Why Delon Wright Has the Most Complete Game in College Basketball

Unless you are an avid Pac-12 follower, chances are that Utah’s Delon Wright was probably the best college basketball player you didn’t hear about last year. Don’t expect him to fly under the radar this time around, however, as Wright is poised to have a huge senior season thanks to his array of arsenals on the court.

Wright spent the first two years of his collegiate career at a junior college before making the transfer to Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In the 33 games he played for the Utes, Wright averaged 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks, according to Sports-Reference.com.

These video game-like numbers earned Wright a Pac-12 All-Conference honor, making him the first player to accomplish such a feat in Utah’s program history, and his defensive efforts earned him a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive First Team as well.

Among all returning players for the 2014-15 season, Wright also leads the pack in the win-shares column (based on last season) sorted by Sports-Reference.com.

 

Top Returning Players in 2014-15
Name School PPG RPG APG Win Shares
Delon Wright Utah 15.5 6.8 5.3 7.3
Fred VanFleet Wichita St. 11.6 3.9 5.4 7.2
Jacob Parker S.F. Austin 14.2 7.1 2.0 6.6
Montrezl Harrell Louisville 14.0 8.4 1.2 6.4
Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin 13.9 6.3 1.3 6.2
Ron Baker Wichita St. 13.1 3.8 3.1 6.1
Keifer Sykes Green Bay 20.3 4.4 4.9 6.1
Michael Frazier Florida 12.4 3.5 1.1 6.0
Malcolm Brogdon Virginia 12.7 5.4 2.7 6.0
R.J. Hunter Georgia St. 18.3 4.6 1.7 5.9

 

One of the reasons to why Wright’s game is so versatile is because of his size. At 6’5″, Wright often causes mismatches at the combo guard position for the Utes.

He defends his position and reads passes well, as indicated by his steals average that was ranked No. 8 in the country last year. What stands out, however, is his ability to provide help defense despite being a perimeter player, as shown at the 1:10 and 1:38 marks in the video below.

On the offensive end, Wright possesses above-average ball-handling skills, and his height allows him to have a better court vision as well.

If you add in the fact that Wright draws plenty of attention from the opposing defense, then you usually have plays resulting like this.

When Wright decides to score on his own, however, he becomes much more dangerous.

Wright shot an impressive 63.3 percent on two-pointers last season, and his ability to get to the basket was a major factor in that.

Just by judging from the eye test, Wright does not have blazing speed to blow defenders by. What he does have, however, is a plethora of dribble-penetrating moves that primarily include hesitations and Eurostep layups that would make the likes of Manu Ginobili and James Harden proud.

Wright’s body control and ability to finish in traffic allows him to attack the basket at ease, and when he does draw contact from the defenders, he makes sure they pay for their mistakes. On an average of 5.8 attempts from the charity stripe last year, Wright shot 79.3 percent and averaged 4.6 points there alone.

If there is one downside in his offensive game, it would be the perimeter shooting. With a 22.2 shooting percent from downtown last season, Wright was often dared by the opposing teams to shoot the ball. However, with just 1.6 attempts from beyond the arc per game, it wasn’t as if Wright was giving away plenty of possessions by hitting the brick.

For a player of his caliber, you would have to believe that the three-point shooting was one of his focal points during the offseason, and that was exactly the case when he spoke with Raphielle Johnson of CollegeBasketballTalk.

That’s the main thing I need to work on,” Wright said. “I’ve been shooting a lot of shots in the gym, and I’m trying to work on my form, release and confidence [in taking those shots]. A lot of teams packed the lane against me because they knew I like to drive to the basket. They gave me the outside shot and I wasn’t comfortable with it. So I feel that if I can knock those shots down, it will open up my game and open up the game for the entire team.

Apparently there were signs of Wright’s work paying off in Utah’s team scrimmage on Tuesday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Matthew Piper.

If the outside shooting indeed becomes another addition to Wright’s game, then one can only imagine how much better of a player he can be for the upcoming season.

Utah has not made an appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2009 and fell to Saint Mary in the first round of the NIT last year. But the Utes will feature many returning players and look for Wright to take them further this season with an All-American campaign.

 

Honorable Mentions

Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin

Fred VanFleet - Wichita State

Bobby Portis - Arkansas

Marcus Paige - North Carolina

Georges Niang - Iowa State

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NBA Global Games 2014: Complete Schedule and Games to Watch

The NBA preseason is underway, and less than a month remains before the regular season kicks off in the Association.

With the return of exhibition play comes another installment of exciting, overseas action, courtesy of the NBA’s Global Games. In an effort to connect with fans around the world, the league has arranged for five teams to participate in five games in countries around the world.

With teams like the defending champion Spurs, the second-place Miami Heat and the new Eastern Conference powerhouse Cavaliers, the Global Games should provide fans with plenty of entertainment.

This comes on the heels of Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv arriving stateside for a matchup with the Cavs—one Cleveland won handily:

Maccabi will play one more contest in Brooklyn on Tuesday before heading back overseas.

As for the NBA teams overseas, make sure to tune in to these big matchups.

 

San Antonio Spurs vs. Alba Berlin from Berlin, Germany

The opener of the NBA Global Games schedule takes place Wednesday in Germany’s capital city and features the defending NBA champions.

The game marks the Spurs’ first contest since winning the NBA title in June.

Having the Spurs travel overseas to represent the league seems fitting.

Not only is the NBA showing the rest of the world that it’s willing to send its premier clubs to other countries, but the Spurs epitomize the rise of international basketball:

The team is sure to be welcomed with enthusiasm in both Berlin and Istanbul thanks to that international contingent.

For fans back in North America, this game provides the first glimpse into the 2014-15 Spurs.

How will this team set up, and how much will they use players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili?

This game should help whet the appetite of those waiting to see the champs embark on their title defense.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This one is a must-watch for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, it represents the first time that LeBron James will face off against the Heat—the team he went to four consecutive NBA Finals with, winning two of them.

That storyline alone makes it worth watching.

Then there’s the fact that Anderson Varejao—a native of Brazil—will be playing his first ever game on home soil.

Cleveland play-by-play man Fred McLeod tweeted that the big man is having some fun with it as well:

It’s not all fun and games, though, as Varejao still has plenty to play for, per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

Then there’s the fact that this will only be the second game that James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving play together—and the first against another NBA squad.

 

Brooklyn Nets vs. Sacramento Kings from Shanghai and Beijing, China

This matchup will be played twice in three days from two different cities in China.

The main storyline to follow will certainly be whether the Nets can repeat last year’s success, when they reached the second round of the NBA playoffs before bowing out in five games against the Heat.

With another year tacked onto the bodies of Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams, and no more Paul Pierce—who was one of the team’s leaders in the 2014 postseason and recorded the series-clinching block in Game 7 against the Raptors—questions abound as to whether this team can remain competitive.

Then there’s the drama that took place this offseason.

First, there was the Jason Kidd saga that saw him bolt for Milwaukee:

Then, just before the preseason, reports surfaced that Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be looking to sell the franchise:

Now Pierce has come out to stir the pot further, claiming that the Nets didn’t even offer him a contract this offseason:

What a mess.

Usually a team’s preseason results don’t mean all that much, but for this Brooklyn team, a poor showing in exhibition play could really cause some unrest.

Beating the up-and-coming Kings in China could go a long way to settling some nerves in Brooklyn.

Even if they’re just symbolic preseason victories.

 

Jon Reid is a correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JonReidCSM.

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NBA Preseason 2014: Complete Schedule and Top Showdowns to Watch

The NBA may have taken a temporary backseat to football and the baseball playoffs in the sports news cycle, but we are fresh off of one of the most exciting offseasons in recent memory. That means there will be plenty of buzz once again after the preseason begins.

With that in mind, here is a look at the schedule for some key preseason showdowns before we dig a bit deeper on some of the best games. An entire preseason schedule can be found here, courtesy of CBS Sports.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat, Oct. 11

That’s right. The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t even waiting until the regular season to go back to LeBron James’ old stomping grounds.

This will be James’ first official showdown with the Heat since he chose to take his talents back to Ohio, and there will likely be a much more noticeable buzz than there typically is for preseason games. Sure, James won two rings in Miami and left there on better terms than when he first left Cleveland, but the crowd will make itself heard in this one.

Will there be boos? Muffled cheers? A combination of the two? 

The real game to watch will be on Christmas Day when the Cavaliers come back to Miami in the regular season, but this will serve as a solid appetizer. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and company will look to feed off the crowd and set the tone early in what could be a new Eastern Conference rivalry.

 

Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves, Oct. 17 

This showdown may not move the needle for some NBA fans, but it is on here because the top-two picks will get an early look at each other, even if it is not the matchup we originally assumed it would be on draft day.

Andrew Wiggins went No. 1 to the Cavaliers, and Jabari Parker went No. 2 to the Milwaukee Bucks, but Wiggins was shipped to Minnesota in the league-shifting Kevin Love trade.

Wiggins is arguably the biggest name on a youth movement in Minnesota, as point guard Ricky Rubio will dish it to Zach LaVine, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett and Glenn Robinson III, among others.

As for Parker, he discussed going No. 2 in the draft, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

“It’s just been real humbling to get anybody who just wants you. I’m so glad and so grateful. I’m trying to be a throwback player and only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now, I want to stick with whoever’s rolling with me.”

Clearly, a preseason game will not tell us who will ultimately be the better NBA player or who was the better pick, but it will be thrilling for fans looking for some October excitement to see them both on the court at the same time.

It could be the first glimpse of a career-long rivalry between two budding superstars.

 

Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers, Oct. 20

It is easy to just assume that the Cavaliers are going to reach the Finals after adding Kevin Love and James to go along with Kyrie Irving, but the Chicago Bulls could be a serious roadblock.

Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders certainly seemed to think so:

With one of the best defenses in the league, incredible depth, a size advantage and of course the leadership of a former MVP and one of the best coaches in the league, the Bulls have to be considered serious title contenders on par with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Will they ultimately beat them? It’s hard to tell this early, but could they beat them? Absolutely.

Chicago added Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic in the offseason, but they will be complementary pieces around Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. That may mean less of an adjustment period than Cleveland, which is bringing in a new coach and a couple of superstars who have the ball in their hands a lot.

Brigham also goes on to suggest that the Bulls will be by far the superior defensive team in this potential Eastern Conference showdown, thanks to the presence of Noah, Gibson and Butler. Chicago could also have a deeper bench with Gibson, Mirotic, Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell and McDermott. 

This preseason showdown will provide something of an early indication as to how these teams will approach each other. Nobody is going to show their hand before the season starts, but there will likely be some added intensity in this one.

 

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Kobe Bryant’s Effort to Rediscover Game Moving Forward, but Far from Complete

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant has always chosen his own context.   

Accordingly, the perspective has mostly tilted in his favor, toward his grandeur, serving in construction of his legend.   

It has not been ineffective marketing.

Bryant came to the Los Angeles Lakers practice facility a week ago, told new coach and longtime friend Byron Scott how much rust felt coated on his bones despite how healed everything was and how much more focus he had been placing on his craft all summer.

Bryant did not want the team’s website or TV network in the gym, as was allowed for other informal scrimmages for Lakers players. He had worked out with teammates such as Jeremy Lin for a week early in the offseason, but this was different.

This would be real five-on-five, a meaningful test.

Did Bryant pass? Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak termed the results “comforting” and was moved a few days later to remind: “He gives you a chance, no matter the circumstances, to be really good.”

Scott saw enough to suggest Monday at Lakers media day that Bryant would average 24 points and play all 82 games. Scott’s doubt about how well Bryant could raise up to get his jumper off was eased to the point that Scott described Kobe’s outlook as “very exciting.”

Bryant executed his footwork in the mid-post. He had the lift also to reach high for much-needed rebounds.

He played three games.

He hit two game-winning shots.

Asked on the eve of training camp about his dramatic scrimmage success, Bryant said, “I hadn’t played, so I spent the whole summer just kind of preparing and training. It was important for me to get a five-on-five game in, so I could see what I can and can’t do.

“And I felt like me.”

Bryant didn’t say it with any bravado, however. He also wasn’t cavalier about it or making it seem like a no-brainer. He didn’t even mention those oh-so-Kobe winning shots that the public was unaware he had hit.

He was pleased, but he was not emboldened.

He chose that context, and he chose not to feed the hype—or even believe it himself.

All he wanted to say about it was that it was a small, personal, positive steppingstone.

And I felt like me.

That’s not to be taken lightly as Bryant, 36, tries to inspire his public all over again with a comeback from the fractured right knee on top of the torn left Achilles and playing just six games last season.

“It’s just trying to see if I can prove to myself,” he said, “that I can be myself.”

Bryant added that the “words of doubt” from the outside—haters, critics or realists, whatever they might be—fan his flame, but only secondarily.

“I’ve always been that way, though,” he said. “I feel that [makes for] a much healthier journey. It’s much more enjoyable to look to the side every now and then and look at who you’re proving wrong in the process. That’s never been the main driver for me.”

Listening to Bryant speak Monday, it was clear that he is confident in his health. What he is uncertain about is the high hurdle of this recovery, which requires him to re-establish his game in the face of the unyielding aging process.

To that end, Bryant placed more focus on the craft, the details, the crux of his game, than anything over the summer. He dropped about 10 pounds but did so without using the track, his usual haven for early morning conditioning, and holed himself up in the gym. He feels potent on offense, as usual, but he wonders whether his lower body can slide defensively the way he knows it must if the Lakers’ defense is to meet Scott’s expectations.

The fundamentals have to be Bryant’s foundation more than ever. His outsized self-confidence was always rooted in faith that his work ethic leads to his game being there when he needs it.

So the only issue now that he is healthy is whether he will meet his own challenge.

Long before anyone else can judge how much this old snake looks like the Black Mamba, either he will feel comfortable in his skin or he won’t.

Bryant admitted he was “anxiously awaiting” the Lakers’ first practice. The first exhibition game is a week after that.

The regular-season opener sits a month away.

A year ago, Bryant was in a similar position, returning to the court from a prolonged absence, but also with facing an uphill struggle against his Achilles.

“Now there are questions, but they don’t center around health,” Bryant said of the difference this year.

As much as the suggestions so far sound good, Bryant’s inflection won’t change back to certainty until he has a different answer, and answer that isn’t: “I felt like me.”

It has to be: “It’s me.”

Anything less, and it’s going to be a long, unsatisfying march into retirement.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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Complete Miami Heat 2014 Training Camp Preview

The Miami Heat are gearing up for their first year of the post-LeBron James era.

With James gone, few are predicting the Heat to remain among the NBA‘s elite.

But before they can go out and attempt to prove the many doubters wrong, the Heat need to use training camp to not only mesh the newcomers with holdovers from last year but figure out who’s going to play and in what capacity as well. 

We’re going to examine the Heat position by position, looking at the likely contributors and what could possibly change during training camp. 

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Complete Boston Celtics 2014-15 Training Camp Preview

Coming off a season that featured the third-lowest win total in franchise history, the Boston Celtics will head into their 2014-15 training camp licking large, open wounds. 

The Celtics tried hard to turn things around overnight, but a relatively quiet summer yielded no additional superstar firepower. So instead, it’s looking like their fate is the lottery…again.

But even though a championship feels light-years away, things probably won’t be as dire as last season. The team has several fresh faces and a healthy Rajon Rondo, plus the infusion of some serious young talent. 

Here’s a breakdown of each position and every player who’s expected to make Boston’s final roster. They’re ranked by how Brad Stevens should arrange his depth chart, even though things in real life will be much more fluid as the season goes along.

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Complete Chicago Bulls 2014 Training Camp Preview

The Chicago Bulls‘ training camp begins Tuesday, September 30. Their first preseason game is on Monday, October 6 at the United Center (full preseason schedule here) against the Washington Wizards—the team that ousted them from the first round of last year’s playoffs.

The 2014-15 NBA campaign is nearly here, and the Bulls have a lot to figure out between now, then and beyond. They’ve got a logjam in the frontcourt, new players young and old (say hello to Aaron Brooks, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic) plus former MVP Derrick Rose looking to make a full return.

But there is a clear, if preliminary, depth chart in place. Let’s take a look at what the Bulls have, position by position, in preparation for the team’s most important season of the Tom Thibodeau era.

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Complete NY Knicks 2014 Training Camp Preview

The New York Knicks, under the new regime of team president Phil Jackson and first-year head coach Derek Fisher, are ready to bounce back from last year’s disappointing 37-45 season. 

A long-time Jackson disciple, Fisher will install the famous triangle offense, which won Jackson 11 championships—six with the Chicago Bulls and five with Fisher and the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract in the offseason. 

Armed with a re-signed Carmelo Anthony, a rejuvenated Amare Stoudemire and talent in the backcourt, Fisher has a foundation in place. Jackson has been busy tinkering with the roster as well, trading Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks over the summer for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington. 

Ellington and Jeremy Tyler were sent to Sacramento for Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy, giving the Knicks even more depth. There are plenty of new faces and options for the newly installed triangle and its rookie head coach. 

According to ESPN, the Knicks’ starting five projects to be Calderon, Iman Shumpert, Anthony, Stoudemire and Dalembert. Regardless of last season’s shortcomings, the Knicks have added solid depth and are poised to take a major step forward under Jackson and Fisher.  

Let’s take a look at how New York’s roster will shake out and who will contribute at each position. 

 

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Complete Predictions for Nerlens Noel’s Role, Statistics with Philadelphia 76ers

Now that Nerlens Noel is back at full strength, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ rebuild is officially ready to get underway. 

Although a couple of key pieces won’t be joining the fray this season, Noel will attempt to validate his status as a franchise building block when the 2014-15 season tips off.  

And with 6-1 Rookie of the Year odds, per Odds Shark, there’s no shortage of hype surrounding Noel’s highly anticipated debut. 

However, we need to maintain perspective. Noel is still just 20 years old, and his offensive repertoire is undergoing major reconstruction. 

That said, Noel’s defensive impact alone should keep him active in a Rookie of the Year race that’s expected to be dominated by Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. 

So as training camp approaches, we’re here to provide realistic expectations and a complete slate of projections for Noel’s inaugural campaign. 

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FIBA World Cup Schedule 2014: Complete Preview Heading into Semifinals

There have been a number of surprises throughout the FIBA World Cup, but we are now down to four teams all fighting for a gold medal.

While Spain was considered a top contender as the host nation with a number of NBA stars on the roster, the squad was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals. This makes the United States the overwhelming favorite to win its next two games, but it is clear anything can happen in this competitive tournament.

All four remaining teams have a chance to take home gold with two wins, while one more win will at least secure a medal. Here is a look at what each team has to do to reach that goal.

 

United States vs. Lithuania

When: Thursday, September 11

Time: 3 p.m. ET

Where: Barcelona, Spain

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: ESPN3

 

The United States has not faced incredibly difficult competition in this tournament so far, winning all six of its games by at least 20 points. 

Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried have been almost unstoppable in the low post, averaging a combined 26.7 points and 15.1 rebounds per game. Their pure athleticism, combined with incredible work ethic, has helped them lead become leaders of this young squad.

Arash Markazi of ESPN explains that Spain’s loss in the quarterfinals makes an American title much more likely:

Still, head coach Mike Krzyzewski knows what he is up against in Lithuania. Team USA barely escaped with a win against this opponent at the 2012 Olympics, while Jonas Valanciunas is playing as well as ever as a leader for this squad.

“He gets a piece of the paint in numerous ways, and then he is a great offensive rebounder,” Krzyzewski said of the Toronto Raptors star, via Chris Kudialas of the Detroit Free Press. “Not a good one, but a great one.”

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated sees the center as a threat for the United States big men:

Just as importantly, Lithuania has hit 40 percent of its three-point shots in this tournament and can find ways to score against a more athletic opponent. This will help ensure this game remains close throughout.

That being said, Team USA is simply too good to stop and should come through with a tough win.

Prediction: USA 88, Lithuania 80

 

France vs. Serbia

When: Friday, September 12

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Where: Madrid, Spain

Watch: ESPN2

Live Stream: ESPN3

 

Few expected either France or Serbia to make it to this point in the tournament. France and Serbia finished third and fourth in Group A, respectively, and had subpar performances against the top teams in the group.

However, the quarterfinals featured major upsets for both teams, as each squad was able to avenge a loss from earlier in the tournament.

France had an impressive showing in a 65-52 win over Spain, utilizing its size inside to get the advantage over the elite frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Rudy Gobert especially stood out in the victory, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com pointed out:

Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated joked about how good the center was in the defensive battle:

With Boris Diaw and Thomas Heurtel also coming through with big performances, the French were able to pull off the massive upset over the host nation and biggest rival.

While you would think France could keep this momentum to possibly move into the finals, it is important not to count out Serbia, which had a dominant victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Like Spain, Brazil was expected to advance thanks to its NBA talent. As HoopsHype noted, this did not go as planned:

Milos Teodosic led the way with a game-high 23 points, including 10-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line, as he was clearly unafraid of contact. The entire squad has continually improved throughout the tournament and is now playing as well as ever.

When these two teams face off in the semifinals, expect the competition to be a lot like the first time they played when France edged out a 74-73 victory. Boris Diaw hit a game-tying shot with 18 seconds left before Joffrey Lauvergne put his team ahead for good with a made free throw in the final seconds.

France has the size inside to make a difference in this game while still waiting for the outside shooting of Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier to come around. Although this matchup should be close, the French should be able to pull off the narrow win.

Prediction: France 67, Serbia 63

 

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