNBADraft.com 1st 3rd
NBADraft.net
2nd 1st
DraftSite.com 1st 2nd
NBA.com 3rd 2nd
ESPN.com 1st 2nd
SportsIllustrated.com 1st 2nd
SportingNews.com 1st 3rd
SheridanHoops.com 3rd 1st
NBADraftInsider.com 1st 3rd
NetScoutsBasketball.com 2nd 1st
BleacherReport.com 2nd 1st
FoxSports.com 2nd 3rd
CBSSports.com 2nd 1st

As for the NBA teams at the top of the lottery, each has a month to figure it out. For now, here is where each KU player's stock stands.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid rejects a shot by Texas center Cameron Ridley during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid rejects a shot by Texas center Cameron Ridley during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

Stock assessment: When you watch a young man of Embiid's size do the things he can with a basketball, you can almost envision him as a franchise cornerstone for years to come. Throw some muscle, experience, comfort and growing knowledge for the game on that frame and you have a ready-made all-star.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st (in five mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in five mock drafts)

Overall movement: Rising — A week ago, Embiid's average draft position was 3rd. In four weeks, it could be 1st. Don't be surprised if even more outlets project him as the top pick, the closer we get to the June 26 draft. Especially if he's healthy — there's that if again — the buzz around him will steadily get louder, and a growing number of NBA decision-makers will think the center can help turn around a franchise.


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins tries to save a loose ball from going out-of-bounds over Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins tries to save a loose ball from going out-of-bounds over Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

Stock assessment: Critics will poke holes in Wiggins' ball-handling ability, because he won't be a complete NBA wing until he can slash to the paint in the half court. But teams that fall in love with his freakish athleticism will live with his half-court turnovers and limited overall game while he develops over the next few years. Upside is king in the draft.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st (in seven mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in two mock drafts)

Overall movement: Holding steady — More mock drafts have Wiggins going No. 1 than Embiid or Parker. Still, his stock has potential to rise if he goes in and wows Cleveland with a workout between now and the draft. It seems like Embiid is his biggest competition for the top spot. But the Cavs could opt for a small forward with hops and potential to develop if they don't believe in building around a center.


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Stock watch: Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins await lottery fate

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

By Tuesday night, NBA prospects Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will have a much better idea about what their future might look like.

The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery — televised live on ESPN at 7 p.m. — determines which organizations land the top three overall picks in the draft. The team lucky enough to snag the No. 1 pick will have its choice of Wiggins, Embiid or Duke's Jabari Parker. (Or someone else if the people in charge want to swing and miss.)

At this point, all the top prospects know is that Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando were the three worst teams in the NBA this season and they have the best odds of ending up in the top three — Bucks (64.2%), 76ers (55.8%) and Magic (46.9%).

But, depending on how the ping pong balls bounce, some other organization — Utah, Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento, Detroit, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota or Phoenix — could end up as a potential suitor.

How important is the lottery? Both Wiggins and Embiid already are in New York and plan to attend it in person.

None by Jonathan Givony

With five weeks left until the draft (June 26, in New York), here is a look at the draft stock for Kansas University's lottery-picks-to-be.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid gets his hand caught in the net as he tries to block a shot by Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid gets his hand caught in the net as he tries to block a shot by Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

Stock assessment: Embiid has a very good thing going for him. He's a center. And NBA decision-makers love using their top picks on players who can impact the paint on both ends of the floor. If he were a few inches shorter, or played another position, Embiid's back, site of a stress fracture that kept him out of KU's lineup in the postseason, would be under even more scrutiny.

Average mock draft position: 3rd

Current high: 1st — NBADraft.net

Current low: 4th — MyNBADraft.com

Overall movement: Falling — But not far. A few weeks back, Embiid's average draft position was 2nd. After he (like Wiggins and Parker) skipped out on the NBA Draft combine in Chicago last week, you get the feeling folks around the league are a tad worried about Embiid's back and his longterm health. However, all of that could disappear when teams bring him in for individual workouts and have their organization's doctors check him out.

Longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge explained on NBA.com that Embiid's agent, Arn Tellem, isn't currently making the 7-footer's medical records available. And he very well might continue to keep them out of the reach of NBA front offices.

Still, Aldridge talked to a number of league executives, and some aren't overly concerned about Embiid's longevity. Here's what one Central Division executive said:

"The No. 1 issue is going to be the medical issue with him. There's no other issues really to deal with. With him not having taken the physical in Chicago, he's difficult to project. I don't see him falling out of the top three unless there's a medical red flag."


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins splits defenders during the Jayhawks 80-69 win against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins splits defenders during the Jayhawks 80-69 win against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Mike Yoder

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

Stock assessment: Unfairly, Wiggins entered the college ranks amid comparisons to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. While his critics quickly shot down the idea of the KU freshman reaching the level of the NBA's two biggest stars, Wiggins handled it all perfectly. He just kept developing his game and improving in his one season as a Jayhawk. While the perception of what he can accomplish at the next level might have changed, Wiggins could still be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st — Draft Express and MyNBADraft.com

Current low: 2nd — NBADraft.net and DraftSite.com

Overall movement: Holding steady — A lot could change between now and the draft, but at this point the consensus is Wiggins will go No. 1 or No. 2. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which he would slip any farther than No. 3.

That's not the only good news for Wiggins. NBA scouts, coaches and executives have a college season's worth of information on him now. If teams were still able to draft players straight out of high school, Wiggins might have gone No. 1 last year and began his career with unrealistic expectations thrown at him.

Instead, no one will expect Wiggins to come in and save a franchise by himself. Plus, teams still value his athleticism (see: reported 44-inch vertical) and potential for the future.

Andrew Wiggins (@22wiggins), no #NBACombine necessary... #Bounce #P3 #SportsScience #RafterClub

Andrew Wiggins (@22wiggins), no #NBACombine necessary... #Bounce #P3 #SportsScience #RafterClub by p3sportscience

A Pacific Division executive indicated to Aldridge that some expect Wiggins to develop into something special once he has been in the league for a while.

"As far as a couple of years down the road, he could really take off because of his athleticism. I think his skills are going to improve. He's not the smooth scorer that Parker is. He's more explosive. He can go off in spurts. He's probably a little better in the transition game."


— Draft sites used for the player positioning portion of this blog include: NBADraft.net, MyNBADraft.com, DraftExpress.com and DraftSite.com.

— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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On to the next round: Pierce, Chalmers, other Jayhawks advance in playoffs

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts with teammate Andray Blatche, right, after defeating the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts with teammate Andray Blatche, right, after defeating the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

During the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the narrative moved back and forth regarding how much Brooklyn needed veteran small forward Paul Pierce in crunch time.

In his 16th season out of Kansas, Pierce only scored 10 points in 25 minutes in Sunday's Game 7 at Toronto, but he made one of the top defensive plays of the postseason so far in the final seconds, blocking Raptors guard Kyle Lowry in the paint. His blocked shot sealed a 104-103 Brooklyn victory, and saved the Nets' postseason.

None by Stefan Bondy

If Lowry's shot had dropped through the net, Toronto would have moved on to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Instead, it will be Pierce and the Nets taking on back-to-back NBA champion Miami in the next round.

Newsday's Rod Boone and the rest of the media on hand spoke with an elated Pierce after the thrilling Game 7 win. The Truth was asked if he had ever swatted a shot to win a game.

"Nah, I don't think at this magnitude. On the road. Game 7. You're playing for your lives and you've got to sell out for your team.

"I really didn't have a great offensive game. I was in foul trouble most of the night and sometimes you've got to find ways to help your ball club win.

"I saw him go up, I went up with him, got my hand on the ball. Game over."

Pierce didn't make a basket in the fourth quarter, but he proved yet again he can still come through in crunch time.


On to the next round

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) exchanges words with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in New York. Brooklyn won 101-100. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) exchanges words with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in New York. Brooklyn won 101-100. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Pierce wasn't the only former Jayhawk to move on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. In fact, his Nets will be up against another KU product, the Heat's Mario Chalmers, in the East semis.

Miami is one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals, but Brooklyn swept the Heat in the regular season, so this could be a long, exciting series with the Nets trying to knock out the defending champions.

After disposing of Toronto, Pierce told reporters the Nets know taking on LeBron James and the Heat will be quite a challenge. Here is what Pierce said in Lang Whitaker's preview for NBA.com:

"When you play against the best, as a competitor, you want those moments. If you look at all the great competitors in this league, they want to play against the other best [players], to see where they are, to see how they measure up throughout history. When you play against the best like LeBron, it brings out the best in I think everyone. I think that's in any sport, when you're a great competitor. And I consider myself a great competitor, who wants to be in those moments, who wants to play against who people call the best."

That mentality showed during the regular season, when Pierce averaged 21.3 points in Brooklyn's four wins versus the Heat — he didn't average 20 or more points against any other team in the league this year. Pierce hit 55.3% of his shots against Miami, 45% of his 3-pointers, and averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Chalmers, meanwhile, only played in three of the Heat-Nets games, and averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shot 40.7% from the floor, and did most of his damage from long range, drilling 57.1% of his 3's vs. Brooklyn.

Game 1 of Brooklyn vs. Miami is set for Tuesday night (6 p.m., TNT).

Among the rest of the 'Hawks in the NBA lucky enough to make it to the playoffs, only Chicago's Kirk Hinrich didn't move on to the second round.

None by NBA

The Bulls were ousted by Washington, home of former KU power forward Drew Gooden. Though he only played 9.0 minutes a game in the first round and didn't even get off the bench in the Wizards' Game 5 victory, the typically jovial Gooden is looking forward to Washington's upcoming series with top seed Indiana.

None by Drew Gooden

None by Drew Gooden

Gooden, a late-season acquisition in D.C., only faced the Pacers once this season, and had three points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of a Washington win on March 28. Indiana won the two previous regular-season matchups.

Game 1 of Wizards-Pacers tips off at 6 p.m. Monday (TNT).

Oklahoma City backup big man Nick Collison might only be a role player, but he's about to take part in what figures to be one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs as the Thunder take on the Los Angeles Clippers.

OKC and the Clippers split four regular-season encounters, in which Collison averaged 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes. Expect Collison to score easy baskets against the Clips, because he made 6 of the 7 shots he took against them this season.

The first game of Clippers-Thunder begins at 8:30 p.m. Monday (TNT).

For Thomas Robinson's season to continue on into the conference finals, his Portland Trail Blazers will have to oust always steady No. 1 seed San Antonio, the defending Western Conference champions.

The Spurs won the last two meetings with Portland to even the season series at 2-2.

Robinson played 13.3 minutes a game against San Antonio this season, averaging 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.

Game 1 of Blazers-Spurs tips off at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (TNT).


Vaughn part of Magic's plan

Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, left, talks to Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Grizzlies defeated the Magic 94-85. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, left, talks to Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Grizzlies defeated the Magic 94-85. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Orlando (23-59) didn't come close to making the playoffs. But that really wasn't part of the organization's master plan.

Another key part of the blue print: keeping head coach Jacque Vaughn in place.

The Magic extended the former KU point guard's contract through the 2015-16 season, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

Robbins wrote that Vaughn, hired in the summer of 2012, has been patient as the franchise implemented a plan of rebuilding through the draft.

Vaughn started his head-coaching career with a 12-13 record. Since then, however, the Magic have posted a 31-108 record.

According to the report, Magic CEO Alex Martins and general manager Rob Hennigan have appreciated Vaughn's ability to build working relationships with players and "for maintaining an even keel despite the losing."

Vaughn and Orlando will find out May 20 at the NBA Draft Lottery just how useful the latest season of losing will be for the team's longterm success.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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