Christmas Wish Lists: PG play, 3-point discipline highlight Zags’ needs

Leave a comment

Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: A point guard that can defend

I love Kevin Pangos — if you haven’t figured it out, I have an affinity for little guards that shoot a lot and put up big scoring numbers — but as good as he is as a basketball player, he’s not a point guard. He’s a shoot-first ball-handler, which is a problem for a team whose strength is on the front line. In fact, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that David Stockton is the only true point guard in Gonzaga’s rotation right now, and even Stockton has issues with turning the ball over. Since Mark Few can’t afford to have Pangos off the floor for extended periods of time, it creates an issue defensively. Do you really want Pangos or Stockton to have to guard a guy like Brandon Paul or DJ Richardson?

That’s the biggest concern I have with the Zags right now. That said, these are issues that mostly manifested themselves over the last 10 or 15 minutes of one game, but they are the same issues that plagued the Zags last season.

Stocking Stuffer: Three-point shooting

Last season, against Division I competition, Pangos was a 40.1% three-point shooter and Bell hit 47.7% of his threes. This season, Pangos is hitting just 36.5% of this triples while Bell is knocking down just 39%. That’s a major reason why Gonzaga, as a team, is shooting just 35.9% from three this year, down from 38.1% last year. It’s not an enormous difference, I’ll admit, but it is a concerning one. Gonzaga’s front court will be creating quite a few open looks for perimeter shooters this season; Pangos and Bell, the two best shooters on the roster, need to make them.

Planning on re-gifting: Three-point gunning

Kelly Olynyk has been a revelation coming off of his redshirt season. He’s hitting jumpers, he’s proven to be able to take the ball to the rim off of the bounce, he’s scores in the post and he blocks some shots. He’s the perfect player to pair with senior Elias Harris along the front line, as their versatility makes them very tough to stop is high-low situations. Both players have also proven to be excellent rebounders on both ends of the floor thus far this season. Throw in seven-foot behemoth Prmezek Karnowski and the ever-underrated Sam Dower, and the Zags have all kinds of talent and depth along their front line.

The issue is that they have a back court that can get too shot-happy. When Illinois was making their run in the second half on Saturday night, the Zags went away from their interior game — where they had a massive advantage on the small, foul-plagued Illini — and settled for too many quick threes. Gonzaga will thrive if they run their offense through their big guys. Pangos and company will get their shots when defenses collapse down.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make between $250,000-$275,000.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that will pay players with less than three years of professional basketball experience a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $250,000 that a two-way contract will pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chasing his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.

A record $439 million was bet on basketball in March in Las Vegas

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.

And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.

It was profitable, too.

Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

Leave a comment

Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

2 Comments

Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.