Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Quick hitters from NBA draft combine
Tuesday's quick hitters:
• The U-18 U.S. national team that departs for Brazil on Tuesday to compete in the FIBA Americas championship has one current college player on the roster in Tennessee rising sophomore Jarnell Stokes. Stokes had a major impact on the Vols when he graduated high school early and matriculated in mid-December. The 6-foot-8 power forward, who averaged nine points and seven rebounds for the Vols, has been lauded by the USA basketball staff for his character and effort throughout the trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., in advance of next week's tournament.
"This is a great situation for him," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He's going to be playing against great competition. The next phase for him, individually, will be stepping out and shooting it. He's more of a face-up player than he was back-to-the-basket. But he has the ability to be double-teamed. Once he makes that 15-17-foot shot consistently it opens up the middle part of his game."
Martin said Stokes will be a focal point for Tennessee offensively next season, with a similar emphasis on Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden.
• The more I learn about the teams in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15, 16 and 18), the more I'm convinced this will be a hidden gem of an early-season tournament. NC State is going to be the favorite in the ACC; Tennessee will be projected in the top four in the SEC; Oklahoma State has one of the top newcomers in the country in Marcus Smart and should be a top-half Big 12 squad. UMass could be the sleeper in the Atlantic 10, like St. Bonaventure was last season. Meanwhile, Akron never seems to disappoint in the MAC.
• Last year, the promise of first-round selection was given to former Boston College guard Reggie Jackson, who was locked down by Oklahoma City late in the first. The latest is Syracuse's Dion Waiters. The chatter at the pre-draft camp in Chicago centered around the Toronto Raptors at first, but general manager Bryan Colangelo publicly denied it. Phoenix is another possibility, but the Suns pick at No. 13, and Waiters will likely be gone by then.
No one should be shocked if Waiters is picked as high as No. 6 to Portland. Waiters has been shut down by his agent, Rob Pelinka, and even canceled interviews before departing Chicago last week. Waiters could be the first playmaking guard selected. He was Syracuse's top talent this past season, even though he came off the bench for the Orange.
• Illinois' Meyers Leonard may have had an enigmatic career in Champaign, but he was impressive last week in workouts. His agility and versatility on the floor and his overall aggressive play were a hit. Leonard has to interview well and he'll shoot up the draft boards.
• One general manager was wowed by St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, saying that Nicholson was using words during his interview that he didn't even know. It was tongue and cheek, but the point was that Nicholson is a mature player who will win over teams with his high character. Expect him to fall somewhere in the No. 21 to No. 24 range.
• I've interviewed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a number of times on and off camera, and he always gives it his best shot. But his speech impediment is more pronounced when he's on camera. Off camera, he's incredibly polite and engaging. Teams will just have to be patient with him. He is making the effort to overcome his problem. His game, of course, speaks volumes. Few players have the motor he does when he steps on the court.
• The Chicago pre-draft combine is a huge confidence boost for some players; for others, it's not. Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor was oozing positive energy following his play in workouts and he has ability to get higher into the first round.
• No team will be disappointed if it drafts Michigan State's Draymond Green. He is a professional. And like Kenneth Faried last year, Green spoke about finding a role with whichever team he joins, notably by defending and rebounding.
• The one player who may end up being disappointed after the first round could be Tony Wroten Jr. of Washington. I didn't hear much positive chatter about his game at all.
• I did talk to a few teams wondering why Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie didn't participate in more than the strength and agility testing. But Moultrie should stand out when he continues his team workouts. He is a mature, polished player who will be a solid first-round pick.
• Texas A&M's Khris Middleton may regret his decision to leave school early. So, too, may Baylor's Quincy Miller. I don't see either going as high as he probably projected.
• There should be legitimate drama with Picks 2-5. Florida's Bradley Beal, Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes are all in the mix in some order. Barnes to Washington (No. 3) or Cleveland (No. 4) makes the most sense, teaming him up with John Wall or Kyrie Irving in the backcourt.
• Baylor's Perry Jones gets plenty of credit for showing up and playing last week. Too many projected lottery picks shy away from the competition. Jones is running toward it.
• I'm not sure if Purdue's Robbie Hummel will get selected in the second round. But if he does he will be the ultimate team player and will do whatever asked. Hummel has been through quite a bit during his college career. He said he wants to emulate Jared Dudley of Phoenix and be that type of all-around player.