No offense, Ben Simmons. Sorry, Brandon Ingram. Nothing personal, Buddy Hield. Don’t get upset, Kris Dunn.
With all due respect to those lottery picks and the other big names from the 2016 NBA Draft class, if you asked me right now who I would pick to win Rookie of the Year in 2017, I’d lean toward a former Kansas basketball player, instead.
No, not second-round pick Cheick Diallo. Neither Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. nor Brannen Greene.
None of those former KU players are a threat to secure that trophy, which typically ends up in the hands of players who turn out to be all-stars or superstars. But there is one Jayhawk set to make his NBA debut next season who could easily become a force in the league for years to come.
True, Joel Embiid has not played basketball in more than two years due to injuries. But the man possesses undeniable talent.
Now reportedly 7-foot-2, the center at times during his freshman season at Kansas showed off footwork and shooting touch akin to a young Hakeem Olajuwon. So far, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft has been a disappointment for Philadelphia, but it will take only one spectacular, injury-free rookie season for all to be forgiven.
Bearing in mind Embiid’s checkered injury history — low-lighted by back trauma that robbed him from finishing his one-and-done season at KU and a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot (which he later re-injured) keeping him sidelined since — obviously nothing about his future is guaranteed. However, the 22-year-old from Cameroon appears to be healthier now than he has been since he left Kansas.
Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters Embiid, who will be held out of NBA Summer League games for precautionary reasons, has been cleared for five-on-five basketball.
Let us assume the seemingly never-ending rehab is over, all goes to plan, and Embiid plays, say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 regular-season games next season with Philadelphia. The big man, with his powerful finishing ability and shooting range, will be given the opportunity to put up big numbers for a rebuilding franchise coming off a woeful 10-72 season.
The Sixers have no established star or face of the franchise returning to feature offensively. That role is open to be filled. While the organization likely has to temper its expectations publicly regarding Embiid because of the uncertainty that accompanies his string of injuries, you get the sense the team’s decision-makers are as excited about the potential of their inexperienced center as they are 2016’s No. 1 overall pick, Simmons.
The upcoming rookie of the year race very well could come down to the Sixers’ duo of the future, Simmons and Embiid. According to Bovada, an online sportsbook, Simmons, a 6-foot-10 ball-handling forward out of LSU, is the early favorite with 13/4 odds. Embiid is listed seventh, at 14/1, behind New Orleans’ Hield (11/2), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Ingram (13/2), Minnesota’s Dunn (15/2), Denver’s Jamal Murray (12/1) and Chicago’s Denzel Valentine (12/1).
Simmons’ biggest asset at the next level might be his combination of passing ability and size. When he drives to create for teammates, the 19-year-old Australian will find a willing and able shooter and finisher in Embiid. As a matter of fact, the two even know each other a little bit. Now teammates in Philly, they once scrimmaged together as high schoolers in Florida, according to a story from The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
"He has great footwork and can score inside," Simmons said of Embiid. "I know how to get the ball to bigger guys down low.”
Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and losses all are on the horizon for both Simmons and Embiid as featured first-year players on a bad team. But when you look at the history of NBA Rookies of the Year, winning the award basically comes down to individual scoring numbers, not wins and losses.
Here are the previous 10 winners:
2015-16: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 18.3 points
2014-15: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota, 16.9 points
2013-14: Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia, 16.7 points
2012-13: Damian Lillard, Portland, 19.0 points
2011-12: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 18.5 points
2010-11: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers, 22.5 points
2009-10: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento, 20.1 points
2008-09: Derrick Rose, Chicago, 16.8 points
2007-08: Kevin Durant, Seattle, 20.3 points
2006-07: Brandon Roy, Portland, 16.8 points
Philadelphia’s other recent lottery big men, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, have been the subject of trade rumors, so you can figure the 76ers won’t mind featuring a healthy Embiid ahead of those two, should they both remain with the team.
Plus, Embiid is taller, more athletic and more versatile on both ends of the floor than Okafor, who averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Philly while playing just 53 games this past season. It’s not too difficult to envision Embiid replicating or surpassing that production in his first season in the league, putting him firmly in the mix for the NBA’s rookie hardware.
Embiid wouldn’t be the first behind-schedule rookie to bring home the honor, either. Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, missed the following season with the L.A. Clippers due to a broken left knee cap, only to return to the court in striking fashion a year later.
Can Embiid do the same after spending even more time away from competition? Can he out-shine his thoroughly hyped teammate, Simmons? Heck, can he just play an NBA game?
We’ll know soon enough. Personally, I’d answer yes to all of the above.
When the 2016 NBA Draft came and went without Kansas forward Perry Ellis getting selected in the two-round, 60-pick extravaganza, there was no need for the 6-foot-8 prospect to panic.
A rookie free agent, Ellis knew he would soon be weighing his options as his agent tracked down possible contract offers or opportunities to play in the NBA Summer League. Sure enough, Dallas added the Wichita native to its summer roster less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the draft.
A summer position, of course, doesn’t mean Ellis will play for the Mavericks during the 2016-17 season. It’s more like an internship. It’s simply a step in the right direction as the 22-year-old, who averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in his final season with KU, chases after his professional dream.
Ellis’ next few weeks playing for Dallas will determine what comes next, whether that turns out to be an invite to training camp, a guaranteed contract or playing professional basketball outside of the NBA.
So as we try and figure out, before the summer league even begins, just how likely Ellis is to stay with the Mavs and help out owner Mark Cuban and legendary forward Dirk Nowitzki, let us check out previous Dallas summer rosters to try and get a feel for how the organization utilizes those players following their July auditions.
Upon scouring the Mavericks’ teams from the previous five summer leagues, players in Ellis’ situation haven’t stuck around. The Dallas players who have turned offseason playing time in Las Vegas into actual regular-season minutes the following season have been draft picks or young guys in the earliest stages of their career who already had played for the Mavs.
Plus, the undrafted rookie free agents Dallas brought in between 2010 and 2015 (summer league was canceled in 2011 due to an anticipated lockout) never played a single minute for the organization during the ensuing season.
|Mavericks Summer League players
who played for Dallas following season
|Mavericks Summer League players
who had just gone undrafted
(or drafted in Round 2)
and didn't make the team
|2010||- Rodrigue Beaubois, 2nd-year guard
- Dominique Jones, 1st-round pick, South Florida
- Ian Mahinmi, 3rd-year center
|- Mouhammad Faye, Southern Methodist
- Jeremy Lin, Harvard
- Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's
- Moussa Seck, Senegal
- DeShawn Sims, Michigan
- Eric Tramiel, North Texas
|2012||- Jae Crowder, 2nd-round pick, Marquette
- Bernard James, 2nd-round pick, Florida State
- Jared Cunningham, 1st-round pick, Oregon State
(played 8 games)
- Justin Dentmon, undrafted in 2009, Washington
(played in 2 games)
- Dominique Jones, 3rd-year guard
|- Drew Gordon, New Mexico
- Tu Holloway, Xavier
- David Jelinek, Spain
- Keith Wright, Harvard
|2013||- Jae Crowder, 2nd-year forward
- Bernard James, 2nd-year center
- Shane Larkin, 1st-round pick, Miami (FL)
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-round pick, Providence
|- Alexandre Paranhos, Brazil
- Dewayne Dedmon, USC
- Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech
- D.J. Stephens, Memphis
- Christian Watford, Indiana
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-year guard
(played 5 games)
|- C.J. Fair, Syracuse
- Javon McCrea, Buffalo
- Yuki Togashi, Japan
- Axel Toupane, France
|2015||- Justin Anderson, 1st-round pick, Virginia
- Dwight Powell, 2nd-year big man
|- Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
- 2nd-round pick Satnam Singh, India
Using recent history as an indicator, it doesn’t appear Ellis has much of a shot at becoming a full fledged member of the Mavericks. However, each player’s situation is unique and Ellis has some factors working in his favor.
For one thing, Ellis is a consensus All-American. That doesn’t mean an NBA team will just hand him a contract. But, given his pedigree and talent, he should enter this trial with confidence. Ellis is more than capable of producing in summer league games and reminding Dallas that he is a different player than most undrafted free agents the team has tried out in the past.
Also, this year the Mavericks only made one draft pick, taking Purdue center A.J. Hammons 46th overall, in the second round. The organization could take a different approach to rookie summer players now, because it wasn’t able to utilize the draft as well this time around. If the Mavs were bringing in two or three draft picks, it would be inherently more difficult to be swayed by a young free agent. But with fewer roster spots slotted to go to draftees, you could see Dallas taking a longer look at Ellis and Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith, who is in the same boat.
While Ellis spends the next several weeks putting in the work required to make an NBA roster, the Mavericks’ success in free agency could determine how likely they are to sign a rookie to an inexpensive deal. At this point, the only core players Dallas has under contract are Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Justin Anderson. That means Cuban has loads of room to spend, spend and spend some more in free agency. Every summer Dallas goes after the biggest names available, and if Cuban can land Hassan Whiteside and/or Mike Conley and he wants to bring back Dallas free agents Nowitzki (obviously) and Chandler Parsons, while also adding a few less expensive NBA veterans, there will only be so much money left under the cap to fill out the roster. The more the Mavs spend, the more attractive it becomes to sign a young bench player on a cheap contract.
On top of all that, Dallas isn’t the only NBA team that will be watching Ellis. Scouts, coaches and general managers from all 30 teams attend summer league games. If Ellis plays well and the Mavericks still don’t want to keep him around, another franchise can swoop in and sign him instead.
Case in point: the Mavericks summer squad in 2010 featured a little known guard out of Harvard named Jeremy Lin. Lin never played for Dallas. In fact, he only played 29 games for Golden State the following season. But the next year, Lin became a sensation in New York and has had no trouble finding work in the NBA since.
Ellis’ journey may begin with the Mavericks, but there’s no telling where it will go from here.
— PODCAST: What’s next for KU’s 2016 NBA Draft class?
When freshman big men Cheick Diallo or Carlton Bragg Jr. barely played in a particular game this past season, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self liked to say after such an outing the two forwards would get the “last laugh.” Self knew both Diallo and Bragg would one day become NBA players, maybe even have long careers, but had his reasons for not giving the youngsters minutes in particular situations.
Diallo beat Bragg to the first “last laugh” Thursday night, when 6-foot-9 post player from Kayes, Mali, was taken 33rd overall in the NBA Draft, and the New Orleans Pelicans landed his draft rights. After playing all of 202 minutes and making 33 of his 58 field-goal attempts in college basketball during a one-and-done stop at KU, Diallo was off to the NBA.
The night, of course, didn’t go exactly as planned for Diallo, whose stock slipped enough for him to fall into the early second round. But he had to experience immeasurable satisfaction in proving to himself and his detractors that he was good enough to cash in on his dreams — despite his struggles to get on the court at Kansas.
Still, we’re still probably a couple of years away from Diallo doubling over, full belly laugh style, when thinking about how little he played for the Jayhawks.
He obviously has a long way to go as a player before earning enough respect from his Pelicans coaches and teammates to crack the rotation and execute his defensive intensity/high-energy role.
In the meantime, his position with New Orleans will look similar to the one he took with Kansas, often just cheering wildly from the bench during the most important stretches of games.
In fact, don’t be surprised if Diallo plays even less during his rookie NBA season than he did as a KU freshman (7.5 minutes a game). Next year in particular, Diallo’s weaknesses will be magnified as he adjusts to a massive upward leap in level of competition. You saw how the 19-year-old struggled in the Big 12, and it will only look worse against veteran professional post players. The DNP-CD’s (did not play, coach’s decision) are coming for him as he eases his way into The Association.
The Pelicans knew Diallo would be a few years away from helping the team win games when they traded up to draft him. General manger Dell Demps said Thursday night they targeted the raw prospect anyway, and had him rated higher on their draft board than No. 33, leaving them surprised he even was available at that juncture.
“He’s a young player who is inexperienced,” Demps said. “There is going to be a growing curve. But one thing I can assure you is you’ll never see a lack of effort there. His motor is amazing.”
It’s that same motor — or desire, or push, or however you want to label it — that should work in Diallo’s favor during the most difficult stage of his pro career, the beginning.
“I’m an energy guy,” Diallo said on draft night. “I box out, rebound the ball and protect the rim. That’s what I do. I just want to do everything to make my team look good. I just want to run the floor, block shots and get rebounds.”
He’ll mostly get his chances to do those things he does best during practices, at the NBA Summer League and in some D-League games next season.
Diallo clearly isn’t ready for the NBA yet. But he has the right attitude and thirst for basketball knowledge to get there. Though a second-round pick and a project, he doesn’t have the type of personality to take a half-hearted approach to anything.
As Diallo said before the draft about playing at the next level:
“It’s my dream. I’m trying to make this happen, so I don’t have a second option.”
In time, though, he might have a few laughs when thinking about how he used to play in garbage time at Allen Fieldhouse, with walk-ons Tyler Self and Evan Manning.
According to the experts, four-year Kansas standout Perry Ellis won’t hear his name called at the 2016 NBA Draft.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not buying it.
Ellis has spent most of the past couple of months proving his worth at workouts in front of coaches, executives and scouts, in NBA cities all over the country.
Now, Ellis isn’t unique in that sense. Plenty of college players and international prospects have done the same since the NBA Draft Combine in early May. But when it comes down to it, and some general manager and coach who want to keep their jobs are making a late second-round pick Thursday night, who do you think they would rather add to their stable of talent:
- Someone who is taller and/or maybe more athletic than Ellis but unproven?
- Or someone who scored 1,798 points at a major Division I program and will be a model pupil and citizen?
Not every team drafts players late in the second round with the intent of signing them and bringing them to training camp. But there are some organizations that need to fill out their roster via the draft or want effective players on cheap contracts. And I’d be willing to bet one such team will gladly add KU’s standout forward before the evening’s festivities conclude in Brooklyn.
Assuming none of the numerous teams which worked out Ellis during the past several weeks shocks everybody watching and selects him ahead of schedule, let’s assume he’ll be one of the final players drafted in 2016.
Here’s a look at the teams that own the final handful of spots:
No 55, Brooklyn
No. 56, Denver
No. 57, Memphis
No. 58, Boston
No. 59, Sacramento
No. 60, Utah
Odds are the names next to one or a few of those slots will change before the end of draft night. Front offices tend to play hot potato with second-round picks late in the process and some could even get moved more than once.
For sanity’s sake, let’s assume each of those teams holds on to its late pick and examine how Ellis would fit in on each roster.
BROOKLYN, 55th pick — Boy, this squad needs all the help it can get. If the Nets can find someone better than Ellis at this spot, good for them. If not, they’d be crazy to pass on the 6-foot-8 forward, whose smooth jump shot at times went underutilized at KU.
The best players in Brooklyn uniforms are center Brook Lopez and power forward Thaddeus Young. Returning at small forward, the Nets have Bojan Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Even if Brooklyn is enamored with those four, they’ll need some frontcourt assistance off the bench. Ellis, depending on how his team wants to deploy him, could step in at power forward or small forward depending on matchups.
Playing for the Nets might not be as enjoyable in terms of wins and losses, but that actually could turn out to be the best spot for Ellis to play the most minutes and prove he belongs in the league.
DENVER, 56th pick — As mentioned in an examination of where Cheick Diallo could fit in at the next level, the Nuggets have a pretty loaded frontcourt for a struggling Western Conference team.
With Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler, a rookie forward (whether picked in the lottery or late in the second round) would have trouble cracking this rotation.
Then again, maybe former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur doesn’t return in free agency, and Ellis slides in as his replacement. You never know. But it seems Ellis’ role would be minimal next season if he did end up in the Mile-High City.
MEMPHIS, 57th pick — The Grizzlies are another team that probably doesn’t have much need for Ellis, with interior players Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Brandan Wright and JaMychal Green under contract, as well as veteran small forward Vince Carter.
But if Memphis likes Ellis and sees him as someone who could learn for a year, then become a replacement for one of the team’s aging forwards or someone who leaves next summer in free agency, the Kansas forward could work out longterm with the Grizzlies. It just seems unlikely he would play much next season in this scenario.
BOSTON, 58th pick — The Celtics own eight picks entering draft day, and reportedly are in active discussions with a number of teams in search of executing a trade or two (or three or four or more).
So no one knows exactly how Boston’s roster will look by the time training camp opens in the fall.
However, the Celtics have seemed to prefer power forwards and centers capable of stretching the floor and giving the offense space to operate. So, in that sense, Ellis would be a justifiable option as a smaller 4 who comes in off the bench to exploit specific matchups, as guided by coach Brad Stevens.
SACRAMENTO, 59th pick — Unsuccessful and, really, dysfunctional as this team has been the past several seasons, the Kings actually have a lot of options at the forward spots, to play alongside their ultra-talented, mega-grumpy big man, DeMarcus Cousins.
Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli and Omi Casspi are under contract, and it appears Sacramento might be interested in playing big man Willie Cauley-Stein with Cousins, too.
Ultimately, Ellis (or fill in the name of any rookie here) would probably prefer to play elsewhere. But if he did end up in Sacramento, he’s too good of a person not to make the best of it and probably would play his way into the lineup one way or another.
UTAH, 60th pick — The Jazz are one of the more sound and complete teams not operating on the national radar. When it comes down to it, it’s just hard to make the playoffs out West.
As Utah has made significant strides the past couple of seasons, it has done so with solid players who — for whatever reason — get overlooked. Sounds a lot like Ellis entering the draft, doesn’t it?
From that perspective, Ellis would fit in perfectly in Salt Lake City. But is there a place for him in the rotation?
The Jazz have small forwards Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles and power forwards Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles coming back. Meanwhile, backup power forward Trevor Booker is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Should Utah fear losing Booker in July, Ellis could be a viable replacement, and a steal at the end of the 2016 draft.
WILD CARD, another team trades for a late pick and selects Ellis — This actually would have to be the best storyline for the 22-year-old forward.
Regardless of what franchise it turned out to be, you would think the coaches and decision-makers like him enough to make the move, and would have a plan to fit Ellis into their system.
When Wayne Selden Jr. first arrived at Kansas in 2013, some thought the Roxbury, Mass., native would play one season of college basketball and enter the NBA Draft for guaranteed money, just like his KU teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
Two years after Selden rightfully stayed in college and his two teammates were taken in the first three picks, the 6-foot-5 guard heads into his own draft night with far less certainty.
Selden won’t be a lottery pick or even a first-round pick, according to draft experts. As of Wednesday afternoon, DraftExpress.com slotted Selden as the 50th overall pick, going in the second round to Indiana.
The general consensus on the 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan is that he’ll be selected somewhere in that range — mid- to late-second round.
That might not seem like an ideal set of circumstances for a player who left school early, but teams seem interested in Selden. After averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds in his junior season with Kansas, during which he shot 46.9% from the floor and 38.3% on 3-pointers, Selden was invited to pre-draft workouts with Milwaukee, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York, New Orleans, Charlotte, the L.A. Clippers, Dallas, Boston, Oklahoma City and Brookly. (As you can see via the T-shirts Selden has collected during his tour, which are all posted on his Twitter feed.)
You can still be a commodity as a prospect, even if you’re not a lottery pick. Teams know what they’re getting with Selden, and while that might not be enough for one to use a first-round pick on him that doesn’t mean he’ll have an uphill battle to make a roster as a second-rounder.
Selden is explosive when healthy and his toughness and defensive ability have improved after three years of playing for Bill Self. Plus, his passing skills and floor vision often go unappreciated, and those will be useful tools for him at the next level as a backup guard trying to work his way into a secure role in some team’s rotation.
Also, in a bit of a twist, it could be possible for a second-round draft choice this season to have his agent negotiate a more lucrative deal than some first-rounders are locked into. That stems from the rising salary cap this summer and the way first-round contracts currently are structured, as reported by Dan Feidman at NBCSports.
Here’s a look at the teams which currently own second-round draft picks in the range projected for Selden. Keep in mind second-round picks get traded like crazy almost every draft night.
No. 45, Boston
No. 46, Dallas
No. 47, Orlando
No. 48, Chicago
No. 49, Detroit
No. 50, Indiana
No. 51, Boston
No. 52, Utah
No. 53, Denver
No. 54, Atlanta
Assuming Selden goes somewhere in this vicinity of the second round, let’s take a look at how he might fit in with each organization.
BOSTON, 45th pick, 51st pick — If the Celtics don’t move out of this range via trade (they enter draft day with a whopping eight picks), Selden certainly wouldn’t mind playing for his hometown team.
However, Boston does have a bit of a crowded backcourt — at this stage of the offseason at least, though any number of moves could materialize in the days and months ahead. The Celtics return all-star Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, as well as 2015 first-round picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter. All five guards are under contract for multiple seasons.
If Boston takes Selden, he would only get significant minutes as a rookie if Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens aren’t sold on the longterm viability of Hunter, a 3-point specialist, or one or more of the team’s other returning guards end up getting traded.
Should the opportunity for playing time materialize with the Celtics, I think Selden would fit in nicely as a backup guard right off the bat.
DALLAS, 46th pick — With Wesley Matthews, one of the league’s better unheralded shooting guards, in the starting lineup, there probably won’t be a lot of minutes for a backup with the Mavericks.
Then again, that could be a perfect situation for Selden. Matthews would be an ideal tutor for the KU rookie and Selden could gradually attempt to turn into Matthews 2.0. They’re similarly built, and while Matthews is for sure a better 3-point shooter, one could see Selden getting better in that area.
ORLANDO, 47th pick — Already young and up-and-coming in the backcourt, the Magic might have too many players in that category to add another in Selden.
Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja all return for Orlando, which also has veteran C.J. Watson and seldom-used Shabazz Napier under contract.
Should the Magic draft Selden, it seems it would be for insurance purposes, in case one of the established players suffered an injury. In a best-case scenario for Selden in Orlando, he would prove athletic and versatile enough to be the No. 4 guard.
CHICAGO, 48th pick — The Bulls just traded homegrown former MVP Derrick Rose, so you’ve got to assume they’re riding with shooting guard Jimmy Butler as the new face of the franchise.
Again, this would be a case where Selden could learn from a great guard, assuming Chicago doesn’t blow the whole thing up and trade Butler, too.
Assuming the Bulls keep Butler and Selden absorbs all the NBA knowledge he can from the rising star, it could prove great for Selden’s longevity and effectiveness in the years ahead.
DETROIT, 49th pick — A 23-year-old shooting guard coming off his best season, the Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is solidified as the team’s starter.
But Detroit could use some bench help at the position, especially when you consider Jodie Meeks missed almost the entire 2014-15 season due to injury. Who knows how effective Meeks, a 3-point specialist, will be next year.
Selden could, in theory, be a more complete player than Meeks and thereby making up for what he lacks in professional experience. But if Meeks is at 100% and he produces from downtown, it would be hard for Selden to break into the rotation.
INDIANA, 50th pick — The Pacers already have a pair of veteran shooting guards in Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey. And while both are more combo guard than true 2-guards, they combined to play more than 50 minutes a game last season.
Additionally, when Indiana traded Wednesday for Jeff Teague it made it a lot less likely for the team to be forced to use Ellis and Stuckey at point guard.
If Selden gets picked by the Pacers, he’d have a long way to go before becoming part of the rotation.
UTAH, 52nd pick — Shooting guard Alec Burks has only played in 58 games over the past two seasons, so the Jazz might at least think about adding an insurance policy at the 2-guard during some portion of the offseason.
But if Burks finally bounces back health-wise, there would be almost no playing time available for another player at that position, behind Rodney Hood, coming off a monster second season, and veteran Shelvin Mack playing both guard spots.
Personally, I think Utah would go another direction with this pick.
DENVER, 53rd pick — Will Barton and Gary Harris are more than capable shooting guards. The Nuggets’ versatile roster also features forwards who fill in in the backcourt: Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
This is another team that probably doesn’t need Selden, but sometimes organizations just take their highest-rated player available, regardless of what the rest of the roster looks like.
ATLANTA, 54th pick — The Hawks could lose high-energy wing Kent Bazemore in free agency this summer. If so, you could see Selden finding a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.
Shooter extraordinaire Kyle Korver might be on the back end of his career, but figures to be penciled in as the Hawks’ starting 2-guard. After that, defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha, who also plays small forward, and Tim Hardaway Jr., who only played 16.9 minutes last season, are the other options.
Selden already is physically stronger than Hardaway, which wouldn’t automatically mean he deserves equal or more consideration. Still, the KU rookie would seem to have a shot.
But if Bazemore comes back, Selden could spend a lot of time on the end of Atlanta’s bench.
Just a couple days ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft no one is certain exactly where Kansas forward Cheick Diallo will be selected — other than somewhere in the second half of the first round.
That’s a desirable outlook for a prospect who averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes a game during his one-and-done run at KU.
As of Tuesday, DraftExpress.com predicts Diallo, a 6-foot-9 post player from Kayes, Mali, will go 18th overall, to Detroit.
However, as Bill Self told reporters last week, getting drafted by the right team can be more important to a player’s professional development than when he is selected.
Before we dive into how Diallo might fit in with those franchises, here’s an interesting take on him from an anonymous scout, courtesy of Seth Davis at CampusRush.com.
"My question is, does he know what he is? If he understands he can make millions of dollars being a rebounder and shot blocker, he'll be terrific. If he thinks he needs to be a scorer, he'll hurt himself because he has no offensive game. I hear he's going top 20. Only a fool would take him there. He's an undersized four who can't shoot, and our league is about shooting right now."
Anyone who followed Diallo’s season with KU quickly recognizes the scout’s point on the big’s offensive limitations. And whichever team invests its pick in Diallo will do so because of his 7-foot-4.5 wingspan and what type of defensive player he might become in a few years.
So one key question in this Diallo debate will be: Which teams can afford to wait for him to develop?
Here’s a look at which teams own draft picks in the range projected for Diallo:
No. 17. Memphis
No. 18. Detroit
No. 19. Denver
No. 20. Indiana
No. 21. Atlanta
No. 22. Charlotte
No. 23. Boston
No. 24. Philadelphia
No. 25. L.A. Clippers
No. 26. Philadelphia
No. 27. Toronto
No. 28. Phoenix
No. 29. San Antonio
No. 30. Golden State
MEMPHIS, 17th pick — No one has projected Diallo would go this high since before he played college basketball (boy, are NBA coaches and general managers glad they don’t have to deal with picking players straight out of high school anymore). But No. 17 is just ahead of where DraftExpress thinks Diallo will be selected, so it’s a good place to start.
If there’s one thing the Grizzlies have, it’s big men. Center Marc Gasol is under contract through 2020, and the Grizz have at least one more year of the man who puts the power in power forward, Zach Randolph. Plus, Brandan Wright is a reliable veteran post man off the bench, and JaMychal Green had a surprisingly productive finish to his season.
So Memphis definitely doesn’t need Diallo right now. But if there aren’t any available perimeter players that intrigue the Grizzlies, you could see them snagging Diallo and bringing him along slowly in the next couple of years.
DETROIT, 18th pick — Unless the Pistons want to get Diallo in order to turn him into an undersized backup center to play behind starting pivot Andre Drummond, I don’t think Stan Van Gundy would be especially interested.
Van Gundy’s teams tend to revolve around a dominant big man, and it appears unlikely Diallo ever will become that on offense. What’s more, Van Gundy prefers power forwards who stretch the floor with their shooting ability (see: Marcus Morris). Diallo just might not fit the Pistons’ style — now or in the future.
DENVER, 19th pick — The Nuggets, though currently existing as a middling Western Conference also-ran, have plenty of big men in their front-court rotation. While none of them are exactly household names, they are respected interior players nonetheless.
You never know what kind of trades could shake up any given roster between now and the start of the 2016-17 season, but if nothing happens with Denver on that front, the Nuggets would have bigs Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic under contract for multiple seasons, as well as Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler (who mix their time as stretch-4’s, and on the perimeter).
I don’t think Denver would draft Diallo because of that depth, but if it did it would be a good place for the 19-year-old to learn about life in the NBA, as an observer for a couple of seasons.
INDIANA, 20th pick — Myles Turner and Lavoy Allen are the only traditional big men under contract for the Pacers entering next season, so adding Diallo as insurance and using him sparingly as a backup could be in play at No. 20.
One would think given that need for post players — if Indiana doesn’t re-sign free agents Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi — the team would rather pick up a big man who can play and produce sooner. But if Larry Bird is confident he can bring back those two or add more big men via free agency, Diallo would be a great addition and they could teach him and mold him as they see fit before giving him meaningful playing time.
ATLANTA, 21st pick — This is the first case late in the first round where the team’s need may be too great for it to take a raw project such as Diallo.
There’s a very good chance the Hawks could lose Al Horford in free agency, and if that proves true it would leave them with just Paul Milsap and Tiago Splitter as veteran post players.
Atlanta needs someone who can help them immediately, and it is difficult to envision Diallo producing inside for an NBA team in the next 12 months. The Hawks, I’m guessing, would look elsewhere for a big man.
CHARLOTTE, 22nd pick — Unless the Hornets bring back free agents Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams, they’ll need some additions to their front-court rotation. You can’t just trot Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes out there and think everything will be all right in the post.
Odds are, either via trade or free agency, Charlotte will add some veteran help down low this summer. If that’s the case, it would make a lot of sense for the Hornets to select Diallo and let him grow as a player, under the tutelage of assistant coach Patrick Ewing.
The Hornets recently spent four seasons successfully developing big man Bismack Biyombo only to let him sign with Toronto as a free agent a year ago, just before a breakout campaign. After seeing first-hand how far Biyombo came, you could see why Charlotte would want to do the same with Diallo.
BOSTON, 23rd pick — The Celtics have eight draft picks this season, so if Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens like Diallo as a project for the future, they probably wouldn’t hesitate taking someone they know is a few seasons away from playing a key role. There are plenty of more chances for Boston to take players more ready to transition to The Association.
With interior players Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk under contract, and Boston actively pursuing big-named free agents and trade possibilities, Diallo wouldn’t be asked to become part of the rotation for at least a couple of seasons. The Celtics, under Stevens, have become strong defensively, and investing in Diallo for the franchise’s seemingly bright future shouldn’t surprise anyone.
PHILADELPHIA, 24th and 26th picks — If Diallo is still around at this point of the draft, you almost have to like his odds of joining Joel Embiid as a Kansas big man on the Sixers.
Philly, which will reportedly take Ben Simmons No. 1 overall, could have two chances to take Diallo. And, believe it or not, the downtrodden franchise might finally be in position to select a big man in the first round and not immediately insert him into the lineup.
It looks like Embiid might finally play next season, joining fellow lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor as options in the post (assuming neither of them gets traded), and yet another recent draft pick who has yet to suit up for the 76ers, Dario Saric, is likely to join the team next season, too.
None of this means the Sixers will suddenly be a playoff team, but it does mean the franchise could get away with taking a gamble on a big man with some upside for down the road.
L.A. CLIPPERS, 25th — Now that Chris Paul is 31 years old, the time for the Clippers to win is now, which means the last thing the team needs is a big man who can’t make L.A. better immediately.
It’s hard to come up with a reason for Doc Rivers adding someone who has little to no chance of contributing to a championship chase next season.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Toronto, 27th; San Antonio, 29th; or Golden State, 30th — While Diallo, as a competitor, surely would be disappointed if he didn’t get chosen until the final picks of the first round, waiting a little longer on draft night could set him up for a perfect start to his career.
The Raptors, one of the best teams in the East, and the Warriors and Spurs, two of the league’s model franchises, own three of the final four picks in Round 1 (Phoenix picks at No 28.)
If either Toronto, San Antonio or Golden State took Diallo, he could gradually come along as a player behind the scenes, working with some of the best staffs and rosters the NBA has to offer.
Odds are the high-energy forward will be valued enough by various teams to come off the board before this point. However, Diallo could easily turn into a force as a backup big man in a few seasons with the Raptors, Spurs or Warriors.
When center Udoka Azubuike joined Kansas basketball’s 2016 recruiting class in January, it certainly didn’t come as much of a surprise. Coach Bill Self and his staff routinely land big men from the high school ranks who bring to campus loads of hype to go their size and wingspans.
However, at the time, Azubuike’s commitment to KU didn’t conjure up visions of the 7-footer becoming an instant dominant force in the paint during the 2016-17 season.
In the midst of Cheick Diallo’s mostly unspectacular one-and-done campaign with the Jayhawks, and a year removed from the failed Cliff Alexander experiment, it was easy to assume a third straight year of mundane production from a freshman KU post player. Remember, even Carlton Bragg Jr., who had more of an impact last season than Diallo, only averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.9 minutes a game.
Lumping Azubuike in with other recent freshman post players, though, was unfair to the young big from Nigeria, who played his high school basketball for Potter’s House Christian Academy, in Florida.
Although Azubuike’s highlight mixtapes from his prep days didn’t look too novel compared to those of Diallo and Alexander before him, one can’t truly appreciate how dissimilar he is from his predecessors until seeing the colossal 16-year-old in person.
Sure, it was just a glorified pickup game last week for Self’s annual basketball camp, but Azubuike truly did play like “a monster” in the paint, scoring 26 points on 13-for-15 shooting while using his bulk to create space and then his raw strength to power the ball through the rim.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to say Diallo and Alexander were easy to defend in the post when they played for Kansas, but they wouldn’t qualify as difficult to stop, either. Azubuike has nearly 4 inches on Alexander and is 3 inches taller than Diallo. Factor in Azubuike’s reported 7-foot-5 wingspan and you have a physical specimen that could just as easily go toe to toe with The Hound from “Game of Thrones” as man the pivot for Kansas.
It is Azubuike’s borderline otherworldly combination of size and athleticism that both sets him apart from his predecessors and makes him more likely to discover immediate on-court success. Massive as he is — KU lists him at 270 pounds — the incoming freshman doesn’t lumber up and down the floor uneasily. Azubuike possesses the dexterity to keep his mountainesque frame smoothly in motion. Then he maneuvers nimbly in the post upon gathering an entry pass. Next stop: power dunk.
While every big man that comes through Self’s program doesn’t experience the same level of success, the coach’s love for utilizing the post isn’t lost on frontcourt prospects. The Kansas offense features post men when it is clicking, and that’s one major reason Azubuike chose KU.
“It’s just the style of play,” the promising center said. “I spoke to Coach Self several times, numerous times, and was watching them play. My style of play, my system of play, you can’t beat that. I just think KU was the best choice for me.”
In his first season of college basketball, it might be asking a bit much of Azubuike to replicate the freshman prosperity of Joel Embiid in 2013-14 — 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks 1.4 assists in 23.1 minutes. But the Jayhawks don’t necessarily need the youngster from Lagos, Nigeria, to produce at that clip, either. Kansas has Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg Jr. to lean upon inside.
Azubuike won’t have to start from Day 1. In fact, Self feasibly could bring the gigantic teenager off the bench all season and the newest KU center still could have a more influential first year than Embiid, who played for a young, inexperienced team. Azubuike enters a contrasting situation, in which be should become a force on a deeper, more versatile roster.
Self already has told his next freshman big he’s going to be one of the best interior players to suit up for Kansas during the coach’s 13 seasons in Lawrence.
That’s a mountain of praise, for sure. Even so, Azubuike’s abilities just might outweigh his expectations.
Sure, Svi Mykhailiuk might be in Europe this summer, training with and playing for his native Ukraine’s Under 20 national team. But when the 19-year-old guard spoke earlier this week at the 2016 adidas Eurocamp, in Italy, it sounded like his Kansas coach, Bill Self, had just been in his ear.
DraftExpress.com caught up with the KU junior, who averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists at the Eurocamp, as he and his team prepared for the upcoming Under 20 European Championships, in Finland.
Asked how the stop in Italy went for Ukraine, ahed of the July 16-24 international competition in Helsinki, Mykhailiuk came back with a Self-esque response.
“I think we’ve got a good team, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, because on defense we’re not really great,” said the 6-foot-8 guard, who clearly has learned defense and toughness earn players minutes back in Lawrence. “… but we just need to get better on defense and just talk more and (get a feel for) each other more, because we’ve just been practicing for 10 days and you can’t do a lot of stuff in 10 days. You can’t learn all of this in 10 days, so we just need a lot of time.”
Considered a first-round NBA Draft prospect for 2017 at this juncture, Mykhailiuk’s improving defensive skills showed up overseas. In the highlights provided by DraftExpress, “Svi” can be seen trapping hard on the wing, and swiping the ball away for a steal, as well as exploding through a passing lane for another takeaway, then finishing over a chasing defender at the rim.
According to the report, at one point a larger opponent tried and failed to post up Mykhailiuk inside.
“For me, if you can’t play defense you can’t play basketball, so I’m just trying to play defense, and offense just comes naturally,” Mykhailiuk told DraftExpress. “If you can play good defense it gives you a fast break on offense, and it’s a basket. It just depends on how you’re playing defense.”
Ah, yes. Offense. That aspect of the game certainly still matters to the third-year guard, as well. So don’t worry about “Svi for three” turning into a passé phrase next season. Mykhailiuk, who scored a career-best 23 points in KU’s NCAA Tournament win over Austin Peay this past March, looked even more comfortable with the ball in his hands while wearing the yellow and blue of Ukraine.
In the DraftExpress highlights, Mykhailiuk, who averaged 5.4 points in 12.8 minutes as a sophomore for the Jayhawks, looked more play-maker that spot-up shooter.
The 191-pound guard can be seen:
pulling up to nail a 3-pointer off an opening tip.
chasing down an offensive rebound and whipping a pass inside to set a teammate up for a dunk.
on a couple of occasions leading the break and dishing ahead for a Ukraine dunk in transition.
popping up to the top of the key and squaring up quickly to knock down a 3-pointer in rhythm.
utilizing a pick-and-roll to assist his teammate for a layup.
taking a handoff from a big man outside, then using the post player as a screener, giving him room to rise up for another successful shot from downtown.
surveying the floor well enough to rifle a look-away pass over his shoulder that hit a cutting teammate at the perfect time to convert a layup.
cutting hard backdoor for a basket in the paint.
making the best pass available in transition situations.
Still, Mykhailiuk didn’t come anywhere near painting himself as some kind of star during his interview. Again, the team-first concepts instilled by Self and other coaches he has played for through the years, such as Ukraine’s Maksym Mikelson, shone through in his words.
“My role is to help my team win. You know, do whatever it is to help,” said Mykhailiuk, who likely will continue to embrace that approach next season as a sixth man for Kansas. “If you need to take 20 shots, you take 20 shots. If you need to stay in the corner and (shoot) none and your team is playing good and they’re gonna win by doing that, it doesn’t matter for me what I’ve gotta do. I just want to see my team win.”
When he returns to KU and begins his third season in Self’s program, Mykhailiuk doesn’t anticipate a gift-wrapped expanded role or automatic increased playing time, either.
“It just depends on me,” he said. “If I’m gonna play good, I’m gonna play. And, you know, like Wayne Selden left, Brannen Greene left, so now I need to step up.”
That sounds like something “Svi” has heard before — probably from Self.
— Watch the entire DraftExpress video below:
The NBA Draft is still a week away, and for Wayne Selden Jr. more plane trips, workouts and chances to prove he can play at the next level remain.
Already, the Kansas guard who turned pro a year early has shown off his skills for Milwaukee, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York, New Orleans and Charlotte.
“You just take it day by day, you know,” Selden said Wednesday during a Q&A with Charlotte media. “You don’t really think ahead, you don’t think about past workouts. You wake up, sometimes you don’t know what city you’re in, but you’ve just gotta go do the workout.”
After a slight knee injury kept the 6-foot-5 prospect from participating in NBA Draft Combine drills and scrimmages, putting him at somewhat of a disadvantage against his competition, Selden at least appears to have recovered health-wise, re-gaining his bounce, explosion and lift on his jump shots.
At Selden’s latest pre-draft session, with the Hornets, he hit unguarded 2-point jumpers and 3-pointers from the left wing and left corner with ease. During one drill, the 232-pound shooting guard ran from corner to corner, finishing alley-oops at the rim each time he passed through the paint.
In a more traditional scrimmage setting, Selden nailed a jumper from the right wing. And during some one-on-one work, he got by his man for a reverse layup.
Check out the highlights from his Charlotte workout below.
Following the on-court display, Selden said he thought his latest test went as he hoped.
“I shot the ball pretty well, got in the swing of things pretty good,” Selden added.
As good as he looked in Charlotte, it doesn’t seem Selden’s recent workouts have generated enough steam for him to move up the mock drafts as of yet.
DraftExpress.com predicts the 22-year-old guard with a 6-foot-10.5 wingspan will be the 49th overall pick, going to Detroit in the second round.
Meanwhile, nbadraft.net has Selden getting taken a little later — 56th overall, by Denver.
Regardless of which city he is in or which team he finds himself working out for, Selden said he tries to showcase the things he can excel at on the court, such as: passing ability, creating out of screen-and-roll actions, guarding multiple positions, and “being an athlete.”
Playing at Kansas, he added, “tremendously” prepared him for this jump to the next level.
“Especially being there for three years,” Selden said, “and being able to mature there as a player, as a person, and overall.”
Seeing as how he just worked out for the Hornets, Selden was asked what he thought about the possibility of playing for the organization.
“I think I’d be a good fit, just being able to stretch the defense, being able to knock shots down, being able to play run-and-gun, stuff like that,” Selden said. “Being able to guard different positions.”
The Hornets currently own just one pick in the draft, and it’s in the first round at No. 22. All the projections floating around indicate that would be far too early to take Selden. But Charlotte could maneuver its way into a second-round pick pretty easily if it so desired.
What’s more, Selden could be an inexpensive option for the Hornets, who could potentially lose Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin in free agency and find themselves in need of some backcourt help to go with Kemba Walker.
Earlier in the week, Selden worked out with New Orleans, where he encountered some less serious questions. In particular: How old is Perry Ellis?
“That’s a good question,” Selden deadpanned, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m kidding. He’s only 22, right? I don’t know. I think he’s 22.”
Nailed it. Ellis is only 22, despite those social media photoshop jobs that might suggest otherwise.
According to Selden, the Jayhawks never jumped on that joke bandwagon.
“Nobody talked to Perry like that. We all respected Perry too much,” Selden shared, with the question coming up because Ellis attended the same Pelicans workout. “Perry didn’t get no jokes at him or nothing in the locker room. Perry was the man. Nobody would dare.”
As for Selden’s New Orleans showing, at least one reporter was amazed with his effortless dunking and asked if that’s something he spends a lot of time practicing.
“I just feel really good lately,” Selden said of his explosiveness.
Of course, Selden knows no team is drafting him solely for his powerful dunks.
“I’m just trying to play my game. That’s the biggest thing. Nothing more. Nothing less,” Selden said. “I can shoot it, I can guard different positions, I can get to the basket, I can create for others.”
What does the aspiring NBA 2-guard think of the Pelicans?
“It’s a good team. They’ve got a superstar in Anthony Davis. They’ve got great guard play and they’re good in transition, so I think that’s where I could fit,” Selden responded.
Unlike the Hornets, the Pelicans do own a couple of second-round picks not too far away from the range where Selden is expected to be drafted. New Orleans has back-to-back choices at No. 39 and No. 40.
While New Orleans does have Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Quincy Pondexter and Toney Douglas returning to its backcourt, injury issues often have depleted the team of its full cast the past couple of years, and Selden could give the Pelicans some rotation depth.
While his Kansas basketball teammates entertain young campers and address their own areas in need of on-court improvements this summer in Lawrence, Svi Mykhailiuk certainly isn’t slacking off during his tour of Europe with Ukraine’s Under 20 national team.
In preparation for the Under 20 European Championships in Finland, Mykhailiuk and his Ukrainian teammates spent the past few days at the 2016 adidas Eurocamp, in Italy.
DraftExpress.com covered the international basketball showcase in depth, and it appears Mykhailiuk truly is getting a chance to shine.
On the first day of action, which happened to be the KU wing’s 19th birthday, the man known in Lawrence as “Svi” scored 19 points, made 8 of 21 shots and went 3-for-9 from behind the 3-point line.
Day 2 brought more success, with Mykhailiuk reportedly continued to show “solid” defensive ability, and put up 14 points in 29 minutes, as Ukraine rolled against France’s Under 20 squad. Again, “Svi for three” proved a common theme, with the 6-foot-8 prospect from Cherkasy going 4-for-10 from deep.
Finally, Mykhailiuk closed out his adidas Eurocamp experience in style, posting a triple-double — 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists — versus the Under 18 USA Select Team. DraftExpress reported it was “arguably his best all-around game of the Eurocamp.” From downtown, the Kansas junior-to-be made 4 of 11, including successful 3-pointers on catches and off the dribble.
According to the DraftExpress report, Mykhailiuk got a chance on this stage of his summer trip to stand out as a primary ball handler, too — a role he only took on in cameo stints this past year with the Jayhawks, as Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham seldom needed to relinquish the keys to the offense.
Mykhailiuk first made a name for himself at the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit, and this week the evolving basketball prospect reminded onlookers he is more than just a spot-up shooter.
DraftExpress.com reported “Svi” also stood out as a primary ball handler:
“Mykhailiuk proved comfortable operating out of ball screens as he regularly whipped passes to the roll man and the weak side shooter… Mykhailiuk is able to see over the top of the defense, and while he's a capable — yet not overly polished — ball handler, he's quick enough to turn the corner and find teammates while on the move. The Cherkasy native was also able to turn several of his 11 rebounds into transition buckets, pushing the ball fluidly up the floor and creating scoring opportunities with no-look and behind-the-back passes.”
It should be pointed out, too, that Mykhailiuk was not by any means a perfect player during his standout performance. According to DraftExpress, he missed all 6 of his 2-point field goals and failed to finish on a pair of dunks against France.
“He also had some struggles creating high-percentage offense in isolation situations, and proved to be a bit streaky as a shooter for the majority of the camp,” the report stated.
Regardless of the ups and downs that come during Mykhailiuk’s international competition this summer, each part of his summer abroad will serve him well in his development, just as the World University Games helped many of the Jayhawks a year ago.
This was just the first of many chances for Mykhailiuk — currently projected as the 25th pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress — to take on new challenges and expand his perimeter strengths this offseason. More will come from July 16-24, in Helskinki, at FIBA’s U20 European Championship tournament.
By the time Mykhailiuk returns to Lawrence, he’ll find himself in an ideal spot for a breakout season. Opponents surely won’t overlook the young Ukrainian prospect, but he won’t have the burden of carrying a team, as the Jayhawks appear loaded yet again.
If the new-and-improved “Svi” currently on display in Europe can bring that play-making, off-the-dribble offensive game back with him to the U.S. and he finds ways in his third college season to become more assertive both in transition and in the half court, imagine how difficult it will be for KU foes to defend the likes of Mason, Graham, Carlton Bragg Jr., Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas.
Mykhailiuk might not even start next season, but it seems as if he is well on his way to taking his game to new heights.