(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

2016 NBA Draft: Who are next year’s candidates to be breakout lottery picks?


The 2015-16 season turned into the year of the senior for a couple reasons, the biggest being that guys like Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine, both seniors, exploded in their last year on campus. They split all of the National Player of the Year awards, and deservedly so. Both were awesome, and both could end up being lottery picks on Thursday night.

The other reason was that the freshmen class was not really all that impressive, especially in comparison to the Class of 2016. Put another way, if the one-and-done rule wasn’t a thing, Hield and Valentine probably wouldn’t be lottery picks this year. That means that we likely won’t see many guys go from the second round this year to the lottery next year.

But it’s possible.

Here are the candidates:


Grayson Allen, Duke: A conversation that I had with an NBA scout during the ACC tournament has always stuck out to me: What makes Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray markedly better pro prospects over Allen? He’s the same size, he just as — if not more — athletic, he shot 41.6 percent from three, he’s a more versatile offensive threat. He’s predictable offensively, yes, and that performance he had against Kentucky in the Champions Classic is going to stick in the mind of a lot of people. I’d still rank Buddy and Murray over Allen simply because both of them are elite at a particular skill that is incredibly valuable in the NBA right now, but the idea that those two are in the conversation for the No. 3 pick while Allen was considered, at best, a borderline first rounder is crazy to me.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is probably the best guy to compare to Hield, isn’t he? He’s a terrific college guard whose major limitation as an NBA prospect is his ability to shoot the rock and his ability to create offense for himself one-on-one. Hart, who was the best player for last year’s national champions, has received plenty of exposure during Villanova’s three-year reign atop the Big East. NBA front office folks know what he can do. If he’s going to play his way into being a lottery pick he’s going to have to do like Buddy did and turn himself into a shooter first and foremost.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: I can’t quite quit Hayes just yet. He did not have a good year as a junior, that’s not in dispute. He shot just 29.3 percent from three and 40.0 percent from inside the arc last season, a year that also saw his rebounding numbers take a significant hit. But he can shoot — his splits as a sophomore were 54.1/39.6/74.4 — which makes me wonder how much of his struggles were some combination of mental, struggling to adjust to life after Bo Ryan and, perhaps most significantly, a shot selection issue as he tried to prove that he was a wing. Hayes is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and perimeter skills. He the mold of a small-ball forward at the next level. Will his skill level catch-up?

Xavier's Edmond Sumner (4) shoots over Wright State's Justin Mitchell (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Xavier’s Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Edmond Sumner, Xavier: I might be the biggest Edmond Sumner fan that didn’t birth him. He’s an athletic 6-foot-6 point guard that is still growing into his body. He’s also still learning how to be a point guard — he’s a bit turnover prone, and he functions better in attack mode than as a facilitator — but there’s so much potential there. It will be interesting to see what he develops into next season, but he’s got the ability and the potential to be a first round pick one day.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse: Lydon is going to show up on every one of these lists for two reasons: He can block shots and he can hit threes. Having a guy that can protect the rim on the defensive end of the floor and spread the floor on the offensive end of the floor is about the most valuable combination of skills on the market at the NBA level simply because players that can do both of those things are rare. Lydon has some flaws he needs to fix — most notably, he needs to spend the summer in the weight room and the cafeteria — but if he takes the jump everyone expects him to take, he’ll be another guy Jim Boeheim crushes for leaving school too early.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson: Blossomgame is a guy that could have had a guaranteed contract as an early second round pick this season. He might have been able to play himself into being a late-first rounder if he proved during workouts that his 44.6 percent three-point shooting wasn’t just a result of limited opportunities. He’ll get the chance to do just that as he returned to Clemson for his senior season.

O.G. Anunoby, Indiana: I’m not sure Anunoby fits the criteria here, considering that he didn’t declare for the draft and spent much of his freshman season playing limited minutes behind Troy Williams. But once Tom Crean realized what he had in Anunoby, he became a integral piece of Indiana’s puzzle. He’s such a talented and versatile defender, if he can make himself into some kind of offensive threat on the perimeter he’ll be a first rounder. If he turns into a guy that can average 15 points and shoot 40 percent from three, he might be a lottery pick.


  • Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: I’m enamored with Mitchell, who is the kind of big, powerful and long athlete that can play the combo-guard spot. I’m expecting a monster sophomore season out of him. Adel, a 6-foot-7 wing, was a guy that folks around Louisville thought could be the best member of last year’s freshman class. He spent much of the season banged up. What happens if he’s healthy?
  • Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas: Svi has long been considered a potential first rounder given his size and shooting ability. He’s spent two seasons at Kansas playing primarily a back-up role, but he enrolled at school a year early and only just turned 19 years old. Get this: he’s four months younger than Josh Jackson, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2016 and a soon-to-be Kansas teammate. What kind of hype would he have if he was a freshman this season?
  • Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt: I’m enamored with Kornet but we still need to see him put it all together. Players that can block shots and hit threes have value these days. Kornet shot 40 percent from three (on 3.6 3PAs per game) as a sophomore and 28.0 percent as a junior. He averaged 3.0 blocks as a junior and just 1.1 blocks as a sophomore. Can he do both of those things as a senior?
  • Shake Milton, SMU: Milton classifies himself as a point guard, but he’s 6-foot-5 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan. He shot 42.6 percent from three and had a 1.78 assist-to-turnover ratio. What happens when he gets to spend more time on the ball with Nic Moore gone?



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.