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The Unexpected Rookie: Kristaps Porzingis

(Photo courtesy of Mozaic Sports)

(Photo courtesy of Mozaic Sports)

The 2015 NBA Draft had some jewels in it. Duke big man Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns highlighted a talented class of young players making their way into the NBA. The New York Knicks, who had a forgettable 2014-2015 season, were slated to draft 4th. Surely they would be able to get a talent that would make a difference for them. As expected, the Timberwolves selected Towns 1st overall. The Lakers took Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell 2nd overall and the Philadelphia 76ers took Okafor 3rd overall. Many wondered who the Knicks would take with their pick. Would they go with guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who left high school to play one year of professional ball in China? Or would the Knicks go get a big man to bolster their defense in Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein? The Knicks and Phil Jackson would end up drafting neither and instead chose Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. The big man was raw and considered a project by many who had scouted him. He came with shooting skills and the ability to handle the ball some at 7’3”. But with his lack of weight and the relatively little that was known about him, he was thought to be a piece of the rebuilding project along with point guard Jerian Grant. When his selection was announced, Porzingis was booed unmercifully by Knicks fans at the draft. There were also rumblings that Carmelo Anthony was dissatisfied with his selection. The prevailing thought was that Melo would be wasting his prime years in New York. But little did we know Porzingis was going to show up a little quicker than expected.

When we first saw video of Porzingis, we saw tapes of him doing drills on the perimeter. He was effortless with the basketball, but he was going against air at the time. Many wondered how he would adapt to the physical play that goes on in the NBA with him only carrying 240 pounds on his 7’3” frame. Well, Porzingis has been surprising. The first surprise is that he has been placed in the starting lineup alongside Carmelo Anthony. He is only averaging 26 minutes a game, but he is giving the Knicks 9 rebounds and 13 points a game. That is way more than what was expected of him. He has been a little more physical than many thought he would be and he is holding up well so far. The best thing about him is that he attacks the boards with reckless abandon. Over the first month of the season, we have grown accustomed to Porzingis flying in to follow up a miss with a dunk. That shows not only the athleticism but the courage he has to throw his body around in there. And the best thing about these finishes is that he has put them down over or around people. The amazing thing is it seems like no one gets a body on him to prevent him from doing this so far. Eventually that will come as the scoring report gets out there, but at this time, he is giving us highlight after highlight from his position. The best thing about him holding his own at the power forward for Knicks fans has to be not having to see Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position. Melo had a huge season under coach Mike Woodson there, but he also was beat up at that position a lot. Coming off a knee injury, that will take some of the wear and tear off the Knicks star player.

But along with holding his own on the boards, it is amazing to note that he is getting 13 points per game without having plays ran for him. The kid is just hustling and making plays to help this team try and win games. But just because he does not have plays ran for him does not mean he doesn’t have skills. Porzingis showed what skills he had recently in a game versus the Houston Rockets. He had 24 points in that game, but he did it in a variety of ways. Porzingis showed off his shooting touch that game when he stepped out and hit both three-point shots that he took. He also showed off a post game that no one expected to see. He actually gave a defender the Hakeem Olajuwon Dream Shake in the paint one time and finished with the jumper. It honestly was amazing to see the aptitude Porzingis had shown in such a short amount of time. The offensive skills that the international big man showed gave us all a glimpse into what could happen when he gets some touches and is able to make some things happen. Porzingis may not get those opportunities this year, but it will happen eventually.

Porzingis is now known across the league for his finishes at the rim that keep showing up game after game. But eventually he will get some of the offense ran through him so he can show his skills on a consistent level. The kid who Knicks fans did not want has turned into can’t miss television for Knicks fans. And he is also a guy that has Knicks fans excited about the future. Not bad for a kid that was virtually unknown for most of the time building up to the 2015 draft. Maybe Phil Jackson knows a little more as a front office guy than folks are giving him credit for.

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The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog Presents…The Official Everyday Man’s 2015 NBA Mock Draft (Picks 1-15)

The NBA Draft is almost here and each team is breaking down who they want and why. Check out what I think each team should do. (photo courtesy of www.lakersnation.com)

The NBA Draft is almost here and each team is breaking down who they want and why. Check out what I think each team should do. (photo courtesy of http://www.lakersnation.com)

The NBA Draft will be upon us very soon. And there will be a lot of young men that will becoming instant millionaires. But where will they go and who will be taking them? Many have taken stabs at trying to predict it, so here at the The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog, I have decided to take our stab at it and explain as to why some teams will be taking some players. Here are the first 15 picks of my  mock draft and why. Disclaimer: This will not include trades of picks or anything like that. The predictions of picks will be for the team that has that pick at that certain time. Well, let’s get started!

1st Overall (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jahlil Okafor (C), Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, to build around and now they have the 1st overall pick. With the team they currently have, they are more of a speed team. With players like Zach Levine and Wiggins filling the wings and point guard Ricky Rubio dishing assists, it would actually make more sense for them to select Towns to run with this team. But again, the Timberwolves do need someone they can throw the ball to in the post and get a basket. And with that notion, they may not want to wait and see what Towns becomes at the NBA level. So with the affinity that Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders has for Okafor, it is almost a no-brainer that he gets selected there. When the game slows down, the Timberwolves are hoping Okafor can be the guy to sustain their offense with his offensive footwork and soft touch. Of course the Timberwolves may suffer defensively with the young big man, but they will take their lumps there if the big man is able to produce for them.

2nd overall (Los Angeles Lakers): Karl-Anthony Towns (F/C), Kentucky

One of the coveted big men in this draft is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Flip Saunders is still in love with Okafor, the second most-coveted big man is headed West. The Lakers are looking for yet another piece to help them in their rebuild. They selected power forward Julius Randle last season out of Kentucky and he was essentially hurt all year after he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. But even though they lost their top rookie, the Lakers still got great play from second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Now with Randle coming back next season, the Lakers can add a healthy but aged Kobe Bryant and versatile big man in Towns. The big man out of Kentucky will add rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility to the Lakers frontcourt and he will also be able to learn the Laker way under Kobe for what some think is Kobe’s last year in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to begin the rebuild with Towns, Randle and Clarkson and maybe another piece in free agency to add with Kobe Bryant. It may take a little time for Towns to show his skills. But once Towns settles in, the Lakers will be happy with the monster they end up drafting.

3rd overall (Philadelphia 76ers): Emmanuel Mudiay (G), Guangdong Southern Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association)

The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to get multiple picks in the lottery. But with the way the ping pong balls dropped, they ended up with only one. However, the 76ers still ended up in great position with the 3rd overall pick. The last couple of years, the 76ers selected injured players and essentially redshirted them for their first season in the NBA. Well, this season will be something different. The 76ers have some nice complimentary pieces that would fit well on a team that had a star. But the team is void of star power currently as they stand. Nerlens Noel is a player the team is high on, but they also have a decision to make with how they can use he and Joel Embiid. They may try Noel at the power forward position, but they will be physical and rugged up front. The problem with this team is they do not have a point guard. Well, in this draft, they have their choice of which point guard they want. Some may want the services of D’Angelo Russell here, but the 76ers may have others ideas. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was the only general manager to fly to China to see Mudiay and that should tell you right there the way he is leaning. The 6’5” point guard, who many don’t know a ton about, will be the 76ers international man of mystery this year and he will be one that will have Philly fans excited because of his size, speed and athletic ability.

4th overall (New York Knicks): D’Angelo Russell (G), Ohio State

The Knicks are going to have a lot of cap space this summer and plenty of Knicks fans were hoping the number one pick would be joining the players the Knicks are able to obtain with the money available in free agency. Well, everything did not pan out as well as the Knicks and their fans had planned. But all hope is not lost. Things could have been worse for them and they could have landed even further back. They will more than likely not get one of the coveted big men in this draft and that could have been something that would have helped Carmelo Anthony when he returns next season. But another thing they didn’t have last season was solid point guard play. The Knicks need a player that can be special with the basketball and bring some sizzle to the Garden. Russell is as talented an offensive player as there is in the draft. He has a nice stroke, good handles and can make the perfect pass in a tough situation and he is no slouch defensively either. He and Carmelo together and maybe a big man in free agency could be an interesting dynamic together. And the Knicks will finally have a point guard that could compete with the top point guards in the NBA potentially in a point guard driven NBA.

5th overall (Orlando Magic): Willie Cauley-Stein (F/C), Kentucky

The Orlando Magic have been out of the spotlight since they traded away Dwight Howard. The team has not been close to being a playoff-caliber squad and that is quite bad considering they play in the Eastern Conference. But this team does have some young pieces they can build with. Victor Oladipo is starting to catch his stride in the NBA, starting point guard Elfrid Payton got better as the season went on and Nikola Vujevic was a machine inside. The Magic fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn, during the season and hired former Magic player Scott Skiles to man the ship. With Skiles, the Magic will have a demanding head coach that will want to execute and play hard. And what better piece would fit his scheme than Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein? The athletic big man from Kentucky will remind some of current Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah with his game. He is not a scorer, but he is a guy that will defend, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor, give you putbacks and play hard at all times. The passing is not the level of Noah, but he can have a great effect on a team that is trying to form an identity.

6th overall (Sacramento Kings): Kristaps Porzingis (F/C), Latvia

The Latvian big man joins a long line of European players that have tickled the fancy of many scouts and executives. Many of those that have observed the 7’1” big man have been wowed by the things that this kid are capable of. He can shoot the midrange shot and can put the ball on the floor. And he is also not too bad an athlete. For the Kings, they would love to have a guy like this join their team. George Karl is still missing a power forward that would complement starting center DeMarcus Cousins, but this guy could be the guy. With many comparing his skills to that of Dirk Nowitzki, he would be able to space the floor for Boogie to operate in the paint. Porzingis, for all his talent, is one that could take time to develop though. He is still pretty young (19) and the step to the NBA could be one that proves difficult for him at first. But the Kings have a history of taking guys like Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu, so naturally he would be a choice for them. Look for Karl and company to take him with their selection.

7th overall (Denver Nuggets): Justise Winslow (G), Duke

Winslow was the less-heralded member of Duke’s big three recruits last season (Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor). But over time, he became the most important member of the trio. Winslow played well down the stretch and helped lead the Duke Blue Devils to the National Championship. Not a bad way for a freshman to start and end his college career. Winslow is an intriguing prospect for many. He is a very solid defender and can be special offensively, especially on the fast break. With the team the way it is in Denver, they will probably be more uptempo. And with the skills of Winslow, he would fit in perfectly with what they would like to do. He and Ty Lawson would be a perfect fit beside each other or he could slide to the small forward position at times even though he is not the ideal height for the position (slightly under 6’6”). Imagine the type of energy Winslow and Faried could create on the court should they become teammates. Wow.

8th overall (Detroit Pistons), Mario Hezonja (G/F), Croatia

The Pistons will more than likely keep Reggie Jackson as their point guard and match him alongside Caldwell-Pope as their guard tandem. And even if they lose starting big man Greg Monroe, Detroit still will have the talents of Andre Drummond to sustain them. And even though he is limited in the post, Jackson could get him easier shots when he gets in the paint and distributes. But the biggest hole this team has had is the small forward position. They have not been solid there for a while and that includes two tours of service from their best small forward in over a decade, Tayshaun Prince. Adding Hezonja would bring some athleticism to that position along with someone that can shoot the basketball. He could slide into the starting lineup as the small forward eventually for the team should they sign a veteran to get the nod on the starting spot. But if he is drafted by the Pistons, he would be a welcomed addition and likely groomed as their small forward of the future. The only thing the Pistons would have to worry about is how his defense will hold up. And that could be the main reason he does not start immediately in Detroit for Stan Van Gundy.

9th overall (Charlotte Hornets): Stanley Johnson (G/F), Arizona

The Charlotte Bobcats are a team that struggled to score all season long. Al Jefferson was just not the same as he was the year before and Kemba Walker was not the same either due to injuries. They brought Lance Stephenson in for added scoring punch, but that move has proven to be a failure at this point. So in a move to get more offense, the Bobcats could bring in Stanley Johnson. The young guard/forward out of Arizona had some troubles shooting in college at times, but he can attack the rim and be a playmaker as well. With his addition and his acclimation to the professional game, he can definitely be a good addition to this team. And with his addition, it should be interesting to see what they do with Lance Stephenson, whether it be bring Stephenson in off the bench, start Stephenson or trade him before the season starts.

10th overall (Miami Heat): Devin Booker (G), Kentucky

Booker was one of the overlooked players on the loaded Kentucky basketball team last season. But there is no mistake that he was their best shooter. And when he got cooking, it was trouble for everyone. The Miami Heat are staring the potential end of the Dwyane Wade era whether it be this offseason if he indeed opts out of his contract and leaves or down the line when his body cannot hold up anymore. Whether he comes back or not, Booker would add a young guard that can make some things happen with the jump shot. Miami does not really have anyone on the perimeter that would be as consistent a shooter as he can be. And the great thing about him and potentially being a Wade replacement is he is not just a stationary shooter. Booker’s game off the dribble is underrated and many did not get to see it much due to the team he played with. But Booker can maneuver with the basketball (even though he does need a little bit more work with his handles). And the best thing that he can do is shoot the midrange jumper. That shot could be dangerous if he improves his handles. Booker would fit in whether being off the bench and would spread the floor for Bosh as well.

11th overall (Indiana Pacers): Frank Kaminsky (F/C), Wisconsin

The Indiana Pacers were playing without their star, Paul George, all season long. You would have thought that would have meant they would focus the offense more on center Roy Hibbert. But unfortunately, he was not able to come through like they have paid him to do and they struggled to get it done as a team without George. Some would think they would go point guard and select Cameron Payne out of Murray State, but they need someone that can get them some buckets and some production out of the center position. Kaminsky fits the bill for what they need. He needs to get stronger, but he can post and can also step outside and shoot. The Pacers offense would be better with the addition of him and with Hibbert going into the later stages of his contract, he could end up sliding right in as the starter eventually.

12th overall (Utah Jazz): Myles Turner (PF), Texas

The Utah Jazz finished the second half of the season strong after starting off slowly. The team had some issues with chemistry in regards to forward/center Enes Kanter, but when they traded him they seemed to play better. Derrick Favors and fellow big man Rudy Gobert fit better together as a duo than Kanter and Favors. But what that team is missing is another big man to fit in their rotation that brings something different than Favors asnd Gobert. Both players are athletic and can finish at the rim, but neither can shoot with any kind of range. With Myles Turner, the Jazz get a guy that can stretch the defense with his shooting ability and could cause some problems with his size as well. He would give them some pop off the bench as well. And with his addition, the Jazz would be able to continue their rebuilding process towards contention again.

13th overall (Phoenix Suns): Bobby Portis (PF), Arkansas

The Phoenix Suns were definitely a team that a lot was expected of last season. But with the team did not live up to expectations and did not make the playoffs. The results are a team that some are down on at this time. The Suns are known for pushing the tempo and guard Eric Bledsoe will be entrusted to do so going forward. But when you look at production in the post, the Suns really don’t have that one guy that can get you a bucket in the paint. With Bobby Portis, that issue is taken care of. Portis can post in the paint as well as can shoot the midrange jump shot. His addition would allow for the Suns to have a more fluid offense that can do everything. Love the Morris twins, but they cannot be depended on to score in the post at all despite their solid perimeter skills.

14th overall (Oklahoma City Thunder): Kelly Oubre Jr. (SF), Kansas

The Oklahoma City Thunder just could not stay healthy last season. And even though they had struggles there, they still almost made the playoffs. Despite that, this team is still looking for some additional parts to add to their arsenal. Looking at what is out there, they have some athletic wings that can make it happen. But they are missing that one lockdown perimeter defender that can take them to the next level. Although Oubre will not be the starter there in Oklahoma City over Kevin Durant, he could be that guy. Andre Robertson is nice, but he does not have the overall ceiling that Oubre does and the length advantage also goes to Oubre as well. With his addition, he will help make the Thunder a deep team under new head coach Billy Donovan. And although his offense may be sporadic at the beginning, he will definitely add to the athleticism they have and his versatility defensively will be a thing of beauty to watch.

15th overall (Atlanta Hawks), Sam Dekker (SF), Wisconsin

The Atlanta Hawks were definitely better than many expected, as they played their way into the first seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. And despite lacking a superstar, they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Free agency may not be kind to them this offseason as both their starting forwards, DeMarre Carroll and Paul Milsap, are free agents. With that in mind, the Hawks may be able to keep one but not the other. Assuming they are able to keep Milsap there in the ATL, the Hawks will be looking to add another small forward to their team. The best possible fit for them at that position is Dekker from Wisconsin. He has good size, athleticism and can shoot the basketball. And most importantly, he is able to defend at the next level. He should fit right in with what Atlanta likes to do and be an additional cog in their already talented and deep team.

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The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog Presents The 2015 NBA Top 5 Draft Pick Predictions

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of www.insider.espn.go.com)

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of http://www.insider.espn.go.com)

Tomorrow’s superstars could potentially be in the 2015 NBA Draft. Many are excited over the many talents that are out there including the teams. But before anyone can pick, the NBA had their usual routine during the Conference Finals, the NBA Draft Lottery. In the lottery, the order in which teams pick is determined by their record and the bounce of a ping pong ball. The more you lost during the year, the more ping pong balls you had available to obtain the 1st overall pick. There were many teams that were hoping to obtain the 1st pick, but in the end, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up with the number one spot. They were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Philadelphia 76ers. The top five was completed by the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic. With that being set, many are starting to envision who will be wearing their favorite team’s jersey. Well, let’s take a second and check to see who could be landing where!

1st Overall pick (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jahlil Okafor, Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, to build around and now they have the 1st overall pick. With the team they currently have, they are more of a speed team. With players like Zach Levine and Wiggins filling the wings and point guard Ricky Rubio dishing assists, it would actually make more sense for them to select Towns to run with this team. But again, the Timberwolves do need someone they can throw the ball to in the post and get a basket. And with that notion, they may not want to wait and see what Towns becomes at the NBA level. So with the affinity that Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders has for Okafor, it is almost a no-brainer that he gets selected there. When the game slows down, the Timberwolves are hoping Okafor can be the guy to sustain their offense with his offensive footwork and soft touch. Of course the Timberwolves may suffer defensively with the young big man, but they will take their lumps there if the big man is able to produce for them.

2nd overall pick (Los Angeles Lakers): Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

One of the coveted big men in this draft is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Flip Saunders is still in love with Okafor, the second most-coveted big man is headed West. The Lakers are looking for yet another piece to help them in their rebuild. They selected power forward Julius Randle last season out of Kentucky and he was essentially hurt all year after he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. But even though they lost their top rookie, the Lakers still got great play from second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Now with Randle coming back next season, the Lakers can add a healthy but aged Kobe Bryant and versatile big man in Towns. The big man out of Kentucky will add rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility to the Lakers frontcourt and he will also be able to learn the Laker way under Kobe for what some think is Kobe’s last year in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to begin the rebuild with Towns, Randle and Clarkson and maybe another piece in free agency to add with Kobe Bryant. It may take a little time for Towns to show his skills. But once Towns settles in, the Lakers will be happy with the monster they end up drafting.

3rd overall pick (Philadelphia 76ers): Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Southern Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association)

The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to get multiple picks in the lottery. But with the way the ping pong balls dropped, they ended up with only one. However, the 76ers still ended up in great position with the 3rd overall pick. The last couple of years, the 76ers selected injured players and essentially redshirted them for their first season in the NBA. Well, this season will be something different. The 76ers have some nice complimentary pieces that would fit well on a team that had a star. But the team is void of star power currently as they stand. Nerlens Noel is a player the team is high on, but they also have a decision to make with how they can use he and Joel Embiid. They may try Noel at the power forward position, but they will be physical and rugged up front. The problem with this team is they do not have a point guard. Well, in this draft, they have their choice of which point guard they want. Some may want the services of D’Angelo Russell here, but the 76ers may have others ideas. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was the only general manager to fly to China to see Mudiay and that should tell you right there the way he is leaning. The 6’5” point guard, who many don’t know a ton about, will be the 76ers international man of mystery this year and he will be one that will have Philly fans excited because of his size, speed and athletic ability.

4th overall pick (New York Knicks): D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

The Knicks are going to have a lot of cap space this summer and plenty of Knicks fans were hoping the number one pick would be joining the players the Knicks are able to obtain with the money available in free agency. Well, everything did not pan out as well as the Knicks and their fans had planned. But all hope is not lost. Things could have been worse for them and they could have landed even further back. They will more than likely not get one of the coveted big men in this draft and that could have been something that would have helped Carmelo Anthony when he returns next season. But another thing they didn’t have last season was solid point guard play. The Knicks need a player that can be special with the basketball and bring some sizzle to the Garden. Russell is as talented an offensive player as there is in the draft. He has a nice stroke, good handles and can make the perfect pass in a tough situation and he is no slouch defensively either. He and Carmelo together and maybe a big man in free agency could be an interesting dynamic together. And the Knicks will finally have a point guard that could compete with the top point guards in the NBA potentially in a point guard driven NBA.

5th overall (Orlando Magic): Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

The Orlando Magic have been out of the spotlight since they traded away Dwight Howard. The team has not been close to being a playoff-caliber squad and that is quite bad considering they play in the Eastern Conference. But this team does have some young pieces they can build with. Victor Oladipo is starting to catch his stride in the NBA, starting point guard Elfrid Payton got better as the season went on and Nikola Vujevic was a machine inside. The Magic fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn, during the season and reports are that they are looking at current Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and are willing to do anything to get him there. If that happens, you can bet he will look to build his team identity through defense. And what better piece would fit his scheme than Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein? The athletic big man from Kentucky will remind some of current Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah with his game. He is not a scorer, but he is a guy that will defend, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor and give you putbacks. The passing is not the level of Noah, but he can have a great effect on a team that is trying to form an identity.

This NBA Draft could help a lot of teams, but these in the Top 5 need it the most. And if they draft correctly, these guys could make their teams better immediately if they are selected where they are. It should be interesting to see if these selections hold true to form or if trades happen to change up the selection. What are your thoughts on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog’s Top 5 NBA Draft Projections?

Emmanuel Mudiay: The Forgotten Man

Emmanuel Moody took the road less traveled for a high schooler to the NBA (photo courtesy of www.basketballbuddha.com)

Emmanuel Moody took the road less traveled for a high schooler to the NBA (photo courtesy of http://www.basketballbuddha.com)

A year ago, Emmanuel Mudiay was getting ready to play in exhibition games while preparing to go to college. The star point guard was headed to Southern Methodist University to play for legendary basketball coach Larry Brown. His talent was undeniable and there were many excited to see what he would bring to that program. But unfortunately, Mudiay never stepped foot on the court in college. Instead of making it to college, Mudiay headed to play in China. In July, Mudiay signed with the Guandong Southern Tigers for $1.2 million. The youngster, who was ranked second in some publications behind Jahlil Okafor in the class of 2014, was now a professional athlete and ready to get to work on his game. But unfortunately, Mudiay’s plan did not go as planned. He only played 12 games before he suffered an ankle injury that would keep him out most of the season. Many thought at that point he would sit out the rest of the season. But the team tried to bring him back when they fell down 0-2 to Stephon Marbury’s team in China. Unfortunately, he did not make a big difference as Marbury’s team still won the title. Mudiay got some exposure to the pro level and averaged 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Tigers. But Mudiay also averaged almost four turnovers a game, which is something that has to alarm some teams that see him as the player they want.

While Mudiay was overseas playing, his contemporaries were getting the experience of college basketball. The top two players that many talked about with this year’s crop of freshmen were Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Both of these freshmen, along with Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, were taking over the national media as the top freshmen everyone wanted to get if they declared for the NBA Draft. All three were highly talked about and they did not disappoint in college at all. Okafor averaged 17 points and nine rebounds as he was the man in the middle and a key cog for the Duke Blue Devils on their championship run. Towns was the best post-scoring option on a star-studded Kentucky team. He averaged 10 points and six rebounds for a Wildcats team that was upset in the Final Four by Wisconsin. And let us not forget the talented Russell. He was special for the Buckeyes, putting up 19 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. Unfortunately, his team did not make it as far as Okafor and Towns’ teams did, losing in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament. These three freshmen were standouts from the beginning of their collegiate careers and many expected them to be. But there was one other that stood out as well as the season went on. Duke’s Justise Winslow got stronger as the season went on and definitely took it to another level in the NCAA Tournament. As a result of his performances getting stronger as the season went on, he has garnered consideration for being a Top 5 pick in this year’s draft. All these other freshmen that have made their impact on college basketball have almost made Mudiay a forgotten man. Almost so that some mock drafts have misplaced the order of who should go where.

Listening to many talking heads, the talk has been about Okafor and Towns being the franchise-changing talents in this draft. But maybe those who are thinking they are the only ones may want to remember that Mudiay is still out there. Mudiay is a point guard that has non-traditional size. His turnovers may be a concern, but as he grows into the point guard position at the NBA level that will get better. Mudiay, like Okafor and Towns, could be a franchise-changers just like Okafor and Towns could be. Imagine if he were to go to the New York Knicks. Mudiay would fit the perfect style of point guard that Phil Jackson has been used to working with. Even though Jackson is the general manager, it’s hard to believe that Mudiay is not monitored by Knicks brass. And with the league turning into a point guard league, there is always a team that needs a lead guard and is willing to take one as early as possible. Towns and Okafor are big men that everyone covets, but many covet Mudiay as well. Many NBA scouts and general managers have him on their mind. But because of the lack of film on him after high school, those have arose questions in regards to his abilities to be a star to them. But don’t think they are not aware of what he could potentially do. Some even compare his abilities to that of Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. And the comparison, unfortunately, comes all the way down to the jump shot that Mudiay has to develop much like John Wall did.

Many that follow basketball closely are aware of the abilities of Mudiay on the court. And those same followers of basketball are excited to see him on an NBA court next year. But then there are some that are not aware of his abilities and the possibilities of him on the next level. Those that have forgot that Mudiay was once considered in the running for the top overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. His talent is there, but to some he is the forgotten man in this draft. Well, to those that have forgotten him that quickly, he will definitely be seen next year. And those that forgot about him will be rudely reintroduced to the man that could be the next star point guard in the NBA. Yes America, Mudiay is back.

Final Four NBA Hopefuls And Their NBA Comparisons

Frank Kaminsky (photo courtesy of www.rantsports.com)

Frank Kaminsky (photo courtesy of http://www.rantsports.com)

The NCAA college basketball season ended Monday with the Duke Blue Devils hoisting the trophy after beating the Wisconsin Badgers in the National Title game. And with the close of the college basketball season, the talk now moves towards the draft. Many have already said who they believe will be the first overall pick in the draft, but who do any of these draft picks compare to that have played or are currently playing in the NBA? Let’s take a look at who some incoming or potentially incoming prospects into the 2015 Draft that we just saw in the Final Four and who they are similar to. The person they are compared to is who they could be based on their skills and aptitude for the game.

Wisconsin

Frank Kaminsky, Senior

Frank the Tank was a man possessed in the NCAA tournament. He averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds 0 while helping carry his team to the NCAA Title game. And what makes him at his height (7 foot tall) is his ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor. And the next level, his ability to stretch the floor can give opposing four men as well as centers fits when he takes them on the perimeter. But there is one concern and that is the physical nature of the game. He is not by any means afraid of contract and is pretty physical. But the fact remains that he is not the most physically imposing and could stand to add some strength. Additional strength is something that could help him in the post on both ends of the court and will also allow for him to be a stronger player when in the NBA. The one thing you wonder about Kaminsky is will he float to the perimeter more than he will be in the post. That should be something to watch.

Best NBA Comparison: Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks

Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, Junior

Dekker had an interesting run in the NCAA Tournament. He hit some big shots when his team needed it. He also had a habit of showing up in some for half of the game. He would go missing in either the first or second half of the game and then show up in the other half of it. The streakiness of his game had to drive Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan a little crazy at times. But even with that, Dekker had some moments in the NCAA Tournament that he looked special and that drew the attention of NBA scouts. Who can forget the stepback three he hit against Kentucky to help put them away in their Final Four game? Dekker is also a very athletic guy and has the height at 6’7” to defend wings in the NBA and finish at the rim with his explosiveness. One thing that he may need to improve on is his ability to handle the basketball. He may be better than he gets credit for, but the fact remains that he could have issues creating his own shot in the NBA. But all the aspects of his game are sound and he can also defend and that will be key for him in the NBA. His comparison is pretty similar to who he could be in the NBA provided he handle the basketball a little bit better. He has not declared for the NBA Draft yet, as he is a junior. But all indications are that he may do so and leave school a year early.

Best NBA Comparison: Gordon Heyward, Utah Jazz

Kentucky WIldcats

Andrew Harrison, Kentucky Sophomore

Andrew was the point guard in the Harrison twins combo at Kentucky. He was pretty good at Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament this season. He was steady at times and quiet at others during the Tournament. At the point guard position, he is much better when he is attacking the rim than when he is out on the perimeter shooting jump shots. When he did that, he made Kentucky even more dangerous. His greatest strength is his ability to attack the basket and finish through contact. When he did that, it allowed for him to use his height (6’6”) and strength to overpower smaller collegiate point guards. He reportedly will declare for the NBA Draft and the first thing teams will probably do at the next level if force him to shoot the basketball on the perimeter. If you do that, he can definitely have some issue. And the other issue that some have with him at the next level is his speed. His size helped him get over the lack of speed at the position, but in there are point guards with size and speed at the next level that can give him fits defensively. But all in all, he will still be a problem on the offensive end when he attacks the rim in the NBA only due to his size. And he also has the ability to draw fouls when he gets in there. His NBA comparison is also a former player for Kentucky coach John Calipari. He is not as explosive as this guy, but he is certainly very similar. And he could also end up being moved away from the point guard position like this player was in the NBA as well.

Best NBA Comparison: Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans

Aaron Harrison, Sophomore

The other half of the Harrison twins combo, Aaron was the guy Kentucky usually depended on to hit a clutch shot when they needed it. He struggled a little to shoot this season, but he was not that bad on the defensive end of the court. In fact, he actually defended his position very well. That could be something that could help him at the next level as he, with his twin, is expected to go to the NBA. His range is pretty deep and should serve him well in the NBA, but the consistency is the issue that many will have looking at his game. Another issue that could come about is his lack of ability to make things happen off the dribble. Unlike his twin, he is not as good at attacking the rim. One thing he will need to work on is that ability to handle the basketball, but he has prototypical size for the shooting guard position, standing at 6’6”. His NBA comparison is a guy that was maybe a little more athletic than he is but was known as a big shot maker when he was in college at UCLA.

Best NBA Comparison: Aaron Afflalo, Portland Trailblazers

Karl-Anthony Towns, Freshman

The crown jewel of the Kentucky recruiting class in 2014, Towns was the best post scorer that Kentucky had this season. He was huge for Kentucky in the Elite Eight versus Notre Dame, as he carried the Wildcats for much of that second half to get them to the Final Four. He is expected to declare soon and enter the NBA Draft and some have him as the top prospect for the draft this season. His ability to finish inside and the ability to handle the basketball, which was not on display at Kentucky, should serve him well at the next level. With his size (6’11”), he has the ability to go out on the perimeter and has range all the way out to the mid-range jump shot and potentially the three-point line. At the next level, he will get to display all those skills and will have an even more open court to work with. Add that to his defensive presence and his vision as a big man and there could be potential for him to be a star at the next level. But with Towns, there is also the issue of his propensity at times to go quiet. Some of that may be due to his team and the talent that surrounded him, but it seemed like he would go times where you would not hear his name or see him make a play. His skill is very comparable to a former NBA big man that was extremely talented.

Best NBA Comparison: Chris Webber

Trey Lyles, Freshman

Lyles has not declared for the NBA Draft yet, but he is more than likely going to go to declare soon. Lyles was a unique talent for Kentucky. When junior forward Alex Poythress went down for the season with a knee injury, Lyles stepped into his spot in the starting lineup and it seemed as if Kentucky never missed a beat. Lyles was steady for Kentucky during the Tournament and he was their most versatile defender outside of big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Standing at 6’10”, Lyles can handle the basketball, finish at the rim and also has range out to the three-point line. In college he could play the power forward and small forward positions, but in the NBA, he will be a small forward. The one thing that he will need to continue to work on is his ability to play defense on the perimeter. His length is something that will cause problems for opposing small forwards, but his foot speed could be an issue at times as well. His NBA comparison is a former Kentucky star that is still playing in the NBA and has had a pretty successful career.

Best NBA Comparison: Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons

Willie Cauley-Stein, Junior

Cauley-Stein was a huge force for the Wildcats on the defensive end of the court. He helped make Kentucky won of the most feared defensive teams in college basketball and used his defensive prowess to help propel Kentucky to the Final Four again this season. He along with the other Kentucky players listed, is expected to declare for the NBA Draft. His athletic ability is something that you cannot teach. And at 7’ tall, he can guard multiple positions as well as cover a bunch of ground as the backbone of your defense at the next level. But even with that, there is the matter of the other end of the court. Cauley-Stein has gotten better offensively, but he still has a long road to go. He had some moments this season where he struggled to finish outside of a dunk in the paint. And in the post, he needs some refinement with his ability to finish post moves. Another thing that may hurt Cauley-Stein at the next level is his ability to shoot free throws. That could cause him to be out of games at key points if he does not improve in that area. But even with that, his defensive presence is something that can alter games and help teams. His NBA comparison is someone that has been a defensive force for most of his career and helps every team he has been on become better defensively while still lacking defined offensive abilities outside finishing dunks.

Best NBA Comparison: Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks

Duke

Jahlil Okafor, Freshman

Okafor was considered the best big man in college basketball by many who watched the game. Although he did have some issues in the NCAA Tournament, he definitely was a force in the post and helped lead Duke to the National Title. The one thing that helps Okafor stand out is his footwork and ability to finish with a feathery touch at times. His brute strength allowed for him to overpower players in college, but he also had the ability to face up players and beat them with the faceup jump shot. His offensive game has some thinking that he can contribute immediately at the next level. He is expected to declare soon and he and Towns from Kentucky are considered the main players that could be the 1st pick this season. Okafor is certainly talented offensively, but what some had an issue with is his ability to play defense. Okafor struggled to play against Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky. He just could not keep up with him at all. And another issue is his defense of the pick-and-roll. He got better on it over the season, but he still needs some work there. Looking at him, he could potentially give up as many points as he scores early on in his career. He will more than likely need to drop weight to become a better defender at the next level. As far as his NBA comparison, his offensive skill reminds me of another big man that came out of the ACC and was the first overall pick. Although Okafor is nowhere near the defender of this guy, he is definitely has good fundamentals that mirror this legend in the NBA.

Best NBA Comparison: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Justise Winslow, Freshman

Winslow was an afterthought for most when Duke got Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones. But he more than made his impact on this team when he was the biggest difference-maker for the Duke Blue Devils. His ability to attack the rim and finish through contact is definitely special. And along with that, he also has the ability to shoot the midrange jump shot along with the three-pointer. He has yet to declare for the draft, but he is also expected to declare for the draft along with Okafor. And with his draft stock soaring, who can blame him. Winslow got it done in the Tournament, but he also was a guy that disappeared at times during the year for Duke. Who can forget some games where he was just a bystander on the court instead of a participant? That may have some NBA scouts concerned in regards to Winslow’s abilities. But all in all, his skills and the way he attacks the rim remind and can shoot the jump shot remind some of an MVP candidate playing for the Houston Rockets right now.

Best NBA Comparison: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Tyus Jones, Freshman

Jones’ decision to declare for the NBA Draft is largely tied into what Winslow and Okafor decide to do. He has not announced either, but there is the feeling out there that he will declare for the NBA Draft as well this year. Jones had a great freshman season at Duke and capped it off with a great second half to help Duke win the National Title. It seemed like all year he played his best when the pressure was the most. His ability to hit contested jump shots and to finish inside at the rim was spectacular to watch. And for a guy that is listed as 6’1” (which is a generous listing of his height), it is amazing how he is able to finish at the rim. But at the next level, look for him to be able to finish at the rim as much. But the good thing is Jones does have good vision on the court. His ability to score at clutch times and have the vision to be able to find his teammates reminds me of a former University of Texas Longhorn point guard and current NBA backup point guard very much.

Best NBA Comparison: DJ Augustin, Oklahoma City Thunder

It should be interesting to see how all these guys pan out at the next level. Of course all of them have their own games and it depends on what teams they go to as to how they develop their skills. But they are all eerily similar to the people they are compared to and it should be interesting to see how similar they become to their comparisons in the NBA. Agree or disagree with the comparisons?

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