Elfrid Payton emerges as the 2014 NBA Draft’s biggest sleeper

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CHICAGO — Elfrid Payton is the most polarizing prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft.

If you’ve browsed through the litany of mock drafts in advance of Thursday night’s draft, you’ve probably seen the Louisiana-Lafayette point guard’s name everywhere from the top ten to the 20s — and every pick in between.

Plenty of scouts and draft pundits have called the 6-foot-3 Payton a sleeper in this draft — thanks in-part to his small-school upbringing and tremendous athleticism — but the soft-spoken point guard is confident about what he’ll bring to the team that selects him — wherever that may be.

“I think (I’m) the best point guard in the draft; just a leader,” Payton told NBCSports.com in Chicago. “(I’m) somebody that’s going to try to bring a winning culture and be somebody that is going to make other players around him better.”

As a sophomore, Payton put up good numbers for Louisiana-Lafayette, but many weren’t familiar with him in the college basketball world. That changed when Elfrid was a surprise addition to the USA U19 team that won gold last summer at the FIBA World Championships in Prague. Payton acknowledged that his star-studded supporting cast, filled with six McDonald’s All-Americans, had little idea about who he was or what he could do on the court, but the point guard won the starting point guard role for Billy Donovan’s squad and made a big impression on the team.

“It was cool, man. Everybody not to know me and just go in there and do well and wind up starting on that team. That was great for me. I think they were definitely surprised,” Payton said of his USA Basketball experience. “It helped a lot. Giving me a little bit of recognition. I learned a lot from those coaches and from my teammates that played there. It was big for me.”

While the basketball part of the equation came natural to Payton, Donovan worked with the guard to be more of a floor leader, something Payton credits for helping his game as a junior.

“The biggest thing (Donovan) taught me was about being a vocal leader and not just leading by example. I was able to take that back to my teammates this season and moving forward now,” Payton said.

Because of Payton’s leadership and overall play at the point guard position, the Ragin’ Cajuns made a surprise appearance in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, as they knocked off favored Georgia State in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game.

Louisiana-Lafayette fell in the Round of 64 to Creighton, but Payton opened eyes with a 24-point, 8-rebound performance in which he also stuffed the stat sheet with three assists, three steals and two blocks. It was a typical effort from the junior as he averaged 19.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game during the 2013-14 season.

Because of his propensity to fill up a box score, coupled with his athleticism and inconsistent shooting, Payton has been compared favorably to Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. Payton shot 50 percent from the field as a junior, but he was only 25 percent from the three-point line and 60 percent from the free-throw line. As a former Kentucky point guard, Rondo was also a streaky perimeter shooter, as he shot 27 percent from three-point land and 57 percent from the free-throw line as a sophomore in his final season in Lexington.

Thanks in-part to his inconsistent shooting, Rondo slipped to No. 21 on draft night in 2006, but later blossomed into the starting point guard of the NBA-champion Celtics in 2008.

Payton takes pride in being compared to the four-time All-Star because of Rondo’s tenacity and willingness to make others around him better.

“The way (Rondo) plays defense, he gets his hands on a lot of balls,” Payton said. “He gets a lot of people involved. Most importantly, he gets other players around him better too. That’s what I really like (about him).”

Ed Isaacson of NBA Draft Blog also sees some similarities between Payton and Rondo and because Rondo has thrived in the league, Isaacson believes Payton is not as likely to fall in the draft as Rondo once did.

“I’m not very big on comparisons, but this is a case where I can see where it comes from and agree in some ways with it,” Isaacson said to NBCSports.com. “Payton, like Rondo, is capable of doing almost everything his team needs from him. They both even have the same major weakness — perimeter shooting. I think where the comparison is at its best is on the defensive end, where both can be pests on the perimeter, force opponents into mistakes, and have no problem getting involved on the boards. I think the fact that Rondo turned out to be a very good NBA player has eased the way that many teams are looking at what Payton can do, and you won’t find the same polarization on his style of play.”

It also doesn’t hurt that another small-school guard, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, has found immediate NBA success after four years at Weber State. Payton acknowledges that Lillard is another guard that he admires and Lillard has even taken to Twitter to back Payton’s game.

“My coach gave me a lot of articles about him last year and even more this year. That’s definitely someone I look up to,” Payton said of Lillard.

The comparisons for Payton may be favorable, but he acknowledged that he still has a long ways to go to be mentioned in the same breath as those All-Star caliber point guards in the NBA.

“I think I’m ready to handle it. I think there’s going to be some challenges but we all have the same challenges ahead of us,” Payton said. “I always have a chip on my shoulder and coming from a small school, that makes it a little bit bigger.”

Duke officially adds Marvin Bagley III

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Duke made one of the biggest recruiting moves of the year official Tuesday.

The Blue Devils announced that Marvin Bagley has formally reclassified from 2018 to 2017 and will join Duke for the upcoming season.

“Marvin is a special basketball talent and a tremendous young man,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He is completely dedicated to his improvement as both a player and student and, given his family’s deep history in this area, he is fully aware of what it means to be part of Duke University. We’re thrilled to add Marvin to our program.”

Bagley’s history in the area comes from his father, who is a Durham native and played football collegiately at North Carolina A&T.

Duke’s official announcement comes just a day after Bagley committed to the Blue Devils and said he planned to enroll in the fall semester.

Bagley, who was the top-ranked player in 2018 and is considered by many now the top 2017 prospect and potential No. 1 NBA draft pick next summer,  makes Duke the presumptive No. 1 preseason team as he joins a highly-touted recruiting class for Coach K that was previously headlined by Wendell Carter, Jr., Trevon Duval and Gary Trent, Jr.

The 6-foot-11 Bagley averaged 25.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while playing in the EYBL this summer.

Duke now the odds-on favorite to win NCAA title, according to oddsmakers

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With Marvin Bagley III now in the fold, Duke has jumped up to become the favorite to win the national title in 2017-18, according to the Westgate Superbook.

MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25

Prior to Bagley’s commitment, both Kentucky and Duke were sitting at 7/1 odds to win the title, but the addition of Bagley not only dropped Kentucky’s chances, it made betting on Duke silly. The Blue Devils are the preseason No. 1 team in the country, but they are anything but a lock to win the title. As we discussed on this podcast, there are still some major flaws with this team. They are not that much better than the field that they deserve to had those odds.

If you’re looking to place a wager on a team to win the title, the bets I really like are USC and Wichita State at 30/1 odds and Miami at 60/1. Those are three top ten teams with the horses to make a deep run in March.

Anyway, here is the full list of odds from the Westgate.

TEAM OPEN CURRENT
Duke 12/1 3/1
Kentucky 10/1 8/1
Michigan State 20/1 10/1
Kansas 12/1 12/1
Arizona 20/1 12/1
Louisville 12/1 15/1
UCLA 40/1 25/1
USC 60/1 30/1
Wichita State 20/1 30/1
Texas 300/1 30/1
North Carolina 12/1 30/1
Villanova 12/1 30/1
Florida 20/1 30/1
Missouri 300/1 40/1
Michigan 20/1 50/1
Alabama 80/1 50/1
Oregon 60/1 50/1
Gonzaga 12/1 60/1
Butler 20/1 60/1
West Virginia 30/1 60/1
Virginia 30/1 60/1
Miami 50/1 60/1
Notre Dame 80/1 60/1
Xavier 80/1 60/1
Baylor 50/1 80/1
Wisconsin 60/1 80/1
Iowa State 80/1 80/1
Oklahoma 30/1 100/1
Florida State 40/1 100/1
Saint Mary’s 40/1 100/1
Seton Hall 60/1 100/1
Purdue 60/1 100/1
Indiana 20/1 100/1
Creighton 80/1 100/1
Vanderbilt 80/1 100/1
SMU 80/1 100/1
Cincinnati 80/1 100/1
UConn 100/1 100/1
Syracuse 100/1 100/1
Maryland 100/1 100/1
Minnesota 100/1 100/1
Northwestern 100/1 100/1
Illinois 100/1 100/1
Arkansas 100/1 100/1
South Carolina 100/1 100/1
Texas A&M 100/1 100/1
Nevada 100/1 100/1
Utah 100/1 100/1
TCU 300/1 100/1
Auburn 300/1 100/1
UNLV 1000/1 100/1
VCU 100/1 200/1
Virginia Tech 100/1 200/1
Marquette 100/1 200/1
San Diego State 100/1 200/1
Providence 200/1 200/1
Georgetown 200/1 200/1
Georgia 200/1 200/1
Oklahoma State 300/1 300/1
Kansas State 300/1 300/1
Texas Tech 300/1 300/1
Dayton 300/1 300/1
Rhode Island 300/1 300/1
Wake Forest 300/1 300/1
Clemson 300/1 300/1
St. John’s 300/1 300/1
Iowa 300/1 300/1
Ohio State 300/1 300/1
Penn State 300/1 300/1
Nebraska 300/1 300/1
Ole Miss 300/1 300/1
Tennessee 300/1 300/1
Mississippi State 300/1 300/1
BYU 300/1 300/1
California 300/1 300/1
Colorado 300/1 300/1
Arizona State 300/1 300/1
Stanford 300/1 300/1
Illinois State 300/1 500/1
Houston 500/1 500/1
UCF 500/1 500/1
Memphis 500/1 500/1
Richmond 500/1 500/1
La Salle 500/1 500/1
Davidson 500/1 500/1
Georgia Tech 500/1 500/1
Pittsburgh 500/1 500/1
NC State 500/1 500/1
Middle Tennessee 500/1 500/1
LSU 500/1 500/1
Colorado State 500/1 500/1
Boise State 500/1 500/1
Fresno State 500/1 500/1
Oregon State 500/1 500/1
Wyoming 500/1 1000/1
Vermont 1000/1 1000/1
St. Bonaventure 1000/1 1000/1
George Washington 1000/1 1000/1
George Mason 1000/1 1000/1
Saint Louis 1000/1 1000/1
UNC Wilmington 1000/1 1000/1
Charleston 1000/1 1000/1
Old Dominion 1000/1 1000/1
Princeton 1000/1 1/1
Harvard 1000/1 1000/1
Yale 1000/1 1000/1
Texas Arlington 1000/1 1000/1
Georgia State 1000/1 1000/1
Arkansas State 1000/1 1000/1
Oakland 1000/1 1000/1
Valparaiso 1000/1 1000/1
Northern Iowa 1000/1 1000/1
Belmont 1000/1 1000/1
Akron 1000/1 1000/1
Ohio 1000/1 1000/1
Buffalo 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico 1000/1 1000/1
Utah State 1000/1 1000/1
Washington State 1000/1 1000/1
East Tennessee State 1000/1 1000/1
Chattanooga 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico State 1000/1 1000/1
Grand Canyon 1000/1 1000/1
Boston College 1000/1 1000/1
Florida Gulf Coast 2000/1 2000/1
Louisiana Tech 2000/1 2000/1
Monmouth 2000/1 2000/1
Troy 2000/1 2000/1
Pennsylvania 2000/1 3000/1
Western Kentucky 1000/1 3000/1
NC Central 2000/1 3000/1
Bucknell 2000/1 3000/1
Washington 2000/1 3000/1
Louisiana-Lafayette 2000/1 3000/1
UTEP 5000/1 5000/1
Mount St. Mary’s 5000/1 5000/1
San Francisco 5000/1 5000/1
Wright State 5000/1 5000/1
Jacksonville State 5000/1 5000/1
UNC Greensboro 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota 5000/1 5000/1
North Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
Fort Wayne 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
IUPUI 5000/1 5000/1
Cal State Bakersfield 5000/1 5000/1
Texas State 5000/1 5000/1
Coastal Carolina 5000/1 5000/1
Albany 5000/1 5000/1
FIELD (All others) 300/1 300/1

CBT Podcast: How does Marvin Bagley’s commitment to Duke change college hoops?

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Marvin Bagley III committed to play for the Duke Blue Devils this season on Monday night. Rob Dauster was joined by Scott Phillips of NBC Sports to discuss the commitment. How good is Bagley? How good is Duke going to be? Are they going to be the No. 1 team in the country again? How do the pieces on that roster fit? We break it all down for you.

MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25

Marvin Bagley addition once again makes Duke the biggest story in college hoops

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I hope that you’re ready for Duke to be the biggest story in all of college basketball for the second straight season.

Because it’s happening.

Late on Monday night, live on Sportscenter, Marvin Bagley III, who may just be the best basketball prospect in the world that is not currently on an NBA roster, announced that he will not only be attending Duke for his one-and-done season, but that he’ll be reclassifying and enrolling this season.

This is not much of a surprise, mind you.

We all pretty much knew that this was how the Bagley saga was probably going to end up playing out, which means we’ve all had time to think through just how this decision is going to affect what happens during the 2017-18 season.

For me, it will bump Duke up to No. 1 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, and I hardly imagine that I’ll be alone in that sentiment.

MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25

With Bagley now in the fold, Duke has four five-star prospects enrolling in this class, including the potential No. 1 pick and two more borderline top five recruits in point guard Trevon Duval and big man Wendell Carter. Throw in scoring machine Gary Trent Jr., and that’s a well-rounded, talented recruiting class. All four of those freshmen should be expected to start alongside Grayson Allen, the most well-known and disliked college basketball player in the country who, according to Mike Krzyzewski, is finally healthy and back to playing like the guy that was an All-American as a sophomore and the Preseason National Player of the Year as a junior.

Youth is going to be a major issue. Allen is the only rotation player that is an upperclassmen, and the other two returnees are Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, neither of whom got much experience playing last season. Depth is going to be another problem as well, as Duke’s reserves will likely be made up of some combination of Bolden, DeLaurier and freshmen Alex O’Connell and Jordan Tucker.

The talent on this roster, however, is undeniable, just like last season.

But unlike last season, the pieces actually fit together. Duval should be excellent at the point, and while he finally gives the Blue Devils a point guard to replace Tyus Jones, he has a reputation for being more of an attacker than a ‘pure point guard’; frankly, Duval is the biggest concern I have with this team. On the wings, Trent and Allen are scorers with three-point range that will spread the floor and make defenses pay for helping off of them. Carter, who many believe to be the second-coming of Al Horford, should be able to handle his own on the block, and his face-up game is better than you may realize.

And then there’s Bagley, who is the ideal for what Duke is looking for at the four spot. He’s big enough that he can defend as a four — or even a five — but he’s skilled enough to play on the perimeter in four-around-one lineups. The Blue Devils did not previously have a guy that can fill that Jayson Tatum, Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram role, and Bagley is probably better suited to do it than any of them.

At the very least he should being the most on the defensive end. He’s actually built like an NBA big man as opposed to effectively being an oversized guard.

It’s all there.

And I totally understand why you don’t want to hear it. I don’t really want to say it, not after this led to this led to this, ending in this.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Duke, right now, has the most talented and well-rounded starting five in college basketball.

They deserve to, at the absolute least, be in the conversation for preseason No. 1 team in the country with Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas, and you’ll have a hard time convincing me they shouldn’t top those rankings.

Let’s assume most voters agree with me on that.

What that means is that the Blue Devils will be preseason No. 1 with the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster alongside Grayson Allen, the most famous — well, infamous — college basketball player we’ve seen in at least a decade.

And I haven’t even mentioned that we still have to wait to find out if and when Bagley will cleared by the NCAA.

I hope you’ve gotten over your Duke fatigue from last season.

Because, without question, Duke. Is. Back.

Top prospect Marvin Bagley III commits to Duke, to enroll for 2017-18 season

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Marvin Bagley III, who may just be the best basketball prospect in the world that is not in the NBA, announced on Monday night that he will be attending Duke and enrolling at the school for the fall semester.

Bagley is the seventh member of Duke’s 2017 recruiting class, joining top ten prospects Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter, another five-star recruit in Gary Trent Jr., four-star wings Alex O’Connell and Jordan Tucker, and three-star point guard Jordan Goldwire.

The Arizona-native picked Duke over USC and UCLA in the end, but he also the likes of Kansas and Arizona also recruited him.

Bagley has long been considered the best prospect in the Class of 2018 and one of the best prospects in all of high school. He’s also already 18 years old, meaning that he is a year older than what you would consider a typical high school senior. Reclassifying, graduating early and enrolling in college means that the 6-foot-11 combo-forward is eligible to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft.

MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25

And rest assured, that was the impetus for this decision. He’s good enough that he’ll likely end up somewhere on every Preseason All-American team that you see this fall, he’ll join Michael Porter Jr. and Deandre Ayton as the odds-on favorites to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and, at this point, it looks like Duke will once again enter the season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country.