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Cunningham headlines list of top prospects in NBA draft

Cunningham headlines list of top prospects in NBA draft

Cade Cunningham spent years honing his game for a shot at becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.The Oklahoma State one-and-done star could accomplish that goal Thursday night as the headliner of a class that includes scorers, playmakers and potentially elite defenders at the top.“I’ve been saying for a long time,” Cunningham said, “we have one of the best classes in a long time. And I’m really appreciative of the fact that we’ve all been pushing each other throughout us coming through high school and things like that.”Only time will tell how deep the class really is.But Cunningham won’t be have to wait long Thursday night. His is expected to be the first name called when the Detroit Pistons open the draft in New York, while the rest of the top tier comes from Cunningham’s same 2020 high school recruiting class.There’s Southern California big man Evan Mobley, the draft’s top big man who helped the Trojans make their deepest NCAA Tournament push in two decades. Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs helped the Bulldogs carry an unbeaten record into the national-title game. Florida State’s Scottie Barnes is a playmaking forward capable of locking down smaller guards.And there are preps-to-pros prospects in guard Jalen Green and forward Jonathan Kuminga, with each bypassing college basketball to play in the G League.“Our talent on the floor speaks for itself,” said Suggs, a former star football player who was named Mr. Football in Minnesota. “But off the floor and in locker rooms, we’re guys who lead and guys who you want in your locker room.”ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said depth at the top of this draft was the best since 2003, which produced perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the first five picks.“Look, having LeBron in a draft was certainly better,” said Bilas, a former Duke player. “Zion (Williamson in 2019) made it more interesting that year. But none of the drafts that I can remember since 2003 have combined power at the top and depth of really good talent like this.”It starts with Cunningham, mentioned as candidate to go No. 1 before ever playing for the Cowboys. The 6-foot-8 point guard and first-team Associated Press All-American averaged 20.1 points while working as an effective playmaker.“Any time I watch basketball or I’m just watching the playoffs, their playmaking ability shows how much they know the game and just their feel for the game,” Cunningham said. “If you can make plays for your team and help put your teammates in winning positions, you can always find yourself getting playing time.”Detroit and the other teams atop the draft certainly could use that kind of help, too.The Pistons won last month’s lottery for the top pick after a second straight 20-win season, and they haven’t finished better than .500 for five straight years. General manager Troy Weaver wouldn’t reveal plans for Thursday, noting: “Everybody’s made the pick but us.”Weaver said Detroit would look at every scenario, including trades.“I don’t see Shaq or LeBron but I see some high-level guys,” Weaver said.Houston checks in at No. 2, the first of three first-round selections as the Rockets rebuild following the James Harden trade to Brooklyn and a league-worst 17 wins.Cleveland has its only pick at No. 3 for a roster in flux since James left after the 2018 season. The Cavaliers have one of the league’s youngest teams with promising guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, who along with forward Isaac Okoro and center Jarrett Allen comprise the team’s “core four.”Toronto sits at No. 4 followed by Orlando – which also owns the No. 8 pick – and Oklahoma City to round out the top tier’s potential landing spots. The Thunder, also in rebuilding mode, join the Rockets with three first-round selections, all in the top 18.Then there’s Golden State. The Warriors, expected to have Klay Thompson back from injuries alongside NBA scoring leader Stephen Curry, have the No. 7 and No. 14 picks to help fuel what could be a quick return to prominence after three world championships from 2015-18.Names to watch include i nternational first-round prospects in Australian teenager Josh Giddey, and big men Alperen Sengun from Turkey and Usman Garuba from Spain. There’s also Tennessee freshman guard Keon Johnson, a lottery prospect who set an NBA combine record with a 48-inch vertical leap.The draft is later than its traditional late-June slot for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted the 2019-20 season. Last year’s draft took place in November with the season beginning in December and the NBA Finals wrapping up last week.The 2021-22 season is scheduled to return to its normal schedule, with next year’s draft set for June again.———AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports———Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

USC freshman Mobley headlines list of big men in NBA draft

USC freshman Mobley headlines list of big men in NBA draft

Evan Mobley made a quick impact with his athleticism and defense for Southern CaliforniaBy AARON BEARD AP Basketball WriterJuly 27, 2021, 2:44 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleEvan Mobley made a quick impact with his athleticism and defense for Southern California, bringing the Trojans within a game of the Final Four.He’s the headliner among the big men in the NBA draft, a position that includes Texas’ Kai Jones, Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, and international prospects Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba.Here’s a look at some of the top bigs:EVAN MOBLEYThe 7-foot freshman looks likely to go in the top 3 with his two-way potential in a still-developing frame.STRENGTHS: Mobley, 20, swept the Pac-12 honors for player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year. He has plenty of length with a 7-4 wingspan, helping him rank seventh nationally by blowing nearly 2.9 shots per game. He also showed the mobility to defend smaller players on switches, making him a potential disruptor beyond his ability to swat or alter shots. Mobley also had a strong NCAA Tournament, averaging 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks as the Trojans reached a regional final for the first time in 20 years.“I feel like my agility and length and defensive presence is my top main things that make me different,” Mobley said.CONCERNS: Mobley is a lean 215 pounds, so he’ll need to add some bulk to handle physical and stronger NBA opponents. He’ll also need to continue expanding his shooting range after making 30% (12 of 40) of his 3-point tries.KAI JONESThe 6-10 sophomore is a first-round prospect with length and perimeter skills.STRENGTHS: Jones averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game as the top reserve for the Longhorns and the Big 12’s top sixth man. He also made 13 of 34 3-pointers (38.2%). Jones ranked ninth among prospects at the combine with a nearly 7-2 wingspan. Most importantly, he has the length and athleticism to be a versatile defender along with attacking the rim.“Just being able to switch ball screens and playing drop coverages,” Jones said. “I have a pretty good knack for playing defense. I think that’s going to be essential for me getting on the floor as a rookie, and playing a lot of minutes as a rookie.”CONCERNS: The 20-year-old is still developing his overall game. He reached double figures in scoring in just 15 of 53 career outings and had just one double-figure rebounding total in that time. He’ll also need to add strength to a frame that checked in a 221 pounds at the combine.ISAIAH JACKSONThe 6-10 freshman offers high-end defensive potential as a first-round prospect.STRENGTHS: The 19-year-old is a good athlete with the ability to run the court. He showed potential as a rebounder with seven games with at least 10, including 15 against LSU and 12 against both Kansas and Georgia Tech. And he thrived on the defensive end, ranking 15th nationally with 2.6 blocks per game – including eight against then-No. 7 Kansas for the most by a Wildcats player against an Associated Press top-10 opponent.“I like to really key in on playing defense: blocking shots, that’s where I get my energy from, blocking a shot or getting a rebound or getting a steal,” Jackson said. “That’s where I get my fire from. I mean, it’s fun to me to do those things.”CONCERNS: Jackson needs offensive development after averaging just 8.4 points with only eight double-digit scoring outputs in 25 games — though he was more assertive late by getting there in six of his last seven games. He’ll also need to add bulk after playing at 206 pounds last year.OTHERS TO WATCH— ALPEREN SENGUN: The 6-9, 240-pounder from Turkey, who turned 19 on Sunday, is a skilled big man with crafty throwback post moves and the nimble footwork. He was named MVP of the Turkish league last season and is a lottery prospect with major upside if he can expand his shooting range.— USMAN GARUBA: The 6-8, 229-pound forward from Spain offers strong defensive potential as a first-round prospect, both with length to work around the paint but the athleticism to defend farther out if needed.— DAY’RON SHARPE: The North Carolina freshman has a strong 6-11, 265-pound frame with the potential to be an elite rebounder with his high-motor game. The first-round prospect is also a surprisingly good passer.— CHARLES BASSEY: The 6-11, 235-pound junior from Western Kentucky ranked as one of the nation’s best shot blockers (fourth at 3.1 per game) and rebounders (fifth at 11.6). That could make him a frontcourt asset for the right team, potentially late in the first round.— NEEMIAS QUETA: The Utah State 7-footer could offer some second-round value with a 7-4 wingspan after ranking third nationally in blocked shots (3.3).———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports———Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Green headlines list of shooting guards in NBA draft

Green headlines list of shooting guards in NBA draft

Jalen Green is among the top shooting guards in next week’s NBA draftBy AARON BEARD AP Basketball WriterJuly 23, 2021, 3:35 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleJalen Green bypassed college to get the jump on his professional career. The next step comes in Thursday’s NBA draft.Green is among the shooting guards in this year’s draft and looks set to be a top-four pick. He leads a position that includes a pair of top prospects in Tennessee’s Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, as well as Connecticut’s James Bouknight.Here’s a look at the top prospects:JALEN GREENThe 19-year-old Green went from high school to the G League and put up strong numbers.STRENGTHS: The 6-foot-6 Green is a scorer. He averaged 17.9 points on 46% shooting in 15 games with G League Ignite, which offers an alternative for elite prospects who want to bypass college basketball. He has explosive athleticism, leading to high-flying dunks and a willingness to attack the rim. His shooting touch also looked solid on 3-pointers (36.5%) and at the line (82.9%), offering a glimpse of his expanding potential to become an elite scorer.CONCERNS: Like many youngsters in this draft, he’ll need to add some bulk to a 178-pound frame to be strong enough to handle physical play on the perimeter. He’ll also need to cut down on mistakes that led him to have nearly as many turnovers (40) as assists (42).KEON JOHNSON AND JADEN SPRINGERThe Volunteers’ five-star recruits are one-and-done first-round prospects, with Johnson looking likely to land in the lottery.STRENGTHS: The 6-4, 205-pound Springer led Tennessee at 12.5 points per game, while the 6-4, 184-pound Johnson was second at 11.3. Springer offers a bigger frame and could see work at the point in the NBA with his ability to get loose in the open floor and connect with teammates (2.9 assists per game). Johnson brings enough athleticism to he set an NBA combine record with a 48-inch vertical leap while ranking tied for third in the three-quarter sprint (3.0 seconds). They elevated their games later in the year, going from accounting for about 24% of the team’s scoring in the first nine games of Southeastern Conference play to nearly 43% in the last eight. And both offer strong defensive potential.CONCERNS: Outside shooting is a bit of a question. Springer shot 43.5% from 3-point range but attempted just 1.8 per game, so it wasn’t a primary weapon for him. Johnson also didn’t take many and shot just 27% on his 48 attempts, while he could also help himself by adding some bulk to handle physical play.JAMES BOUKNIGHTThe Connecticut sophomore brings enough scoring to likely land him in the top half of the first round.STRENGTHS: The 6-5 Bouknight averaged 18.7 points while shooting nearly 45%, including a 40-point game against Creighton in December. Bouknight can create his own shot by attacking the rim or pulling up off the dribble, and has athleticism to finish at the rim – such as his high-flying putback dunk against Providence in February. He is also a willing rebounder (5.7), including a pair of 10-board efforts in Big East play.CONCERNS: He shot just 29% from 3-point range this year, including just 11 of 41 (26.8%) in his final nine games after returning from midseason elbow surgery, and had 29 more turnovers than assists over two seasons. He also has a lean frame (190 pounds) that might have trouble handling stronger defenders without some added bulk.OTHERS TO WATCH— MOSES MOODY: The one-and-done guard averaged 16.8 points to help Arkansas push to within a win of the Final Four. The 6-5, 211-pound guard has a nearly 7-1 wingspan and could go in the second half of the lottery picks.— CAMERON THOMAS: The 6-4, 210-pound freshman from LSU is a first-round prospect after leading the SEC in scoring at 23 points per game.— CHRIS DUARTE: The 6-6 guard has gone from two seasons of junior college to two years at Oregon and now stands as a first-round prospect. Now 24, Duarte won last year’s Jerry West Award as the nation’s top shooting guard after averaging 17 points while shooting 53% for a team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16.— QUENTIN GRIMES: The 6-5 junior was the top scorer (17.8 points) for a defensive-minded Houston team that reached the program’s first Final Four since 1984. He’s likely a second-round prospect who would offer size, scoring and defense to the right roster fit.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports———Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Cunningham, Suggs headline list of point guards in NBA draft

Cunningham, Suggs headline list of point guards in NBA draft

Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs are the headliners at point guard for this year’s NBA draftBy AARON BEARD AP Basketball WriterJuly 22, 2021, 10:05 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCade Cunningham arrived at Oklahoma State as the expected No. 1 overall NBA draft pick and did nothing to change that in one season as the Cowboys’ floor leader.He’s the headliner in this draft among the point guards and overall among all prospects, while Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs could also be a top-four pick after leading the Zags to the brink of an unbeaten season.Here’s a look at some of the top point guard prospects:CUNNINGHAMThe 6-foot-8, 220-pound freshman’s playmaking ability could make him an immediate star capable of working on or off the ball.STRENGTHS: Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists at the helm of the Cowboys’ attack with smooth ball skills and passing touch, which helped him beat traps, find open shooters or create his own shot. He performed well in two games against eventual national champion Baylor (49 points on 17-for-35 shooting) and also showed clutch swagger by hitting a final-seconds 3-pointer to beat Wichita State. His shooting touch was strong, too; he shot 40% from 3-point range and 84.6% from the foul line.As Cowboys coach Mike Boynton Jr. put it in March when discussing Cunningham’s chances to go No. 1: “I’m sure there will be a little bit of debate. But it really shout be a pretty short debate. This one’s pretty clear.”CONCERNS: Not many, though he’ll need to clean up mistakes that led to turnovers. He had 109 turnovers compared to 94 assists in 27 games, an average of more than four per game. That included eight games with at least five turnovers after Feb. 1, with seven turnovers against one assist in a Feb. 8 loss at Kansas.SUGGSThe 6-4, 205-pound freshman led a Zags offense that didn’t lose a game until the final night of the season.STRENGTHS: Suggs brings strong athleticism as a lead guard who also won Mr. Football honors in the state of Minnesota as a quarterback. He was an every-game starter averaging 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He has the strength to attack in transition and be a quality defender (1.9 steals). And he showed a little bit of everything in Gonzaga’s overtime win against UCLA in a Final Four classic, including a dazzling sequence that started with his at-the-rim block leading directly to his one-handed bounce pass ahead for a transition dunk. And oh yes, there was that buzzer-beating banked-in 3, too.CONCERNS: Suggs needs to prove he can shoot reliably from outside after making 33.7% of his 3-pointers, with most of his success from attacking in transition or driving the lane.DAVION MITCHELLThe 6-1, 202-pound Mitchell blossomed as a junior into an Associated Press All-American for NCAA champ Baylor, as well as a potential top-10 draft pick.STRENGTHS: The defense alone is impressive. Mitchell was the national defensive player of the year for the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Naismith with his ability to harass ballhandlers, both with quick hands and ability to move his feet. But Mitchell also made a huge leap offensively, most notably by going from shooting 32.4% on 3-pointers in 2020 to 44.7% last year. He hit at least three 3s in 10 games last year and had matched his 2020 season total (34) by the end of January.CONCERNS: Mitchell’s offensive leap didn’t include improvement at the foul line. He made 66% in 2020 and 64% last year, low totals for a player set to have the ball in his hands. He also got to the line just 2.1 times per game last year.OTHERS TO WATCH— JARED BUTLER: The 6-3, 195-pound Butler was the leading scorer on Baylor’s title-winning team and a first-team AP All-American with the ability to play either guard spot. Butler’s scoring punch (16.7 points, 41.6% 3-point shooting) made him the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and a first-round prospect.— SHARIFE COOPER: The 6-1, 180-pound freshman played just 12 games at Auburn due to an NCAA investigation into his eligibility, but he averaged 20.2 points and could go in the second half of the first round.— AYO DOSUNMU: The Illinois floor leader won the Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard last season. He averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists with the size (6-4, 200) to play off the ball.— NAH’SHON HYLAND: Nicknamed “Bones,” the 6-3, 173-pound sophomore averaged 19.5 points at VCU and projects as a combo guard in the NBA.— TRE MANN: The 6-5, 190-pound Florida sophomore blossomed last year. He went from averaging 5.3 points and shooting 27.5% from 3-point range as a freshman to 16 points and 40.2% from behind the arc. He could go in the second half of the first round.— MILES MCBRIDE: Nicknamed “Deuce,” the 6-2, 200-pound sophomore led West Virginia in scoring (15.9), including 30 points in the NCAA Tournament opener against Morehead State. He also shot better than 41% from behind the arc.———More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports———Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap