Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”

Free agent Thomas Robinson searching for right fit, respect in NBA

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

There are far bigger, landscape-changing names on the NBA’s open market this summer than Thomas Robinson. But it’s hard to come up with many free agents as desperate to find the right fit. Robinson needs to find a franchise where he belongs.

After leading Kansas to the 2012 national title game, Robinson entered the league as the No. 5 overall pick. Three years later, the 6-foot-10 forward has been traded three times and waived. Now, for the first time since picking KU, he gets to choose his next team.

An energetic big man who is only 24, Robinson performed rather well in limited minutes once Philadelphia claimed him off waivers late this past season: 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes over 22 games.

Beginning with Sacramento, which drafted him, and continuing in Houston and Portland, Robinson either hasn’t impressed teams enough or got caught playing behind more effective veterans.

As he tries to find a franchise that both wants him and will use him effectively, Robinson told Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams he’s letting all the doubt about his potential fuel him.

“I can’t stand the politics of it,” Robinson said in the Grantland feature. “I lost all respect for why I thought I wanted to come to the NBA. I’m not here for the same things I had in mind when I got drafted or when I was a kid. My mind-set has completely changed.

“Outside a few handful of players in this league, other than that, you’re up for grabs. Anybody. So right now, I’m not playing for money no more. I’m not playing for love. I’m playing because I want my respect back. That’s pretty much my mind-set until I’m done.”

The Grantland piece provides much more insight from Robinson on the business side of the NBA and his ongoing struggle to establish himself as an important player, and goes into his relationship with his former KU teammates, Marcus and Markieff Morris, their mother’s role in Robinson’s life and much more.

With free agency just under way, Philadelphia has plenty of available money, but its three projected best players, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, all play inside. So the 76ers seem unlikely to re-sign Robinson. The prevalent rumor is that Brooklyn wants to add him to its frontcourt.

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However, the Nets reportedly agreed to big deals with their own free agent bigs, Brook Lopez and Thad Young. So if they want to pick up Robinson, too, they don’t have much money to offer him without making some other moves.

If that’s OK with Robinson, and Brooklyn promises him playing time, he could decide to sign on for a one-year deal, showcase his abilities and become a free agent again next summer.

Then again, if Robinson wants the added security of a longer deal and more money, there could be plenty of other intriguing opportunities out there.

CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper compiled a definitive list of salary cap situations and team needs for the entire NBA this summer. Using that as a jumping off point, here are some other organizations that could use Robinson and afford to throw some bigger pay days his direction.

Boston has plenty of cap space and had only three noteworthy post players — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk — under contract before reportedly reaching an agreement with Amir Johnson. Still, Danny Ainge always seems to be chasing down trades, so there is no guarantee Sullinger, Zeller or Olynyk will remain on the roster.

Detroit also has ample room to stay under the salary cap. The Pistons are expected to let Greg Monroe sign elsewhere, leaving them with Andre Drummond in the pivot and Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver as their power forwards.

New York needs starting big men and backup big men. At this moment, No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis is the only post player set to be under contract next season. The Knicks are rumored to have interest in Monroe, David West and LaMarcus Aldridge. But if they strike out on a couple (or all three) of those guys, why not fill a need and inject some energy with Robinson?

Dallas has money to burn with Mark Cuban calling the shots, and the Mavericks desperately need some interior players, too. Cuban will chase all the marquee names available in free agency or via trade. Even if Dallas lands another post player, aging Dirk Nowitzki could use all the help he can get inside defensively and on the glass.

The Los Angeles Lakers hope they can lure Aldridge or make a deal for DeMarcus Cousins. If those ventures fail, they’ll need depth inside to go with Julius Randle and Tarik Black (Robert Sacre has a non-guaranteed deal).

Phoenix might be the most alluring destination for Robinson if the Suns are interested in him. No doubt, he would love reuniting with his #FOE brothers, the Morrii. But Phoenix reportedly reached a deal with Tyson Chandler and also has dreams of adding Aldridge. With Markieff, Alex Len and Chandler all in line for plenty of minutes, Robinson likely would need assurances of playing time to head to the desert.

Whether all — or any — of those teams want to add Robinson remains to be seen. Plus, new deals are popping up by the minute this time of year, so situations with every franchise remain in flux.

In the young power forward’s mind, he still expects to live up to his top-five-pick status and become an All-Star. One might say he considers himself a diamond in the rough.

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“If it happens the wrong way, I know it’s my fault,” Robinson told Grantland. “I’m betting on myself right now.”


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


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Paul Pierce, Thomas Robinson, other Jayhawks hit free agent market

When the clock strikes midnight and June turns to July, NBA free agent season officially begins.

With the 2015 draft out of the way, teams can begin attempting to plug the last — or many — holes on their rosters by offering millions of dollars to the players whose previous contracts just expired.

While national attention turns to the rumors and meetings surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Loves and other marquee names, the coming days and weeks will determine the professional futures of some former Kansas stars, too.

Here is a look at seven Jayhawks in play as free agency begins.

Paul Pierce | Washington | F | age: 37

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Pierce might be on his fourth team in four seasons by the time the summer signing frenzy finishes. Now a 17-year league veteran, the former Boston Celtic and one-year Brooklyn Net surprised many last summer by signing on with Washington.

Though the Wizards, who made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as Pierce averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past spring, didn’t expect him to opt out of his deal this summer, the veteran forward decided to give himself some options as he nears retirement.

While D.C. remains a legit candidate to re-sign him, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston both are reportedly interested in adding the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, who won a title with the Celtics, while playing for now-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

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In a piece from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, Wizards coach Randy Wittman remained positive about keeping Pierce in the fold.

“End-of-the-year meetings, talking to him here after the season, I think he was really pleased with the situation that he walked into here, what he was able to help with this team, the future of this team and where we’re headed,” the coach said. “I think those are all great positives. I feel very positive that we’re going to be able to have him back in the fold next year.”

Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer, however, thinks Pierce will chase another title with Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Thomas Robinson | Philadelphia | PF | age: 24

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Three years removed from Sacramento taking him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson likely will join his fifth NBA franchise this summer. The athletic, raw 24-year-old post player experienced a crazy couple days in February, when Portland traded him to Denver, the Nuggets promptly waived him, Brooklyn planned to sign him and Philadelphia snagged him off waivers before he could become an in-season free agent.

The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported Brooklyn, who planned to sign Robinson if he cleared waivers, will target him in free agency.

“He could provide energy and rebounding as a low-cost reserve big, an area where the Nets could use help,” Bontemps wrote.

The decision is all Robinson’s, though. Other suitors could emerge, and he’ll likely take the deal that is best for his financial future.

Upon landing with the 76ers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.

Cole Aldrich | New York | C | age: 26

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

While the Knicks figure to actively recruit some bigger available names, Newsday reports Aldrich is one of the Knicks’ own free agents who is likely to return.

Aldrich told the Journal-World a couple weeks ago he didn’t yet know what kind of deals would come his way.

“It’s just nice to get out there again,” he said. “It’s another summer to get better, and that’s all that matters.”

As a young, inexpensive big man coming off a career year (5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), Aldrich shouldn’t have any trouble finding steady work.

Darrell Arthur | Denver | PF | age: 27

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A 6-foot-9 backup big man, Arthur won’t create a lot of buzz, but The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg put the former KU standout on his list of “sleeper” free agents. Some advanced stats, cited by The Post, reveal Arthur’s worth:

“The Denver Nuggets were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively this season with Arthur in the lineup,” Greenberg wrote, “ and he held opponents to 0.9 points per play when he was called on to defend in the post.”

CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore ranked Arthur as the 37th-best available free agent, ahead of Pierce (40th).

Drew Gooden | Washington | PF | age: 33

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gooden has stuck around the league for 13 seasons, so he must be doing something right. The veteran big man reinvented his game to remain relevant and served Washington this past season as a stretch power forward.

Gooden averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Wizards’ playoff run. According to The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Gooden had a “we’ll see what happens” approach to his free agency.

“I feel like I was a component to help get to where we at right now,” Gooden said. “… Whether I am here or somewhere else, I will continue to get better and fill this role I have taken with the Wizards. I would love for it to be here but if it is not, this is a business and I can swallow that pill, too.”

Jeff Withey | New Orleans | C | age: 25

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Pelicans haven’t used Withey much (9.9 career minutes per game) in his two seasons of service, but that doesn’t mean they want to dump him in the offseason.

The Advocate reported New Orleans would extend a one-year, qualifying offer to Withey, a restricted free agent. If Withey doesn’t find an offer from another franchise for more money, the Pelicans will keep him for next season and he’ll become a true free agent — unrestricted — in 2016. They can retain him for $1.1 million next season in that scenario, or match any offer another team comes up with for the seldom used backup center (2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes this past season).

Xavier Henry | L.A. Lakers | G/F | age: 24

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Actually, Henry has been a free agent since last December. After a breakout fourth season in 2013-14 (10 points per game), the young swingman ruptured left achilles this past November, cutting his fifth season short. The Lakers then cut Henry in order to sign another former KU player, Tarik Black.

Henry’s history of injury problems might scare away some organizations, and no one will sign him until he’s back healthy and cleared by a team’s medical personnel. If he can get back healthy, though, and recapture the kind of play he displayed almost two years ago, Henry could emerge as a wild card addition that no one is mentioning at this juncture. Considering all the variables, the offseason uncertainty figures to stretch on for months for Henry.


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


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Kelly Oubre Jr. talking a big game before his NBA career even begins

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. spins the ball on his finger during a portrait session for team photographer Stephen Gosling after an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. spins the ball on his finger during a portrait session for team photographer Stephen Gosling after an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The newest Kansas basketball player to join the ranks of the NBA, Kelly Oubre Jr. doesn’t appear to care about making any friends before his first season.

The Washington Wizards acquired the one-and-done small forward on draft night from Atlanta, and since describing himself as a jewel during ESPN’s live coverage, the brash 19-year-old hasn’t let up.

Fourteen different organizations passed on Oubre before Atlanta took him for Washington at No. 15. According to the 6-foot-7 wing (who didn’t call any of his fellow draftees out by name), he is a better player than No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 2 pick D’Angleo Russell, No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor and so on, and so on.

“I have confidence in myself, so I believed that I was a top-10 pick from the get-go,” Oubre said in a piece from The Washington Post’s Scott Allen. “I don’t think that there’s 15 guys, or however many guys, that are better than me.”

Added the newest Wizard:

“A lot of guys that went in front of me, I know I’m better than.”

According to The Post, Oubre at least said in a Monday radio interview that he has respect for some specific players selected before him: Minnesota’s Towns, Philadelphia’s Okafor and Detroit’s No. 8 pick, Stanley Johnson.

Then he went right back to talking a big game:

“It’s a kill or be killed world, and I feel like I can do a lot of killing in this world.”

Oubre couldn’t resist himself on Washington’s 106.7 The Fan.

“I’m a competitor. I’m not going to say another guy’s better than me, because I don’t feel that way,” he continued. “I’m not going to say something I don’t feel. They’re great players, don’t get me wrong.”

Keep in mind all of this came a few days after he said the following when asked about his relationship with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the 2013-14 NBA MVP:

“We’re competitors,” he said. “I’m not enamored with who he is. That’s Kevin Durant, but I’m Kelly Oubre.”

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It seems the more Oubre talks, the less his peers — and ample pool of superiors — will find themselves enamored with him. He could’ve entered the league quiet, humble and hungry. At some point in the past few months, he decided to take another route.

Talking himself up to this extent wouldn’t even go over well if Oubre left college as a can’t-miss prospect. He’s far from that.

In his one season with the Jayhawks, Oubre averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 36 games, while making 44.4 percent of his shot attempts and 35.8% of his 3-pointers (34-for-95). A bad season? No. But he wasn’t exactly impressing decision-makers at the next level, either.

Oubre’s time at KU and how his game translates to the NBA both came up in a post-draft Grantland podcast from ESPN’s Ryen Russillo and Chad Ford. According to draft insider Ford, some scouts came away from watching Oubre at Kansas and asked, “What exactly does he do well again?”

One NBA general manager, after seeing how much the svelte perimeter player with the 7-foot-2 wingspan got by on raw athletic ability and instincts, went so far as to describe Oubre to Ford as a “basketball illiterate.”

However, Ford travelled out to Santa Barbara, California, before the draft to see Oubre and other top prospects as they trained at the popular P3 facility. Ford left impressed with Oubre’s dedication to improvement, which included three-a-day training sessions and basketball video breakdowns at night.

While Ford predicted a “rocky start” for Oubre as a rookie, he thinks his future could look a lot brighter — if he continues to put in the requisite work.

“If he develops,” Ford said, “the Wizards got an absolute steal at 15.”

On Monday, Oubre responded to the “basketball illiterate” comment during his radio appearance on The Sports Junkies.

“That’s people’s opinion. People don’t know me. People don’t know the things that I do,” the rookie-to-be said. “I’ve been a basketball player for a very long time and I’ve always watched the game. … I love the game of basketball, and I study the game of basketball, so I’m definitely a gym rat.”

If Oubre wants to one day live up to all of his own propaganda, the gym would be a great place to start, because each of the 14 players drafted ahead of him — and any veteran who finds him a little too cocky — will go out of his way to remind the Wizards rookie of how far he has to go.


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Stock watch: NBA Draft Eve edition

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

By the end of Thursday night, Kansas one-and-done prospects Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander will know which NBA city they will call home. For now, they have one more long day of anticipation ahead of them.

A possible lottery pick, Oubre received an invitation to the NBA Draft’s green room for Thursday night’s festivities in Brooklyn, New York. He has his duds picked out and is ready to go after spending much of the last month-plus working out for numerous franchises.

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Alexander, a projected lottery pick before he arrived at KU, likely won’t hear his name called until the second round. That doesn’t mean he’s any less excited.

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Now that NBA Draft Eve has arrived, let’s take one last look at where Oubre and Alexander might end up, as they embark on their professional careers.

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 23rd 39th
MyNBADraft.com 16th 41st
DraftExpress.com 15th 34th
DraftSite.com 22nd 37th
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 16th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 15th N/A
BleacherReport.com 14th N/A
FOXSports.com 17th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 13th 52nd
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 14th 34th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts down a dunk in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts down a dunk in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

— SF, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 16th

Current high: 10th — Miami (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 23rd — Portland (NBADraft.net)

Stock assessment: Slipping. Just a couple weeks ago, Oubre’s average position fell in the late lottery, around No. 13. Since then, the small forward’s name is appearing later and later on mock drafts and big boards.

Of course, positives and negatives come with this development. There is the matter of money: the later Oubre gets picked, the less he’ll get on his rookie deal. However, because he isn’t going early in the draft, the young swingman has a chance to land on a decent-to-very-good team.

Take a look at the organizations predicted to take Oubre. Even the ones that reside in the lottery are great situations: Oklahoma City (14th), Miami (10th) and Phoenix (13th).

If Oubre remains sitting in the green room after the first 14 picks, that means he’s headed to a playoff team: maybe Portland (23rd), Boston (16th), Atlanta (15th), Milwaukee (17th) or even Chicago (22nd).

Really, the better the team that takes Oubre the better it will be for his NBA career, short-term and longterm. If the 19-year-old lands with an organization such as Oklahoma City or Chicago, he’ll find himself immediately on a championship-caliber roster. He might not factor into the rotation right off the bat with the Thunder or Bulls. But if those teams are healthy all season and routinely blowing out lesser opponents, Oubre will get his chances to play as a rookie. More importantly, he’ll learn in a winning environment, and practice with some of the league’s stars and key difference-makers, which could prove far more valuable than playing 30 minutes a night for a lousy team.

Atlanta could be the best of both worlds for Oubre. The Hawks had the best record in the Eastern Conference this past season, but they’re not loaded with depth at small forward — especially if DeMarre Carroll signs elsewhere as a free agent. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer learned from one of the best in the business, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are renowned for getting the most out of their role players and developing them to meet their full potential. “Coach Bud” could do just that with Oubre, and bring him along slowly in a winning culture.

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 38th

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

Current low: 52nd — Dallas (Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com)

Stock assessment: Holding steady. Not all of the mock drafts floating around out there go as in-depth as others. But those that include Round 2 projections most often feature Alexander’s name in that range.

After a less than remarkable season at KU, Alexander looks like a project, for sure. But second-round picks don’t get guaranteed contracts, so teams don’t mind rolling the dice on players who have yet to prove they have any chance of sticking around in the NBA.

Longtime NBA writer Chris Sheridan said Alexander will be off the board within the first 10 picks of the second round.

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If that’s true, it would mean Alexander ends up with one of the following franchises: Minnesota (31st and 36th picks), Houston (32nd), Boston (33rd), the L.A. Lakers (34th), Philadelphia (35th and 37th), Detroit (38th), Charlotte (39th) or Miami (40th).

With two early second-round picks for both the Timberwolves and the Sixers, Alexander could find himself on the same team as one of his KU one-and-done predecessors, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

Wherever Alexander goes, the organization won’t put any added pressure on him to produce immediately. It will be up to him to make a case for the team to keep him around.

If he’s lucky enough to land in Minnesota, the 19-year-old big man could could join the T’Wolves’ youth movement, in which Wiggins and likely No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns will play the starring roles.

That scenario also would allow Alexander to learn from someone he would respect — even while getting showered with criticism. Kevin Garnett, who figures either to retire and join the Timberwolves in some off-the-court capacity or return for one more season, could build the youngster up by breaking him down. Alexander responded well to such tactics from Bill Self while at KU. And no offense to Self, but KG probably has way more street cred with a young power forward trying to find his way in the NBA.


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


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Sixers slowing down Joel Embiid’s recovery process

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Almost a year ago, coveted 7-foot NBA prospect Joel Embiid fractured a bone in his right foot. Proceeding with caution, Philadelphia elected to bring the promising young Cameroonian along slowly in the rehab process, ultimately deciding to keep him out for the entirety of what would have been his rookie season.

Over the weekend, the franchise that took a chance on the young center out of Kansas with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft revealed that foot hasn’t healed as much as anticipated.

As bad as that bit of news sounded for Embiid and the 76ers, it got worse Monday when The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported the injured big man might not be available when the season begins in a little more than four months. What’s more, “a legitimate chance” exists that he could miss the entire 2015-16 season.

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The upcoming NBA Summer League figured to mark Embiid’s unofficial professional debut, but now he isn’t expected to participate in any of the July exhibitions. The Sixers, Pompey reported, still are trying to figure out Embiid’s next step, and nothing — including surgery — has been ruled out.

The future didn’t seem so dire, though, in one third-hand account of the center’s situation. On Monday afternoon, Bill Self told reporters KU assistant coach Norm Roberts spoke with Embiid on the phone this past weekend and the injury-plagued big told his former college assistant “he hasn’t re-injured anything.”

“Basically, he’s been working out and everything, and the doctor told him — based on doing the MRIs or X-rays or whatever they do… even though it feels better, it doesn’t look like it’s made the progress they would hope at this stage, so they were gonna slow him down,” Self related. “But by no means, from what Jo has told us, 'slow down' does not mean major setback. It means they’re gonna give it a little bit more time to heal before they put him in stressful situations.”

The Inquirer reported Embiid hadn’t quite reached the portion of his rehab that allowed him to play five-on-five, but the Sixers had claimed his rehab process was moving along on schedule before the unexpected news release about his recovery this past weekend.

It appears the organization is prepared to keep Embiid out as long as necessary. General manager Sam Hinkie knew when he drafted the 7-footer, despite the pivot’s arsenal of skills, risks could accompany Embiid to the NBA. The GM doesn’t want to wreck his investment just to get him in a Philadelphia uniform more quickly.

"Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career," Hinkie said Saturday.

An unnamed Eastern Conference executive told Pompey Embiid is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s ongoing rebuilding process.

"They were hoping he was a franchise player. If he's not a franchise player, their whole plan is gone,” the source told The Inquirer. “If Embiid can't play or if he can't reach a superstar level, their plan is really in trouble."

Late in another losing-filled season (the Sixers finished 18-64 and secured the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft), Philadelphia slowly began building the hype for Embiid’s debut, but now no one is sure when exactly that day will come.

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Oozing with potential but handcuffed by injuries, Embiid hasn’t played in a game since March 1, 2014, when he re-injured his back in a road loss at Oklahoma State. Whatever the timetable for his return turns out to be, the 21-year-old big man (who, as of Monday afternoon, had maintained social media silence on the matter) has to be looking forward to feeling like a basketball player again.


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Kansas only program to produce three different NBA Finals MVPs

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

In the annals of momentous NBA feats, nothing stands out quite like winning The Finals. Hoisting that Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy sets the all-time greats apart from their contemporaries, many of those who came before them and even players in the future.

Few professional basketball players can call themselves NBA champions, and fewer still can claim the title of Finals MVP. Michael Jordan earned that label six times in the 1990s to give him the most all-time (the award didn’t become official until 1969 — sorry, Bill Russell).

But did you know no college basketball program has produced more Finals MVPs than Kansas?

The NBA’s history account tweeted out that nugget Friday morning.

None by NBA History

Many on Twitter guessed North Carolina or UCLA were the only program to turn out three different Finals MVPs. (Check out the replies on the above Tweet for some entertaining answers.)

None by NBA History

However, Jayhawks Wilt Chamberlain (1972, Los Angeles Lakers), Jo Jo White (1976, Boston Celtics) and Paul Pierce (2008, Boston Celtics) made KU the winner of this category.

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

“Wilt the Stilt” won his second NBA championship in 1972, having led the Philadelphia 76ers to the promised land in 1967, before the Finals MVP award existed.

The 7-foot-2 legend averaged 14.7 points and 21.0 rebounds in the ’72 playoffs for the Lakers. Against the Knicks in the championship round, he had 12 points in a Game 1 loss before L.A. took the next four and he put up 23, 26, 12 and 24 to close it out.

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

White, a two-time NBA champion with Boston, picked up his Finals MVP honor in his second title run.

A 6-foot-3 guard from KU, White averaged 22.7 points and 5.4 assists in the 1976 playoffs. In a six-game Finals against Phoenix, White scored 33 in a two-point Game 5 victory and averaged 21.7 points for the series.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Teaming with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston for the first time that season, Pierce won his only championship to date in 2008.

The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals during the Celtics’ 2008 playoff run. Boston beat the Lakers in six games to win it all, capped by a 17-point/10-assist outing from Pierce that sealed it for the Celtics. “The Truth” averaged 21.8 points in those Finals, made 11 of 28 3-pointers and proved to be a critical play-maker, too, dishing out 6.3 assists per game.

If Pierce decides against retiring this offseason and returns for 2015-16, he could get back to The Finals for the first time since 2010.

But will Kansas be able to add to its list of Finals MVP-winners any time soon? Probably not. If any current Jayhawks in the NBA have a shot at one way down the road, it would be either Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

You can safely rule out Brandon Rush in these 2015 NBA Finals, as he’s yet to suit up against the Cavs.

None by Brandon Rush


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


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Hornets bring in Kelly Oubre Jr. for individual workout

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. smiles after some hustle on the defensive end turned the ball over to the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. smiles after some hustle on the defensive end turned the ball over to the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The Charlotte Hornets — owners of the No. 9 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft — had Kelly Oubre Jr. in for an individual workout Thursday. It marked the first such session for the one-and-done small forward from Kansas, who got to show off his athleticism, wingspan and potential for a team’s coaches without other potential draftees sharing the coveted spotlight.

Afterward, the lottery hopeful told Charlotte-area media he showed the Hornets everything he can do as a player.

“Hopefully they’re pleased. You know, I believe they are,” the ever-confident Oubre said in an interview posted on the Hornets’ website. “This is an organization I could see myself thriving in, as well. I can come in immediately and make an impact — whether just pushing my teammates, my future teammates, or being an impact on the court immediately. I’m just trying to maximize all my opportunities and be the best player I can be.”

Previously, Oubre worked out with other draftees-to-be for the Pacers and Suns, for example. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing thought he performed well under pressure, and told The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell he didn’t request to have a solo workout.

“I was informed I was going to be the only one on the court, and I didn’t argue,” Oubre said. “All eyes (were) on me. That felt good; I got to show out a little bit.”

None by Charlotte Hornets

Oubre considers himself mature for his age (19), and said his “supporting cast” — his parents, Kelly Oubre Sr. and Tonya Coleman Oubre — was behind him 100 percent when he decided to leave KU after one season of college basketball. As he has alluded to previously, Oubre said he thinks he can thrive in the NBA with his length (7-2 wingspan) and the ability to play more in open space at the next level.

“I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m willing to focus on basketball solely and dedicate myself to the game,” Oubre said. “I don’t have any other distractions. The game of basketball is everything to me now, and I’m committing the time to be the best player that I can be.”

The Hornets also posted video highlights from portions of Oubre’s workout on their team site.

Oubre showcased his:

• cross-over and pull-up jumper

None by Charlotte Hornets

• perimeter spin move en route to the lane

• fade-away, Dirk Nowitzki-esque jumper off one foot

• 3-point shooting from the left corner, left wing and top of the key

• ability to move from block to block in repetition, pick up a basketball on each side of the paint and jam it home

• conditioning (again), by running from sideline to sideline and finishing alley-oops in between

Oubre told reporters in Charlotte he also has workouts scheduled with Denver (7th pick), Detroit (8th pick) and Utah (12th pick). Plus, he’s trying to finalize a workout with Miami (10th pick).

On Chad Ford’s list of top 100 draft prospects at ESPN.com, Oubre currently sits at No. 12.

The Hornets played shooting guard Gerald Henderson and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the most minutes per game at the wing positions this past season, and Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor are the only two players on the current roster listed as small forwards. So if Oubre really did impress Charlotte — and the organization’s decision-makers think he can become a consistent 3-point shooting threat (the Hornets shot a league-worst 31.8% from downtown in 2014-15) — Oubre at No. 9 makes some sense.

Charlotte desperately needs some scoring/shooting, though, to compliment the interior scoring of Al Jefferson. Lance Stephenson didn’t make nearly the impact anticipated after the Hornets signed the former Pacer last summer. Oubre didn’t look like much of a go-to scorer or shooter at Kansas — 9.3 points, 34-for-95 from 3-point range. The Hornets will have to agree with the youngster about his ability to thrive in The Association to take an unproven scorer with a top-10 pick.


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


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Ben McLemore venturing into rap

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

When you hear the name Ben McLemore and the word mixtape used together, you might assume a YouTube highlight reel awaits: 3-pointers, drives to the rim and dunks in transition.

However, SB Nation site Sactown Royalty reports McLemore has plans for a different type of mixtape this summer. The former Kansas shooting guard wants to release a mixtape of rap tracks.

Sacramento’s starting 2-guard already has two songs posted on YouTube — listen to them at SactownRoyalty.com (as long as you don’t mind lyrics that would come with a PARENTAL ADVISORY label).

McLemore told SB Nation’s Blake Ellington he began rapping while attending KU, in Lawrence, and he just considers it a hobby.

"I want people to hear my music to see what they think about it," McLemore said. "I've got some nice feedback."

The 6-foot-5 22-year-old certainly realizes basketball will take him farther than the rap game. He showed improvements in his second year in the league while also standing out as someone who gives back to the community.


So don’t wrongly assume his passion for hip-hop means he’s putting hoops on the back burner.

"This upcoming year, I want to make another leap," McLemore told SB Nation. "I'm going to work hard this summer, it's just the type of player I am."

McLemore, who began playing for new Kings coach George Karl late in this past season, also said he’s excited about what will be his third year in Sacramento.

"I think my skill set and his system collapse together. It fits perfect in what he's trying to do with this program,” he told SB Nation.


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


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Stock watch: Draft night just a couple weeks away for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Both Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander have spent the past few weeks traveling to various NBA cities, meeting coaches and team executives and going through workouts and interviews — all in the name of proving themselves worthy of a rookie contract.

Nothing comes easy on the road to the league, even during this pre-draft stage. Alexander found that out last week, when he suffered a mild MCL sprain while working out for the Los Angeles Lakers. The big man’s draft stock steadily fell throughout his one season at Kansas, and even the most minor setbacks won’t help his chances of sneaking into the first round.

None by Los Angeles Lakers

Oubre, meanwhile, finds himself in a different sort of competition, as he and other potential lottery picks try to climb up the big boards in draft war rooms around The Association.

None by Scott Horner

The two one-and-done products from Kansas have just more than two weeks remaining to show off their skills, impress the right people and maximize their initial earning potential.

Here’s a look at where the two Jayhawks stand in various mock drafts around the web:

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 19th 45th
MyNBADraft.com 9th 38th
DraftExpress.com 13th 42nd
DraftSite.com 20th 41st
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 14th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th N/A
BleacherReport.com 9th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 12th 37th
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 35th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

— SF, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 13th

Current high: 9th, Charlotte (MyNBADraft.com, BleacherReport.com)

Current low: 20th, Toronto (DraftSite.com)

Stock assessment: Slightly improving. Nothing is guaranteed at this juncture, but it appears Oubre won’t slip out of the top 14 picks at the June 25 draft. Eight of the 10 forecasts have him getting picked in the lottery, in the range of 9th to 14th. Potential landing spots for the athletic young small forward include Charlotte, Indiana, Utah, Miami, Phoenix and Oklahoma City. Other predictions had Washington and Toronto picking him up later in the first round.

None by P3

For those of us who don’t have access to NBA workouts and draft preparation databases, NBA.com’s player metrics pages offer a cool alternative. The special feature profiles numerous soon-to-be rookies and includes vital measurements and information on each prospect.

Oubre has a 3-foot-1 vertical leap, a 7-2 wingspan, 6% body fat and his hands are 9 inches long and 9 inches wide.

As a handy comparison — which you can access on the page — Oubre has a better vertical (by 5 inches) and longer wingspan (5 inches) than Golden State’s Klay Thompson.

None by NBA Draft

The prospect analysis section of the profile offers even more insight. Oubre’s weaknesses are listed as:

• “has to gain size and strength”

• and “needs to keep working on consistency”

Here’s what one Western Conference scout had to say about the 19-year-old wing’s game:

“You get him in space and let him go, and you can't guard him. But when the game slows down, he can get in trouble. Now, can he get better? Yeah. Can he improve his shot? Yeah."

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) takes some contact from Oklahoma State forward/center Anthony Allen Jr. (32) as he elevates for a dunk during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) takes some contact from Oklahoma State forward/center Anthony Allen Jr. (32) as he elevates for a dunk during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 38th

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

Current low: 45th, Boston (NBADraft.net)

Stock assessment: Slightly slipping. Only one draft prognosticator still thinks a team will use a first-round pick on Alexander, who appears to be a longterm project as an NBA big man.

Obviously, any number of teams could take him in the second round, but according to the mock drafts that include second-round predictions, potential suitors include Boston, Detroit, Utah, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Alexander’s player metrics file lists his wingspan at 7-4, his body fat at 6% and his hand length/width at 10 inches.

As a likely second-round pick, the 19-year-old big still has plenty of holes in his overall game. His weaknesses include:

• “at 6-9 in shoes, doesn’t have great NBA PF size”

• “has to continue to work on post moves”

• “needs to develop consistent face-up game”

• and “can he score over NBA bigs?”

Despite those areas of concern, some team will take a chance on Alexander because of that 7-4 wingspan and his potential as a rebounder. NBA teams always need depth in the frontcourt and that could give him a shot at sticking around in the league.


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


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Devonté Graham projects as one of KU’s all-time great point guards

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) gets in for a bucket against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) gets in for a bucket against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

From time to time during Devonté Graham’s freshman season at Kansas, the young point guard exhibited the shooting, passing and decision-making of a veteran.

The 6-foot-2 lead guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, scored a team-high 14 points in his debut, came away with three steals against Florida in a comeback victory, didn’t miss a shot on his way to a career-high 20 points against TCU and got KU to overtime by hitting two clutch free throws late against West Virginia.

The floor general in the making, though, made his most lasting impression in the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Graham led KU with 17 points, pilfered five takeaways and knocked down three 3-pointers.

For a program that has suffered two consecutive early exits in March Madness, optimism abounds for Kansas heading into the 2015-16 season. The Jayhawks are expected to be just as good as — if not better than — any of the nation’s projected top teams, such as North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Iowa State, Virginia and Arizona. The return of Graham, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, Svi Mykhailiuk and Hunter Mickelson to go with another highly regarded recruiting class brings on those expectations.

At Kansas, one comes to expect significant individual improvements from season to season, and Graham has heaps of potential as a point guard. Just ask his coach, Bill Self.

“Devonté’s gonna be our next Aaron Miles,” Self proclaimed at KU’s end-of-season team banquet. “That’s what Devonté is. He’s Aaron, but can actually shoot it better than Aaron. A lot better than Aaron.”

Miles could be considered the last true point guard to start at Kansas. Most of Self’s primary ball-handlers through the years have played more like combo guards or scoring point guards.

How does Graham compare to Miles and other former KU ball-handlers? We’ve only seen one season of Graham, so it helps to narrow down the sample size for all the players in the discussion. Check out the NCAA Tournament numbers for Miles, Graham and every other lead Kansas guard to play a significant role during his freshman season in the past 15 years.

Each Jayhawk point guard is listed with the season of his tourney debut and the seed KU earned that year.

Kirk Hinrich — 2000, No. 8 seed

Kansas University players Kirk Hinrich, left, and Drew Gooden, try to steal the ball from Colorado's Jamahl Mosley. KU defeated Colorado, 84-69, to register the 1,700th victory in program history.

Kansas University players Kirk Hinrich, left, and Drew Gooden, try to steal the ball from Colorado's Jamahl Mosley. KU defeated Colorado, 84-69, to register the 1,700th victory in program history. by scott-mcclurg

• vs. No. 9 seed DePaul — 81-77 win (OT):

8 points, 3/4 FGs, 2/2 3s, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 rebounds in 29 minutes

• vs. No. 1 seed Duke — 69-64 loss:

12 points, 4/7 FGs, 3/5 3s, 1/3 FTs, 6 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 28 minutes

— Averages: 10 ppg, 63.6% FGs, 71.4% 3s, 33.3% FTs, 5.0 assists, 4.0 turnovers, 3.0 rebounds in 28.5 minutes

Aaron Miles — 2002, No. 1 seed

Jayhawks Aaron Miles, left, and Keith Langford, hug each other in
the waning moments of Sunday's Midwest Regional final in Madison,
Wis.

Jayhawks Aaron Miles, left, and Keith Langford, hug each other in the waning moments of Sunday's Midwest Regional final in Madison, Wis. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

• vs. No. 16 seed Holy Cross — 70-59 win:

7 points, 3/8 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/1 FTs, 1 assist, 5 turnovers, 2 steals in 36 minutes

• vs. No. 8 seed Stanford — 86-63 win:

8 points, 2/4 FGs, 0/0 3s, 4/4 FTs, 5 assists, 4 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal in 25 minutes

• vs. No. 4 seed Illinois — 73-69 win:

13 points, 5/11 FGs, 1/3 3s, 2/2 FTs, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 7 rebounds, 1 steal in 35 minutes

• vs. No. 2 seed Oregon — 104-86 win:

6 points, 2/10 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 8 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds, in 30 minutes

• vs. No. 1 seed Maryland — 97-88 loss:

12 points, 1/7 FGs, 0/4 3s, 10/12 FTs, 10 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in 28 minutes

— Averages: 9.2 points, 32.5% FGs, 10% 3s, 90.4% FTs, 5.8 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals in 30.8 minutes

Russell Robinson — 2005, No. 3 seed

Kansas University freshman Russell Robinson, right, drives against
Texas A&M's Dominique Kirk during a game Jan. 5 at Allen
Fieldhouse. Robinson and fellow backup point guard Jeff Hawkins are
battling for the right to be No. 2 off the bench behind senior
Aaron Miles.

Kansas University freshman Russell Robinson, right, drives against Texas A&M's Dominique Kirk during a game Jan. 5 at Allen Fieldhouse. Robinson and fellow backup point guard Jeff Hawkins are battling for the right to be No. 2 off the bench behind senior Aaron Miles. by Journal-World File Photo

• vs. No. 14 seed Bucknell — 64-63 loss:

Did not play

— Averages: DNP

Mario Chalmers — 2006, No. 4 seed

Kansas guard Mario Chalmers drives to the bucket against the Bradley defense in the second half.

Kansas guard Mario Chalmers drives to the bucket against the Bradley defense in the second half. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 13 seed Bradley — 77-73 loss:

15 points, 6/11 FGs, 2/4 3s, 1/2 FTs, 0 assists, 5 turnovers, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, 5 fouls in 34 minutes

— Averages: 15.0 points, 54.5% FGs, 50% 3s, 50% FTs, 0.0 assists, 5.0 turnovers, 3.0 steals, 3.0 rebounds in 34.0 minutes

Sherron Collins — 2007, No. 1 seed

Kansas guard Sherron Collins lunges to the bucket above Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks during the first half of Sunday's second-round game against the Wildcats at the United Center in Chicago. Left is Kansas forward Darnell Jackson and right is Kentucky forward Sheray Thomas.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins lunges to the bucket above Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks during the first half of Sunday's second-round game against the Wildcats at the United Center in Chicago. Left is Kansas forward Darnell Jackson and right is Kentucky forward Sheray Thomas. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 16 Niagara — 107-67 win:

15 points, 4/9 FGs, 2/3 3s, 5/6 FTs, 6 assists, 0 turnovers, 4 steals, 1 rebound in 20 minutes

• vs. No. 8 Kentucky — 88-76 win:

8 points, 4/11 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound in 26 minutes

• vs. No. 4 Southern Illinois — 61-58 win:

2 points, 1/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 2 steals, 3 rebounds in 23 minutes

• vs. No. 2 UCLA — 68-55 loss:

0 points, 0/4 FGs, 0/1 3s, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound in 15 minutes

— Averages: 6.3 points, 33% FGs, 29% 3s, 83% FTs, 2.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.5 steals, 1.5 rebounds in 21.0 minutes

Tyshawn Taylor — 2009, No. 3 seed

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor charges up the court after a steal during the first half Friday, March 27, 2009 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor charges up the court after a steal during the first half Friday, March 27, 2009 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 14 seed North Dakota State — 84-74 win:

8 points, 4/9 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/1 FTs, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 27 minutes

• vs. No. 11 seed Dayton — 60-43 win:

3 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/3 FTs, 3 assists, 6 turnovers, 1 steal, 3 rebounds in 27 minutes

• vs. No. 2 seed Michigan State — 67-62 loss:

8 points, 2/4 FGs, 0/1 3s, 4/4 FTs, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal, 1 rebound in 28 minutes

Averages: 6.3 points, 38.8% FGs, 0% 3s, 62.5% FTs, 2.0 assists, 3.7 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 2.0 rebounds in 27.3 minutes

Elijah Johnson — 2010, No. 1 seed

Kansas defenders Thomas Robinson, left, and Elijah Johnson pressure Nebraska forward Christian Standhardinger during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2009 at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas defenders Thomas Robinson, left, and Elijah Johnson pressure Nebraska forward Christian Standhardinger during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2009 at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 16 seed Lehigh — 90-74 win:

0 points in 1 minute

• vs. No. 9 seed Northern Iowa — 69-67 loss:

Did not play

— Averages: 1 GP, 0.0 points in 1.0 minutes

Josh Selby — 2011, No. 1 seed

Kansas guard Josh Selby elevates for a bucket between Boston defenders Patrick Hazel, left, and Dom Morris during the second half on Friday, March 18, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas guard Josh Selby elevates for a bucket between Boston defenders Patrick Hazel, left, and Dom Morris during the second half on Friday, March 18, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 16 seed Boston — 72-53 win:

4 points, 2/6 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 rebounds in 15 minutes

• vs. No. 9 seed Illinois — 73-59 win:

0 points, 0/0 FGs, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 rebound in 10 minutes

• vs. No. 12 seed Richmond — 77-57 win:

9 points, 3/9 FGs, 3/5 3s, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 3 rebounds in 17 minutes

• vs. No. 11 seed VCU — 71-61 loss:

2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/3 3s, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 rebound in 15 minutes

— Averages: 3.8 points, 30% FGs, 30% 3s, 1.0 assists, 0.5 turnovers, 1.8 rebounds in 14.3 minutes

Naadir Tharpe — 2012, No. 2 seed

Naadir Tharpe (1) launches a three-point basket to pull KU back to within 4 points in the first-half of KU's third-round game against the Purdue Boilermakers in Omaha, Sunday, March 18.

Naadir Tharpe (1) launches a three-point basket to pull KU back to within 4 points in the first-half of KU's third-round game against the Purdue Boilermakers in Omaha, Sunday, March 18. by Mike Yoder

• vs. No. 15 seed Detroit — 65-50 win:

0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1 assist, 2 turnovers in 13 minutes

• vs. No. 10 seed Purdue — 63-60 win:

3 points, 1/3 FGs, 1/3 3s, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound in 4 minutes

• vs. No. 11 seed North Carolina State — 60-57 win:

Did not play

• vs. No. 1 seed North Carolina — 80-67 win:

Did not play

• vs. No. 2 seed Ohio State — 64-62 win:

Did not play

• vs. No. 1 seed Kentucky — 67-59 loss:

Did not play

— Averages: 1.5 points, 17% FGs, 25% 3s, 0.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 0.5 rebounds in 8.5 minutes

Conner Frankamp — 2014, No. 2 seed

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp puts up a three over Stanford guard Chasson Randle to get the Jayhawks within two points with less than a minute remaining on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp puts up a three over Stanford guard Chasson Randle to get the Jayhawks within two points with less than a minute remaining on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky — 80-69 win:

10 points, 3/6 FGs, 0/2 3s, 4/4 FTs, 4 assists, 0 turnovers in 25 minutes

• vs. No. 10 seed Stanford — 60-57 loss:

12 points, 4/8 FGs, 4/7 3s, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 1 steal in 18 minutes

— Averages: 11 points, 50% FGs, 44% 3s, 100% FTs, 2.0 assists, 0.0 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0.5 steals in 21.5 minutes

Frank Mason III — 2014, No. 2 seed

Kansas guard Frank Mason dumps a pass inside against Stanford during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Frank Mason dumps a pass inside against Stanford during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

• vs. No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky — 80-69 win:

2 points, 1/1 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 4 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds in 9 minutes

• vs. No. 10 seed Stanford — 60-57 loss:

2 points, 0/4 FGs, 0/3 3s, 2/2 FTs, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 rebounds, 1 steal in 22 minutes

— Averages: 2 points, 20% FGs, 0% 3s, 50% FTs, 3.0 assists, 1.0 turnover, 3.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals in 15.5 minutes

Devonté Graham — 2015, No. 2 seed

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4), left, celebrates in front of New Mexico State guard DK Eldridge (1) after the Aggies threw the ball out of bounds in the first-half of the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. .

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4), left, celebrates in front of New Mexico State guard DK Eldridge (1) after the Aggies threw the ball out of bounds in the first-half of the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. . by Mike Yoder

• vs. No. 15 seed New Mexico State — 75-56 win:

8 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 25 minutes

• vs. No. 7 seed Wichita Stte — 78-65 loss:

17 points, 5/13 FGs, 3/8 3s, 4/4 FTs, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound, 5 steals in 29 minutes

— Averages: 12.5 points, 37% FGs, 50% 3s, 100% FTs, 3.5 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 1.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals in 27 minutes

Now let’s throw all those stats in one place to make things easier, and see which KU freshman point guards/combo guards truly performed the best.

Key: BLUE NUMBERS = Best in the group; RED NUMBERS = 2nd-best

KU Freshman PGs NCAA Tournament Numbers — 2000 to present
Player (year) GP PPG FG% 3% FT% APG TOPG RPG SPG MPG
Kirk Hinrich ('00) 2 10 64% 72% 34% 5.0 4.0 3.0 -- 28.5
Aaron Miles ('02) 5 9.2 33% 10% 90% 5.8 3.6 3.2 1.2 30.8
Russell Robinson ('05) 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Mario Chalmers ('06) 1 15 55% 50% 50% 0.0 5.0 3.0 3.0 34.0
Sherron Collins ('07) 4 6.3 33% 29% 83% 2.8 1.8 1.5 1.5 21.0
Tyshawn Taylor ('09) 3 6.3 39% 0% 63% 2.0 3.7 2.0 0.7 27.3
Elijah Johnson ('10) 1 0 -- -- -- 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0
Josh Selby ('11) 4 3.8 30% 30% -- 1.0 0.5 1.8 0.0 14.3
Naadir Tharpe ('12) 2 1.5 17% 25% -- 0.5 1.5 0.5 0.0 8.5
Conner Frankamp ('14) 2 11 50% 44% 100% 2.0 0.0 1.0 0.5 21.5
Frank Mason III ('14) 2 2.0 20% 0% 50% 3.0 1.0 3.0 0.5 15.5
Devonté Graham ('15) 2 12.5 37% 50% 100% 3.5 2.0 1.5 2.5 27.0

When you stack the numbers together, four guys stand out as the clear-cut leaders: Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles, Mario Chalmers and Devonté Graham.

Hinrich led in FG% (64%), 3-point % (72%) and took second place in assists (5.0) and rebounds (3.0).

Miles played in the most games (5), dished the most assists (5.8) and pulled down the most boards (3.2), while posting the second-best free-throw numbers (90%) and minutes played (30.8).

In his one tournament game as a freshman, Chalmers scored 15 points, swiped 3 steals and played 34 minutes to lead the group, and finished second in FG% (55%), 3-point % (50%) and rebounds (3).

Graham’s numbers look just as good as the ones posted by any of those other three guys. By the way, Hinrich, Miles and Chalmers all became some of the best Kansas players in recent memory. Graham hit 100% of his free throws to tie the departed Conner Frankamp for first, and had the second-best numbers among the 12 freshman point guards in points (12.5), 3-point % (50%) and steals (2.5).

Limiting the turnovers-per-game numbers to those who played at least 20 minutes, Graham’s 2.0 giveaways were only bettered by Frankamp (0.0) and Sherron Collins (1.8).

After playing in his first NCAA Tournament game this past March, in Omaha, Nebraska, Graham said staying loose keyed his performance on that stage.

“When you have fun,” he said, “a lot of good things happen.”

Graham didn’t didn’t just look comfortable, he stood out as someone who could change the flow and make a critical impact.

“As soon as the game started, as soon as I got on the court, after I got up and down, started sweating a little bit, I just felt like it was another normal game,” Graham said. “I’m not thinking about how big it is and all the pressure. You’ve just gotta be calm in that situation.”

Whether Graham starts or remains a key backup in his sophomore season has yet to be determined. KU’s summer play at the World University Games should heavily play into that decision for Self.

After averaging 18.1 minutes, 5.9 points and 2.1 assists as a freshman, all those numbers figure to increase in Graham’s second season at KU. Self likes what he has in Graham, and even if Mason keeps his starting spot the two easily could could play side-by-side for long stretches to give KU a pair of play-makers.

“When we’re in a game together, we’re always thinking: attack,” Graham said of teaming up with Mason. “It’s kind of hard to stay in front of both of us at the same time. We try and break the defense down, find the right guys open to pass it to — create for others and also ourselves.”

More playing time for a more experienced Graham should mean more success for the Jayhawks next season, as they try to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2012. That KU team had Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson as point guards, and neither looked nearly as good his freshman season as Graham did.

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Veteran Nick Collison ready to work with new coach Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In his 11 NBA seasons since graduating from Kansas, Nick Collison has played for just one franchise: the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Super Sonics).

He began his professional career playing for coach Nate McMillan, then Bob Weiss, Bob Hill and P.J. Carlesimo before spending the past six seasons under Scott Brooks.

As Collison’s career winds down, he’ll play for a winner at the college level who hopes his own pro days are just beginning. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan took over as OKC head coach this offseason.

Collison had minor knee surgery recently, and his rehab has kept him around the Thunder’s facilities. His time there allowed the veteran to speak with Donovan on several occasions. Collison said in an interview on Oklahoma City’s website he tried to help the new coach get acclimated to the franchise.

At KU, Collison actually faced Donovan’s Gators in the 2002 Preseason NIT, and Florida won 83-73. Collison scored 16 points in the November setback before eventually helping the Jayhawks reach their seconds straight Final Four.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball
against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks,
83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in
New York.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks, 83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in New York. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photos

Now the two basketball lifers are working together in the NBA. Collison said even with a coach as well known as Donovan, it takes working with someone to find out how well he might fit in. The 34-year-old power forward said Donovan already is learning a lot about the Thunder, its players and how the team needs to improve.

“He’s a very sharp guy. I think he’s going to do a good job,” Collison said.

While the 6-foot-10 backup big man and his OKC teammates have grown accustomed to Brooks and his staff the past several seasons, Collison said they need to be open to suggestions and changes with Donovan taking over.

“We’ve done things one way for a long time. A lot of things are going to be different. It doesn’t do any good to waste time fighting that,” Collison said. “We need to come in with the idea that we’re going to be open-minded, we need to get better and we need to buy into whatever the staff wants to do.”

Playing for a perennial title contender in Oklahoma City, Collison said the team has a lot of work to do after missing the playoffs this past season. The Thunder finished 45-37 and lost a tie-breaker with New Orleans for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. OKC surely would have won more games and perhaps made a deep postseason run had it not been forced to deal with so many injuries. Not a single player on the roster played in all 82 games. Star point guard Russell Westbrook missed 15 games, starting power forward Serge Ibaka missed 18 and franchise centerpiece Kevin Durant missed 55.

Collison said the Thunder always have had the pieces to be great and the team needs to improve defensively under Donovan to become even tougher to beat. Even though he described 2014-15 (Collison played in 66 of 82 games) as a struggle, the potential for next season seems limitless.

“There’s no guarantee that everyone is healthy all the time but we’re looking forward to having everybody back and are excited to play with the full squad again,” Collison said. “We have a ton of talent. We have a great roster. It’s going to hopefully be a really good year for us.”

Collison’s interview came after he spent some time talking hoops and the tricks of the up-and-under at the Thunder’s youth basketball camp

He said starting the summer with knee rehab should help him get to a good spot by the time the Thunder opens preseason camp this fall. As Collison’s knee gets stronger, he said he’ll add in more weight training. Once he’s cleared to get back to regular basketball activities, he’ll do a couple days of individual work and pickup games and take some days off for recovery.

“Knowing yourself in your 30’s, like the wise old man that I am,” joked Collison, who averaged a career low 4.1 points per game last season, “I think I have that figured out pretty well, a good mix, and I’ll be ready to go when camp starts.”

In the meantime, he knows the offseason is just as much about recharging your batteries after a long, draining campaign.

Kite surfers, @michaelcollison33, and I.

A photo posted by Nick Collison (@nicholascollison) on Jun 2, 2015 at 6:58pm PDT


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Who wore it best?: Jayhawks make list of all-time greats, by jersey number

The folks behind Mitchell & Ness specialize in sports, nostalgia and jerseys. So when the company put together a list of the all-time greatest NBA players — by jersey number — you knew it would be something to behold.

The accompanying graphic began making its way around social media platforms Monday afternoon.

None by SLAM Magazine

As one might expect, the comprehensive list included some former Kansas basketball standouts who made their way to the league. In fact, five different Jayhawks showed up on Mitchell & Ness’s historic jersey directory. One KU product actually appears twice.

So which Jayhawks made the cut?

How about Jo Jo White?

Chet Walker of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics (10), as he tried to lay up a shot in their game in Boston at night on Jan. 13, 1972. Tom Sanders of Celtics Comes in at right. Boston won the game 113-112. (AP Photo)

Chet Walker of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics (10), as he tried to lay up a shot in their game in Boston at night on Jan. 13, 1972. Tom Sanders of Celtics Comes in at right. Boston won the game 113-112. (AP Photo)

Nope. The No. 10 slot belongs to Knicks legend Walt Frazier?

Surely Paul Pierce’s No. 34 is represented?

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce celebrates during the second half of Boston's 91-89 win over the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball game in Boston Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce celebrates during the second half of Boston's 91-89 win over the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball game in Boston Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. by Nick Gerik

Wrong again. A few greats have donned the same number combo, including two-time Rockets champion Hakeem Olajuwon.

Actually, in terms of all-time stature, most of the KU names on the list might surprise you.

Except for the first one, which was a no-brainer.

13 — Wilt Chamberlain

In this file photo from March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors holds a sign reading “100” in the dressing room in Hershey, Pa., after he scored 100 points as the Warriors defeated the New York Knickerbockers, 169-147.

In this file photo from March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors holds a sign reading “100” in the dressing room in Hershey, Pa., after he scored 100 points as the Warriors defeated the New York Knickerbockers, 169-147. by Associated Press

Mitchell & Ness description: “Wilt wore No. 13 over 16 seasons with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, elected into the NBA’s 35th Anniversary Team of 1980 and chosen as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. Over his career, Chamberlain was a two-time NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, 4-time NBA MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star.”

39 — Greg Ostertag

Utah center Greg Ostertag, right, posts up Sixers center Dikembe
Mutombo. Ostertag was 0-for-4 on field goals in 16 foul-plagued
minutes on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Utah center Greg Ostertag, right, posts up Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo. Ostertag was 0-for-4 on field goals in 16 foul-plagued minutes on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

Mitchell & Ness description: “Only four players have ever worn No. 39 in the NBA, the best of whom is Greg Ostertag. Greg enjoyed a successful 11-year career in which he made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.”

62 — Scot Pollard

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers forward Scot Pollard defends. The Spurs beat the Pacers, 99-86, Tuesday in San Antonio.

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers forward Scot Pollard defends. The Spurs beat the Pacers, 99-86, Tuesday in San Antonio. by Eric Gay/AP Photo

Mitchell & Ness description: “Only two players have ever worn No. 62 in the NBA: Bob Dille, who only played one season in 1947, and Scot Pollard, who wore it for two seasons in Indianapolis.”

66 — Scot Pollard

Boston's Scot Pollard (66), Kevin Garnett (5), James Posey (41) and Eddie House complain to a referee in this December 2007 file photo. Pollard, a free agent, isn't ready for his NBA career to be over.

Boston's Scot Pollard (66), Kevin Garnett (5), James Posey (41) and Eddie House complain to a referee in this December 2007 file photo. Pollard, a free agent, isn't ready for his NBA career to be over.

Mitchell & Ness description: “Scot wore No. 66 in 2008 with the Boston Celtics when they won the NBA Championship.”

89 — Clyde Lovellette

Mitchell & Ness description: "Clyde wore No. 89 in his first season with the Minneapolis Lakers. Over his 11-year career, Lovellette was a 3-time NBA Champ, 4-time NBA All-Star and All-NBA Second Team. Lovellette was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

90 — Drew Gooden

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mitchell & Ness description: “Drew has worn No. 90 (and is the only one to do so) with a number of different teams throughout his still active career. He’s enjoyed a successful career, averaging 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.”


In the case of this particular catalog of jerseys, it pays to be have an atypical number — less competition — to match your offbeat basketball personality (see: Pollard, Ostertag and Gooden).

Some advice for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander: choose from the numbers 58, 59, 63, 64, 69, 74, 75, 78-82, 87, 95 and 97 for your first NBA jersey. No player ever has worn any of those numbers. Go with something crazy. You might end up in the same graphic as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell one day.


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Kelly Oubre Jr. wants to become top SF in 2015 draft class

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The 2015 NBA Draft class doesn’t include a can’t-miss, franchise-changing small forward, and ever-confident Kelly Oubre Jr. thinks he has the potential to become the best from this crop of draftees at his position.

That certainly isn’t the popular opinion, or one reflected on publicized mock drafts and big boards. However, the one-and-done wing from Kansas who currently projects as a late lottery pick has a goal of going in the top seven a few weeks from now.

The 6-foot-7 forward admits there are plenty of other great prospects available, but he told DraftExpress.com he is out to prove people wrong.

“I feel like I’m the hardest-working guy in this draft,” Oubre said, “because I have a chip on my shoulder.”

Most draft prognosticators have Oubre going somewhere around 14th in the June 25 draft. If he is indeed able to attain his top-seven goal, it would likely mean jumping the small forwards currently rated ahead of him.

ESPN’s Chad Ford proclaimed Oubre may have “more upside than any other wing in the draft” after watching him work out in Santa Barbara, California, in late May.

Ford said when Oubre began his one college season in Bill Self’s doghouse, players such as Duke’s Justise Winslow and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson moved ahead of him. Those two, as well as 20-year-old Croatian Mario Hezonja, in particular figure to be his stiffest competition if an organization wants to use its lottery pick on a wing.

Oubre told Ford that Self brought out the best in his game by demanding he compete on both ends of the court.

“Once coach dropped the hammer on me and made it known I needed to be a two-way player, I kind of started to get things and flow better. Now I know that at the next level, I have to be a two-way player."

According to Ford, scouts now question Oubre’s offense. Shooting and ball-handling both give evaluators pause. So the wing from KU is working with Drew Hanlen — the same trainer who worked with Andrew Wiggins — on his jump shot and ball-handling.

Santa Barbara has become Oubre’s temporary home as he trains at P3, the same place where Arizona’s Stanley Johnson, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and others are preparing for their first years as pros. Wiggins trained at P3 last year, and other standouts such as Dwight Howard and Al Horford have utilized the services available there in the past.

None by Jay Williams

Oubre told DraftExpress.com his goal by the time he leaves P3 is to become faster and “a more well rounded athlete.” The workouts focus on his upper body and core, he added, so he can drop his hips more when he makes certain moves. Oubre wants to become a stronger player and be able to assert himself when he attacks on offense.

The good news for the 203-pound 19-year-old is a lot of what he goes through at P3 isn’t too different from what he picked up at KU.

“Andrea Hudy is one of the best strength coaches in the country. She pretty much had us doing a lot of mobility things we’re doing at P3,” Oubre said of the easy transition. “I had a little step up from when I came to school, so it was great.”

Of course, plenty of his training is strictly basketball-focused, with an emphasis on his one-on-one skills, his defense and becoming a better shooter. Oubre said he needs to show consistency with his jump-shooting, and he’ll become more fluid with hours of repetition.

“I’m just trying to perfect something I know I can be great at at the next level,” he said.

Oubre also understands he’ll need to become a better ball-handler than he was in his one season with Kansas. Basically, he said he’s working on all the things he knows “will get me paid higher at the next level.” Good idea.

Wisely, Oubre says he plans to utilize the whole pre-draft process to improve himself, by learning from the people around him not just about the game, but also the business side of being an NBA player.

“This past season was great. I learned a lot,” he said of his stop in Lawrence. “It wasn’t the best season for me, but I just feel like this is the right move for me and I’m just learning a lot and growing as an individual.”

Early in the NBA Playoffs, Oubre spent some of his down time watching a couple of the players he hopes to emulate as a pro, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and San Antonio’s Kawhi Loenard.

“Guys like that, I feel like they’re the new wave,” Oubre said, describing Butler and Leonard as players who can lock down on defense and have huge offensive games.

Speaking of defense, Oubre doesn’t lack sureness in his own potential there. Asked how many positions he could guard in the NBA, he responded: “Four. Maybe five.”

Really?

“There are superior athletes, great big men at the next level,” Oubre said, “but I don’t want to put any boundaries on myself.”

Oubre considers himself a “superior athlete,” as well. We’ll soon find out how many NBA decision-makers agree with that forecast.

DraftExpress.com currently has Miami taking Oubre with the 10th overall pick in the draft — behind fellow small forwards Johnson (No. 9, Charlotte), Winslow (No. 7, Denver) and Hezonja (No. 5, Orlando). Another potential lottery wing, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, currently sits just outside the top 14 (No. 15, Atlanta).


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Seventh-round pick Dexter McDonald has unique opportunity in Oakland

Oakland Raiders cornerback Dexter McDonald (21) runs during a rookie minicamp at an NFL football facility in Alameda, Calif., Friday, May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Oakland Raiders cornerback Dexter McDonald (21) runs during a rookie minicamp at an NFL football facility in Alameda, Calif., Friday, May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Dexter McDonald’s life changed earlier this month, when Oakland snagged him in the final round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

“When I finally got the call it was just a blessing,” McDonald said in a profile posted on the Raiders’ website. “It was a relief. And I was happy to say I would have the opportunity to become an Oakland Raider and join the Raider nation.”

McDonald, a rookie cornerback out of Kansas, took another step in that direction Tuesday, when the seventh-round pick signed with Oakland. Referencing spotrac.com, SilverAndBlackPride.com reported the contract is for four years and $2.37 million.

None by OAKLAND RAIDERS

You can watch McDonald, a Kansas City, Missouri, native, arrive in California, pose for photos and wear his No. 21 Raiders uniform for the first time in a Raiders.com video feature. The 6-foot-1 corner describes himself as a team player with a lot of energy.

“I’m one of those guys who is gonna be the same every day. I’m a physical corner — I’m gonna get on those wide receivers and jam them, disrupt the timing between the quarterback and the receiver to make it hard on them to pass,” McDonald said.

Back in late March, an amazing pro day propelled McDonald into the realm of draftees. The physical, 200-pound corner stood out with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, a vertical leap of 40 and 1/2 inches and a broad jump of 11 feet, 2 inches.

“It allowed teams to see what I was capable of, athletic wise,” McDonald said the day he was drafted.

None by Benton Smith

Now, McDonald can’t wait to prove he can compete at the next level. The 23-year old defensive back finds himself with a unique opportunity, too, playing for and alongside some legendary names. Rod Woodson coaches Oakland’s defensive backs and 18-year NFL veteran Charles Woodson plays safety for the Raiders.

“It’s a blessing,” McDonald said, “and I have an opportunity to be like a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can from those guys. And I’m definitely gonna do that.”

Levi Damien of SilverAndBlackPride.com speculated McDonald has a chance to earn playing time as a rookie. Oakland’s starting corners figure to be D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie, but the nickel spot is “very much up for grabs,” and the Raiders proved last season with Carrie (also a seventh-round pick) that young guys can work their way onto the field and play crucial roles. Damien also projected McDonald’s size could make him an option at safety eventually.

McDonald and his former KU teammate, Ben Heeney (drafted by Oakland in the fifth round), will play in Kansas City, against the Chiefs, on the final day of the regular season, Jan. 3, 2016.

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Paul Pierce would fit in nicely with Clippers next season

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Paul Pierce proved in the 2015 NBA Playoffs he’s still relevant in the league, even with 17 seasons of mileage on his veteran frame.

The 37-year-old small forward from Kansas scored 14.6 points per game and drilled 33 of his 63 3-pointers (52.4%) for Washington in the postseason before Atlanta eliminated the Wizards in the second round, leading Pierce to say his offseason plans would include contemplating retirement.

It turns out those within NBA circles, though, anticipate “The Truth” returning for Year No. 18 — and playing for a different organization.

David Aldridge reported on NBA.com “many around the league” think Pierce will finish his career in Los Angeles, with the Clippers. Though the former Boston star, who also spent one season with Brooklyn, signed a two-year deal with Washington this past summer, he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent again in July if he so chooses.

The Clippers make perfect sense as a potential destination for Pierce. He grew up in nearby Inglewood, California, and won the 2008 NBA championship with current L.A. coach Doc Rivers. Plus, with younger stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin carrying the Clippers, Rivers easily could use Pierce in a reduced role during the regular season — Washington used a similar approach — to save his legs for when they need them the most.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Then again, if Pierce indeed becomes a free agent, who’s to say he wouldn’t join another franchise? Celtics guard Avery Bradley told 98.5 Sports Hub he would love to see his former Boston teammate back in Celtics green.

“To me, Paul is always going to be a Boston Celtic,” Bradley said. “The things that he’s been able to accomplish in his time here, it was just amazing. And I’m pretty sure all the Boston fans would love that, too.”

Boston, coached by Brad Stevens, surprised the league this past season by reaching the playoffs, despite trading away veterans Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics became one of the more competitive teams in the NBA the final three months of the season and won eight of their final 10 games to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce’s former franchise is trending upward, but the current roster wouldn’t contend for a title, even with the addition of No. 34. Boston would need to make a few more moves and bring in an all-star or two before Pierce could return knowing he had a chance to get back to the NBA Finals.

No road to the championship is easy, but for Pierce, returning to Washington or joining the Clippers would provide paths with fewer obstacles.

The Wizards came close to reaching the East finals this season, and his young teammates John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter all showed serious improvement. It’s easy to envision D.C. taking another step forward in 2016. But if Pierce stays in the East, he’ll have to go through his old rival, LeBron James, to reach The Finals.

The Clippers had Houston on the ropes and blew a huge lead in Game 6 of the second round before their season ended on the road, in Game 7, against the Rockets. Even though the West is loaded, L.A. has the star power of Paul and Griffin, who could propel the franchise to an unprecedented Finals appearance in 2016 — especially if the Clippers re-sign DeAndre Jordan and add some more complimentary pieces.

Ultimately, the lack of a supporting cast led to L.A.’s demise. Griffin and Paul had to carry the load so much, the fatigue caught up with them late in the Houston series. Pierce isn’t the same defender he was earlier in his career, so he wouldn’t be the perfect “3-and-D” wing for the Clippers. But he could lessen the offensive burden placed on the shoulders of Griffin and Paul, particularly late in games.

After so many seasons in Boston green, Pierce has become a bit of a hired gun late in his career. Why not make one last run at a championship with your old coach in your home town?

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Truthfully, Pierce would look good in a Clippers uniform. With him camping out behind the 3-point line on one side of the court, and J.J. Redick doing the same on the opposite side, imagine the extra room Paul and Griffin (and Jordan?) would have to operate.

And if defenses decide to focus on L.A.’s stars, Pierce will be there licking his lips, waiting to deliver a crunch-time dagger.

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Examining the many offensive skills of future Jayhawk LaGerald Vick

The more you hear about Kansas basketball commitment LaGerald Vick, the more impressive he seems.

National analyst Eric Bossi of Rivals watched the 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis this past weekend in New York and came away claiming Rivals.com needs to move his national ranking of No. 137 up “at least 100 spots.”

In order to get a better idea about Vick as a player, just check out his highlight videos. The 175-pound guard, who reportedly will re-classify and join the 2015 KU recruiting class with Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, plays for Team Thad AAU, and in the past year or so he has put together quite the YouTube résumé.

Three of his scoring reels are posted below. With each one, I included some quick take-aways about what the clips tell us about this multi-skilled guard. Obviously, not everything we see here will immediately translate to college basketball and the Big 12, but there are plenty of promising signs that this previously unheralded recruit could turn into a go-to scorer for the Jayhawks before his days in Allen Fieldhouse are through.

This latest highlight reel from Courtside Films doesn’t capture the correct way to spell Vick’s first name, but it does provide an impressive array of highlights

• Vick can pull up for a 3-pointer off the dribble with ease when his defender leaves his hands down or fails to close out.

• His shooting, strength and ability to finish above the rim all look better now than they did in past highlight videos (shown below).

• When Vick’s man gets low and really tests him on the perimeter, his ball-handling allows him to not only maintain possession but also get creative and find a way to punish his defender.

• He may be a little too reliant on his right hand at this point, but he does go left off the dribble from time to time, and that’s obviously something he can continue to develop.

• No matter where he gets the ball, Vick stands out as an offensive threat in his ability to create better looks for himself, whether that be with a ball fake, jab step, cross-over or hesitation dribble. He appears a real challenge to keep in check.

• By the looks of this highlight reel, Vick is as confident a 3-point shooter as one could hope for. He doesn’t overthink things when he’s open from downtown, he just rises up and lets it fly.

• Finishing in traffic isn’t for everyone. But it looks like Vick enjoys the challenge that taking on multiple defenders provides. Even when the road to the hoop looks treacherous, he doesn’t show any fear.

• It’s just a bad idea in general to leave him open anywhere on the court. He can either pull up for an easy look from behind the arc or speed through driving lanes to the rim.

• Vick often shows creativity in avoiding potential shot-blockers.

• He has a slight frame, but sometimes uses that to his advantage by slithering between defenders.

• If teams decide they want to take away his shooting ability, he could easily turn into a drive-first player on offense.

• Vick is confident and crafty when he gets into the paint, regardless of what kind of defender flies at him. In this aspect, he kind of reminded me of Manu Ginobili in his prime.

• He can play above the rim when he gets a wide-open lane or someone fails to put a body on him on the offensive glass.

• If you make the mistake of crowding Vick on the perimeter he is fast enough off the dribble to blow by you.

• Obviously his jumper is one of his strengths, enabling him to punish defenses if they leave him open (keep in mind many of these highlights come against teams ignoring basic defensive principles).

• Vick will need to clean up his ball-handling when he’s taking on college guards. He is able to play pretty loose in these types of AAU showcases and (in the past at least) carries the ball at times when using his dribble outside.

• The kid has pretty quick hops, and can head skyward in a hurry.

• Vick’s now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t methods of slashing might be the final ingredient that turns him into a big-time college scorer. He can show defenders the rock, then take it away and finish by utilizing the window he just created for himself.

• His cross-over has a strong burst to it and he’s always thinking “attack” when he has the ball in transition.

• Vick can finish with either hand once he has slashed his way into the paint.

• This scoring guard doesn’t just rely on floaters, he takes advantage of angles on the floor and uses the glass well, even six to eight feet away from the rim. Not many guys have so many tricks in their bags.

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Cliff Alexander shows improvements at workout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the prospects Aldridge ranks ahead of him:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

2. Kristaps Porzingas, Latvia

3. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

4. Myles Turner, Texas

5. Bobby Portis, Arkansas

6. Kevon Looney, UCLA

7. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

8. Jarell Martin, LSU

9. Chris McCollough, Syracuse

10. Jordan Mickey, LSU


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


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

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

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

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

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

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

None by NBA Draft

1. Minnesota

2. L.A. Lakers

3. Philadelphia

4. New York

5. Orlando

6. Sacramento

7. Denver

8. Detroit

9. Charlotte

10. Miami

11. Indiana

12. Utah

13. Phoenix

14. Oklahoma City

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

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

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

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

Kelly Oubre Jr.

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

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

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

Average mock draft position: 14th

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

Current low: 20th (DraftSite.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cliff Alexander

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

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

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

Average mock draft position: 37th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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JaCorey Shepherd learning, growing as a corner with Eagles

JaCorey Shepherd speaks during a football minicamp media availability Friday, May 8, 2015, at the Philadelphia Eagles' NFL training facility in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

JaCorey Shepherd speaks during a football minicamp media availability Friday, May 8, 2015, at the Philadelphia Eagles' NFL training facility in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

When JaCorey Shepherd arrived at Kansas four years ago as a wide receiver, his transition to college football included plenty of teaching moments.

Now that the All-Big 12 cornerback is with the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted him in the sixth round and this past week signed him to a four-year contract, Shepherd said his initial introduction to the NFL has been less based in instruction. After all, the players are all professionals now, as the 5-foot-11 defensive back pointed out in a video interview for Philadelphia’s website.

But that’s not to say Shepherd's experience thus far has been devoid of learning. At the Eagles’ rookie mini-camp, the corner said, he found himself picking up new techniques at a fast pace. While playing press coverage — something he did at KU, too — he got too “handsy” on a few plays by doing things that were fine in college. He discovered he’ll have to get rid of some of those habits he picked up in his first three seasons of playing defensive back.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Shepherd said, “but I’m good at learning and going with the flow as I get more reps.”

Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, who just joined the staff this offseason after working for Denver in the same role, wants his corners playing assertive press coverage at the line of scrimmage.

“To actually learn the proper way to press is actually gonna benefit me,” Shepherd said.

Plus, Shepherd knows some guys who just played for Undlin last season, with the Broncos. He brought up their names when asked if he had anybody he could lean on for guidance while finding his way in the NFL.

“Previous corners from the University of Kansas, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, they kind of helped me,” Shepherd said, “and they told me they’ll be there for me if I’ve got a question about the process going forward.”

None by Philadelphia Eagles

Excited that he could graduate from KU and embark on his NFL career this spring, the newly minted Eagle, who can be seen practicing in his No. 36 jersey in the video, said it felt good going “full out” at mini-camp for the first time since suffering a tear in his left hamstring prior to KU’s pro day.

Now Shepherd can just enjoy himself on the field while playing the game he loves.

“It’s a great relief off your shoulders,” he said. “You don’t have to think about that stuff, as far as where you’re gonna be, where you’re gonna end up. You can just go out there and do what you do.”

Shepherd said he can tell Chip Kelly’s staff is comprised of player-friendly coaches, which he likes. Now that he is in the league, the rookie corner wants to make sure he enjoys every moment, because he realizes not everybody gets the opportunity that is in front of him right now.

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LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

REGULAR SEASON


PLAYOFFS


Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


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


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