2013-2014 Season Preview: The Top 20 Wing Forwards

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Andrew Wiggins (AP) and Jabari Parker (AP)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.

We will be ranking:

Wing forwards are players that we feel cannot be designated as a member of the back court yet do the majority of their damage away from the basket. A wing player in basketball is one that requires versatility if a player’s to be considered among the elite at the position. Whether they’re a high-level perimeter shooter or a slasher who’s best when attacking off the dribble, the ability to excel in multiple facets of the game is of high importance.

Here’s our list of the 20 best wings entering the 2013-14 season:

1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): The Huntington Prep product arrived in Lawrence amidst much fanfare, and whether or not he’s in the spot when the season ends will depend in large part on how he handles the attention. The skill and athleticism are most certainly there, with more than a few scouts pegging Wiggins as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft should he enter.

2. Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker was one of the most versatile players in the country coming out of Simeon High in Chicago, as he has the ability to score both inside and out. Given his talent Parker is one of two wings expected to lead the way for the Blue Devils as they look to account for the loss of their top three scorers from a season ago.

3. C.J. Fair (Syracuse): Even with the Orange playing their first season in the ACC, it was Fair who the coaches chose as their preseason ACC Player of the Year. As a junior, the southpaw from Baltimore posted averages of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade.

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4. Rodney Hood (Duke): Hood has yet to play a game in a Duke uniform as he transferred in from Mississippi State. But that season spent practicing is expected to pay dividends for Hood, who was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2011-12 (10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg). And he’s already a trusted leader for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, as he’s been named a team captain for the upcoming season.

5. Glenn Robinson III (Michigan): The son of the “Big Dog” is poised for a breakout season with the Wolverines having to account for the loss of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. As a freshman Robinson posted averages of 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he has the skill needed to take advantage of the increased offensive opportunities that will comes his way in 2013-14.

6. Cleanthony Early (Wichita State): One reason why many expect the Shockers to win the Missouri Valley and possibly make some more noise nationally is Early, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-8 forward earned all-MVC and Newcomer of the Year honors, and he’s the early favorite to win MVC Player of the Year as a senior.

7. Kyle Anderson (UCLA): The attribute that would best describe Anderson’s game is “versatility,” with the sophomore being one of the options to run the point for Steve Alford’s Bruins. As a freshman Anderson, who spent the majority of his time off the ball due to the presence of Larry Drew II, led the Bruins in rebounding (8.6 rpg) while also averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.

8. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin): The Badgers may have lost some key veterans but Dekker, who was one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen last year, is back for his sophomore campaign. Dekker shot 48% from the field in 2012-13, averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

9. James Young (Kentucky): For all the talent at John Calipari’s disposal it’s been Young, another of their six McDonald’s All-Americans, whose received the highest amount of praise from observers of the Wildcats’ early practices. Always a good perimeter shooter, Young has the length (6-foot-6) to be a matchup problem for opponents if he attacks the rim with greater regularity.

10. T.J. Warren (N.C. State): With four starters gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team it’s essentially Warren’s show in Raleigh in 2013-14. As a freshman the 6-foot-8 Warren shot 62% from the field, averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

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TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • 11. Luke Hancock (Louisville): The reigning Final Four MOP is a versatile player who can make things happen both on and off the ball, and his leadership abilities have proven valuable for the Cardinals as well.
  • 12. Will Sheehey (Indiana): Given the amount of talent Indiana lost from last year’s Big Ten champion squad, Sheehey (9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) will be expected to do a lot more this season. Sheehey shot 49% from the field as a junior.
  • 13. LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State): Is this the year in which Ross puts it all together? He played very well for the Buckeyes in postseason play, averaging 15 points during the NCAA tournament and hitting the game-winning three to push Ohio State past Arizona in the Sweet 16.
  • 14. Treveon Graham (VCU): For as much attention as the Rams’ “HAVOC” system receives, it should also be noted that in Graham they’ve got one of the nation’s best swingmen. Graham averaged 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13, shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc.
  • 15. Dezmine Wells (Maryland): After spending much of last season adjusting to a new program Wells may be poised to take off in 2013-14. The Xavier transfer averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, and he was also second on the team in assists (3.0 apg).
  • 16. JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s): Sampson may be one of the best athletes in the country, and he’ll be a primary scoring option for Steve Lavin’s Red Storm after averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. For his efforts Sampson was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
  • 17. Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall): Edwin is one of the nation’s most underrated players (the Pirates’ lack of success has had something to do with it), and the hope in South Orange is that he receives more attention in 2013-14. As a junior Edwin posted averages of 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
  • 18. Damyean Dotson (Oregon): Dotson played very well as a freshman for an Oregon squad that reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Dotson ended the season with six straight double-digit scoring outings.
  • 19. Branden Dawson (Michigan State): Dawson’s dealt with injuries for much of his career, but he played in all 36 games last season and averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Still a high-level athlete, Dawson’s production will be key if the Spartans are to have a shot at getting to the Final Four.
  • 20. Jabari Bird (California): Losing leading scorer Allen Crabbe is a big deal, but the arrival of Bird is one reason why the folks in Berkeley aren’t panicking. An excellent athlete, Bird earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-America Game and averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior in high school.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.