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2016 NBA Draft: Five late first round picks with all-star potential

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Cleveland won the NBA title last night thanks unreal performances out of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. LeBron, the No. 1 pick in 2003, put together the most dominant three-game stretch of basketball I can remember seeing, and Kyrie, the No. 1 pick in 2011, totally outplayed two-time MVP Stephen Curry over the course of the final five games of the series. Throw in Kevin Love, who the Cavs essentially obtained with the No. 1 pick in 2014 — aka Andrew Wiggins — and the Cleveland roster is essentially built with guys that were supposed to be this good.

The amazing thing about the Warriors is that their stars were never really supposed to be stars. Draymond Green was the 35th pick in the 2012 draft. Klay Thompson was the 11th pick in the 2011 draft. And Steph, who famously didn’t get any ACC scholarship offers coming out of high school, was the No. 7 pick in 2009 behind Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio.

With the 2016 NBA Draft coming up on Thursday night, here are five players projected outside the top ten that could end up being all-stars one day:

Jamal Murray, Kentucky: OK, so I lied. Murray is almost assuredly going to get picked in the top ten — although he did fall outside of the top five in the latest mock on Draft Express! — but I wanted to mention him here because I think that, outside of the top two picks in this draft, Murray has the best chance to become one of the best players at his position in the NBA. The biggest reason for that? He’s already elite at one of the most valuable skills in the NBA these days: shooting the ball. He’s particularly dangerous when he’s asked to run off of screens, which is where he has an advantage over Buddy Hield right now. I think there’s a chance he’s only a year or two away from having the impact on an offense that J.J. Redick has on an offense.

The key for Murray is going to be how his body reacts to getting put into an NBA strength and conditioning program. Murray has the skills to be able to operate in the pick-and-roll and to be a playmaker off the dribble — he played point guard his entire life before getting to Kentucky — but he doesn’t have the physical tools to be able to turn the corner against NBA caliber athletes.

I don’t know if he’ll ever get there. It’s a lot harder to change a kid’s physical tools than it is to turn an athlete into a shooter.

But if he does, watch out.

Jamal Murray NBA Draft Scouting Report

Put together a video scouting report of Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray. With the 2016 NBA Draft right around the corner, what kind of prospect is Murray?

Posted by Rob Dauster on Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Deandre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s: Bembry is exactly what NBA teams should be looking for in a draft like this. He’s a swiss army knife with the size and length of an NBA small forward. Offensively, he played basically every spot on the floor for St. Joe’s this past season, from point guard to post, and managed to put up 17.4 points, 7.8 boards and 4.5 assists. He has the physical tools to where he should be able to be an above average defender at his position as well as a guy that can switch onto point guards and small-ball fours fairly effectively.

The problem for Bembry right now is that he doesn’t have a skill that will be impactful at the NBA level in half court offense. He struggled shooting the ball as a junior and he’s never been great at creating for himself in isolation. Both of those flaws are fixable, however, and given the direction the NBA is heading, I can see Bembry eventually having quite a bit of value.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine did something as a senior that we have literally never seen done before in college basketball history: He averaged 19 points, seven assists and seven boards. Throw in the fact that he shot 44.4 percent from three while firing up 7.5 3PAs per game, and you have a player that, on paper, is a perfect fit for the direction the NBA is heading. The problem is that basketball isn’t played on paper, and Valentine lacks both the size and the quickness to truly be a position-less wing player. He’s an elite passer, but will he be able to get to the spots on the floor where he can actually take advantage of that passing ability? Is he quick enough to guard guards in the NBA or physical enough to guard the 6-foot-8 small forwards that populate every roster? Making the gamble all-the-more risky are reports that Valentine has a knee issue that could be degenerative. That’s why a lottery-level talent may end up falling to the back end of the first round.

Kay Felder, Oakland: Isaiah Thomas 2.0. I don’t know if Felder is ever going to have an impact on the defensive end of the floor in a basketball game. But what he almost assuredly will do is be able to make something happen offensively. Much of this is the product of the system that he played in at Oakland, but he averaged an absurd 24.4 points and 9.3 assists. He can do things on that end of the floor, just like Thomas, who was an all-star this past season, can. The question is whether or not he’ll actually get the chance to prove it.

Dejounte Murray, Washington: Murray’s flaws are evident to anyone that watched Washington play this season. He’s a bad jump shooter at this point in his career, he weighs 170 pounds soaking wet and he’s, at best, an apathetic defender. Those issues, however, are fixable, much the same way that his decision-making and point guard skills are; he’s a 19-year old lead guard that’s always been asked to be a scorer. What Murray does well are the things that can’t really be taught. A 6-foot-5 playmaker with a 6-foot-9.5 wingspan, Murray can seemingly get into the lane at will, has impressive body control and a knack for being able to finish tough floaters in traffic. He doesn’t take contact well and tends to be turnover prone, as he looks to shoot first and pass second, but those are parts of his game that can be coached away. His ceiling may only end up being Jamal Crawford — an elite-level bench scorer — but there is potential here.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.