Entries from blogs tagged with “college football”
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.
The NBA Summer League just got a whole lot less interesting.
The July games, which are designed to give rookies, young pros and free agents a chance to put in some needed work and/or impress coaches and front offices, aren’t exactly the height of basketball entertainment. But catching an early glimpse of an incoming lottery pick or seeing how a young player buried on an NBA bench performs when he actually gets some minutes provides fans and those who follow The Association with some offseason intrigue.
Sure, this year’s summer action most likely will include top picks Ben Simmons (LSU) and Brandon Ingram (Duke). However, even though the Sixers will end up with one of those potential stars, it’s a top-three pick from two years ago that many in Philadelphia have been clamoring to see.
Some hope existed that a recovering Joel Embiid finally would make his 76ers debut this summer. After two completely missed seasons and a recurring foot injury, it seemed Embiid’s rehab had gone well enough of late that you couldn’t rule out a summer preview of the former Kansas center. Until now.
Speaking with NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper on the state of the 76ers, Philadelphia’s new president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, squashed the idea of the 7-footer running the floor in Las Vegas and reminding everyone why Embiid might have gone No. 1 overall — instead of KU teammate Andrew Wiggins — in the 2014 draft had he not suffered such a serious foot injury beforehand.
Colangelo told NBA.com “there’s no timeline” for Embiid’s return to five-on-five basketball. Next, he gave Philly fans a sliver of hope on the Embiid front before abruptly wheeling the other direction.
“But until I hear a doctor tell me, 'No summer league,' I will always say anything's open,” Colangelo began. “But the likelihood of him playing summer league is nil. I would only say that because of where he is in the progression right now.”
Although the team boss went on to concede if Embiid made enough progress and the doctors signed off on it, there would be no reason to keep the big man out of Summer League games, he went ahead and essentially shut the door on the matter.
“I would say it's a 99-percent chance, maybe a 100-percent chance, that he's not going to play,” Colangelo said. “We just don't want to put him in a situation where he hasn't been playing competitive basketball. We probably want to ease into that and that would mean sometime after Summer League. But if he is going to come into training camp you want him to have at least a little bit of flow and a little bit of rhythm and to be in a position where he could have tested the foot to the extent that he's ultimately going to be exposed in a training-camp environment."
Bummer. Still, this is actually good news for Embiid. The organization isn’t about to rush him back onto the court and risk the years and money they’ve already invested in a center they hope can play a starring role in the franchise’s turnaround.
So those of us who miss watching Embiid’s absurd agility and footwork in the paint will just have to wait until the regular season begins. Hopefully. I mean, the 22-year-old from Cameroon hasn’t played a game since the Jayhawks traveled to Oklahoma State in 2014.
In the meantime, there’s always Embiid’s hilarious Twitter account to keep us entertained.
In a perfect world, a standout at a prominent college basketball program would love to transition to the NBA with a playoff team and keep that winning feeling rolling.
For plenty of rookies entering the league, though, such a dream scenario simply isn’t possible. If you’re a top pick, the odds are stacked against you, because a different set of odds are stacked in favor of the losing-est franchises.
Maybe former Kansas forward Perry Ellis will be one of the lucky souls who avoids the mediocrity to downright awfulness of playing for a struggling organization.
As of this week, DraftExpress.com doesn’t project Ellis to be drafted at all. So there is at least one positive to not being considered a lottery pick. Should that projection prove true and 60 selections go by without Ellis hearing his name called, he could sign as a free agent with any number of teams. He’d actually have some options.
In the past week, the 6-foot-8 Wichita native has attended pre-draft workouts with Boston, which tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference this past season, and Toronto, which won 56 games and reached the conference finals.
Speaking with reporters after his workout with the Raptors, Ellis described what intrigued him about the possibility of getting drafted into a winning organization such as Toronto.
“I felt like they had a great season. Great team. I love the way they play as a team together,” Ellis said, “and I mean it would just be an honor to get anywhere.”
Ellis, like many young players chasing their dream, sincerely might not care which team takes him (or signs him) as long as he has a spot in the NBA. But considering the man played for a KU program that went 116-30 (.795 winning percentage) over the past four seasons, you know the competitor in him would prefer joining the ranks of a successful franchise.
Already, Ellis has worked out for six different teams — “I’ve still got like five more to go,” he revealed. But he isn’t about to lose any steam now, with his future as a professional at stake. Ellis said he recovers from his sessions and travels by getting in a cold tub whenever possible.
According to the 22-year-old, the intensity of his Toronto workout ranked pretty high, as he played with and against guards and bigs.
“It was just quick and precise,” Ellis said, “just getting to it and doing everything at 100 percent, and then going to the next thing.”
One question often surrounding Ellis’ potential at the next level involves which position he would play. He doesn’t really look or perform like a traditional power forward or small forward. As far as he is concerned, though, he is capable of playing the 3 or 4.
“Just whatever a team may need,” Ellis responded, when asked to identify his ideal position. “I can kind of mold myself into it. I feel I can do a lot of different things, so that’s kind of what I’m thinking.”
As Ellis bounces around from city to city on his job interview tour, he hopes to prove himself as a high-character player who will compete “as hard as he can” on each possession, and do a lot of things on the court.
His college coach, Bill Self, said he spoke with Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Cheick Diallo early this week to catch up on their pre-draft progress.
“Perry says everything’s going good,” Self shared. “Of course, you know guys all think they’re doing well. If you’re a baseball guy and strike out three times in a game, you ask him how he played, ‘Hey, I had a great game.’ So that’s how guys always are.”
“I do think Brannen (Greene) and Cheick and Perry and Wayne have all had good tryouts for the most part,” Self added. “I’ve got word back from several teams that they like all of them.”
Whatever happens at the NBA Draft on June 23, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ellis will join some team as early as this summer on the momentum of a successful college career, which should be an attractive selling point for his future employer. You know what kind of person and offensive player you’re getting with Ellis.
“Playing four years at Kansas,” he said, “I gained so much confidence, learned so much as a player under Coach Self, so I feel like it benefited me a lot.”
Toronto seems like a nice potential fit for Ellis. The Raptors don’t currently own a second-round pick in this year’s draft, but those tend to be easily acquired on draft night, should they choose to snag Ellis late in the game.
The Raptors, for all their success this year, could always use some more scoring. Once you get past guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and some points inside from Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto doesn’t have many easy ways to get points.
One could envision Ellis coming in off the bench for some scoring punch on that roster. Even if he isn’t a true 4 or 3, you know he is quick enough to get by larger defenders and post up smaller guys when mismatches occur.
And wouldn’t a carved-out scoring role for a contender be a lot more fun than getting more shots for a bad team? We’ll see if Ellis turns out so lucky.
With the NBA Draft quickly approaching, it seems Cheick Diallo’s name might continue its steady climb up mock drafts and big boards.
Prior to the Draft Combine, the 6-foot-9 Diallo, who seldom played at Kansas in his one season, looked like a borderline first-round pick, with many prognosticators assuming he wouldn’t be selected until Round 2.
Fast-forward a month and the Kayes, Mali, native appears to be a mid-first-round pick at best, and a late-first-round pick at worst.
In DraftExpress.com’s latest offering, Diallo has broken out of the 20’s range, with Denver selecting him 19th.
Here’s a quick look at where other sites predict Diallo will go, with the draft just more than two weeks away:
NBADraft.net: 20th to Indiana
USA Today: 27th to Toronto
CBSSports.com: Sam Vecenie, 28th to Phoenix; Gary Parrish, 23rd to Boston
DraftSite.com: 28th to Phoenix
HoopsHype.com: 14th to Chicago
As ESPN’s Jeff Goodman recently explained in a draft profile on Diallo for the Celtics’ website, the forward’s ability to get up and down the floor faster than his competition began to intrigue scouts, coaches and general managers, once he really put his skills on display at the combine, in May.
“That’s what Cheick Diallo does. He plays hard,” Goodman said. “He’s a power forward who always played with energy. He rebounds, he blocks shots. Not a big-time scorer, but at the combine he showed that he could make some shots, so I think that surprised some of the NBA guys in Chicago, that he was able to do a little bit more away from the basket, because really what they saw in limited time at Kansas was just kind of cleaning up garbage points around the basket, finishing down low, scoring on put-backs, blocking shots again and running the court hard all the time, which is what he does.”
As has been well documented, Diallo only averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds while playing 7.5 minutes a game for the Jayhawks. Goodman thinks once the wiry-strong big stepped into the spotlight of the combine’s scrimmages he was better able to showcase his strengths.
“… He felt freedom that he wasn’t going to be pulled after a bad play like he was at Kansas with Bill Self, that he could go out there and just play the way he did back even in AAU basketball, where it was up and down,” Goodman said. “And that’s where he thrives, getting him up and down in a setting where they’re not running as many plays right now, and that’s where Cheick Diallo shows what he does well, which again, he’s kind of got some Ben Wallace to him from back in the day, where he’s just a ferocious rebounder who again plays with that high energy, that high motor.”
If Diallo ever does turn into a savage rebounder and defender such as Wallace or a high-energy rotation post player in the mold of Toronto’s Bismack Biyombo, the team that drafts him will be elated. Still, the wait-and-see process for Diallo, who remains a project, will take some time.
Goodman said Diallo would fit the toughness and defensive mentality of the Celtics, and the system of coach Brad Stevens. However, it’s not as if Boston or any other team would plug the 19-year-old right into its rotation.
“It’s gonna take probably three years to see the real Cheick Diallo and what he can do on both ends of the court,” Goodman said. “But right now you can put him out there and you know he’s gonna go hard. … The key again is the mental part of the game for him. He’s only been playing basketball for about five years. So it’s really still picking up the nuances of the game, rotations defensively, that’s gonna be the hardest part for him to adjust to the NBA game.”
Obviously, one easy way for Diallo to develop as a young pro will be trips to the D-League. Goodman doesn’t expect to see Diallo playing many NBA minutes during his rookie season.
“You want to get him as many reps as possible. You do that in the D-League,” Goodman said. “He’s a guy that again in three years you hope can become a rotation guy, maybe even a starter.”
Just as Self often praised Diallo for his maturity and how he handled an unfavorable situation during his one year of college basketball, Goodman liked the way Diallo reflected on his short time with the Jayhawks.
“This is a kid that easily could’ve thrown Kansas under the bus for not playing him when he was a top-10 recruit,” Goodman said. “He never did that, where Cliff Alexander did it a year ago. Instead, he really put the onus on the NCAA and said, ‘Listen, I wasn’t cleared. I was fighting from behind, and that’s why I only played seven and a half minutes a game. It wasn’t Bill Self’s fault. It was really the NCAA not clearing me in time.’
“So he’s still got that mentality of wanting to prove people wrong,” Goodman added.
— Watch Goodman’s entire segment below:
In just more than two weeks, Kansas basketball players Cheick Diallo, Wayne Selden Jr., Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene will all have much better ideas about what comes next in their respective basketball careers.
On June 23, the night of the 2016 NBA Draft, each will find out which organization thinks he can contribute at the next level — or, in the cases of Ellis and Greene, whether a team wants to use a pick on him at all.
Based on the number of Jayhawks on the board and the vast range of where they’re projected to be taken, it seems as if there is a good chance at least one of them could end up with Boston.
The Celtics have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and certainly won’t take anyone from KU at that slot. But the franchise also owns the 16th and 23rd picks in the first round, as well as the following second-round picks: 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th.
Boston might end up trading away some — or, who knows, maybe all — of those picks. But if the storied franchise hangs on to those choices, one would have to assume the names and games of various Kansas players will come up in the Celtics’ draft war room throughout the night, with as many as seven opportunities to select one of them.
In DraftExpress.com’s latest predictions, Diallo comes off the board at No. 23, to Boston.
Selden, meanwhile, is projected to go 47th — right in the range of the Celtics’ mid-to-late second-round picks.
While Ellis isn’t listed at all, it is easy to envision some team snagging him in the final 10 picks or so, and Boston owns the third-to-last choice in the draft.
In fact, Ellis worked out for the team on Monday.
At this point, it seems unlikely Greene will hear his name called on draft night. But the Celtics are in the market for 3-point shooting after finishing 28th in the league in long-distance accuracy (33.5%) in 2015-16 while attempting 26.1 3-pointers a game (11th most). So a summer league deal for Greene wouldn’t appear to be out of the question.
If Diallo, Selden or Ellis ends up in green, It wouldn’t be the first time Boston looked to KU for some help in the draft. Paul Pierce, of course, became a franchise great after the Celtics took him 10th overall in 1998.
Nearly two decades earlier, Boston selected Jo Jo White at No. 9, in 1969.
But not every KU-Boston connection has been Hall of Fame worthy. When boston.com put together a gallery of “Biggest draft busts in Celtics history” a pair of former Kansas players made the list.
In 1976, Boston selected Norm Cook 16th overall. As described in the boston.com feature, Cook “accumulated just 138 minutes on the floor as a rookie before the Celtics declined to pick up his second-year option.”
In 2008, the Celtics used the 30th overall pick on a wing out of New Mexico who began his career at KU: J.R. Giddens. “Despite the low expectations that come with being the last pick of the first round (30th overall), Giddens still disappointed to the tune of just 28 points in 27 games spanning one full season and part of the next.”
Boston hasn’t selected a player who suited up exclusively for Kansas since Pierce.
Courtesy of basketball-reference.com, here is a list of every KU player drafted by the Celtics:
Gil Reich, Round 11 (pick not listed) — 1953
Maury King, Round 6, Pick 48 — 1957
Jo Jo White, Round 1, Pick 9 — 1969
Dave Robisch, Round 3, Pick 44 — 1971
Roger Morningstar, Round 8, Pick 144 — 1975
Norm Cook, Round 1, Pick 16 — 1976
Tony Guy, Round 2, Pick 46 — 1982
Paul Pierce, Round 1, Pick 10 — 1998
Will 2016 be the year the Celtics add another Jayhawk? We’ll find out soon.
When the 2016-17 Kansas basketball schedule came out this week, the names of programs such as Kentucky, Duke and Indiana instantly captured eyes and attention, making it easy to ignore many other opponents on KU’s calendar.
In particular, the Jayhawks’ games at Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo., don’t exactly inspire one to start clearing off dates on his or her calendar.
KU will face two of the following three teams the week of Thanksgiving, at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic: UAB, Georgia and George Washington. Then, in mid-December, Davidson (yet to be re-named Steph Curry University for some reason) travels to K.C. to take on Bill Self’s squad.
Those are three less than appealing games for KU’s fans, for sure. But when it comes to next season’s Kansas team, the short trips down I-70 are more about quantity than quality. It’s all about the venue, really.
Since Sprint Center opened in 2007, it has served as an easy spot for KU to play “neutral” regular-season games in front of thousands of its fans. And, unless Kansas is facing Iowa State or Kansas State, the Jayhawks generally enjoy a similar environment for Big 12 Tournament contests.
Self’s Jayhawks are 31-6 all-time at their home away from home, following their win over West Virginia in the conference title game this past March.
Next season, Kansas is expected to run its regular-season Big 12 title streak to 13, meaning another No. 1 seed for the league tourney. Barring an upset along the way, KU, led by Frank Mason III, Devonté Graham, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg Jr., Josh Jackson and Svi Mykhailiuk, should play — and win — six games at Sprint before the NCAA Tournament begins.
That’s where things really get interesting for KU. Kansas City isn’t just hosting two rounds of March Madness in 2017. The Midwest regional champion will be crowned at Sprint Center. The Jayhawks have a real shot at playing Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games less than an hour away (depending on traffic) from Allen Fieldhouse.
Suddenly those non-conference games in K.C. seem a lot more meaningful. Mason, Lucas and Graham already are accustomed to Sprint Center success, and their confidence on that court will only grow in the months ahead. Plus, with younger players such as Bragg and Mykhailiuk stepping into larger roles, and freshmen Jackson and Udoka Azubuike expected to make significant contributions, the more the Jayhawks experience victories in the downtown arena the better.
By the time next March gets here, playing and winning — maybe even winning big — at Sprint will feel routine for the Jayhawks. The games wouldn’t quite be on the same level as playing NCAA regional semifinals and finals in the fieldhouse, but it’s as close as KU can get to having such an advantage.
So just how likely is Kansas to play in the Midwest bracket? Well, as of June 1 at least, the Jayhawks are projected as the No. 1 seed in that region by ESPN’s “bracketologist,” Joe Lunardi. If that actually holds true nine months from now, Kansas would open The Big Dance in Tulsa, Okla.
Taking care of business in Rounds 1 and 2, KU fans have learned, certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion. Still, if the Jayhawks prove to be as explosive as everyone figures, their road to the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., looks enviable.
Mason, Graham, Jackson and company might as well get comfortable in Kansas City’s home for hoops. They should be seeing a lot of the locale next season.
Marcus Morris is the coach. Markieff Morris is the general manager. Thomas Robinson is the team’s booster.
What is this? Some Kansas basketball fanatic’s twisted NBA 2K dream?
Not exactly. Actually, this is the structure for team FOE, a potential entry in this summer’s The Basketball Tournament — better known as TBT.
The past couple of weeks, Markieff Morris has tweeted out links about his FOE venture, in need of support — via fans’ online votes — in order to qualify for the 64-team tourney, which begins in July.
While it would be entertaining to see the Morris twins and Robinson team up to and take on all comers in the tournament, they’re in the NBA, and that’s not a possibility. Instead, the former KU stars will have to watch from the sideline if they can drum up enough interest.
There is some good news for Kansas fans on that front, however. Of course the Morrii and Robinson have recruited a couple of their former teammates for the cause. On FOE’s team page, Mario Little is listed as the squad’s small forward and its shooting guard is Tyshawn Taylor.
The other players currently on board with FOE are power forward Sean Evans (St. John’s), point guard Scott Rodgers (Drexel) and point guard Vincent Simpson (Hampton).
According to a spokesperson with TBT, team FOE will need to get into the top 11 in fan voting in its designated region (Northeast) in order to receive an automatic berth. As of Thursday afternoon, the Morrii and company had a lot of ground to make up, as they were in 29th place.
Meanwhile, TeamDBD, featuring former one-and-done Kansas guard Josh Selby as both a general manager and point guard, is safely in the field in the South region.
So here’s your chance, Kansas fans. If FOE is going to play in this TBT it’s kind of up to you IMO. Visit the FOE page to vote for the former Jayhawks’ entry.
Who knows. Maybe FOE gets in and wins the whole thing. And, here’s where it gets really interesting: Fans of the tournament champions actually can win a cut of the prize money.
According to TBT’s website, once you vote for a team you become a “fan” of that team. Through the site, fans can earn “points,” and the top fan of the title-winning team gets $20,000. What’s more, four fans win $10,000, 15 fans get $4,000 and 80 more fans win $1,000.
Even better, fans can vote for up to four teams. And each time you recruit someone else to vote for a team, you score a point.
It’s an intriguing setup, and just like those NCAA Tournament pools in March, can actually score you some cash, too. Happy voting.
When Wayne Selden Jr. opted to undergo a procedure to fix a “small” meniscus tear in his right knee, it meant the junior shooting guard from Kansas wouldn’t be able to, you know, play basketball at the NBA Draft Combine.
Theoretically, Selden could have helped his draft status — like teammate Cheick Diallo did — by going through drills and making plays in scrimmages. Maybe the 6-foot-5 guard could have impressed enough scouts and coaches to establish himself as a likely first-round pick.
Instead, Selden will have to try and bust into the first round the hard way, as he works out for various organizations in the weeks to come.
At this point, Selden is projected to go in the middle of the second round. DraftExpress currently slots Selden at 47th, to Orlando, and NBADraft.net guesses Boston will take the Roxbury, Mass., native 45th.
While at the combine last week, when Selden wasn’t having some fun with Georges Niang, he got measured (8-foot-5 standing reach, 6-10.5 wingspan, 6-5.75 height in shoes, 6-4.25 height without shoes, 232.4 pounds, 7.3% body fat, 9.25 inches hand width, 9.0 inches hand length) and interviewed with a number of teams. Selden told BasketballInsiders.com he interviewed with representatives from Indiana, Dallas, Charlotte, New York, Denver “and a few other teams.”
After going through the process of finding an AAU home and a college basketball program, Selden said the process wasn’t too overwhelming.
“But this time you don’t pick,” he added of the biggest difference heading into the next stage of his basketball life.
Selden said his trip to the combine was a step toward achieving his dream, but his knee injury made it tough for him.
“You wanna get out there and always want to be able to compete and stuff like that,” Selden said. “But I’m not trying to rush anything, so I’m just gonna take my time, and when I’m ready I’ll be out there.”
According to Selden, his basketball workouts are already back to “almost full speed,” but the possibility of contact while playing setting him back forced his decision to sit out.
“I’m about two to three weeks out,” he said of returning to normal basketball activities and being able to show off the athleticism that made him stand out at Kansas.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, while trying to prove he can contribute to an NBA team, Selden hopes his “uber-competitive” nature and work ethic will come across to coaches and executives.
Asked to name current or former players he tries to emulate, Selden explained his approach to becoming a successful shooting guard at the next level.
“Not really modeling too much,” Selden said, “but I’m looking at a lot of different film now on guys like Nick Anderson, Mitch Richmond, Dwyane Wade, Michael Finley, just different guys like that, just trying to pick different things from those guys.”
Selden, who played three seasons at KU, said his time in Lawrence prepared him well for the pre-draft process.
“It made me a man,” the 21-year-old said, “and, you know, especially at Kansas with the media attention we get and stuff like that. And coach wasn’t easy on us, and I had to grow up there. And it really prepared me for this moment.”
We’ll continue to track Selden’s journey toward the draft, as well as the stock of KU players Diallo, Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene, in the weeks ahead at KUsports.com.
— Watch Selden’s complete interview with BasketballInsiders.com below:
Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self, who basically doubles as the general manger, president of basketball operations, CEO, guru, etc. of the program, has told the Lawrence Journal-World’s Gary Bedore on multiple occasions he didn’t expect KU big man Cheick Diallo to return and play for the Jayhawks next season.
It didn’t matter that the freshman who measured 6-foot-9 in shoes (because that’s the kind of thing you find out at the combine; Diallo is 6-7.5 without shoes) hadn’t signed with an agent, leaving open the possibility of testing the pre-draft process and returning to Kansas if he so desired.
Self figured all along Diallo would remain in the draft. The past couple of days in Chicago, the Mali native who only played 7.5 minutes a game at KU, producing 3.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks, proved Self, as usual, knew what he was talking about.
In Thursday’s combine scrimmage, Diallo went for 18 points, made 7 of his 10 field goals, grabbed 4 rebounds and swatted 4 shots.
The undersized big man, who makes up for it with his 7-4.5 wingspan and willingness to play harder than his opponents, followed that up in Friday’s scrimmage by scoring 9 points, shooting 4-for-8, snagging 10 boards and blocking 2 shots.
Although Diallo gave some KU fans hope by saying Friday in an on-air interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz he was still thinking about whether to hire an agent and turn pro, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman soon after reported Diallo told him he would stay in the draft.
Again, Self never thought Diallo would return, so this didn’t come as a particularly earth-shattering development — even if the timing of ESPN’s reports came across as puzzling.
During ESPN’s coverage of the combine, analyst Jay Bilas made it clear he doesn’t think Diallo is ready to play in the NBA next season. But Bilas also thinks Diallo would be a “solid first-round draft pick.”
That’s the thing about Diallo. No NBA coach or scout watches him play and thinks, We can plug him right into our rotation. They like Diallo’s energy, wingspan and potential to improve in the years to come.
NBA decision-makers don’t care what Diallo did or didn’t do at Kansas. They only care about what kind of player they think he can become.
And that’s why Self wisely saw this coming from miles away.
Perhaps it is far too early to claim Player A will beat out Player B and Player C for some college basketball award that will be handed out 10 months from now. Maybe we should save such discussions for weeks before the season starts, instead of months.
Whatever your take on that front, it is at least noteworthy that those debates already are taking place in some circles, and a Kansas veteran might be in line for some major hardware by the end of the 2016-17 season.
While looking ahead to next year in the Big 12, NBC Sports predicts not only a 13th consecutive regular-season championship for Bill Self’s Jayhawks, but also a Player of the Year honor for senior-to-be Frank Mason III.
It’s not too farfetched of a conclusion when you consider all the talent the Big 12 has lost from this past season.
All five members of the 2016 All-Big 12 first team won’t be around next year, thanks to Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor unexpectedly entering the NBA Draft, joining Buddy Hield, Georges Niang, Perry Ellis and Taurean Prince as professionals.
Only Iowa State point guard Monté Morris and Mason return from the All-Big 12 second team, with Wayne Selden Jr. and Devin Williams turning pro, and Jaysean Paige done with his college career.
Even the all-conference third team featured three players who won’t be back next season: seniors Rico Gathers, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler. Baylor’s Johnathan Motley and Wesley Iwundu of Kansas State will have a crack at making bigger names for themselves and contending for a first-team spot in 2017, or perhaps even challenging the Big 12’s other top talents for the honor of Player of the Year.
So if Mason is one of the top contenders for the coveted award next season, who else might push him or surpass him in the race?
You have to start with Morris. The Cyclones, like the rest of the mostly rebuilding Big 12, honestly, don’t seem likely to threaten KU for a league championship. However, if ISU can finish in the top three or four and Morris puts up big numbers — and he’ll have a chance to lead Iowa State in scoring while still distributing as much as ever — the Cyclones’ lead guard could turn out to be the favorite.
Athletic Baylor big man Motley could become one of the league’s breakout stars next season, now that Prince and Gathers won’t be part of the Bears’ frontcourt.
Looking at other younger players in the conference poised for a leap in productivity, one would think West Virginia’s Jevon Carter will become Bob Huggins’ featured guard next season, and the Mountaineers seem to remain competitive in the Big 12 regardless of who Huggins puts on the floor.
With all the upperclassmen Shaka Smart is losing at Texas, a blossoming player will have to carry the load. Here’s a vote for Kerwin Roach Jr. emerging as a havoc-inflicting guard. The Longhorns might be a year or two away from really challenging KU for a Big 12 title, but next season Texas will start looking more like a Smart VCU team and less like a Rick Barnes team.
Implausible as it sounds, Oklahoma State, which finished ninth in the Big 12 in Travis Ford’s final season as head coach, might have a pair of dark horse candidates for player of the year. If either veteran Phil Forte III (who only played 3 games last season after suffering a ligament tear in an elbow) or young dynamo Jawun Evans put up eye-popping enough numbers and new coach Brad Underwood gets the Cowboys back into the top half of the league, don’t count out one of these explosive guards.
If you think about it, though, Mason’s toughest challenger in the race for Big 12 Player of the Year just might be in his own locker room. Should the Jayhawks roll through the conference as expected it would be hard to make a case for a player from another school winning. But it isn’t too difficult to see Devonté Graham becoming just as legitimate a candidate as Mason for the league’s top individual honor.
Plus, can we really count incoming KU freshman Josh Jackson out of this conversation? Probably not at this point. Should Jackson indeed come in and essentially play as much as Selden did this year on the wing, while at least matching the freshman-year production of Andrew Wiggins, Jackson would deserve some consideration, too.
If Self has the team dominating all season, the discussion might not be if a KU player will win Big 12 Player of the Year. The better question could be: which one?
A sixth-round draft pick in 2015, former Kansas defensive back JaCorey Shepherd had worked his way up the Philadelphia Eagles’ depth chart heading into his rookie NFL season.
But after putting himself in position to play as the Eagles’ nickel corner, a training camp collision with Darren Sproles tore the ACL in Shepherd’s right knee, forcing him to miss the entire 2015 schedule.
Still, putting his professional career on hold in order to rehab his knee hasn’t changed the 23-year-old’s outlook too drastically.
Shepherd told PhillyMag.com’s Birds 24/7 site he hasn’t left The City of Brotherly Love much since the injury, and described his path toward recovery as “hard.”
“It’s been crazy, but I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the game and how to be patient,” Shepherd said in the report, “and a lot about how to take care of my body.”
The young Eagles defensive back told Birds 24/7 his knee rehabilitation is ahead of schedule, and because he has never spent so much time away from football the rest has done his body a favor.
Shepherd hopes to be knee brace-free by training camp this summer.
“I have no doubt. As of right now the way everything’s going, I’ll be ready for sure,” Shepherd said, “and maybe I’ll be able to do something in the mandatory minicamp.”
Shepherd understands that once he is cleared to play, he’ll likely have to prove himself a worthy option in the secondary all over again, and he is eager for the challenge.
“I know the expectations were kinda high,” Shepherd told Birds 24/7 of his potential entering last season. “I’m going to keep ’em high, regardless of how they view it or how anyone else views it. I still look at myself to [pick up] where I left off, and I’m not going to settle for anything else… I’m not going to use this as an excuse.”