2014 NBA Draft Preview: Top Ten Players in five years?

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source: AP

The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than two weeks until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we take a guess at who from this draft will be the ten best NBA players five years from now:

RELATEDUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | 2014 NBA Draft Preview

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 1), Chad Ford (No. 2)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “I’ll take Wiggins over any other player in the pool. The offensive skills are there, and removing Embiid he’s the prospect best equipped to actually defend his position.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Wiggins had a very, very good season that was lambasted because he wasn’t Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley. Consistent effort and a ‘killer’ mindset are red flags, but he already carries himself like a pro: he knows what nights he can take off and what nights he needs to take over.”
  • Scott Phillips: “Wiggins can defend up to four positions at a high level, has elite open-floor ability and was underrated as a jump shooter last year, despite living under a microscope in Lawrence. His ceiling is absurd.”

2. Jabari Parker, Duke

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 2), Chad Ford (No. 1)
  • RJ: “Offensively his skill set is second to none, and that will make him an impact player. Defensively, the hope has to be that he ends up on a team that can cover for his deficiencies as he learns the ropes and (hopefully) improves in that area.”
  • SP: “Your 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year. Parker is one of the most NBA-ready scorers the drafthas seen in the last few years but he still has to improve on the defensive end to really be among the game’s elite.”
  • RD: “He can score like no one else in this draft. He was benched as a defensive liability against Mercer.”

3. Julius Randle, Kentucky

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 7), Chad Ford (No. 7)
  • Terrence Payne: “If his foot stays healthy, he should be a productive forward, who can develop his skillset around his physical style of play.”
  • RD: “Randle seems assured of having a long, productive career, but I’m not sure he’s a franchise-changing talent like a Wiggins or Parker can be. He’s somewhere between the next Zach Randolph and the next David Lee.”
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4. Joel Embiid, Kansas

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 4), Chad Ford (No. 6)
  • RD: “The concerns with Embiid’s health are obvious, which is why he ended up at fourth on this list despite being arguably the best prospect in a loaded draft class. He’s got foot and back issues, which is not a good thing for a big man, but Yao Ming made eight all-star teams with foot issues. Michael Jordan broke his foot. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a long, productive career after breaking his foot. It’s risky, but Embiid’s career isn’t over just yet.”
  • SP: “You have to remember that Embiid is still rather new to the game and the learning curve is incredibly steep in the NBA. It could take much longer than five years to learn how good Embiid really is. And what if Embiid is drafted by a franchise that doesn’t do a good job of developing big men, or get him a point guard that can get him the ball?”

5. Dante Exum, Australia

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 3), Chad Ford (No. 3)
  • SP: “The only player on this list I’ve never seen extensively in-person, I did get a chance to see Exum take part in the Combine drills and he’s a long and fluid guard who has a ton of upside. He immediately passes the ‘look test’. How Exum acclimates to the American game could determine how quickly he ascends in the league.”
  • RD: “Exum is talented. He’s also untested. We’ve yet to see him spend a full season going up against elite competition.”

6. Noah Vonleh, Indiana

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 5), Chad Ford (No. 4)
  • SP: “I might be a tad high on Vonleh, but his upside is just so tantalizing, given his size, skill level and age. Vonleh worked hard enough to add 25 pounds of muscle in one summer at Indiana and his jumper has improved immensely as well, to the point where he could be a pick-and-pop or maybe even a catch-and-shoot option in the NBA.”
  • RD: “Full disclosure: I had Vonleh as No. 3 on my list. I think he’s a perennial all-star.”

7. Aaron Gordon, Arizona

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 5)
  • TP: “Will be a solid team player given his defensive abilities. Hard to believe he wouldn’t improve his offensive skills in that span, as well.”
  • SP: “I really don’t get why teams aren’t higher on Aaron Gordon? He’s a tremendous athlete and defender, ultra competitive and he doesn’t try to do too much at this point with the ball in his hands. His development on the offensive end will be a big key in how good he’ll really be.”

8. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 9), Chad Ford (No. 10)
  • RJ: “The gains Stauskas made from his freshman to sophomore year with regards to his skill set, physical build and athleticism bode well for his future in the NBA.”
  • SP: “His shooting percentages are ridiculous, he’s improved each of the last two years and he’s deceptive as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. The body fat percentage and lack of lateral quickness is a bit of a concern on the defensive end, but you know what you’re getting out of Stauskas as an offensive player and there’s a lot to like.”

9. James Young, Kentucky

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 17), Chad Ford (No. 14)
  • RD: “He can score, he’s a better shooter than he showed last season, and he’s a lefty, which always seems to give people problems. The biggest issue is whether he’ll learn to defend at the next level.”
  • SP: “Young is so smooth and so skilled on the wing that it’s hard for me to believe that his shooting percentages will remain as low as they were at Kentucky. Again, as with Julius Randle, Young could benefit from playing around teammates that aren’t so ball-dominant and playing with guards that can put him in a better position to score.”
  • RJ: “He was Kentucky’s best player in the national title game, and his ability to score from the perimeter and put the ball on the deck will help with the transition.”

10. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 12), Chad Ford (No. 12)
  • RD: “The NBA is infatuated with big, athletic, aggressive guards, and that’s precisely what Payton can do. He’s got the length and quickness to be a defensive menace at the next level as well. Now he just needs to learn how to shoot.”
  • TP: “I think this is going to be the mid-first round pick who has the greatest impact. He’s still very young for being a college junior. Has the tools to be a good on both ends of the floor, and that’s without a consistent 3-point shot.”

Also receiving votes: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Gary Harris, (Michigan State), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Doug McDermott (Creighton)

South Carolina coach suspends G Rakym Felder indefinitely

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard Rakym Felder has been suspended indefinitely and won’t attend classes this fall, another blow to a thinning Gamecock backcourt that reached the Final Four this past April.

Felder’s status was announced by coach Frank Martin on Wednesday.

Felder had been suspended since June 30 for his involvement in a fight outside a bar. He was arrested July 13 and charged with assault and battery.

“Due to some unfortunate decisions by Rakym, he has been suspended indefinitely from our program,” Martin said in a statement.

Felder’s loss further weakens a South Carolina team that was already short in the backcourt after last season’s NCAA Tournament run. Three starting guards from last year, including leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell, along with rising sophomore P.J. Dozier, are no longer with the team. Dozier entered the NBA draft and, after not getting selected, signed this month with the Dallas Mavericks.

Thornwell signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, who picked him in the second round.

Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was supposed to slide into one of the openings created by the departing guards. He played in 36 games last season, averaging 14.6 minutes off the bench.

Like the rest of the team, Felder stepped things up in the NCAAs. He scored 15 points, including going 7-of-8 at the foul line in the final five minutes to hold off No. 2 seed Duke, 88-81, in the second round.

Felder had nine points and three assists in South Carolina’s Sweet 16 win, a 70-50 victory over No. 3 seed Baylor.

Minus Felder, the Gamecocks only guard from South Carolina’s regular rotation with experience at South Carolina is junior Hassani Gravett.

Felder took full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the school, the team and Gamecock fans in a statement through his attorney, Neal Lourie.

“I know I have let you down and I will have to work hard to regain your trust,” Felder said.

Lourie said Felder has personal issues that “he cannot fix alone and requires professional help.” Lourie did not elaborate on those problems.

This is the second time Felder has been arrested since enrolling. Last October, he was tasered by police stemming from a bar fight and charged with six counts, including assault and battery and resisting arrest.

Felder entered a pre-trial intervention program and played after missing only one game. “‘He’s a beautiful kid, not a good kid, a beautiful kid,” Martin said on Nov. 13 in defense of playing Felder against Holy Cross.

Lourie requested a jury trial on Felder’s latest charge. A trial date has not been set.

Martin said he’ll stand by Felder this time, too, and continue to “help Rakym grown as a young man even though basketball is not part of our relationship right now.”

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Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday: