We all know the Kansas basketball team is about to have another typically great season under the guidance of Bill Self. Win 30-plus games. Capture another Big 12 regular-season title. Enter March Madness as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four. You know the drill.
What we don’t know, however, is which of KU’s talented players will finish 2016-17 as the team’s leading scorer.
Each of the last couple of years, you got the feeling Perry Ellis would take that honor, and he did — 13.8 points per game as a junior and 16.9 as a senior during his (insert a number of years here that makes you laugh) season playing inside Allen Fieldhouse.
No Ellis means a new leading scorer for the Jayhawks this season, but it’s easy to make an argument for a number of different players, as Matt Tait has discussed recently here at KUsports.com.
In a not-so-scientific poll of KU basketball fans, the majority (53%) predicted junior guard Devonté Graham will put up the most points. Sure one-and-done wing Josh Jackson finished second, with 22% of the votes. Senior guard Frank Mason III accounted for 11% of the fans’ picks, but 14% thought another Jayhawk on the roster will score more than Graham, Jackson or Mason.
Thanks to SI.com, we now have some more information to digest in this debate. SI’s College Basketball Projection System forecasted statistical outputs for every player from the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, AAC, Atlantic 10 and Big East, as well as players on numerous marquee mid-major programs, and came up with a list of the top 100 scorers for the upcoming season.
The first Jayhawk to appear on the list is Jackson, at No. 49. SI’s system projects the versatile freshman small forward will average 15.7 points.
The only other Kansas representative on the list — which ends at players averaging 13.8 points — is Mason. The cunning veteran lead guard is expected to score 14.0 a game.
According to SI, Jackson figures to use 23% of KU’s possessions on offense, while Mason’s volume projects at 21%. Those numbers are close and indicative on how this team figures to play. There is no ball-dominant guard nor must-feed big man down low. The Jayhawks should have multiple capable scorers and matchups will determine who leads the team in points from game to game.
Of course, these computer-simulated numbers don’t mean the season actually will play out this way. Maybe Jackson leads KU in scoring before moving on to the NBA, like Andrew Wiggins did before him. Perhaps Mason’s athleticism and toughness help him accumulate the most buckets and free throws. Graham seems like a legit candidate, as well, with his three-point shooting touch and ability to finish in the open floor. And it’s hard to rule out Carlton Bragg Jr., who is poised for a significantly larger role as a sophomore. It should be an interesting storyline for KU fans to follow in the months ahead.
Also of note from SI’s projections, Kansas will have to figure out ways to stop some of the best scorers in the nation this year. Davidson senior point guard Jack Gibbs tops the list, with 23.6 points per game predicted. KU faces Gibbs at Sprint Center in December.
Duke junior guard Grayson Allen, whom the Jayhawks will see at Madison Square Garden in the second week of the season, came in at No. 3, with a projection of 20.1 points.
When Kansas opens the regular season in Hawaii, SI’s No. 13 scorer, junior guard James Blackmon Jr. (17.6 projected PPG) will be there trying to outgun Mason, Graham and Jackson.
Once Big 12 play begins, the most difficult man to stop might be Oklahoma State sophomore guard Jawun Evans, the conference’s top player on SI’s list (16.2 projected PPG).
— Check out the full list of 100 scorers at SI.com.
At the beginning of the month, when the Kansas football team reported to Lawrence for preseason camp, David Beaty invited another head coach on campus to give the Jayhawks a pep talk.
Behind closed doors, KU basketball coach Bill Self didn’t gloss over the football program’s struggles. He instead referenced the present as a place to start assembling a product that will make Kansas fans proud.
We know this now thanks to Time Warner Cable Sports Channel - Kansas City, which tweeted out a video of Self’s speech Thursday morning.
While Self hailed the importance of the football players being a part of the “Jayhawk family” he also informed them that he and the rest of the basketball program want to see them succeed.
“Get this in your head: We want you to win and win big,” Self said.
The way the 14th-year KU hoops coach explained it, the university’s storied basketball program has reached a place where their jobs as players and coaches are pretty obvious, and they’re constantly trying to match their historical predecessors.
“I’m never gonna be the best coach ever here,” Self told the KU football team. “Phog Allen coached here. And whoever we recruit is never gonna be the best player that ever played here. Hell, Wilt (Chamberlain) played here, OK.
“Our job is to maintain,” he continued. “You know what your job is? To build.”
While the first season under Beaty didn’t produce a victory, Self asked the players whether that difficult fall also served as the starting line for establishing a new culture.
“Now, deep in your core, if you’re worth your salt at all, would it mean more to you to be a builder or a maintainer? Think about it,” Self said. “Being a builder means maybe going 0-12 your first year, ’cause you don’t have as many bullets, all right? But being a builder is developing a culture. How are you gonna work? How responsible are you gonna be? How hard are you gonna study film? How good of leadership you’re gonna have. Are we gonna pick each other up? How good a teammate you’re gonna be. That’s the culture. That’s how you have a program.”
Before wishing the Jayhawks luck in the coming months, Self rattled off some of the universities where basketball and football have had great success, referencing Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Michigan State. Then the basketball coach reminded the players it wasn’t that long ago that KU football was great, too.
“That means it can be done again. You guys agree?” Self asked. “There’s been some brothers pave the way before, OK. Now you’ll get to pave the way for future teams coming.”
If the players in the football program now can lay the groundwork for another successful run like Kansas experienced with Todd Reesing, Aqib Talib, Mark Mangino and company, Self said they too will be “remembered forever” and understand what it’s like to be a part of the “Jayhawk family.”
— Watch TWC Sports Channel KC’s entire video below.
After spending a few weeks in early July playing for the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Summer League team, former Kansas basketball star Perry Ellis describes how his first few months as a professional have been different than his college experience.
“It’s different, you know,” Ellis says. “Everybody’s fighting for a job. When I got the opportunity, I tried to make the most of it when I was out there…
“It’s just all a process,” Ellis adds. “I just want to keep working and just keep fighting and try to get a place.”
Undrafted out of KU, Ellis, doesn’t have an NBA contract. Nor has he officially received an invitation to be a part of an organization’s training camp.
According to the four-year Kansas standout, he will weigh his options in the weeks ahead. Ellis says one possible path could be playing overseas.
Projected as a mid- to late-second-round pick after leaving Kansas a year early to enter the NBA Draft, Wayne Selden Jr. remained mostly silent in the days following what had to be a disappointing night for the 21-year-old guard, who watched from afar as 60 other players realized their dreams of being drafted into the world’s best basketball league.
In perhaps an even more surprising development for the undrafted Selden, no news regarding a free-agent deal or summer league assignment popped up for him after the June 23 draft, while his KU teammates Perry Ellis, Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson filled out summer rosters for various organizations.
A week after posting a photo on Instagram of what looked to be a shot taken inside the Memphis Grizzlies’ locker room, Selden finally took to Twitter Friday afternoon to share what has been on his mind, as a pro basketball player in limbo.
“You know, I was real frustrated when I didn’t hear my name called on draft night,” Selden wrote in the note he posted, along with the hashtag: TrustTheProcess. “Something I worked my whole life for, something I dreamed of. But I didn’t just work to hear my name called, I worked and continue to work to have a successful NBA career.
“After draft night, I felt like everything I worked for was a waste and got real down,” Selden continued in the note. “But now as I sit back and put everything into perspective, I’m truly blessed to be in this position I’m in. I know there are others out there that would kill to be where I’m at.
“Growing up coming where I’m from, all we wanted was an opportunity, a chance,” Selden added. “And the Memphis Grizzlies did just that by giving me a chance. God bless.”
According to The Commercial Appeal, Selden will be a non-roster player with the Grizzlies, meaning he’ll be a part of their preseason training camp in the fall, and the organization will decide from there how or if they want to move forward with the former KU guard, who averaged 13.6 points and shot 38.3% from 3-point range during his junior season.
Selden is not playing for the Grizzlies’ summer league entry in Las Vegas, a couple months removed from a “small” meniscus tear in his right knee, which kept him from participating in drills and scrimmages at the NBA Draft Combine. So he can’t even use July as a springboard for something bigger a few months from now.
Obviously, this path to the NBA isn’t an easy one. Nor is it what Selden envisioned when he decided to leave Kansas a year early. But if the thoughts highlighted in his note are genuine, he at least now has harnessed the right approach to work toward making that dream come true.
Although, as the Commercial Appeal’s Chris Herrington’s projected Grizzlies depth chart highlights, Selden truly will have to impress Memphis to stick around, because they’re not desperate to add a wing. The Grizzlies already have Tony Allen, Troy Daniels and Jordan Adams at shooting guard, and Chandler Parsons, James Ennis and Vince Carter at small forward.
The process and timeline for Selden reaching the NBA appear to be lengthy. Perhaps now that he understands that, he’ll become even more inspired to make it happen.
Four years worth of work with Kansas basketball wasn’t enough to get Perry Ellis drafted into the NBA. Now the 22-year-old forward has a few days in Las Vegas to secure a spot in the league the hard way.
A free agent playing for the Mavericks’ summer league entry beginning Saturday night, Ellis will try to convince the same coaches and executives who passed on him on draft night that he actually belongs on a regular-season roster.
Right now, the people Ellis needs to impress the most are Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. The Mavs’ Vegas team will focus on the development of second-year wing Justin Anderson and second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot center out of Purdue. However, while speaking to media members earlier this week, Cuban made it sound as if the other summertime Mavericks won’t be an afterthought for the organization.
“We’ve got a bunch of roster spots,” Cuban said Wednesday, in a video posted on the Mavs’ website. “We put our money where our mouth is in cap room, so there’s a lot of spots for guys to make, and they know if they do what we expect them to do, probably three guys, maybe four, from this group are gonna make the team.”
Cuban made that statement as Ellis and other Dallas hopefuls worked behind him. It has to be a strange dynamic for all the players except Anderson and Hammons. The rest are not only trying to play well, but also, in a sense, beat out the guys next to them for a coveted roster spot or training camp invite.
So who is Ellis playing with/competing against? Here’s a look at the rest of the Mavericks’ Vegas lineup, excluding the aforementioned Anderson and Hammons:
Chane Behanan, 6-6 forward from Louisville
Vander Blue, 6-4 guard from Marquette, who has played in 5 NBA games (none since the 2014-15 season)
Kyle Collinsworth, 6-6 guard from BYU
Dorian Finney-Smith, 6-8 forward from Florida
Jonathan Gibson, 6-2 guard from New Mexico
Isaiah Miles, 6-7 forward from St. Joseph’s
McKenzie Moore, 6-6 guard from UTEP
Giovan Oniangue, 6-6 forward from Congo
Satnam Singh, 7-2 center from India (Mavs’ Round 2 pick in 2015)
Jameel Warney, 6-8 forward from Stony Brook
Dallas hasn’t retained undrafted rookies from its summer teams of late, but if what Cuban said is true, this year could be different.
Ellis, a 6-foot-8 All-American who averaged 17 points and shot 53.2% from the field in his senior season at Kansas, surely understands the scope of what he could do for his professional career in the days ahed.
“You know, I’m just going to come out here and play hard,” Ellis told the Mavs’ website. “It’s a great opportunity for me. You know, it’s an honor to be here, and I just want to go out here and just play my game and play with a high energy.”
It sounds as if Dallas expects Ellis to fit in nicely with this makeshift unit that spent the past few days practicing together. The Mavericks’ summer league head coach, Jamahl Mosely, hailed the Jayhawk’s college résumé as a strength that should help Ellis and the Vegas version of the Mavs.
“He’s played a great amount of basketball,” Mosley said on the team’s website. “I mean, he played four years in college, and he’s very experienced. He knows how to play the game, so I think that’s going to be a big key for us. He knows how to play, he’s in the right position, and he makes the simple and easy play.”
Regardless of what transpires on the floor in Vegas, the Mavs likely won’t need any of these free agents to play critical roles in their regular-season rotation. But Cuban appears more inclined to give one or more of them a roster spot than he has in the past.
“We want to have a good crew of young guns that we develop,” the Dallas owner said.
If Ellis fits in as seamlessly as Mosley suggested and goes on scoring tears like he did at KU, the Wichita native just might land a spot in the NBA next season after all. And Ellis knows how significant this business trip to Las Vegas will be for his future. His first game is Saturday night against Miami (9 p.m., NBA TV).
In typical Perry Ellis fashion, he said his main focus for his summer league experience will be to play well and play hard.
“We’ll go from there,” he added, “and see what happens.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has to love bringing in some of the country’s top-ranked freshmen year after year.
Naturally, some first-year players are more exciting than others — even if Self, like a proud father, wouldn’t admit it. As a coach, few recruiting experiences could possibly match the satisfaction of landing the No. 1 overall high school senior.
And the more you hear about Josh Jackson, the top prep in the Class of 2016, the more it seems Self will be gushing about him for years to come.
Self enjoys coaching talented Jayhawks who possess an array of skills, sure, but he also values toughness and competitive drive — perhaps even more than other discernible traits.
Jackson already has drawn comparisons to the likes of Andrew Wiggins. His wingspan stretches 6 feet, 9 inches, and he’s a 6-foot-8 wing who can handle the ball, finish inside and make plays for his teammates.
But there’s more to Jackson than that. By many accounts, he might end up becoming the most passionate competitor Self has coached at KU. You probably read or heard about ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla claiming back in March that Jackson approaches the game with the motor of one of the NBA’s all-time ruthless spirits, Kevin Garnett.
Well, according to a profile written by Marc J. Spears for The Undefeated, Jackson is so cutthroat he trash-talked a hall of famer during a high school game earlier this year.
One of the NBA’s legendary distributors of dis, Gary Payton sat in the bleachers watching Jackson play against his son, Julian Payton. Jackson, so the story goes, gave the elder Payton a look after blocking his son’s shot. And things escalated from there.
“It was crazy,” Jackson recalled, speaking to The Undefeated. “It was real funny. In my years I never thought I would be in a gym talking smack to Gary Payton.”
Jot it down as just another glimpse at what Fraschilla calls Jackson’s “alpha dog mentality,” which should only help his stock during what is expected to be a one-and-done season at Kansas, followed by a spot among the top five picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Fraschilla said Jackson is as intense a player as he has seen in the past five to 10 seasons.
Where does he get that volatile alter ego? Jackson explained his penchant for basketball gab and vehement behavior to The Undefeated.
“I want to win. I feel like any player, if you play the sport of basketball, on the court you have to be a tough guy no matter what,” said Jackson, who hails from Southfield, Mich. “I don’t care who you are. Off the court, I don’t necessarily need to be that guy. But you do on the court.”
Just how fervent is Jackson? He actually considers Golden State forward Draymond Green “a big brother” of sorts after the two matched up in a pickup game in Detroit a couple years back.
As hardcore a trash-talker and villain as exists in the NBA, Green left the chance encounter a fan of Jackson’s, too.
“He just got that dog in him,” Green told The Undefeated. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the No. 1 pick next year.”
And we shouldn’t be surprised if Jackson quickly becomes one of Self’s favorite Jayhawks.
— Read The Undefeated’s entire profile on Josh Jackson: He’s got a game to match his mouth
Kansas basketball fans will have to wait a while to see the team’s newest member, Malik Newman, suit up and contribute for the Jayhawks. NCAA transfer rules dictate Newman, a guard who spent his freshman year with Mississippi State, won’t be eligible to play for KU until the 2017-18 season.
Still, plenty of intrigue surrounds the 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., who Rivals.com ranked the eighth-best player in the Class of 2015.
Considering Newman’s Bulldogs went 14-17 and weren’t exactly on the national radar, now is the perfect time to catch up on what you missed from his freshman season. Playing in 29 games, Newman averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists for MSU, while making 61 of 161 3-pointers (37.9%).
Statistics are a nice starting point for any player, but thanks to the power of YouTube we also can get a glimpse of his strengths and weaknesses after one season of college basketball in the SEC.
One of the first things that jumps out about Newman in his highlight reels is his natural feel for the transition game. He is able to attack and score inside with the ball or space the floor on the fly and drift out to the 3-point line to score from there.
Plus, Newman seems to be a strong finisher against bigs at the rim for someone his size.
At the NBA Draft Combine, the 19-year-old guard had the following measurements: 6-foot-3.5 in shoes, 182 pounds, 6-foot-5.75 wingspan and a 35.5-inch maximum vertical. Honestly, the numbers kind of surprised me, because I thought he might be closer to a Wayne Selden Jr. type. Selden obviously has some years and weight-room experience on Newman, but also some size: Selden measured 6-5.75 in shoes, 232 pounds, with a 6-10.5 wingspan.
But you can see some similarities in their games, so maybe Newman can occupy a Selden-type role when he finally plays for Kansas over a year from now.
One of the coolest things you’ll find on Newman is DraftExpress.com’s breakdown of his one meeting with Kentucky this past season. He put together 14 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound and 1 turnover in 27 minutes of what turned out to be an 80-74 loss at Rupp Arena. Newman shot 1-for-3 inside the arc and 2-for-4 from deep, while going 6-for-6 at the foul line.
The greatest part of this particular clip, though, is that DraftExpress breaks down the positives and negatives of Newman’s game against the Wildcats — remember, Newman was expected to be a one-and-done college player and did test out the draft process before returning and transferring to Kansas.
As detailed in the DraftExpress video (posted below), here is how Newman looked against the SEC’s best program.
Showed the ability to put pressure on a retreating transition defense, and either scored or got to the free-throw line early in the shot clock.
Moved without the ball after penetrating to set himself up for a wide-open 3-pointer.
With time running out in the first half, turned a ball-screen up top into a successful 3-pointer.
On an in-bound set, remained patient when he didn’t have an angle or shot on the catch, then prodded and created a lane to drive for a layup.
Caught a swing pass for what would’ve been a great look at a 3-pointer but blew by the closing out defender instead and exploded to the rim to draw a foul.
Though Newman isn’t a traditional point guard, he made plays to set up teammates .
Threw the ball ahead to a big man running the floor in transition.
Attacked off the dribble to draw the defense’s attention and kicked out a pass for an open 3.
Got to the paint off the bounce and created a passing lane for a post player, who finished inside.
Showed some defensive lapses in the half court, even though Mississippi State was playing a 2-3 zone at the time.
Didn’t prepare himself to properly defend a screen away from the ball, then couldn’t recover to stop his man.
Failed to help defensively as a weak-side defender when a UK player drove in for a layup.
Court vision wasn’t always 20/20, and missed some chances to drive and kick, instead forcing missed layups.
Obviously no player is perfect, but you can see why Bill Self would want to bring in someone with Newman’s skills. Self and his staff will develop Newman behind the scenes next year at KU practices in preparation for what will be Newman’s sophomore season.
By the time Newman finally plays for Kansas, he won’t look like a freshman anymore, and just might play like a junior.
The Malik Newman we just met should be a more complete product by then. And you know he’ll be hungry to get back on the floor and prove he’s good enough to live up to that top-10 ranking he had coming out of high school.
— For more discussion about KU's latest addition, check out our latest Spodcasters episode.
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.