Author Archives: mays1850

About mays1850

Hey everyone, This is my first launch into the blogging world. In the past I've written for The Boston Globe (mostly high school stuff), DCSportsfan.com, CollegeFanz.com, and the esteemed Boston College Newspaper "The Heights." I'm excited to get some college hoops discussion going and hopefully add some thought-provoking material to this blog. I am originally from the Washington, DC area. Grew up playing football, basketball, and baseball, attending Georgetown Preparatory School and then Boston College. I consider myself not only a college b-ball fan, but a student of the game and someone who appreciates its history.

BYU’s Davies Reinstated

 

ESPN’s Diamond Leung is reporting that BYU will reinstate rising-junior forward Brandon Davies to the team in the 2011-2012 season. Davies’s controversy last season made national headlines when he was kicked off the team for violating the school’s honor code, which involved having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend. It was sad to see him go last year because he’s truly a promising basketball player. He was averaging over 11 points per game on a team where Jimmer Fredette took almost every shot. He added 6.2 rebounds per game as well and provided length defensively with his 6’9″ frame. The Jimmers Cougars were not the same team after he left.

BYU drew some criticism for their decision–mostly out of an inability for most people to understand how you can kick a 20-something year old kid off a team for something that 90% of kids his age are doing (no, not drugs). Still, I had to respect the decision. An honor code is an honor code. BYU would have to be considered one of the very few schools in America that doesn’t bend their own rules for athletes. Surely, the school didn’t want to do it, as a deeper run into the tournament means more revenue for the school, but you have to remember that sports is far from the end-all be-all at that school. Many star athletes will take a full two years off from their sport to go on a Mormon mission. It’s just different.

I respect even more the decision to reinstate Davies. I guess this was going to happen all along, but it’s nice to see. By all accounts, Davies is a great kid, and he served his punishment. I can’t imagine he is the only basketball or football player or any student at BYU to break that rule. He just got caught.

With Fredette gone to the NBA this season, a lot of offensive opportunities open up, and Davies should be in line to get the bulk of them. Look for him to turn some heads this season. And, remember, he is only a junior. He could be a very interesting player to watch over the rest of his career.

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Ranking the Early-Season Tournaments

The advent of early-season tournaments and invitationals over the past decade or so has really done a lot to get college basketball jump started in the month of November. Sure, it is the thick of football season, both college and pro, but these tournaments give basketball fans something to pay attention to, as they often produce some great early season match ups and give a sneak peak on what to expect from teams going forward. Last year, UConn would have remained a relatively unknown entity had they not made an impressive run in the Maui Invitational. Similar stories can be told almost every year.

More and more of these tournaments seem to be popping up every year, so I thought I’d take a look at what we have to look forward to this coming season.

Legggggo!

1. Maui Invitational, Nov. 21-23, Maui, HI 

Participants: Chaminade, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA

Analysis:The Maui Invitational often boasts an impressive field, and this year is no different. Duke and Kansas obviously headline this group from a prestige-perspective, but watch out for Memphis, Michigan, and possibly even UCLA to make quite a bit of noise this year. Georgetown and Tennessee won’t be as strong as they have been in previous years, but if those are two of your bottom three tournament teams, you know you have a good field.

Excited to see Austin Rivers suit up in a Duke uniform...

I like Michigan as a sleeper here, but am just as excited to see what Memphis has in store with a young but extremely talented roster coming into this season.

 2. CBE Classic, Nov. 13-17 and 21-22, Kansas City, MO

Participants: *California, *Georgia, *Missouri, *Notre Dame; Rest of field TBA (* – automatically advance to championship round)

Analysis: The Kansas City location isn’t necessarily glamorous, but this tournament will be quite competitive this year. This is one of those tournaments where most of the field will participate in play-in games at different sites to see who makes it to KC, but the teams slated to automatically advance are a solid group. California should be the favorites.

3. Coaches vs. Cancer, Nov. 7-11 and 17-18, New York, NY

Participants: *Arizona, *Mississippi State, *St. John’s, *Texas A&M; Rest of field TBA (* – automatically advance to championship round)

Analysis: Coaches vs. Cancer is always a popular tournament, especially since it is played in Madison Square Garden and always is televised in prime time on ESPN. The field this year features teams with a lot to prove after losing key guys off of their squads from last season. Arizona has an exciting young class coming in, and St. John’s will certainly be a hometown favorite. Texas A&M may have the most talent, but will be adjusting to a new coach. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a team from the play-in field make a run here.

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NBA Draft Reflective: Notable Decisions to Leave Early and Their Outcomes

Every year there are underclassmen who declare for the draft, and when their announcements scroll across ESPN’s Bottom Line, you think, “Really?” This year, I believe the thinking for some of the guys in that category would have been: this year’s draft class is weak, there is opportunity to go higher and thus make more money if I come out a year early.

Or it’s just: I’m tired of being broke.

Guys like Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, for example, wouldn’t fall into this category because it was more-or-less a given that those two were leaving early and going 1-2. In any case, here’s a look at some of the more, perhaps, interesting decisions to leave early and how they turned out after the fact.

Great Decisions

Tristan Thompson, Texas, #4 to Cleveland

Thompson was always considered a pro prospect, but his numbers his only year at Texas weren’t at the level where you figured it was a given he would come out. But Thompson climbed up a lot of draft boards throughout the evaluation prospects, landing in Cleveland at #4, where in more than one mock draft had him on the edge of the lottery when he declared. Next season, there is no way Thompson goes this high–the 2012 class will more than likely be absolutely stacked at the power forward position.

Knight may have had aspirations of being a top-3 pick, but staying in the top ten should be a win overall.

Brandon Knight, Kentucky, #8 to Detroit

Yeah, yeah, yeah–Knight could have gone as high as #3 or #4 in this draft depending on how a few dominoes fell early on, but a) he stayed in the top ten, but also b) Knight has a serious question mark about whether he can play a true point guard in the NBA. I personally think he can, but I digress. Another year in school may have helped prove to NBA teams that he could play that position in the league, but it also could have damaged his draft stock if he didn’t ease the concerns for a second straight year. I think getting taken eighth overall was pretty much right on target for Knight, as he probably had more risk than reward if he came back for his sophomore season.

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Thursday TwitHitters: Draft Recap

After a week (and a lockout) to gather our thoughts, we came up with our three best/worst picks in this year’s NBA Draft.

Disagree? Want to argue your point? Tell us why. We love arguing.

Best Picks:

MAYO

1) Chris Singleton, 18th, Washington WizardsIn a draft full of likely role players, getting the best defensive player in the draft as far down as no. 18 is great value. He is a great athlete who can get up and down the floor and has the potential to be an above-average spot-up-jump-shooter. The most underrated aspect is the attitude he will bring to a team that, quite frankly, was soft last year.

Singleton = Steal of the Draft.

2) Brandon Knight, 8th, Detroit Pistons – Mocks had Knight going as high as no. 3 to the Jazz, so the Pistons get a steal at no. 8. Knight has the tools and versatility to emerge as one of the best players in this draft, if you ask me. He will take some time to develop, but his size and athleticism at the point guard spot, coupled with the fact that he’s as skilled as he is…great pick.

3) Bismack Biyombo, 7th, Charlotte Bobcats – BISMACK! When you’re a rebuilding team you need to find a star or two, but just as importantly you need guys who provide energy, defense, and rebounding on a consistent basis. Check, check, and check for Biyombo, who has all the makings of a potential Defensive POY award winner. Charlotte can consider their rim protected with this pick.

GIBLIN

1) Kemba Walker, 9th, Charlotte Bobcats – Michael Jordan might have failed on his first pick (see below), but he made up for it with this pick. Kemba is a champion, a tireless worker, and a media darling. When is the last time the Bobcats had anyone they could really market? Stephen Jackson? Gerald Wallace? Ehh. Now they have Kemba. He’ll become an instant fan favorite and will eventually replace D.J. Augustin at the point.

2) Chris Singleton, 18th, Washington Wizards- This pick made the most sense out of any in the draft- a lottery talent and best defensive player in the draft falls to a team that was absolutely abysmal on their end of the court last who needs help on the wing. Hmm…yea that was as easy a pick as it gets for Ernie Grunfield. Some Wizards fans wanted him at the 6th pick. Getting Singleton here was what made Washington the winners on draft night.

3) JuJuan Johnson, 27, Boston Celtics – Quick. Who was the Big Ten POY last year? Nope, not Jared Sullinger. It was JJ. He was absolutely incredible averaging 21 points, 9 boards, and 2 blocks a game. Any Celtic fan will tell you how much Big Baby SUCKED last year in the post-season and won’t be crying when the headcase leaves. Johnson is exactly the type of player that can help the Celtics aging front-court and KG can take under his wing as the Cs make one last run at a title (lockout pending).

LUKE

1)  Brandon Knight, 8th, Detroit Pistons –Dropping all the way to #8, Knight is a steal at this point for the Pistons. Rodney Stuckey hasn’t quite panned out as Joe Dumars and the Detroit front office has hoped, so Knight is a great insurance policy. Plus, both Stuckey and Knight can play both guard positions, so don’t be surprised to see them on the court together at times.

Did Joe Dumars benefit from MJ taking Biyombo over Knight? We say yes.

2) Kawhi Leonard, 15th, San Antonio Spurs – Before the draft, many experts had Leonard pegged as a top-six pick. But on draft night, he found himself free-falling harder than a Tom Petty song. Luckily, Leonard got scooped up at 15 by the Pacers and then shipped out to San Antonio where he will have the pleasure of learning behind Tim Duncan for at least one year, before taking over for the big fella.

3) Alec Burks, 12th, Utah Jazz – Burks sat around and watched as Klay Thompson and the Jimmer were taken just ahead of him. I’m sure the message was received loud and clear, as Burks realized that teams were a little down on him. But, the shooting-guard with the most talents in this year’s draft should use that as more motivation, as he fits in alongside Devin Harris and 2010 #1 pick Gordon Heyward in Utah.

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Draft Debates: Point Guards, Walker vs. Knight

It is no secret that Kyrie Irving is going to be the first point guard taken in this draft. Whether that means he will be the first overall pick remains to be seen, but there is no chance that another point guard usurps him. From there, it has been widely speculated that Kentucky’s Brandon Knight would be the next ball handler off the board, but as the draft looms closer, things could be shuffling a bit. A lot of it will depend on what the Jazz, who many mock drafters have had taking Knight, decide to do with their third pick. If they pass on him, then that opens things up quite a bit. Some teams are rumored to consider Walker a better fit for their offense than Knight. Still, many teams are simply mesmerized by Knight’s upside. Time will tell–but let’s sound off on it.

Brandon Knight, Kentucky

He's represented the Cats, who's next?

What He Brings: The word “upside” is one of the most overused terms when it comes to any draft, but when it comes to picking 18- and 19-year-old kids who have only played a year in college, most of what teams base their decision on is potential, or in other words “upside.” Knight certainly falls into this category–not that he didn’t produce at Kentucky during his one year there where he averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 4.2 APG. NBA scouts are in love with his size for the point guard position. He stands at 6’4″ but his length doesn’t detract from his quickness or defensive ability, which is a big plus.

The questions arise as to whether or not he fits as a pure point guard in the NBA. Where Kemba Walker dazzles GMs is with his charismatic personality which instills a confidence that Walker can run a team. Knight, on the other hand, is much more reserved, but so is Derrick Rose. How is that working out for the Bulls? Knight can score in a variety of ways and proved during this past NCAA Tournament that he plays big in big games. His turnover numbers (3.2 per game) are definitely where he needs to work on his game and are part of the reason that some GMs aren’t 100% sold on him as a pure point guard in the NBA, but those are the kind of problems that can be ironed out in his development.

It would not surprise me in the slightest if five years from now Brandon Knight is rated as the best point guard to come out of this class.

Possible Landing Spots: Utah Jazz (3rd pick), Toronto Raptors (5th pick), Sacramento Kings (7th pick), Detroit Pistons (8th pick)

Ideal Fit: There is no way that Knight slips past the Kings at number seven. The question will be whether the Jazz snag him third overall. If so, I think it would be a great fit for both sides. With Devin Harris in the fold, Knight does not have to start and run the offense from day one. He can learn the system and develop behind a veteran player. The Jazz are amassing young talent that will be able to grow and develop with Knight. They have another pick in the lottery (#12) this year and added rookies Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward to the squad last season.

Hypothetically, if the Jazz were to choose a guy like Alec Burks or Chris Singleton with their later pick, they would have quite a group of youngsters to develop. A lineup of Knight, Burks/Singleton, Hayward, Favors, and Al Jefferson in three years could have other Western Conference teams a little nervous about their futures.

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Draft Debates: Marshon Brooks vs. Alec Burks

Back in April, the shooting guard position was probably considered the thinnest position in the 2011 NBA Draft by a fairly wide margin. However, as the scouting process has continued, both through continued review of game tapes and pre-draft workouts, opinion around the two-guard has become more positive. The headliners of the group are clearly Colorado’s Alec Burks and Providence’s Marshon Brooks (no offense Klay).

Both played in similar situations this past year, playing for traditionally middle-of-the road programs while being the first, second, and possibly third option on the offensive end of the floor. Burks probably had a bit more talent around him and was also helped out by playing in a league that was not the Big East; thus, Colorado won quite a few more games than Providence. Still, Burks certainly was the driving force behind one of the most successful seasons that his former program has had in some time. Brooks did not enjoy the same type of success when it came to wins and losses, but he certainly made a name for himself, leading the Big East in scoring at just under 25 per game. His 52-point performance in a loss to Notre Dame was one of the more impressive efforts in a loss in quite some time.

Mock drafts have these guys all over the place. Burks has widely been rated a little bit better of a prospect, but Brooks has made a charge of late, gaining “sleeper” status by many draft pundits. Giblin and I are going to figure out who we’d rather have on our squad and where the best landing spots for each might be.

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Mid-Major Coaches Taking the Extension: Pros and Cons

Cinderella runs in the NCAA Tournament are no longer surprises to college basketball fans. The question no longer is will there be a Cinderella, but how many teams will try on the slipper in a given year. The deep run in the tournament not only brings attention to the school and its players, but the coach as well. With the high rate of turnover in college basketball, the NCAA Tournament has become a pseudo-audition of sorts for many coaches of mid-major programs.

It is an interesting concept. Many NBA scouts complain that GMs put too much stock into a three-weekend tournament when evaluating talent. Everyone is captivated by the NCAA Tournament, and given that the games are on a national stage, it makes sense as to why a talent evaluator could fall in love with a guy who gets hot at the right time and leads his team to the second or third weekend.

Take a guy like Gordon Hayward, for example. Hayward was smart because he realized that after leading Butler to their first National Championship appearance, and being the driving force behind that run even though Butler very much played with a team-basketball concept on both ends of the floor, his stock could not get any higher than it was at that point. Hayward is a fine player, and probably will become a solid rotation player in the league, but ask the Utah Jazz whether they would change their minds if they could do it over again and you’d likely get a pained look and a head nod.

Well, this is not a unique concept just to players. Coaches of mid-major programs are beginning to use the tournament as a spring board into the off-season, where a successful March can translate into major bargaining power with their current schools or an opportunity to move on to a more high-profile gig. The point is, guys who lead an underdog to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond may not necessarily leave a Naismith trophy, but they won’t leave empty handed.

It used to be that the mid-major coach was as good as gone once they led their team to the second weekend, but that paradigm took a big turn after the ’05-’06 season when Jim Larranaga chose to take a big extension at George Mason rather than bolting for one of the many higher profile programs that had expressed interest, including his alma mater Providence. Instead, Larranaga took a pay raise and a whole bunch of extra years on his contract and stayed put…

Well, until this past off-season, when he signed with Miami.

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Good Bye Gary: A Quick Look at Williams’ Legacy

News broke a couple Fridays ago that Maryland head coach Gary Williams would be opting to retire, ending a 42 year coaching career, the last 22 of which spent as the head coach at his alma mater. At age 66, you figured Gary didn’t have a ton of years left in him, but this was still a bit of a surprise to most Terp fans. Williams’ slightly abrupt retirement coupled with the fact that Maryland tried to make a fairly quick hire–he retired on a Friday and Mark Turgeon’s hire was announced on a Monday night–have seemed to overshadow a significant legacy left behind.

Let’s pause and examine.

The Numbers

Gary’s .637 career winning percentage in a head coaching career spanning 33 years speaks for itself. He ended his career as third all-time in ACC head coaching wins and the winningest coach in Maryland history. Add a national championship, a couple of Final Four appearances and ACC Coach of the Year awards, three ACC regular season titles, and an ACC tournament title, and that sounds like a  Hall of Fame career to me. The ACC was always kind of like playing in the AL East with Duke and North Carolina being like the Red Sox and Yankees, making his numbers all the more impressive and possibly all the more underrated.

The Legacy

After his first year at the helm, Williams and the Maryland program were penalized for major violations that occurred before Gary took over. Besides taking away scholarships for years to follow, the NCAA also banned the Terps from postseason play for two years and took them off live TV for one. Despite being saddled with limitations that would set some programs back a decade or more, Gary had his team back in the Sweet 16 in four years. He would build the Maryland program into a national contender for years to come.

Williams was known for his intensity on the sidelines. There was rarely a game where he didn’t sweat through his suit jacket, and he could often be seen in with his back turned to the bench in a tirade. But, his players always responded to him. Gary was always known for winning without superstars. Walt Williams, Joe Smith, Steve Francis, and Juan Dixon probably rank as the top four players he ever had in some order. Certainly not bad, but in 22 years as the Maryland head coach with as much success as he had in a conference like the ACC, you might expect some more star power. Of course, that can be seen in two ways. On one hand, it makes his resume that much more impressive, especially given that two of those four players I just mentioned only played in College Park for one year. On the other hand, it begs the question of why he couldn’t get more big-time players to come to campus.

Some, probably most, Maryland fans would tell you that Williams intentionally avoided the All-American type guys because of his resistance to associate with AAU coaches. Still, some others have rumbled that Williams was not the most aggressive recruiter, especially after winning his first championship. This became a more common gripe in the years after the departures of key recruiting guys like Jimmy Patsos and Dave Dickerson. In reality, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. In any case, it proves how good Williams was when he was on the sidelines. Williams undoubtedly coached with a chip on his shoulder and his best teams always mirrored that trait. That chip on his shoulder might have played a part in his famously contentious relationship with Debbie Yow, but with Yow moving onto NC State and Williams continuing at his alma mater and now retiring there, I think it is obvious who won that battle. Williams has always been beloved by fans, and maybe more importantly (depending on your perspective) the boosters.

Williams can say all he wants about it just being the right time in his life to call it quits, and I am sure there are many elements of truth to that–he is 66 years old, after all, and has been doing this for over two-thirds of his life. However, you can’t tell me that this decision didn’t have a whole lot to do with Jordan Williams’ announcement that he would be declaring for the draft officially and hiring an agent earlier in the week. The Terps would have been a very interesting team to watch next year had (Jordan) Williams returned, and I’d bet my house that Gary would have come back for one more year had Jordan returned to school. If you look at his best teams, his flex offense has always run the smoothest when he’s had a great big man. The timing of his decision was certainly no coincidence.

The Future

I wouldn’t cry for Gary quite yet. After notifying the Terp faithful of his plans to retire, Williams was given a cushy Special Assistant to the Athletic Director job in Maryland’s athletic program. Basically, Williams will be called in for spot duty but mostly be getting paid to play golf. Not bad.

Williams, however, was very much a part of the decision-making process when it came to making a new hire. Gary will absolutely be a significant voice in all things Maryland basketball in the future years.

Maryland will undoubtedly miss the steward of its basketball program, but early reports seem to indicate that they are in very good hands with Mark Turgeon. Not only has he had a track record of success, which Hughes profiles here, but he has the stamp of approval of the man that will go down as the greatest coach in Maryland history of any sport.

Now, he just has to replace Jordan Williams…

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UNC Recruit Values Spelling

Highly rated shooting guard P.J. Hairston made his decision to attend North Carolina over rival Duke undoubtedly for multiple reasons. One in particular, though, was fairly surprising given the aura and profile of Coach K’s program: they kept spelling his name wrong in recruiting letters!

It just goes to show you how mechanical and robotic the recruiting process can be for all college sports. Millions upon millions of letters get sent out to potential recruits starting early on in high school. If you have the right size and weight and build, you can bet you will get some initial letter inquiries expressing interest in your services. It is surprising, though, that Hairston, being the high profile recruit that he is, ran into these issues. You would think that after weeding out the pretenders, schools like Duke wouldn’t have issues like this with guys they are targeting; though, it also begs the question of how seriously they were considering him if they didn’t check their spelling.

It reminds me of a story I was told about current Georgetown guard Markel Starks’ recruiting process. Starks was very highly recruited out of Georgetown Preparatory School, and one night he was attending a function with his coach where he spotted the head coach of one of the programs that was most aggressively recruiting him.

His coach said, “Go up and introduce yourself and say hello.”

So he did. When he came back to his coach, he said, “That guy had no idea who I was.” And, in that moment, Starks, who knew that John Thompson III knew very well who he was, had his mind made up about where he was going to school.

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NBA Draft Lottery Rapid Reactions

The Cleveland Cavaliers have won this year’s NBA Draft Lottery. Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Enes Kanter might be getting a little nervous right about now. Joking aside, now that the draft order has been revealed, things should start to take shape in terms of who is going where. It’s amazing how much better a situation the number two and three picks have than the first overall. Cleveland might legitimately not have a guy on their roster who will be a starter on their team in three or four years, whereas Minnesota (#2) and Utah (#3) both have some good young talent and might be a few good breaks away from making something of themselves. Let’s go over the top six–and yes it was going to be the top five, but I’m a Wizards fan, live with it.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick that makes the most sense: Kyrie Irving

Cleveland needs everything. In reality, their best player is probably Baron Davis, who plays the same position as Irving, but Davis is nowhere near a long-term solution for Cleveland. Given the fact that the NBA is becoming a point guard-driven league, Irving makes the most sense. Many draft pundits believe he is the best player in the draft, anyway.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Pick that makes the most sense: Brandon Knight

The Wolves are absolutely salivating over Kyrie Irving, but Brandon Knight has risen on many draft boards as of late and may not be the worst consolation prize. He is a smooth player who has plenty of tools and a lot of room to grow as a player. Enes Kanter is definitely a possibility here and might have more value, but David Kahn is absolutely desperate for a point guard (insert Ricky Rubio joke here). Plus, Kahn seems to actually believe in his current center, Darko Milicic, as evidenced by the contract he gave him last season. If Kahn truly believes this team is a point guard away from being a contender in the near future, Knight has got to be the pick.

3. Utah Jazz

Pick that makes the most sense: Derrick Williams

The Jazz have their frontcourt pretty much where they want it with Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, and newly acquired Derrick Favors, who has all the tools to be a star (you can bet he will be in a future edition of “Ranking the Risks” one way or the other). They also have a promising point guard in Devin Harris. Where they are lacking are their wing positions. If Derrick Williams falls into their laps, Jazz fans will have to be doing back flips.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick that makes the most sense: Enes Kanter

Getting Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter in the same draft could be just what the Cavs need to rebuilt the franchise that LeBron left behind in ruins. These two guys could easily be the best two talents in the whole draft, and allowing them to grow up together in the league will remedy what the Cavs were never able to do for LeBron; that is, give him another young talent to develop with. Kanter missed this past season because of ineligibility, but make no mistake, he is not your typical finesse European big man–he is an absolute beast in the paint.

5. Toronto Raptors

Pick that makes the most sense: Kawhi Leonard

The Raptors could go a number of different ways here. They certainly could do worse than adding an athletic swingman with some size. Kawhi Leonard is a guy who didn’t have a huge body of work in college, but he was the driving force behind San Diego State’s resurgence this year. Considering they just used a lottery pick on Ed Davis last season and also have guys like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozen on the roster, Leonard and his high ceiling make sense here.

6. Washington Wizards

Pick that makes the most sense: Tristan Thompson

You know the Wiz aren’t going to pick a point guard here, so where do they go? Thompson represents a guy who can score in many different ways, and for a team without much versatility on the team besides John Wall, that should give them a lot of value. The dark horse pick here for me is Alec Burks. There is still a ways to go until draft night, and if Burks impresses in workouts, he might have an outside shot to get up this high, since there are no other two-guards to really give him a run for his money.

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