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2014 NBA Draft Preview: The five safest picks in the draft

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source: Getty Images
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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than a week 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 look at the five safest projected first round picks:

One name you won’t see on this list: Andrew Wiggins.

There’s a reason for that.

I would take Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick. A lot of people would, and I can’t think of a situation where a team would be better off with Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid in the long run. That said, I understand that there are inherent risks with picking Wiggins. Does he have that killer instinct, that ability to take over when he needs to take over, that the greats have? Will he get to the point that he is strong enough to finish around the rim? Will he ever develop confidence in his ability to put the ball on the floor?

Wiggins has the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft, a healthy Embiid included. But he could also become the next Rudy Gay — or Gerald Green — if he doesn’t develop. He’s the smart pick, the right pick, at No. 1 overall, but that doesn’t make him a safe pick.

MOREUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

1. Jabari Parker, Duke

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 2), Chad Ford (No. 1)
  • Scott Phillips: “The favorite for 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, Parker will be ready to score with advanced moves from his very first game. Parker will also rebound well from his position and showed in high school that he can be a better passer than he might have shown at times at Duke. Defense will be the big question mark for Parker, but he’s going to score and score frequently.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft. He’ll be able to score the minute he arrives in training, and he should have a long and productive career averaging somewhere around 20 points. He won’t be a franchise-changing talent if he doesn’t work on his conditioning and defense, but he should develop into a perennial all-star.”
source: Getty Images
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2. Doug McDermott, Creighton

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 9), Chad Ford (No. 9)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Best pure scorer in the Draft, but he needs to land in the right spot. While he won’t be a league scoring champ he’ll be a mainstay.”
  • RD: “McDermott’s upside is limited given his tweener status. Is he quick enough to defend on the perimeter? Is he big enough to defend in the post? What there are no questions about is his ability to shoot the ball, and while he may end up being a just spot-up shooter for his career, shooting is always a skill in demand. That’s why guys like Ray Allen and Mike Miller will get contracts until they can’t walk.”

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3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 10)
  • SP: “The NBA always needs shooters and always needs players that can operate a pick-and-roll and Stauskas does both things very well. He has a confidence to him that you want in a high-level shooter and he’s gotten much better each of the last two summers heading into the season.”
  • RD: “His rep is as a shooter, and while he does that as an elite level, he’s a much more well-rounded player than people realize: he’s really athletic, he can make plays off the bounce, he can pass, he’s got a swagger to him that will help at the next level. Like McDermott, at minimum his ability to shoot will keep him around.

4. Shabazz Napier, UConn

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 21), Chad Ford (No. 15)
  • RD: “Shabazz isn’t the quickest guy in the draft and he doesn’t have the size or athleticism of guys like Damian Lillard or Russ Westbrook, but he understands how to play and how to run a team. His change-of-pace makes him quicker than he is — he gets defenders off-balance — and he can really shoot the ball. Getting him in the 20s means a playoff team will be adding a quality back up point guard.”

5. Kyle Anderson, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 25), Chad Ford (No. 21)
  • RD: “The kid just flat out understands how to play. There are always going to be questions about his athleticism, but he’s such a unique talent. Keep in mind: Boris Diaw is unathletic and slow by NBA standards and he has been a very effective player in two different systems. Anderson needs the right fit, but he’s an NBA player.”

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.