NCAA Board approves Division I autonomy proposal

Division I’s five power conferences are granted unprecedented legislative flexibility.

      
 

 

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NCAA board hands 5 biggest conferences more power (Yahoo Sports)

NCAA President Mark Emmert gestures while speaking at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms Thursday that will give the nation's five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms Thursday that will give the nation’s five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports. ”I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. The five other Football Bowl Subdivision leagues would account for 18.5 percent while the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision and non-football playing schools would split up another 37.5 percent of the vote. Commissioners and school leaders from the power conferences have until Oct. 1 to create a wish list of issues they want to handle on their own.


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Milwaukee Bucks’ 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets

With the 2014 NBA free-agency period underway, the Milwaukee Bucks will seek to add more pieces to their core of young talent. And while they’re not in a position to lure the marquee names to town, some players a tier or two down could help fill out the roster.

The most notable gap for the Bucks is at shooting guard, where O.J. Mayo is the only player who naturally fits at that position.

Outside of that, the team could use depth point guard and power forward, especially if Ersan Ilyasova is traded this summer.

Earlier this week, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweeted that the team would be “conservative” in its approach to free agency.

That’s not a surprise.

Still, it’s important to take a look at some possibilities.

The rankings were determined mainly by positional needs and limited to players whom the Bucks realistically might have a shot at signing—both from a salary and notoriety.

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Atlanta Hawks 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

The Atlanta Hawks are in a good position to be a major player in the 2014 free-agency period, but there might not be a rush to overpay for talent.

As we saw last season, the Hawks are pretty good at finding values during this time of year. General manager Danny Ferry pulled off one of the biggest steals of recent memory by signing Paul Millsap to a two-year deal worth $19 million last year, and there’s a chance he finds a way to get a great value again.

The Hawks have already been fairly busy this offseason, trading Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira for John Salmons, who only has $1 million guaranteed on this year’s deal. That moved helped clear up some cap space, and the Hawks filled a need on the wing with some of the savings.

Here’s Sam Amick of USA Today with Atlanta’s first signing:

Thabo Sefolosha, a 5½-year starting shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, will sign a three-year contract worth $12 million with the Atlanta Hawks, a person with knowledge of the agreement told USA TODAY Sports.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the contract, which cannot be signed until July 10 because of the NBA‘s free agency moratorium.

While the signing of Sefolosha might take Atlanta out of the race for some of the bigger max guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, there are still some nice talents out there for them to target.

Here’s the free-agency big board for the Atlanta Hawks for the 2014 offseason.

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Wizards 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

Heading into next season, the Eastern Conference is wide open. Barring some solid signings in the coming week, the Miami Heat will take a step back with Dwyane Wade aging, it’s unlikely that the Indiana Pacers will take a step forward with the questions surrounding Lance Stephenson’s return and Chicago‘s success relies a lot on Derrick Rose‘s health with its current roster. 

That leaves the door open for the Washington Wizards to be contenders for years to come. With John Wall and Bradley Beal growing together, and the recent re-signing of Marin Gortat, the Wizards have a core in place to be a solid team for the next few years. 

That makes this free agency so much more important for the Wizards. With Gortat locked down, the Wizards still have some maneuverability. The exact terms of Gortat’s deals still haven’t been released, but if he was to get exactly $12 million this year, it leaves the Wizards about $10 million still (excluding the mid-level exemption, and assuming that they don’t re-sign any of their current free agents) to sign other players. 

With the cap set to increase this season, the Wizards aren’t in great shape, but they at least have the opportunity to make some improvements. After looking at their success last year but seeing how much the bench struggled (Washington’s bench finished second to last in points and assists per game, via HoopStats.com), the Wizards should be looking to bring back some players from last year, but also add new assets on the bench.

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Philadelphia 76ers 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Top Targets Post-Draft

Sam Hinkie is a patient man.

On June 26, the Philadelphia 76ers general manager turned the third- and tenth-overall selections in the NBA Draft into Joel Embiid and—after a bit of transactional jujitsu—Dario Saric.

The two young men have very different skill sets, but one very consequential thing in common: It’s almost certain that neither will play in the NBA in 2014-15.

Embiid is likely to miss the season with a fractured navicular bone in his right foot while Saric is contractually obligated to play his pro ball in Croatia for at least the next two years. For the 2014-15 Sixers, help is not on the way.

This considered, it seems unlikely Philadelphia will make much noise on the market this summer.

What’s the point?

For a team so wholly committed to building through the draft—through the lottery—there isn’t much utility in adding immediately helpful players in free agency. Not yet, anyway.

For, say, the Chicago Bulls, improving by six or seven wins could mean the difference between an Eastern Conference title and another lost season. For the Sixers, it just means a lower draft pick.

So the tank is on for Philadelphia. Again.

That said, the Sixers will have to do something in free agency. There are games to be played—and lost—and a group of young men will have to be in uniform to do the playing and the losing.

Here are a few of the young men the Sixers may consider.

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Howard Beck’s Los Angeles Lakers Free Agency Big Board

The Los Angeles Lakers will look to speed up their rebuilding process by making a splash in free agency this year, hoping to make the most of Kobe Bryant‘s final seasons. Who will the Lakers look to target?

Howard Beck joins Adam Lefkoe to break down who could be lured to the Staples Center in the video above.

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San Antonio Spurs’ 2014 NBA Draft Big Board

The San Antonio Spurs are surely still celebrating their convincing five-game victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Ditto the city itself, which now boasts more banners than all but three NBA franchises.

But that doesn’t mean San Antonio’s front office—led by general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich—hasn’t been busy burning some extra midnight oil in the service of next season’s first true test: the NBA draft.

As things stand, the Spurs will have three picks Thursday night: No. 30, No. 58 and No. 60.

Think the defending champs are destined to walk away with little more than doomed training-camp flotsam? You certainly wouldn’t be alone.

Then again, you don’t have to go back very far—the No. 57 pick in 1999, in fact—to appreciate how second-round savvy these Spurs can be.

That was Manu Ginobili, in case you were wondering.

In a 2013 interview with the San Antonio Express-NewsJeff McDonald, Ginobili admitted even he was taken aback a bit when he heard whod drafted him:

Someone woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me. I said, ‘They’re the defending NBA champions? Are you sure?’ I had no idea they were even looking at me. … I was excited, for sure. But then again, at 57th, I knew the chances of playing were not that good.

Counterintuitive though it may sound, San Antonio’s status as a bona fide league elite actually gives it tremendous draft-day flexibility: Either it can play it safe and take players with the best chance of thriving in its famously pass-happy system, or it can swing for the fences on long-term upside.

Should San Antonio whiff, there’s scant chance Thursday’s decisions comes back to haunt it. But with one of the deepest drafts in recent memory at their feet, the Spurs stand as good a chance as anyone of finding that basketball diamond in the rough.

So who, exactly, should be on San Antonio’s radar?

 

Round 1

While the No. 30 slot hasn’t exactly yielded a murderers row of talent in recent years, there have been some notable exceptions, including Jimmy Butler (2011), David Lee (2005) and Gilbert Arenas (2001).

Of course, any Spurs fan worth her salt knows what happened when San Antonio had the No. 28 pick back in 2001. We’ll give you a hint: He’s French and plays point guard.

There’s bound to be a handful of steals late in the first round. The question is whether its San Antonio’s dice roll that comes up seven.

 

1. Nikola Jokic, PF, Serbia

San Antonio’s fondness for European players is no secret. Not only do they often arrive stateside with NBA-ready games; even if they’re rough and raw, stashing them away for a few years—just like the Spurs did with Ginobili—can sometimes yield big dividends.

Jokic is a Spur in spirit through and through: a good shooter with excellent basketball smarts and a guard’s passing vision. At just 19 years old, Jokic may not be NBA ready…and that’s just fine by San Antonio.

 

2. Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State

Let’s be clear about one thing: This is going to be Kawhi Leonard’s team before long. As such, nobody this side of the next Larry Bird or LeBron James will be uprooting him from his small forward post.

But Early doesn’t need to be the heir apparent. If anything, his most notable NBA skill—scoring—is something any team can use, even if it’s off the bench.

There’s a decent chance Early falls this far in the first round, if for no other reason than there remains plenty who believe his stats at Wichita State were somehow inflated by virtue of the school’s mid-major status. What better team on which to prove the doubters wrong than San Antonio?

 

3. Walter Tavares, C, Spain

Here’s what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote about Tavares for his most recent mock draft (subscription required):

Tavares is getting a lot of buzz right now. Hes huge. He has amazing hands and is a defensive force as both a shot-blocker and rebounder. The Mavs need that sort of help on the front line right now, though Tavares might be more useful as a draft-and-stash pick.

That last line is the most important. With Tim Duncan having officially opted into the final year of his current deal, per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs don’t necessarily need another big for at least a year.

Playing another year (or two) abroad would give Tavares some much-needed development time to assure he has the best chance of his skills catching up with his no-doubt imposing physical presence—something Tiago Splitter knows a little something about.

 

Round 2

Because San Antonio’s picks are (a) so far down the docket and (b) so close together, we’re lumping the top three prospects for each in one six-point list. When it’s this late in the draft, no mock draft in the world is good enough to predict how the dominoes will fall.

 

1. Damian Inglis, SF, France

We’ve already named two possible pick-and-stash candidates the Spurs could target in the first round. Get ready for a few more, starting with hyper-athletic Frenchman Damian Inglis.

He’s just 19 years old, but with a few more years of big-time ball overseas, Inglis could emerge as the next great second-round steal.

While it’s unlikely that Inglis falls this far, Round 2 often sees mock-draft darlings plummet unexpectedly. If he’s there this late—or if some team might be willing to take San Antonio’s two later picks in exchange for moving up—the Spurs absolutely have to pounce.

 

2. Bryce Cotton, PG, Providence

Sooner or later, the Spurs are going to need to think about a long-term replacement for Tony Parker, who, let’s not forget, has been logging Association miles since he was 19 years old.

That’s not to say Cotton is that guy, of course—hardly. But his scoring prowess and ability to penetrate warrant him a good hard look late in the second round. Besides, what better way to improve your skills as a playmaker than spending a few seasons backing up one of the NBA’s absolute best?

 

3. Artem Klimenko, C, Russia

Klimenko, a 7’1” Russian center, is a prime pick-and-stash candidate.

At just 20 years old, Klimenko probably won’t be called to NBA duty any time soon. But with a few more years playing against Europe’s top competition, he could be well worth a roster-spot flier whenever Tim Duncan decides to hang them up.

 

4. Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier

On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to find a starker Tony Parker photo negative than the hyper-athletic Christon. Both point guards top out at around 6’3”; that’s where the similarities end.

Like Cotton, Christon could stand to benefit from a few years under Parker’s wings—to learn the nuances of ball control and how to run a professional offense. With the return of Patty Mills still uncertain, it’s worth a second-rounder for Popovich to have some semblance of point guard insurance and depth.

 

5. Nemanja Dangubic, SF, Serbia

Unlike other possible stash prospects the Spurs could be targeting, Dangubic’s skill set lies less in savvy and intelligence than it does sheer athleticism and fearlessness. In this way, the Serbian small forward is a bit akin to Kawhi Leonard, although not quite the physical specimen.

We can almost guarantee that one of the Spurs’ picks—be it their first-rounder or one of their seconds—winds up getting stashed. As far as long-term upside goes, they don’t get much better than Dangubic.

 

6. Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati

Outside of Parker and Leonard, San Antonio has a history of emphasizing experience and maturity over youth and upside. Which is why Kilpatrick, the 24-year-old, high-usage scoring machine out of Cincinnati, could play well as the last pick in the draft.

Kilpatrick’s defense could use some work, but if there’s any environment where bad habits can be weeded out and new ones can sprout in their place, it’s San Antonio.

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Detroit Pistons’ 2014 NBA Draft Big Board

The Detroit Pistons are without a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, so they have just the No. 38 selection to find a player who can help in their quest to build a playoff team.

After winning just 29 games in 2013-14, the Pistons could have had a lottery pick in the deepest draft in recent memory if not for shortsighted dealings and a terrible stroke of luck. 

In the summer of 2012, former Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars traded Ben Gordon, who was under contract for two more years, and a future first-round pick—top-eight protected in 2014—to the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets) for the final year of Corey Maggette’s contract. 

Dumars then used that cap space last offseason to sign free-agent forward Josh Smith and execute a sign-and-trade deal for point guard Brandon Jennings. Despite improving the team’s talent level, the roster never clicked, and the Pistons finished with the eighth-worst record in the NBA. They entered the lottery with an 82.4 percent chance of keeping the pick, but they were leapfrogged by the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost the pick to Charlotte.

And just like that, new head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy’s job got even more difficult. 

A 29-win team typically can use help in a number of areas, and the Pistons are no exception. Andre Drummond is a franchise centerpiece in the middle, and either Josh Smith or Greg Monroe will start next to him at power forward. But beyond that, there is little certainty on the roster.

Jennings will be the starter again next season barring a major roster move, but with Rodney Stuckey’s expiring contract and Chauncey Billups’ possible retirement, the Pistons could easily look to add someone at the point. 

They have even less depth at shooting guard, where Stuckey played the majority of his minutes last season. Their 2013 first-round pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, was supposed to fill this spot, but he was quite the disappointment offensively as a rookie. And Kyle Singler, the only other player who spent meaningful minutes at the 2, is a more natural fit at small forward.

While Singler is a valuable role player, he is not talented enough to start at a position played by the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George. And while Smith started at small forward in 2013-14, his lack of shooting range really hurt the Pistons. Even if he and Monroe are both back this season, NBA.com’s Keith Langlois wrote that it will be rare that Smith plays much on the wing.

From everything [Van Gundy]‘s said since taking over as Pistons president of basketball operations and coach three weeks ago, it’s not likely we’ll see much if any of Smith playing alongside both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the future, assuming Monroe returns as a restricted free agent.

The Pistons can use help at any position on the perimeter, particularly players who can shoot the ball, as only the Philadelphia 76ers made a lower percentage from beyond the arc last season.

They can also use help defensively outside, as they were among the bottom 10 teams in opponent field-goal percentage from 15 to 19 feet, 20 to 24 feet and 25 to 29 feet, per NBA.com. And with so many needs, a player capable of filling in at multiple positions would be especially useful. 

Players like Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), C.J. Wilcox (Washington) or K.J. McDaniels (Clemson) would all be great fits with Detroit, but they’re projected to be off the board at No. 38. Raw athletes like Damien Inglis (France) and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Greece/NBDL) have intriguing potential, but they lack outside shots and won’t be ready to play right away.

Instead, there are some players who could realistically be available at No. 38, would address a need for the Pistons and would have a shot at making their rotation.

 

1. Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

At the beginning of June, Syracuse small forward Jerami Grant looked to be a lock as a first-round pick. On June 4, ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required) wrote, “Grant’s range is from No. 16 to the Bulls to the Suns at No. 27.”

But after individual workouts led to questions about the kind of offensive player Grant can become, he’s now projected to fall all the way to No. 40 in Ford’s latest mock draft (subscription required).

Yes, Grant has been unable to prove that he can shoot the ball, and that’s exactly why Smith can no longer play small forward for the Pistons. And yes, he will be a bit of a project offensively. But unlike Inglis and Antetokounmpo, Grant was a difference-maker for a top collegiate team last year. And seldom does a team get the opportunity to draft a borderline lottery talent this late in the draft.

The son of former NBAer Harvey Grant, Jerami has elite physical tools and the potential to be a terror defensively right away. He’s 6’8″ and has a 7’3″ wing span, he has crazy hops, and his body fat percentage is just 3.75 percent

Grant very well may be snatched up by another team anywhere after No. 25. But if he actually does drop this far, the Pistons need to take him as the most talented player available and worry about his fit down the road.

 

2. Spencer Dinwiddie, PG/SG, Colorado

If Van Gundy doesn’t expect to bring Stuckey back in free agency, Colorado combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie would provide some excellent flexibility on the perimeter for the Pistons. 

The 6’6″ junior was widely projected as a first-round pick before tearing his ACL midway through the 2013-14 season. He may take a bit of time to regain his rhythm after the injury, but drafting Dinwiddie would again allow the Pistons to get first-round talent at No. 38.

Before the injury, he averaged 15 points, four assists and three rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. His range would help the Pistons immediately, and he could fit nicely next to both Jennings and Caldwell-Pople.

“Any team willing to endure a couple of months of rust as Dinwiddie works his way back will be rewarded with a combo guard big enough to defend both guard spots and a solid outside shooter,” ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote (subscription required).  

Drafting Dinwiddie would give the Pistons a 25-and-younger guard trio, which would offer a lot of flexibility and could allow him to grow alongside their blossoming frontcourt. 

 

3. Joe Harris, SG, Virginia

Instead of drafting a high-upside player, the Pistons could instead look to draft the best available shooter at No. 38. That very well could be Virginia shooting guard Joe Harris, who Ford currently projects them to take.

While he duplicates Caldwell-Pope’s position, and to some extent his skill set, Harris immediately would make the Pistons a more dangerous team from the outside. He shot at least 40 percent from beyond the arc in three of his four seasons at Virginia. Ford said (subscription required) that Harris would have been a first-round pick if he entered the draft after averaging 16 points on 43 percent shooting from three as a junior. 

“He decided to return, and it hurt his draft stock a little,” Ford wrote. “Across the board, his numbers dipped this year. But Harris is still an intriguing prospect. He’s an amazing shooter, has good strength for his position and might be the best defender of the lot.”

At 6’6″ with an equal wingspan, Harris has good, but not great, length for a shooting guard. He and Caldwell-Pope may even be able to play alongside each other in the right matchups

Drafting Harris would be the safest pick of the three, but it would also fill the biggest need for the Pistons. And without a first-round pick, there is more pressure than normal to find someone in Round 2 who can join the rotation as a rookie.

 

All statistics from NBA.com unless otherwise noted. 

Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for B/R.

Follow him on Twitter. 

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LA Clippers’ 2014 NBA Draft Big Board

The Los Angeles Clippers only own one pick in the 2014 NBA draft, No. 28, but should have these next three players at the top of their big board. Honestly, the team is lacking young, athletic talent after Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Additionally, the team has needs at nearly every position and might not be able to afford passing on the best player available for a system or positional fit.

I firmly believe in drafting the best player available, regardless, because in the NBA, one player can change the fortunes of a franchise in an instant. One of the next three players could be on the board when the Clippers make their selection. If so, they should not hesitate to take any of them.

 

Kyle Anderson

Perhaps the most intriguing player in this draft class outside the lottery, Kyle Anderson combines the vision of a point guard in the body of a non-athletic power forward. Many comparisons have been thrown around when discussing Anderson, but one fits rather accurately: Boris Diaw.

To be fair, Anderson is a long and slender 6’8.5” but not as physically imposing as Diaw has become. Yet, he still finds ways to impact the game in multiple ways. Also, Anderson’s excellent length—7’2.5” wingspan and 8’11.5” standing reach—allows him to finish around the basket and get his shot off against opposing athletic wings.

The real beauty in Anderson’s game comes when the ball is in his hands. Nicknamed “slo-mo,” because looks like he is moving in slow motion, Anderson seems to find a way to get to the rim using his excellent handles combined with stutter steps, ball and head fakes, jab steps and excellent footwork. He is very adept at using angles to his advantage to get where he needs to on the floor. 

Once he breaks down his defender, his vision makes him a dangerous weapon, and he might be the best passer in the draft. Not only can he create for himself and others, but he became a good spot-up shooter this season at UCLA, shooting 48.3 percent from three despite attempting only 58 threes.

Unfortunately, defense is a major issue.

Anderson does not have the athleticism to defend NBA small forwards and probably power forwards as well. He does have some strength, despite his frame, but would struggle mightily defending the post against physical players like Griffin, David West and Zach Randolph. Who he defends will be a serious question and might keep him off the floor for some teams.

 

Jarnell Stokes

We are going to play a quick game. Compare the statistics of these two players in the table below.

Player A? Julius Randle. Player B? Jarnell Stokes. As you can see, this is why sports nerds, like me, love Stokes. Analytically, he matches up nearly identical to Randle. Additionally, despite leaving Tennessee after his junior season, Stokes is only 10 months older than Randle.

While he might not be as skilled as Randle is, he is very physical in the post, using his strength to bully his way to the rim and crashing the glass. His strength allowed him to become one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation, pulling down 155 for the season.

While he isn’t much of an offensive threat outside the paint, Stokes does have decent footwork in the post, which allows him to use his strength to his advantage. If he can develop a mid-range jumper, he could become a very useful player offensively.

Defensively, he can hold his own against most power forwards, despite measuring at only 6’8.5”. Again, his body size and strength make it difficult for opposing players to score effectively against him in the paint. Meanwhile, his lengthy 7’1.25” wingspan allows him to defend larger players and contest shots on the perimeter.

 

Mitch McGary

Despite playing a mere 198 minutes due to a back injury, Mitch McGary’s talent and effort still land him as a first-round pick. The Clippers desperately need some help in the frontcourt, and McGary would provide the team with a big, athletic center who is willing to defend and rebound.

The Clippers could especially use help on the glass, as they finished 26th in defensive rebound percentage, according to Basketball-Reference.com. McGary would be an instant contributor in that regard, as he plays with high energy and crashes the glass hard.

His offensive game is composed of scoring in transition, off cuts and from offensive rebounds. His size and solid athleticism allow him to finish at the rim through contact. Much like Jordan, McGary will not be asked to do much offensively outside of screening and pulling down offensive rebounds, but he would be a staple of Doc Rivers’ defensive system.

Although he does not possess elite height or length, measuring 6’10.5” with a 6’11” wingspan, McGary’s hustle and energy combine with his quick feet to make him a solid defender. That same agility and energy make him an ideal pick-and-roll partner for point guards like Chris Paul.

The main concerns revolve around his back issues and how they will impact him going forward.

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