Former UConn star Stanley Robinson died on Tuesday night at a family residence in Birmingham. He was 32 years old.
Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said Robinson, who was known by his nickname “Sticks”, was found unresponsive at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday night. He was declared dead 11 minutes later at the scene. Yates said that police are investigating, but that there is no evidence of foul play and that the official cause of death is pending a toxicology report.
Sticks played for UConn from 2006-2010, averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 boards for his career. A 6-foot-9 forward and a former Alabama Mr. Basketball, Robinson was known for his high-flying dunks.
Robinson is perhaps best known for what happened during his junior season. Initially ruled academically ineligible, he was forced to sit out the first semester and instead worked 40 hours a week at a factory in Willimantic, Conn., to prove to then-head coach Jim Calhoun that he was disciplined enough to return to the team. He rejoined the lineup that December. That March, he average 14.8 points and 8.4 boards while leading UConn to the 2009 Final Four.
“I am truly heartbroken,” said Hall of Famer Calhoun. “Stanley was such a beautiful person, caring and giving. He was a gentle soul, too gentle for this world.
“He was not only loved by his teammates, but everybody who met Sticks liked him. He will always be a Husky.”
Robinson was the 59th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft.
The nine most influential transfer waivers we are waiting on
With the 2020 NBA Draft bearing down on us, the biggest question marks heading into the 2020-21 season are the players that have yet to decide if they are going to pull their name out of the NBA draft.
But there are also a number of transfers that are still considering applying for, or are already waiting on, immediately eligibility waivers.
These are the biggest names.
For the most impactful stay-or-go decisions, click here.
Sarr is easily the most impactful transfer currently waiting on a waiver. As we have come to expect out of Lexington, Kentucky is turning their roster over completely, with a brand new crop of freshmen ready to carry the torch.
Brandon Boston is expected to be the best of the bunch. Terrence Clarke isn’t all that far behind. Devin Askew, as well as Creighton grad transfer Davion Mintz, should be able to handle point guard duties well enough. Throw in Keion Brooks, who is back for his sophomore season, as well as Cam’Ron Fletcher, that’s a pretty good place for Kentucky to start.
The problem is up front. E.J. Montgomery went pro despite having almost no chance of playing in the NBA in the near future. Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware are both highly-regarded, four-star big men heading to Kentucky, but neither of them are the kind of impact player that John Calipari needs at the five to be able to thrive. Sarr, however, is. He was a third-team all-ACC player a season ago, averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 boards. He put up 30 points and 17 boards on Notre Dame. He had 25 points against Duke. He went for 21 points and 13 boards against Arizona. He’s really good.
But he also has said publicly that he left Wake Forest because of a coaching change that occurred this offseason as well as the chance to improve his basketball life. Historically, the NCAA has not given out waivers to players that are transferring because of a coaching change. There have been players that transferred after a coaching change and got a waiver, but there was a reason beyond just a different staff that allowed them to get the waiver.
We’ll see what Kentucky cooks up.
Because with Sarr, they are a top ten team. Without him, the Wildcats are more of a back-end top 25 team.
2. LANDERS NOLLEY and DEANDRE WILLIAMS, Memphis
There were three dominoes that the Memphis basketball program has been waiting on.
The first fell last night, as Moussa Cisse committed to play his college ball for Penny Hardaway. Waivers for Nolley and Williams are the other two.
For my money, Cisse was the most important piece here. I detailed why in this column. Nolley, however, is almost as important. A 6-foot-7, 230 pound forward, Nolley averaged 15.5 points for Virginia Tech this past season as a redshirt freshman. He’s a really good shooter that was one of the best players in the conference before tailing off down the stretch of the season. Given the current roster makeup of Memphis, he’s also a perfect fit for a program that has a defensive anchor, a ton of guards and not all that much in between that can bring it all together. With Nolley and D.J. Jeffries on the wings, Cisse in the middle and the likes of Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax and Damian Baugh handling backcourt duties, the Tigers would be a top 20 team that could compete with Houston for an AAC title.
Williams, who averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 boards in 18 games for Evansville last year, is more of a big than he is a perimeter weapon, but he can still contribute in that role. Williams will be 24 years old by the time the season rolls around.
3. L.J. FIGUEROA, Oregon
Finding impact scorers on the transfer market has become something of a specialty for Dana Altman’s program, and Figueroa is no different. He averaged 14.5 points last season for the Johnnies, and he should be a really good fit in Altman’s offense. With a roster that already includes the likes of Will Richardson, Chris Duarte, Amauri Hardy, Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams, it may be tough for Figueroa to crack into the starting lineup, but getting a player like this eligible immediately is only going to help.
Figueroa appears to have a shot at getting the waiver due to the coronavirus pandemic. When Figueroa left, New York City was still the hardest hit place in the country.
4. MAC MCCLUNG, Texas Tech
McClung is a YouTube sensation known for his highlight reel dunks and ability to put up points in a hurry. He broke Allen Iverson’s record for points scored in Virginia high school basketball history. If there’s one thing that he can do on a basketball court, it’s get buckets.
McClung cannot, however, guard. Anyone. He’s a really, really, really bad defender. If there’s one thing that Chris Beard will not stand for at Texas Tech, it’s someone not playing defense. And if there is one thing that this Tech program desperately needed last season, it’s someone that could get a bucket.
Now, this all assumes that McClung is going to buy in defensively, Beard is going to put in the effort to develop him defensively and that the combination of those two things will allow McClung to beat out some of the more talented pieces on this roster — Kyler Edwards, Nimari Burnett, Kevin McCullar, Terrence Shannon — for playing time. But he is unquestionable a useful piece that Beard should be able to get the most out of, and I’m not sure there is a better place for McClung to be if he wants to fix the flaws in his game.
McClung may have a real shot at getting a waiver as well. Georgetown’s program went through quite a bit of drama in the last eight months, including a nagging foot injury that McClung just couldn’t seem to shake.
5. CHAUNDEE BROWN, Michigan
Brown is a powerful, athletic wing that averaged 12.1 points this past season at Wake Forest. He left the program after his junior season, entering the NBA draft and the NCAA’s transfer portal on the same day. That was more than two weeks before head coach Danny Manning was fired by Wake Forest. If Brown does receive a waiver, he would be a nice compliment to Isaiah Livers, who is still weighing whether or not to remain in the NBA draft.
6. BOTH GACH and LIAM ROBBINS, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers have quite a bit left up in the air at the moment — they are also waiting on Marcus Carr to decide whether or not he is going to pull his name out of the draft — but Gach and Robbins have a big impact as well. Robbins is a 7-foot center that averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 boards as a sophomore at Drake last season, while Both Gach is a talented wing that transferred back to Minnesota, where he played his high school ball, after averaging 10.7 points as a sophomore.
7. JAVON FREEMAN-LIBERTY, DePaul
I know it’s hard to get too excited about anyone that is going to be playing for DePaul, but Freeman-Liberty has a chance to be really good. He’s coming off of a sophomore season where he averaged 19 points for Valparaiso, and at 6-foot-4, is the kind of explosive guard that will draw the attention of NBA scouts.
Moussa Cisse’s commitment makes Memphis a top 25 team
Moussa Cisse committed to Memphis on Wednesday, which is huge for the Tigers. Any time you add a 6-foot-11 center that is a top ten prospect and a potential one-and-done player that could end up being the very best rim protector in all of college basketball this upcoming season, it’s a good thing.
A really good thing.
That’s precisely the player that Cisse is. He’s a terrific athlete that plays with a motor, loves to get on the glass and will be an impact defensive presence from the first day that he is allowed to play for the Tigers. More importantly, he won’t be put in a position where he is going to be asked to do much more than that for this Memphis team.
I spent much last summer trying to downplay the hype that surrounded Memphis as they brought in a recruiting class that ranked No. 1 in the country and featured a pair of one-and-done five-stars in James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa. The reason for that was simple: Not all No. 1 recruiting classes are built the same, and once you got past a pair of bigs that needed to be near the basket to be effective, the Tigers had a roster full of guys that had all the makings of being 2-3 year guys.
D.J. Jeffries, Damian Baugh, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones. Those guys all had solid freshman seasons. More importantly, they all returned to school for their sophomore seasons, and as the saying goes, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Throw in the return of Alex Lomax, and Penny Hardaway has a pretty good core of perimeter players at his disposal even before you consider the potential that Landers Nolley and Deandre Williams get waivers.
The true value of the Memphis recruiting class wasn’t just Wiseman and Achiuwa, it was the fact that Penny had himself a solid foundation for his program moving forward. Unless you are Duke or Kentucky, the teams that get the most out of their one-and-done freshmen are the programs that can plug these guys in and ask them to do a job. The healthiest programs in the sport — Virginia, Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor — are the teams that can land elite talent while maintaining roster continuity.
And that’s precisely what Penny has set himself up with.
The hole in this Memphis team was in the middle.
There was not a player on the market better suited to filling that hole on Memphis than Moussa Cisse.
This addition gives Memphis a team that should enter the season in the preseason top 25 and will have a shot at contending with Houston for the American regular season title.
Five-star Makur Maker commits to Howard over UCLA, Kentucky
“I was the 1st to announce my visit to Howard & other started to dream ‘what if,'” Maker wrote on Twitter. “I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow. I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney.”
Maker, a versatile, 6-foot-11 forward, is considered a consensus top 20 prospect in the country. He has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft, but he’s a second round prospect at best. The G League is also an option, although Maker has not indicated that he is interested in going that route.
There has been a movement recently for top prospects to commit to HBCUs. Maker and five-star Josh Christopher, who visited Howard before committing to Arizona State, started the trend. The last player from an HBCU to reach the NBA was Kyle O’Quinn, who graduated from Norfolk State in 2012.
2020 NBA Mock Draft 2.0: Where will Obi Toppin get picked?
Here is an updated 2020 NBA mock draft. Who are the best 2020 NBA Draft prospects?
One thing that needs to be mentioned before we get into the meat of this 2020 NBA mock draft is that the only thing certain about the draft is that, eventually, it is going to happen.
When will the 2020 NBA Draft happen? Right now it is scheduled for June 25th, but that seems likely to change at some point. We can’t hold the draft until we have a draft order, and we won’t have a draft order until the NBA season finishes. If you haven’t noticed, it seems pretty unlikely that the NBA will start again until at least May.
There are also questions about the way the pre-draft process will play out. Prospects will not be flying around the country to participate in workouts. They will not be going from team-to-team to conduct interviews. It seems unlikely that there is going to be a combine in mid-May, if at all. There is a real feeling amongst NBA teams that they have scouted these prospects in person for the last time.
What does that mean for the players that have declared, or will declare in the coming days and weeks?
Well, they won’t be able to convince teams that they were capable of doing things that they weren’t allowed to do within the confines of their college team. They won’t be able to spend eight weeks doing nothing but perfecting a three-point shot to look good at the combine or during workouts. They won’t be able to show out during the NCAA tournament and turn themselves into a first round pick.
This is all new and unprecedented.
So with that in mind, a couple programming notes:
First and foremost, I am not projecting which teams will be picking in specific slots. There are just far too many question marks about right now, particularly when you consider that the NBA changed the way their lottery works this season. So for now, this is just a ranking of who I believe are the best available players.
Secondly, I don’t know that I’m actually an expert on anything, but I’m certainly not an expert on European hoops. So for now, this is less a 2020 NBA Mock Draft and more a power ranking of the best prospects in the NCAA with LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton sprinkled in. I’m sure Deni Avdija is awesome. Until he plays in the EYBL, I won’t have any feel for what he can do beyond watching the same YouTube videos you watch.
Hey, at least I’m being honest about it.
So without further ado, here is the NBC Sports 2020 NBA Mock Draft.
Edwards is the best scorer in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous three-level bucket-getter that can get hot and do things like score 33 points in a half. Ask Michigan State. He also has the physical profile of a guard that can defend two or three different positions in the NBA. It’s all there.
But Edwards is still learning how to play and how to be consistent. Far too often he settled for deep, contested threes. They looked great when he hit a couple in a row, but he shot 29 percent from three as a freshman. That speaks for itself, although part of that inefficiency absolutely stems from the load he was asked to carry. Edwards was not getting too many easy looks created for him.
There are also too many stretches where he looks disengaged in the game, whether it’s due to his lack of focus on the defensive end of his passivity offensively. He’s developed a reputation dating all the way back to his high school days for being a guy that starts slow and puts up huge second half numbers in a losing effort.
I know what you’re going to think when you hear LaMelo Ball’s name. The reaction is going to be you thinking back to the little 5-foot-11 kid with braces and a blonde mohawk launching shots from halfcourt and cherry-picking against overmatched competition to try and get to 100 points in a game. You’re going to immediately think of all the things you hated about Lavar Ball, and I get it.
But Melo grew up. He’s not just the baby brother anymore. He’s now a 6-foot-7 lead guard that has all of the tools that would lead you to believe that he can be a star feature guard in the NBA. He’s a terrific passer that can make every read you want a point guard to make out of ball-screens with either hand, and he has the size to see those passes over the defense. His feel for the game and basketball IQ are elite. He’s been an inconsistent and inefficient shooter throughout his career, but he’s always been a good free throw shooter and while he certainly needs to tweak his mechanics, some of those low percentages can be explained away by the degree of difficulty of the shots he is taking.
Which leads me to what may be the most important point here: Not only is Melo one of the youngest players in this draft, he is also a late-bloomer. He’s still growing into his frame, and while I doubt he’s ever be on par with someone like Russell Westbrook, he’s definitely going to get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically and gets into an NBA strength training program. When that happens, it should help his explosiveness and ability to handle physicality. There are risks here, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say he has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class.
The bigger issue is the off-the-court stuff. He has a reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being a lazy defender with a lacking work ethic. Teams picking at the top of the draft will have to do their due diligence. He may have a high ceiling, but there’s also some bust potential at play. If it all works out, he could end up being the second-coming of Luka Doncic.
Wiseman has all the physical tools that you want out of a five in the modern NBA. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, an exceptional athlete that can really get up and down the floor and finish above the rim. He has all the tools to be a rim protector that can guard in ball-screens and switch on the perimeter if needed. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki but he’s not Clint Capela, either — he’s shown some flashes of being capable on the perimeter.
The red flags with Wiseman are two-fold. For starters, his competitiveness has been questioned throughout his career. He hasn’t always controlled games the way someone his size should be able to. He isn’t as tough or as physical as some would like, and he seems to have a habit of trying to prove that he can play away from the basket instead of overpowering anyone that gets between him and the rim. None of these concerns were helped by his decision to quit on his Memphis team in December, halfway through a suspension for break (admittedly silly) NCAA rules.
My gut feeling on Wiseman is that if he decided he wanted to be, say, the next Myles Turner, he could end up one of the eight-to-ten best centers in the NBA. If he decides that he wants to be the next Giannis, I don’t think it will go as well.
Toppin is one of three guys in this draft that, if I were an NBA GM, I would want to definitively be higher than the field on, and the reason for that is two-fold: On the one hand, Toppin is one of just a handful of players in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that I believe can make a significant impact in the NBA as a rookie, and given that the top of this draft class is made up of players that are going to be drafted on their potential without having the upside of being a franchise-changing talent, I think there is value in drafting a guy with a rock-solid floor.
The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level. Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set. At 6-foot-9, he’s an explosive leaper that is versatile offensively — he can hit a three, he can score off the bounce, he has a pretty good feel for the game, he’s a capable and willing passer. He also has the size and physical tools where it is conceivable that he can play the four or the five in small-ball lineups, although he’ll need some development here; he has high hips and a slender waist which casts some doubt on how well he’ll be able to put on weight and how well he can sit in a stance and guard on the perimeter. And while there is some value in being capable of guarding fours or fives, there are some valid questions about whether or not he’ll be above average guarding either.
I do think that will come with time spent in the right NBA strength and conditioning program, and the fact that he’s a late-bloomer that was just 6-foot-2 as a high school junior is relevant here as well.
I broke down why Toppin is such a good fit for Dayton’s offense last month, and all of that applies to why he’ll be such a good fit at the next level as well:
Details: 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 245 lbs Key Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 1.2 spg, 72% FT
For me, the intrigue with Okongwu is pretty simple. He is a 6-foot-9 five that is an explosive athlete with an already-sturdy frame. He produced at the college level, both as a scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector, and has shown some pretty solid post moves for a 19-year old. He can defend the rim. He’s athletic enough that being a switchable five seems like his floor. He has a soft touch around the basket, and while he’s shooting just 15-for-35 on jumpers this season, according to Synergy, he’s 9-for-19 on jumpers inside 17 feet and shooting 72 percent from the free throw line on 143 free throws.
Worst-case scenario, Okongwu turns into an off-the-bench big that provides energy, rebounding and defense. If the jumper — and, especially, the passing — comes along, he can be much more than that.
Okoro is another guy that I would want to be higher than consensus on, because I think he has a chance to be a really good starter on an NBA team for the next 12 years. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable in the modern NBA than a wing that is a multi-positional defender, that can guard in space and that is capable of creating against a close out or in isolation, but I am sure that there is no one in this 2020 NBA Mock Draft that better fits that role than Okoro.
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Okoro was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He can guard up, he can guard down, he can move his feet, he’s already built like a pro, he’s shown the ability to block shots as a help-side defender. It’s what he hangs his hat on. But he’s also proven to be particularly adept off the dribble, where he’s a nightmare to stop once he gets a step. He can finish above the rim, but perhaps his most underrated skill is his ability to read defenses and pass the ball. He definitely is a capable and willing playmaker.
The one question mark is the shooting, but in conversations I’ve had with people that know Isaac, both at the collegiate and high school levels, the consensus is that he’s a worker. He’ll put in the hours that he needs to in order to make himself a threat from three.
Haliburton’s numbers jump off the page. At 6-foot-5, he’s a lead guard with terrific vision that can throw every pass a point guard is going to be asked to make. He’s an excellent three-point shooter that has positional size and has shown himself to be, at the very least, adequate as an on- and off-ball defender. He was the best player on the floor for Team USA at the U-19 World Championships over the summer. All of that adds up.
If there is a concern with Haliburton, it’s his physical tools. He’s not an explosive athlete and, at 175 pounds, there are valid concerns about how well he is going to handle the rigors of getting to the rim in the NBA. He also has a slow, funky release on his jumper — think Shawn Marion. Will he be able to get that shot off at the next level?
I’m high on Haliburton because, after seeing the way that elite passers like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young have thrived early in their NBA career, I’m willing to take the risk on a 6-foot-5 point guard that can make those passes in a year where the opportunity of rolling the dice at the top is relatively low.
I’m torn on Cole as a prospect. On the one hand, I love everything about the way he is wired. He’s tough, confident and competitive, the ultimate alpha. He’s a worker that will put in the hours in the gym. Given the way he grew up, he’s not going to be intimidated by anything. In an era where draft prospects are quitting their teams, what they call “shutting it down”, midseason once they’ve earned a spot near the top of the lottery, Cole fought back from a knee injury that required surgery to get back on the court and fight with his team despite the fact that they really don’t have much left to play for during the season.
I respect that. If I’m an NBA GM, I want players wired that way.
The problem with Cole is the way that he plays. He’s tough and athletic, but given his average height and length, he’s more or less going to have to guard point guards at the next level. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to be the guy in the NBA that he has been throughout his career. He plays like Russell Westbrook, a hyper-kinetic athlete that is a streaky, sometimes inefficient shooter with a limited passing range that has a habit of dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting his team out of games on off nights. He’ll be 20 years old by the time he’s drafted. How much more room is there for him to change?
What I will say is this: Anthony did become a better passer later in the season, as he gained more confidence in his teammates and after he went through a stretch where he was shooting the Tar Heels out of games. That’s a good sign, but I still have my doubts.
Taking a risk on Maxey this high in the 2020 NBA Mock Draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman has more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.
And while he would show flashes of being the dominant scorer Kentucky needed him to be, the Wildcats late-season surge was a direct result of Immanuel Quickley’s improvement, not Maxey finding consistency. We spent the entire season saying “just wait until Maxey finds his stroke” and he never really did. He needs to be able to make that shot because the rest of his game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.
Details: 20 years old, 6-foot-8, 216 lbs Key Stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 45% 3PT Full Scouting Report
Saddiq Bey is the third guy that I would want to be higher than anyone on, because I think that he has a chance to be one of the best players to come out of this 2020 NBA Mock Draft. Bey is something of a late-bloomer. He’s was a 6-foot-1 guard when he was a sophomore, and according to the Villanova coaching staff, he has actually grown an inch or two since he arrived on campus. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and may be closer to 6-foot-9 by the time it’s all said and done.
Bey’s shooting ability speaks for itself. He hit 45 percent of his threes while shooting more than five per game, and he finished in the 98th percentile nationally in spot-up shooting, according to Synergy. He has shown some playmaking ability, and while he’s not much of an off-the-dribble shooter at this point in his development, he is capable of playing as the handler in ball-screen actions. Most importantly, as we have seen with the wings that have come out of the Villanova program of late, they just know how to play. You won’t see the floor there if you don’t, and given the fact that Bey was asked to be the do-it-all point guard on his high school team, he has experience being more than just a scorer.
But the thing that has really stood out about Bey since he arrived on the Main Line is his ability to defend. He’s the best defender in the program, and while Villanova has not always been known for how they guard, they were the second-best defensive team in the Big East behind Seton Hall, who was a top-eight defense nationally. They’ve put him on lightening quick point guards like Devon Dotson and Kamar Baldwin, and Villanova’s tendency to switch means that Bey has spent plenty of time guarding bigs as well.
So what we have here is a multi-positional defender that shoots the cover off the ball and can be a playmaker off the bounce. I think he’s just as good of a prospect as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Josh Hart, and all four of those guys have turned into players that will last in the NBA for a while. Bey is next in line.
Hampton is a kid that has quite a bit of potential, but he’ll need time to develop at the next level. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play on or off the ball, but needs to continue to develop his ball-handling and his perimeter jumper to be able to do either at the NBA level. He has the length, quickness and athleticism to be able to defend either backcourt spot in time, but he is something of a late-bloomer that needs to put on some weight and strength. He’ll try defensively, too, but he needs to be coached up. Again, that will come with time.
The biggest concern I have with Hampton — who played this past season in Australia — is that I’m not sure if he has an elite skill yet.
Vassell was one of the breakout stars of the ACC, leading a good Florida State team in scoring and doubles as their best three-point shooter. He’s got the size and the length to be a good defender at the NBA level, and he’s proven to be a playmaker on that end of the floor — he averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. Playing for Leonard Hamilton, you can be sure he got plenty of reps switching defensively and guarding bigger and smaller players. He’s not much of a playmaker on the offensive end, and at 180 pounds, he definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. But he’s precisely what you look for as a 3-and-D wing. In a 2020 NBA Mock Draft where it’s hard to find sure things, Vassell, on paper, seems to be as close to a known quantity as you are going to get in this range.
The biggest question mark for me when it comes to Achiuwa is whether or not he is going embrace what he actually is. For my money, he’s something of a poor man’s Bam Adebayo, a big man that can be used at the four and, ideally, as a small-ball five. He plays hard, he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he’s proven himself as a rebounder. He also has some perimeter skill, and he did make some threes this season. There’s a market for that in the NBA, and it’s a role Achiuwa should be able to thrive in.
But is that what he wants to be? Or does he think that he’s a three? The potential is there for Achiuwa to be effective as a face-up forward against bigger, slower centers. I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a three. Remember, Achiuwa will turn 21 years old before he plays in his first NBA game. He was a freshman this season and he is just two months younger than Kaleb Wesson, who was a junior. If Achiuwa embraces who he is, he has a long and profitable basketball career in front of him.
I’m not sure whether or not Mannion will actually get drafted this high, but I’m willing to rank him this high because of what his floor is in a draft where there are a number of prospects that could end up being total busts. To me, Mannion has the same kind of prospect profile as the likes of Jalen Brunson, or Fred VanVleet, or T.J. McConnell, or Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s a guy that, at worst, will spend a decade playing in the NBA as a backup point guard because of his basketball IQ, his ability to makes shots and the fact that he can operate in a pick-and-roll.
My concern with drafting him this high is that he doesn’t really have an NBA skill. He’s a good athlete but not a great athlete, and that isn’t helped by the fact that his wingspan is reportedly 6-foot-2.5. He’s not great at beating defenders off the dribble in the halfcourt, which is a problem for an NBA point guard. He’s a good shooter but he’s not a great shooter. He’s a high-level passer but he’s not Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He tries defensively but he just doesn’t have the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. I’m just not sure what he does that truly sets him apart, and the fact that he was the leader of an Arizona team that kept losing games they shouldn’t lose is concerning.
Again, this one is pretty simple for me. Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan that was shooting a ridiculous 52.2% from three while taking more than eight threes per game before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he was one of the most improved players in the country before he got hurt. I’m willing to take a bet on a guard with those measureables when he’s a hard enough worker to go from 33.7 percent shooting as a freshman to this. That’s the kind of leap that Buddy Hield made heading into his senior season. Nesmith is just a sophomore.
That said, Hield won at a significantly higher clip than Nesmith did, and Hield did it against Big 12 competition. Nesmith’s season was cut short before he really got into the teeth of SEC play. But I’d be willing to roll the dice on his shooting carrying him to a role in the league.
16. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
Details: 18 years old, 6-foot-9, 250 lbs Key Stats: 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 77% FT
What you see is what you get with Stewart. He’s a tireless rebounder that, at 250 pounds of solid muscle, is ready to compete in the paint against NBA bigs right now. He’s a good post scorer that has shown some glimpses of being able to make threes — the Washington staff will tell you he’s lights out in practice. That’s the good. The bad is that he is an undersized center at 6-foot-9 that doesn’t have the length or explosiveness to be able to protect the rim at the NBA level, and while he’ll put in the effort to guard on the perimeter, he has never really shown that ability. Playing in that Washington zone hasn’t helped quell those concerns, either. He’s tough, he has a motor, he’s really good at the things that he does well, but if he’s not going to protect the rim or guard on the perimeter, where does he fit in the modern NBA?
I also think Stewart is the kind of guy that will be hurt by the fact that there won’t be any workouts. He’s an impressive interview that could show off his shooting and, at least in theory, prove what he can do defensively.
The numbers look fairly pedestrian, admittedly, but putting them in context is important: Williams was coming off the bench for a Florida State team that goes 11 deep and gives everyone pretty equal minutes. No one ever puts up huge numbers in a Leonard Hamilton program. What they do is incubate players that project as role guys in the league. At 6-foot-8, Williams is a terrific athlete and a burgeoning defender and that can protect the rim and guard out on the perimeter when needed. And while the shooting stroke was somewhat inconsistent this past season, the potential is there — he did shoot 84 percent from three this year.
On the one hand, it is very easy to see why McDaniels is such a tantalizing prospect. Players with his size and his length aren’t supposed to be able to do the things that he does on the perimeter. He has impressive handle, he can knock down tough perimeter jumpers and every once in a while he will do something during a game that will make it to the House of Highlights page. His ‘wow’ moments pop.
On the other hand, McDaniels is 200 pounds soaking wet with slender shoulders and skinny legs. He hasn’t handled contact all that well this season, and he is not all that explosive of an athlete. And during Pac-12 play, all of the red flags came to the forefront. Emotional outbursts led to far too many technical fouls. He led the Pac-12 in fouls and turnovers. He averaged just 11 points during conference play. He was benched for the last ten games, and Washington wasn’t definitively better with him on the floor.
He’s a lottery ticket in this 2020 NBA mock draft.
Stix Smith was one of the best players in college basketball over the course of the last month. He’s a pogo-stick athletically that stsrted to make threes on a consistent basis. I’m worried about his frame — he checks in at 225 pounds, but looks like he’s closer to 200 pounds — and I’m not sure how much of a weapon he is offensively beyond being a spot-up shooter. Defensively, he can protect the rim, but will that translate to the NBA, where every five he goes up against will have 20 pounds on him? And while he is a terrific athlete, he plays stiff and upright. I’m not sure how well he will use that athleticism without a runway for takeoff.
All that said, over the course of the last eight weeks of the season, Smith’s potential turned into production. It was the biggest reason Maryland looked like one of the best teams in the country down the stretch. I’m willing to bet on him at the back end of the first round.
Jones is a really good passer, a terrific defender and the kind of point guard that checks all the cliche boxes about being a winner, a leader and a facilitator. He was the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. His box score numbers were impressive, and his impact on basketball games goes well beyond the box score.
But more importantly, his jump shot showed real, tangible improvement. Jones made 36 percent of his threes and shot four of them per night. In catch-and-shoot situations, he made 40 percent of his jumpers and hit them at a 1.18 points-per-possession clip (or a 59% eFG, which was in the 82nd percentile nationally). His pull-up game isn’t there yet, but if he went from being a guy that teams flat-out did not guard beyond 12 feet as a freshman to a 36 percent shooter as a sophomore, whose to say his pull-up game won’t be next?
If Jones never gets any better, if this is who he is for the rest of his basketball career, he’s a backup point guard in the league until he doesn’t want to play anymore. If he continues to develop his shot, however, he could end up being a starting point guard. I find it hard to believe this kid isn’t going to keep getting better. In a draft like this, that’s great value this late.
I’ve gone through stages with Ramsey. I loved him in high school. I was frustrated by him early on in his college career, as Texas Tech worked through figuring out what the best way to use him is. What they’ve settled on is as a scorer and an elite shot-maker. The big red flag for me is that I expected Ramsey to play the Jarrett Culver-Keenan Evans role for Texas Tech, but he’s not that guy because he is not on their level at creating out of ball-screens or as a passer. Since he is only 6-foot-4, that’s something to monitor in the longterm.
But he’s a bouncy athlete that can play in transition, shoots the cover off of the ball and should be able to attack closeouts. The two major question marks are on the defensive end of the floor and shooting off of the dribble, but those are things that can be improved with time. He’s not the player that I thought he would be, but he’s still good enough that using a top 25 pick on him makes sense.
Lewis checks a lot of boxes. He’s young for a sophomore — he enrolled at Alabama as a 17-year old and won’t turn 19 until April — and he put up huge numbers for an Alabama team that is built to run, run, run and shoot nothing but threes and layups. He also shot 37 percent from three for the second consecutive season. He’s slender, he’s turnover prone and part of the reason he produced as much as he did this season was because of the pace that Alabama played at. He’s worth a first round pick, especially considering his age.
Winston did not have the season many of us expected him to have as a senior — understandably, given the death of his brother in November — but he still put up All-American numbers for a team that won a share of the Big Ten regular season title. He was playing his best basketball down the stretch, and he still have the highest basketball IQ of anyone in this 2020 NBA mock draft. He’s an elite passer and shooter that thrives in ball-screens. Yes, the defense and athleticism are concerns, but we said the same thing about numerous point guards that have made careers out of being backup point guards. Winston is the next in that pipeline.
Green is a consistent jumper away from being a guy that can stick in the league as a role player for a decade. He’s really athletic, he’s terrific in transition and he’s a willing defender that gives effort. He can be coached up on that end. But he was limited as a scorer in the half court — 1.19 PPP in transition vs. 0.825 in the half court — and part of that is due to the fact that he shot just 33.3 percent on jumpers in half court offense.
Carey has proven himself as a terrific low-post scorer and has actually shown off a nice touch from the perimeter. He is left-hand dominant, but that’s something that can be worked on. To be frank, I’m not really all that concerned about the offensive side of the ball with Carey. The biggest issue for Carey is that he is not all that explosive and he is not all that quick, even with the weight he shed during the offseason. He’s struggled in ball-screen coverages and he does not profile as a rim protector at the NBA level. If you can’t guard the rim and you can’t guard ball-screens, where do you fit defensively in the NBA?
I may be out on a limb here, but I truly believe that Tillman is worth a first round pick, especially in this year’s draft class. There’s really two reasons for this: For starters, he is a terrific passer. No one in college basketball is better than making the right play in a 4-on-3 scenario when the defense traps a pick-and-roll ball-handler than Tillman. But he is also an excellent defender that can really read the game. Talk to people around the Michigan State program and they’ll tell you he ran everything defensively. It was his voice that teammates heard. Now, the major question mark is his size. At just 6-foot-8, can he defend fives? Is he quick enough to play the four? If we knew for a fact that the answer to both of those questions would be ‘yes, and he can do it very well,’ I would have him slotted as a top 20 pick.
The first clip here shows how effective he can be as the fulcrum of an offense. The second? Men his size aren’t supposed to be able to avoid a charge like that. pic.twitter.com/5EUGu4EUql
In a league where seemingly every team had a dominant interior player, Daniel Oturu has been arguably the best two-way center in the Big Ten. The numbers that he put up speak for themselves. He was one of the most improved players in the country. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for the game, and he’s something of a blackhole when he does get the ball in his hands, but he has shown off a bit of three-point range and is actually able to put the ball on the floor and make things happen off the bounce. I think his fit as a five in the NBA is better than some of the bigs slotted in front of him.
Nnaji is the most explosive big in this 2020 NBA mock draft class. He’s really, really athletic, and his second jump is something to behold. His production speaks for itself, even if some of it has to due with Arizona’s pace and the play of Nico Mannion. That said, I’m down on Nnaji compared to the rest of the field because I think that he’s somewhat limited defensively. He has a tendency for getting lost guarding ball-screens and he is not a very good rim protector. Can those things be coached up enough to make him worth being picked over the likes of Daniel Oturu, Isaiah Stewart or Jalen Smith?
At some point it just becomes impossible to ignore the production. Dotson averaged 18-4-4 for the best team in college basketball, showcasing the ability to get to the rim almost at will while playing tough, aggressive on-ball defense for the best defensive team in the sport. There are some concerns — he’s very right hand-dominant, he shot 31 percent from three, he’s not physically imposing — but he’s worth a flier in this draft class.
30. UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
Details: 20 years old, 7-foot, 250 lbs Key Stats:13.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 75% FG, 44% FT
I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that Doke helped his professional outlook more than any player in college basketball this season. He was the most dominant defensive force in the sport. His ability to control the paint was unmatched, but he shed enough weight and improved his footspeed enough that he was able to shutdown pick-and-roll actions playing drop coverage, something we are seeing more of in the NBA.
The big question is if he is quick enough to be able to do that at the professional level as well, because he is never going to be a threat to do anything offensively more than four feet away from the rim and he’ll always be a Hack-a-Doke risk given his free throw shooting.
But a year ago, I would have said there was no chance that Azubuike could play in the NBA. None. And now I think that he’ll be an effective piece for a team that is creative in the way they use him in certain matchups.
Stanley is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class. He’s a guy that projects as a plus-defender as a result. If you assume that his 36 percent three-point shooting is for real, he’s a solid 3-and-D wing prospect that could find a way onto a roster. His shooting mechanics are a little funky, and he was flat-out bad shooting off the dribble, but he was in the 87th percentile nationally on all jump shots at 1.099 PPP and the 93rd percentile nationally on catch-and-shoot jumpers at 1.312 PPP, according to Synergy.
Pons is the best athlete and the best defender in this entire 2020 NBA mock draft class. You often hear things like “he can guard all five positions” which tends to be an exaggeration. Not for Pons. He can, quite literally, guard any point guard, any center and anyone in between. He can play the four, and at times even the five, in small-ball lineups in the NBA to great effect. What makes him even more intriguing is that he shot 42 percent on unguarded catch-and-shoot threes. I think this is the most important number when it comes to his three-point shooting, because these are the face-up, step-in threes that he’ll be shooting at the next level.
The thing about Pons is that he played the three as a sophomore. As a junior, he was Tennessee’s four, which meant that instead of coming off of screens to get a shot, he was stepping into them as a trailing big or catching and shooting as a floor-spacer. This is the role he would play in the league.
Put it all together, and I’ll buy on a player that has an elite NBA skill with the potential to fill out his game to be effective in a role.
Here’s what you need to know about Paul Reed right now: Since Shane Battier left school in 2001, there have been two high-major players that have averaged at least 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in the same season: Matisse Thybulle and Nerlens Noel. Noel is the only other high-major player to average 1.9 steals and 2,5 blocks. While Reed is shooting just 16-for-52 from three this season, he shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore and has been a 75 percent free throw shooter the last two years. Size, length, athleticism, defensive playmaking, defensive versatility and a shot at being a shooter, too? I’m in, even with DePaul’s late-season swoon.
Dosunmu is a tough player to project. On the one hand, he has all the physical tools to be a capable combo-guard in the NBA, and he proved himself as a slasher and clutch-shot maker as a sophomore. On the other hand, in a year where he was trying to prove to NBA scouts that he can be a consistent three-point shooter, his numbers dipped from 35 percent to under 30 percent. He has a reputation for being a worker and a good locker room guy, and given his ability to defend both backcourt positions, I certainly think it’s reasonable to bet on him getting better as a shooter in the second round.
Flynn is in a tough spot. On the one hand, he just finished his fourth season in college by having an All-American campaign while leading the Aztecs to a 30-2 record and the brink of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. He turns 22 in May. It makes sense for him to leave now, striking while the iron is hot.
But just how hot is that iron, so to speak? Flynn is a plus-shooter that shines in ball-screens and thrived in an offense that was built entirely around his ability to do those two things. But he’s 6-foot-1, somewhat limited physically and looking at being a preseason first-team All-American if he returns to school.
At this point, I think that he is what he is as a player — a career NBA backup with a chance to get a couple of contracts in the NBA doing just that.
Nwora has the size, the length and the shooting ability to make it as a wing in the NBA. He’s a better leaper than he gets credit for because of his reputation for being a subpar athlete, but where that lacking athleticism is seen functionally is in his ability to defend. He’s not that quick laterally, and that’s a concern for a guy that will theoretically be twos and threes in the NBA.
Riller is just a bucket-getter. He’s crafty off the bounce, he can finish around the basket and he is a capable three-point shooter. He also has positional size to play lead guard in the NBA. What’s the downside of drafting him in the second round and seeing what he develops into?
Diakite is 23 years old, he’s not overly physical, he has never been a great rebounder and he’s a better rim protector in theory than in practice, so I get it. But also understand that he has been Virginia’s best three-point shooter this season, the guy that was used in actions that Tony Bennett ran for Kyle Guy last year, and he’s a 6-foot-9 switchable four. I’ll forever be on the Mamadi bandwagon.
Wesson is the guy that was helped the most by testing the waters of the NBA draft last year. He shed some weight, he’s gotten much better as a defender in ball-screen actions and he’s still a bully on the block that can really pass and knockdown threes. He’s got a shot to stick.
Powell’s efficiency numbers were way down this year, but he has dealt with some injuries. I’m mostly buying on him the way I bought on Carsen Edwards — whose efficiency suffered before exploding in the NCAA tournament — last season. He’s tough as nails, he can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, and he’ll put in the effort defensively.
NCAA rejects former coach Kevin Ollie’s appeal over UConn violations
HARTFORD, Conn. — An NCAA panel on Wednesday rejected an appeal by former UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, who sought to overturn findings that he violated ethical conduct rules while leading the Huskies.
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee ruled Ollie failed to prove that information he presented alleging witnesses against him lied outweighed the information that supported the violation findings.
In July 2019, the NCAA Committee on Infractions placed the UConn program on two years of probation and sanctioned Ollie individually for numerous violations of NCAA rules during his tenure.
The Committee on Infractions said the violations mainly stemmed from improper pickup games at which student managers kept statistics for coaches; the use of a video coordinator as a coach, which resulted in more than the allowable number of coaches; and free training sessions provided to three players by a trainer who was friends with Ollie.
The NCAA issued a three-year, show-cause order for the former head coach for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, providing misleading statements to investigators, and failing to monitor his staff. That means any NCAA member school that might hire Ollie must restrict him from any athletic-related duties unless it shows why those restrictions should not apply.
Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, criticized the appeal panel’s ruling.
“It is disgraceful this committee refused to consider the ample evidence produced by counsel for Kevin Ollie showing that witnesses had lied,” Parenteau wrote in an email. “Throughout this process the NCAA has repeatedly demonstrated that its number one priority is to protect UConn, its member, and will eagerly do so at the expense of Kevin Ollie’s rights.”
Ollie continues to fight his firing by UConn in March 2018. He argues there was no just cause to fire him and UConn owes him more than $10 million that was left on his contract, which ran through June 30, 2021. The dispute is in arbitration.