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Winners and losers of the 2019 NBA Draft

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The 2019 NBA Draft is now in the rear-view mirror, but that only means it’s time to make snap judgements about decisions that we won’t know the true evaluation of for years.

Let’s break down who left Barclays Center on Thursday night as winners, and who left it as losers.

 

WINNERS

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – Ever since the lottery results came in, we knew the Grizzlies were going to get Ja Morant, but just because it was expected doesn’t it make it significant for Memphis. Morant is not only an explosive athlete and polished scorer, but he’s a playmaker and distributor that can be a cornerstone as the Grizz look to rebuild.

Morant wasn’t the only prize for Memphis, though, as the Grizzlies snatched Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke at No. 21. There may be some questions about Clarke’s height and its impact on how we’ll navigate the next level, but the former Bulldog was an absolute two-way terror last season and was at times considered a potential lottery pick.

This is a huge haul for the Grizzlies.

NORTH CAROLINA – Coby White went seventh overall to the Bulls, and he’ll be the point guard of the future in Chicago, but that’s not what lands the Tar Heels on this list. White was always expected to go in the lottery, but his teammate Cameron Johnson wasn’t.

The 6-foot-9 sharpshooter did, however, landing at No. 11  with the Phoenix Suns, giving Roy Williams’ program another lottery pick when there was apparently some fear that Johnson might slide into the second round.

Instead, North Carolina got two players into the lottery and we got this awesome reaction from White.

Nassir Little fell to 25th – making for a long green room night – but still, there players in the first round will work.

DENVER NUGGETS – The Nuggets entered the night without a draft pick, and left it with a prospect that many considered one of the 10-best not long ago.

Denver was the beneficiary of the slide of Bol Bol, a green room invite who fell all the way into the middle of the second round, where the Nuggets traded in to take him at 44.

It’s a gamble, yes, but a low-cost one for Denver, who nursed Michael Porter, Jr. through all last season and obviously are comfortable taking on a project, both on the floor and on the training table. The Nuggets are an up-and-comer (as much as last year’s No. 2 seed can be), and taking a flyer on a major talent, even one with red flags and a broken navicular bone, is the type of lottery ticket that can pay off huge if it hits.

 

LOSERS

DUKE – You’d think the Blue Devils would be in the above category given they had the No. 1 pick, two players taken in the top-three and three in the lottery, but, honestly, it seems to serve mostly as a reminder of how Duke fell short of a Final Four spot despite that overwhelming talent, not to mention Tre Jones, who will be one of the top returners in college basketball next season.

Duke needed to survive scares in the second round to UCF and the Sweet 16 to Virginia Tech before Michigan State – who didn’t have any players selected Thursday – knocked them off to punch its ticket to Minneapolis. Yes, the Blue Devils fought injury – namely Zion Williamson’s blown sneaker – and the weight of expectation, but they had a generational college player in Williamson and just a stunning amount of talent over the roster. Mike Krzyzewski has deservedly drawn heat for not playing Williamson more at center, and it’s fair to wonder if this team never truly unlocked its true potential.

The Blue Devils were so much fun to watch when they were playing their best basketball, but, aside from Zion’s mastery, they’ll probably be remembered for what they didn’t achieve. The draft was a reminder of that reality.

BOSTON CELTICS – Danny Ainge had been stockpiling picks for years with the idea to flip them into a superstar only to see that plan fall apart as Anthony Davis landed in Los Angeles with LeBron James.

So instead of a superstar, the Celtics added Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters to their roster. Langford seems like something of a risky pick, a bet that a thumb injury is to blame for his 27-percent 3-point shooting, and the other three are excellent college players but maybe question marks in the NBA.

The Celtics may have added a rotation player or two, but their night was more of a reminder that they’ll have to pivot to an uncertain and youthful future with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford likely leaving and experienced reinforcements not likely coming.

BIG TEN AND BIG 12 – Both leagues had just two players taken in the first round, with the Big Ten nearly getting shutout of the lottery with Langford the final pick of the lottery at No. 14. Both lagged significantly behind the ACC (10) and SEC (6) while the Ohio Valley Conference had two picks as well. For two leagues that were among the strongest all season, the Big Ten and Big 12 had a rough draft night. The Pac-12 only had two players go, too, but, honestly, it would just be piling on to mention that.

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.