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Nick Collison owes much of NBA longevity to time at KU

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, center, fights for the ball with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Oklahoma City won 103-94. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, center, fights for the ball with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Oklahoma City won 103-94. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In the midst of his 11th season in the NBA, Nick Collison gives much of the credit for his ability to stick around and contribute for so long to growing up around the game and his time as a Kansas Jayhawk.

Collison recently spoke about his pre-professional days in a video feature produced by the only organization he has ever played for in The Association: the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Super Sonics).

The video features footage from his prep days, including a pretty incredible interview with a very young-looking Collison, and, of course, highlights from his four years in crimson and blue.

Now a 6-foot-10, 255-pound veteran, Collison lived and breathed basketball growing up in Iowa, where his father, Dave, coached in the high school ranks.

“My last couple years of high school, I knew I was going to be able to play in college, and wanted to play in the NBA,” Collison shares, “so I think that’s when I really started taking it serious as a possible career.”

For more insight on his days at Kansas, the Thunder even track down the power forward’s KU coach, Roy Williams, now at North Carolina.

“First time I ever saw Nick Collison in a high school game was winning a state championship,” Williams says of the Iowa Falls native. “I though, ‘My gosh, what a complete player, what a competitive guy, what a leader out there on the court.’ I was just absolutely blown away.”

Collison went on to start in the 1999 McDonald’s All-American Game — played at Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum, in his home state — for the West team, with Carlos Boozer, Jonathan Bender, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Brett Nelson.

Why did he choose KU, instead of playing at Iowa or Iowa State, or someplace else?

“I realized that that would just be an incredible place for me to play, and Coach Williams would be a great coach to play for, and I started to look at it more of like, ‘How do I fit in ?’ and it just seemed like the best fit for me.”

Ku's Nick Collison (4) skies to block a shot by Iowa State's Omar
Bynum.

Ku's Nick Collison (4) skies to block a shot by Iowa State's Omar Bynum.

Collison says the aspects of his game he perfected at KU gave him an advantage over other role players once he got to the league, and allowed him to become the player he is.

“Everybody at this level is a great player and great athlete, but I’ve been able to stick around because my habits have been good and I’ve been able to be in the right place at the right time. And I owe a lot of that to Coach Williams and his staff.”

The former Kansas coach recalls how Collison led by his actions when he called Lawrence home. Williams marvels that the hard-working forward drew charges, sprinted back to play defense and dove on the floor without coaches asking him to do so.

“I don’t think I ever raised my voice at Nick Collison for four years. He made me a heck of a lot better coach. Won a lot of games because of his toughness, his competitiveness, his will to win.”

“He was such a good learner. He was a student of the game, and you explain things to him one time and showed it to him and he pretty much had it.”

Collison doesn’t play (16.1 minutes a game this season) or produce (3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds through 40 games) as much as he once did now that his career is winding down. But he says he always had a respect for the game and what it takes to play in the NBA.

“For me, that’s what really drives me. Knowing how fortunate I am to be at this level and how few people can get here.”

What’s more, Collison says he still knows this basketball thing is just a small part of the rest of his life

Check out the entire video from the Thunder:


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Rookie of Year frontrunner Andrew Wiggins has room to grow

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins (22) tries to move around Dallas Mavericks’ Devin Harris (20) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins (22) tries to move around Dallas Mavericks’ Devin Harris (20) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

There are still 30-plus games to go in Andrew Wiggins’ first NBA season, but we all know what’s coming at the end of it for the budding Minnesota star.

The 2014 No. 1 pick out of Kansas is in a one-man race for Rookie of the Year after Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Plus, potential R.O.Y competition, Wiggins’ Kansas teammate Joel Embiid, might not make his debut in Philadelphia until the 2015-16 season.

The 19-year-old Canadian plays for a young team that has struggled mightily — the Timberwovles, as of Monday, own the league’s worst record (7-36). They’ve lost four straight, five of their last six and 20 of their last 22.

But Wiggins has given the fan base hope, at least, scoring in double figures in 17 straight games.

Since he turned that corner, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging:

  • 19.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and hitting 47.3% of his shots and 37.5% of his 3-pointers.

Compare that to his averages in his first 26 games:

  • 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 38.5% on FGs, 36.4% on 3-pointers

For the season, Wiggins is averaging:

  • 15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals and hitting 42.7% of his shots and 37% of his 3-pointers

His January has been so impressive, Stats.NBA.com has a feature on it.

On a nightly basis, the high-flying rookie helps Minnesota fans get over the fact the franchise traded its former centerpiece, Kevin Love, to Cleveland, so he could chase an NBA title with LeBron James.


Still, as Kirk Goldsberry wrote for Grantland.com, while Wiggins might very well be a superstar in the making, he is far from perfect.

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Goldsberry points out Wiggins strengths — athleticism, scoring, defense. But he also examines his weaknesses: inefficiency on offense, caused by shot selection. As of a few days ago, in fact, Wiggins ranked last in FG% among 41 players who had taken at least 200 mid-range shots, only making 33%.

There is some good news, or at least reason for optimism, on this front, though. Goldsberry points out Kevin Durant also struggled to play efficiently on offense as a rookie.

That leaves Wiggins with plenty to consider as he develops his NBA game in the years to come. But he won’t have to worry about that Rookie of the Year trophy as long as he stays healthy.

The latest Rookie Ladder feature on NBA.com, where Scott Howard-Cooper tracks The Association’s top newcomers, of course, has Wiggins at the top.

His closest competition right now?

  • Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel — 8.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.6 steals.

  • Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic — 7.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists.

  • Orlando’s Elfrid Payton — 7.7 points, 5.7 assists, 1.5 steals.

  • Philadelphia’s K.J. McDaniels — 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 assists.

Good luck to the also-rans.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Tarik Black fitting in with Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) pulls down a rebound from Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker, right, in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) pulls down a rebound from Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker, right, in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Boy, are the Los Angeles Lakers glad Houston picked up Josh Smith.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the Western Conference standings — the Lakers are 12-30 and basically irrelevant in terms of the eventual postseason. But the Rockets had to waive Tarik Black in order to add Smith to their roster.

That move allowed L.A. to pick up the undrafted rookie out of Kansas, without making a trade. Grantland.com is calling the under-the-radar transaction the waiver wire pickup of the year in a feature introducing fans to the Lakers’ unlikely productive backup.

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The energetic and powerful 23-year-old made his Lakers debut Jan. 7 and has now played in seven games for L.A., averaging 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds on 66.7% shooting in 18.3 minutes.

Black’s best game in purple and gold came in a Lakers win — the team’s only victory in its last eight games — against Orlando. He came one rebound shy of a double-double, with 14 point and nine boards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVpkvGql-54

The Lakers are glad to have the young guy around, and he couldn’t be a better teammate. The Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan recently wrote about the way Black carries himself. The rookie constantly thanks people with whom he interacts — a trait that showed up when he was in Lawrence for a season, as well.

Black looks at his young NBA career as an “opportunity,” and he told the L.A. Times why he is so grateful.

"As soon as I walked through the door, coach shook my hand and told me that as long as I work hard, I'll be all right out here. Usually coaches don't even really talk to us like that unless you're their franchise player or their top draft pick," Black said. "Undrafted guys? They don't give you the time of day. Coaches here have shown me love from day one."

Black suffered the first setback of his first year in The Association on Monday night, in Phoenix. He sprained his right ankle after scoring 6 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) reacts after getting hurt in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Phoenix. Black left the game and never returned. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) reacts after getting hurt in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Phoenix. Black left the game and never returned. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

He appeared to be suffering badly when it happened, but Black told Time Warner Cable Sportsnet afterward it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“I’ve sprained my ankle a couple of times, so I wasn’t really worried, because I didn’t hear anything pop, didn’t come out of place or anything like that.”

Asked after the game if he would miss any games because of the ankle, he remained optimistic.

“We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

Reports Tuesday afternoon indicated Black didn’t practice Tuesday and will miss L.A.’s next game, against New Orleans.

None by Mike Trudell

Knowing Black’s attitude and approach, this minor setback doesn’t figure to deter his path toward a successful rookie campaign.

None by Boom Boom


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Andrew Wiggins making himself at home in Minnesota

New Minnesota Timberwolves NBA basketball players, from left, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, Zach LaVine attend a news conference at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Falcon Heights, Minn. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Brian Mark Peterson)

New Minnesota Timberwolves NBA basketball players, from left, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, Zach LaVine attend a news conference at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Falcon Heights, Minn. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Brian Mark Peterson)

NBA rules kept incoming rookie Andrew Wiggins in trade limbo all summer. Once the one-and-done Kansas University standout signed his first NBA contract with Cleveland, the Cavs couldn't deal him for 30 days.

Well, the uncertainty and embargo that mired the 19-year-old's time since becoming the No. 1 overall pick kind of worked in his favor. Wiggins arrived in Minneapolis just in time for the Minnesota State Fair.

Put those weeks of annoyance on a stick and toss them in a deep fryer. Or better yet, hop on some rides and sign some autographs.

None by Jerry Zgoda

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The Timberwolves utilized the fair crowd to introduce Wiggins and fellow new Minnesotans Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine — all acquired this summer (all but LaVine were added in the trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland).

Now that Minnesota has shipped away its former franchise player so he can join forces with LeBron James, the T'wolves are selling their new roster as one that will bring youth, excitement, defense and up-tempo basketball to the Target Center in the 2014-15 season.

Wiggins told media and fans at Tuesday's fair press conference the plan is to take the franchise in the right direction. During the session, the team's new players brought up Minnesota's now 10-year playoff drought multiple times.

"We're young, athletic," Wiggins said. "We have a lot of freaks on this team. And we all play hard, are competitive. So I think that'll help bring us to a whole different level."

Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders hopes Wiggins will prove capable of leading a turn-around. Saunders said after the trade became official that Love was such a unique player, they wanted to be sure to get a solid asset in return when they dealt him away.

"A lot of times, in the history of it, people have gotten good players back, but maybe not what you consider a guy who has an opportunity to be a superstar-type player," the coach said.

"You're talking in Wiggins a player that, since he was in high school, people thought he was the best player to come out of high school since LeBron James. He's been compared to those (type of players) and he's got phenomenal ability. He's got a lot of work to do, but I know that he's a willing learner."

Saunders can already tell Wiggins is a hard worker and said the rookie could potentially develop into an all-defensive team player. The coach/president thinks the team has an identity now, with multiple two-way players.

As for what never was in Cleveland for the KU product, Wiggins just felt relieved to put on a jersey and know that will be the one he will wear for seasons to come.

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Wiggins said he didn't take the trade personally or feel rejected.

"I know it's a business," he said. "Organizations are like a family, really. If they feel like something's better for their family, they're gonna go through with that decision. That's what they did."

When LeBron joined the Cavs, Wiggins said it was a joyful moment.

Jeff Caplan wrote about the potentially odd relationship between Wiggins and James for NBA.com's Hang Time blog.

Rob Fulford, Wiggins’ high school coach at Huntington Prep, said his former player was too classy, humble and respectful to worry about that.

“I think this whole process with the trade rumors, he could care less. That kid just wants to play basketball. The fact that LeBron never reached out to him, Andrew could care less what LeBron James thinks of him.”

Bennett, who grew up in the basketball circuit around Wiggins, was taken No. 1 in the 2013 NBA Draft. The forward was asked if he had any advice for his fellow young Canadian.

"Work hard through the ups and downs," Bennett said. "I've been through it and it's only going into my second year. I just told him to stay focused, don't listen to all the talk people say. Just keep on the grind."


Embiid tweets signing selfie (of course he does)

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Elsewhere, Tuesday held significance for Wiggins' KU teammate Joel Embiid, too.

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Signing an NBA contract figures to be a life-changing moment, especially considering he might have to alter his Twitter game.

None by Joel SHMURDA Embiid

No one should be surprised that the big man was back to tweeting away shortly thereafter. But he did manage to avoid anything fine-worthy. Basically, Embiid is looking forward to rigging the NBA 2K15 video game in his favor.

None by Joel SHMURDA Embiid

None by Joel SHMURDA Embiid

None by Joel SHMURDA Embiid

Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie said Tuesday it remains unclear when Embiid will debut for the 76ers, following his late-June surgery to repair his right foot.


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Stock Watch: Wiggins favorite to go No. 1 after Embiid’s latest injury

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For months, all interested parties assumed Kansas University basketball products Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, as well as Duke's Jabari Parker, would go in the top three picks of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Late last week, serious doubt surrounding that theory appeared out of nowhere with the news that 7-foot Embiid had a stress fracture in the navicular bone on his right foot, which required surgery and at least four to six months of basketball-less recovery.

Now the center whose name many began pencilling in as Cleveland's choice at No. 1 could drop out of the top three, and some have suggested Embiid could fall as far as the bottom half of the top 10.

The fall of Embiid actually helps his KU teammate Wiggins, who could be Cleveland's new favorite choice, given Embiid's back and foot injuries during the past year.

In the Consensus Mock Draft put together by NBA.com's Drew Packham, Wiggins goes No. 1 to the Cavaliers, and Embiid falls to No. 3 and Philadelphia.

Using Packham's hub of mock drafts, as well as a couple others, we can see that Wiggins is a popular choice for Cleveland, but predictions regarding Embiid vary quite a bit more.

Andrew
Wiggins
Joel
Embiid
DraftExpress.com 1st 4th
MyNBADraft.com 2nd 4th
NBADraft.net
1st 3rd
DraftSite.com 1st 3rd
NBA.com 2nd 6th
ESPN.com 2nd 6th
SportsIllustrated.com (*posted June 18) *2nd *1st
SportingNews.com 1st 6th
SheridanHoops.com 1st 4th
NBADraftInsider.com 1st 6th
NetScoutsBasketball.com (*posted May 23) *2nd *1st
BleacherReport.com 3rd 6th
FoxSports.com (*posted June 16) *2nd *1st
CBSSports.com 1st 3rd

The clock is ticking in NBA front offices, and we can stop worrying about mock-ups come Thursday night, in Brooklyn, New York. Until then, here is the latest on the Jayhawks' stock.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles for the ball with San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles for the ball with San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

(All information uses only mock drafts posted since news of Embiid's foot injury)

Stock assessment: It seemed as recent as a week ago people were willing to look past Embiid's back injury, which kept him out of postseason games at Kansas. Now that his navicular bone is in the early stages of a lengthy healing process, his longterm health is under far more scrutiny. With multiple debilitating injuries popping up in the past six months alone, some NBA executives could be scared of wasting a high draft pick on a player who could spend more time on the injured list than the court.

Average mock draft position: 5th

Current high: 3rd (in three mock drafts)

Current low: 6th (in five mock drafts)

Overall movement: Falling — Embiid's seemingly limitless ceiling appeared to make him too good to pass up on at No. 1. His footwork, athleticism and ability to protect the paint made him the most coveted commodity to enter the NBA Draft since Kentucky big man Anthony Davis went No. 1 to New Orleans two years ago. Now the graceful (when healthy) big man is listed by oddsmakers at Bovada as the third-most likely No. 1 pick (12 to 1 odds) on Thursday, behind favorite Wiggins (1 to 2) and Parker (7 to 5). Soon we'll know which NBA franchise is willing to gamble on Embiid, and trust he can still have a prosperous career in the league.


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

(All information uses only mock drafts posted since news of Embiid's foot injury)

Stock assessment: Embiid's loss is Wiggins' gain. The wildly athletic Canadian arrived at KU as the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and now he could be back atop Cleveland's big board. If Embiid and Wiggins have one thing in common besides their year at KU, its their upside. With a clean bill of health and the kind of speed and leap-out-of-the-arena ability that are difficult to find, Wiggins could turn into a better pro player than Parker, even if Parker is more ready to contribute right away.

Average mock draft position: 1st

Current high: 1st (in seven mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in one mock draft)

Overall movement: Rising — Seven of the 11 current mock drafts examined here have Wiggins going No. 1. That could mean he begins his NBA career in Cleveland. Or it could mean some other team who covets a young player with a bright future offers the Cavs some sort of trade package to land Wiggins. Philadelphia is thought to covet Wiggins, and the 76ers might be willing to trade up two spots from No. 3 to make sure they can get him.


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Stock watch: The pros and cons of drafting Embiid or Wiggins

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We know — with near absolute certainty — that Kansas University basketball products Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will, in some combination, get selected in the top three slots of the 2014 NBA Draft.

What we don't know for sure is how Cleveland's, Milwaukee's and Philadelphia's front offices view each of the lottery-picks-to-be, and their top-three contemporary, Duke's Jabari Parker.

If you've seen Embiid and Wiggins play, you probably have your own theories about which one-year Jayhawk should go higher, and which will have a more productive career.

In that way, we are no different than scouts, general managers and CEOs within various front offices.

To get a sense of how greatly opinions differ on Embiid and Wiggins, check out a Grantland piece by ESPN's Ryen Russillo. He spoke with a general manager, an assistant GM and a director of scouting about the two KU players, Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle.

Each evaluator opened their thoughts on Embiid with an "if." And that, of course, had to do with the 7-footer's health.

Medical records and testing will show more, but the big man sure looked smooth in a workout in Los Angeles last week.

The Wiggins questions presented by the evaluators with whom Rusillo spoke tend to revolve around his ball-handling, ability to take over and whether he will be a better pro than Parker (because they essentially play the same position).

Thanks to Drew Packham at NBA.com, we can easily get a look at what many draft prognosticators think of Embiid's and Wiggins' chances. He created a hub of mock drafts, and we added a couple to it to get a clearer picture of where the Kansas duo could land.

Andrew
Wiggins
Joel
Embiid
DraftExpress.com 1st 3rd
MyNBADraft.com 1st 3rd
NBADraft.net
2nd 1st
DraftSite.com 1st 2nd
NBA.com 3rd 2nd
ESPN.com 1st 2nd
SportsIllustrated.com 1st 2nd
SportingNews.com 1st 3rd
SheridanHoops.com 3rd 1st
NBADraftInsider.com 1st 3rd
NetScoutsBasketball.com 2nd 1st
BleacherReport.com 2nd 1st
FoxSports.com 2nd 3rd
CBSSports.com 2nd 1st

As for the NBA teams at the top of the lottery, each has a month to figure it out. For now, here is where each KU player's stock stands.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid rejects a shot by Texas center Cameron Ridley during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid rejects a shot by Texas center Cameron Ridley during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

Stock assessment: When you watch a young man of Embiid's size do the things he can with a basketball, you can almost envision him as a franchise cornerstone for years to come. Throw some muscle, experience, comfort and growing knowledge for the game on that frame and you have a ready-made all-star.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st (in five mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in five mock drafts)

Overall movement: Rising — A week ago, Embiid's average draft position was 3rd. In four weeks, it could be 1st. Don't be surprised if even more outlets project him as the top pick, the closer we get to the June 26 draft. Especially if he's healthy — there's that if again — the buzz around him will steadily get louder, and a growing number of NBA decision-makers will think the center can help turn around a franchise.


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins tries to save a loose ball from going out-of-bounds over Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins tries to save a loose ball from going out-of-bounds over Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

Stock assessment: Critics will poke holes in Wiggins' ball-handling ability, because he won't be a complete NBA wing until he can slash to the paint in the half court. But teams that fall in love with his freakish athleticism will live with his half-court turnovers and limited overall game while he develops over the next few years. Upside is king in the draft.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st (in seven mock drafts)

Current low: 3rd (in two mock drafts)

Overall movement: Holding steady — More mock drafts have Wiggins going No. 1 than Embiid or Parker. Still, his stock has potential to rise if he goes in and wows Cleveland with a workout between now and the draft. It seems like Embiid is his biggest competition for the top spot. But the Cavs could opt for a small forward with hops and potential to develop if they don't believe in building around a center.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply 11 comments from Plasticjhawk Baldjedi Rich Hetherington Brady Swenson Robert  Brock Kellerman411 Carnahan Jayhawkmarshall

Stock watch: Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins await lottery fate

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By Tuesday night, NBA prospects Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will have a much better idea about what their future might look like.

The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery — televised live on ESPN at 7 p.m. — determines which organizations land the top three overall picks in the draft. The team lucky enough to snag the No. 1 pick will have its choice of Wiggins, Embiid or Duke's Jabari Parker. (Or someone else if the people in charge want to swing and miss.)

At this point, all the top prospects know is that Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando were the three worst teams in the NBA this season and they have the best odds of ending up in the top three — Bucks (64.2%), 76ers (55.8%) and Magic (46.9%).

But, depending on how the ping pong balls bounce, some other organization — Utah, Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento, Detroit, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota or Phoenix — could end up as a potential suitor.

How important is the lottery? Both Wiggins and Embiid already are in New York and plan to attend it in person.

None by Jonathan Givony

With five weeks left until the draft (June 26, in New York), here is a look at the draft stock for Kansas University's lottery-picks-to-be.


Joel Embiid

Kansas center Joel Embiid gets his hand caught in the net as he tries to block a shot by Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid gets his hand caught in the net as he tries to block a shot by Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon

Stock assessment: Embiid has a very good thing going for him. He's a center. And NBA decision-makers love using their top picks on players who can impact the paint on both ends of the floor. If he were a few inches shorter, or played another position, Embiid's back, site of a stress fracture that kept him out of KU's lineup in the postseason, would be under even more scrutiny.

Average mock draft position: 3rd

Current high: 1st — NBADraft.net

Current low: 4th — MyNBADraft.com

Overall movement: Falling — But not far. A few weeks back, Embiid's average draft position was 2nd. After he (like Wiggins and Parker) skipped out on the NBA Draft combine in Chicago last week, you get the feeling folks around the league are a tad worried about Embiid's back and his longterm health. However, all of that could disappear when teams bring him in for individual workouts and have their organization's doctors check him out.

Longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge explained on NBA.com that Embiid's agent, Arn Tellem, isn't currently making the 7-footer's medical records available. And he very well might continue to keep them out of the reach of NBA front offices.

Still, Aldridge talked to a number of league executives, and some aren't overly concerned about Embiid's longevity. Here's what one Central Division executive said:

"The No. 1 issue is going to be the medical issue with him. There's no other issues really to deal with. With him not having taken the physical in Chicago, he's difficult to project. I don't see him falling out of the top three unless there's a medical red flag."


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins splits defenders during the Jayhawks 80-69 win against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins splits defenders during the Jayhawks 80-69 win against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Mike Yoder

Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

Stock assessment: Unfairly, Wiggins entered the college ranks amid comparisons to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. While his critics quickly shot down the idea of the KU freshman reaching the level of the NBA's two biggest stars, Wiggins handled it all perfectly. He just kept developing his game and improving in his one season as a Jayhawk. While the perception of what he can accomplish at the next level might have changed, Wiggins could still be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Average mock draft position: 2nd

Current high: 1st — Draft Express and MyNBADraft.com

Current low: 2nd — NBADraft.net and DraftSite.com

Overall movement: Holding steady — A lot could change between now and the draft, but at this point the consensus is Wiggins will go No. 1 or No. 2. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which he would slip any farther than No. 3.

That's not the only good news for Wiggins. NBA scouts, coaches and executives have a college season's worth of information on him now. If teams were still able to draft players straight out of high school, Wiggins might have gone No. 1 last year and began his career with unrealistic expectations thrown at him.

Instead, no one will expect Wiggins to come in and save a franchise by himself. Plus, teams still value his athleticism (see: reported 44-inch vertical) and potential for the future.

A Pacific Division executive indicated to Aldridge that some expect Wiggins to develop into something special once he has been in the league for a while.

"As far as a couple of years down the road, he could really take off because of his athleticism. I think his skills are going to improve. He's not the smooth scorer that Parker is. He's more explosive. He can go off in spurts. He's probably a little better in the transition game."


— Draft sites used for the player positioning portion of this blog include: NBADraft.net, MyNBADraft.com, DraftExpress.com and DraftSite.com.

— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply 4 comments from Superhairyhawk Stupidmichael

In few minutes, Nick Collison does little things Thunder need to advance

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Oklahoma City veteran power forward Nick Collison hadn't checked into Game 6 for even a few seconds Thursday night at Los Angeles.

And even though Thunder coach Scott Brooks had only played the former Kansas University star 7.4 minutes a game in the previous five contests against the Clippers, that didn't mean the coach lacked confidence in Collison. Far from it.

When Serge Ibaka suffered a calf injury, Collison entered the game for the first time with 7:24 left in the third quarter, and subtly helped OKC clinch the series with a 104-98 road win that moved the Thunder on to the Western Conference finals.

Like most nights, Collison's numbers didn't jump out of the box score and slap you across the face: 17 minutes, 1-for-1 from the floor, 1-for-2 at the foul line, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block.

But his impact came almost immediately when he subbed in with OKC down five points to the Clippers. Within a minute, Collison grabbed a defensive rebound and blocked a J.J. Redick layup.

In the final minutes of the third, he dished a pass to Russell Westbrook for a layup and closed the quarter with a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner.

None by KEVIN DING

The clutch shot was Collison's eighth 3-pointer. Of his career — regular season and playoffs combined.

Brooks credited the 10th-year veteran for stepping up.

“Nick has taken 1000 shots from the corner, from the three-point line, and hasn’t had many opportunities this season. That was a big bucket. I love the fact that we trusted him. We see him work every day and it’s nice our guys rewarded him with a nice, clean pass and the belief he was going to make that shot.”

Collison kept chipping in during the fourth quarter, with Ibaka unavailable:

• Rebounding to finish a defensive stop

• Drawing a foul on Blake Griffin, who would foul out a couple minutes later

• Securing an errant Chris Paul pass for a steal

• Dishing to Steven Adams for a jam that put OKC up nine with 4:28 to go

After playing 17 straight minutes, during which the Thunder outscored the Clippers by 16, Collison left the floor with his team up 10 points and just 2:27 left on the game clock.

"What an outstanding performance by a true pro," ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said as Collison checked out of the game.

None by Ric Bucher

None by Lang Whitaker

Berry Tramel, who covers the Thunder for NewsOK.com, further detailed what Collison brought to the win — defense.

Collison stayed in the game until Blake Griffin fouled out with 2:27 left. In those 17 minutes, Griffin made just three of eight shots and went to the line just once, making one of two. That’s seven points in 17 minutes against Collison. Of those eight Griffin shots, only five came from inside, where Griffin’s muscle can be too much for anyone, including Collison.

Collison, one of the league's ultimate role players, didn't mind getting his hands dirty for stops down the stretch.

None by OKC THUNDER

The victory advanced Oklahoma City to the West finals, where the Thunder will meet San Antonio. Game 1 is Monday night (8 p.m., TNT).


Down to two

'Hawks in the NBA Paul Pierce (Brooklyn), Drew Gooden (Washington) and Thomas Robinson (Portland) all got knocked out of the playoffs in the second round.

Only Collison and Miami's Mario Chalmers remain alive in the hunt for the NBA championship.

The Heat play at Indiana on Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m., ABC).


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply 3 comments from Keithii Steve Jacob Jack Jones

Pierce’s Nets on brink of elimination vs. Chalmers’ Heat

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) defends Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in the second half of Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoff basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, May 12, 2014, in New York. James tied a career playoff scoring record with 49 points as the Heat defeated the Nets 102-96 going up 3-1 in the best of seven series. (AP Photo)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) defends Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in the second half of Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoff basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, May 12, 2014, in New York. James tied a career playoff scoring record with 49 points as the Heat defeated the Nets 102-96 going up 3-1 in the best of seven series. (AP Photo)

Well, that didn't exactly go as planned.

After much was made of Brooklyn veteran Paul Pierce requesting Miami überstar LeBron James as his defensive assignment, the four-time NBA MVP torched the nets and the Nets in Game 4 Monday night for 49 points on 16-for-24 shooting.

As you would imagine, Pierce became a popular Twitter target in the aftermath of Miami's 102-96 win, which put Brooklyn in a 3-1 hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

None by SportsNation

Pierce, who scored 16 points in the loss, wasn't the only Net who couldn't as much as slow down the unstoppable James. NBA.com/stats showed LeBron scored 11 while being guarded one-on-one by the Kansas University product. James made 3 of 5 shots, 1 of 2 3-pointers, drew four fouls and drove to the paint twice versus The Truth.

Still, Pierce, a longtime rival of James at this point, had to be disappointed that he couldn't lead the charge in containing the force that is LeBron.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted a few reasons why Pierce never would buddy up with The King:

James's constant complaining irks Pierce, as does his belief, league sources say, that James once tried to recruit Doc Rivers to Cleveland when Rivers was coaching the Celtics.

Publicly at least, James claimed all the hoopla over Pierce wanting to guard him didn't inspire the huge night.

“I really don’t care what Paul has to say. We don’t really get involved in that."

Game 4 was a difficult, potentially back-breaking loss for Brooklyn.

None by Rod Boone

But Pierce, as quoted by Andrew Keh of The New York Times, hasn't lost all hope.

“We’ve just got to get one game. That’s the mind-set. The series is far from over. We’ve got to go down there, try to get one game and force the series back home.”

The Nets are on the brink of elimination, in part, due to a timely pass from KU product Mario Chalmers, who dished one of his seven assists in the final minute to Chris Bosh for a 3-pointer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp8pYP4LhRQ

Chalmers, who had made 2 of 3 bombs of his own and scored 8 points, passed up a shot for an even better look.

None by Ethan J. Skolnick

The Heat will try to close out the series in Game 5 Wednesday night at Miami (6 p.m., TNT).

None by Andy Vasquez


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Pierce wants to guard LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Paul Pierce and LeBron James have been battling in the NBA Playoffs for years.

The rivalry between the forwards began when Pierce played for Boston and James played for Cleveland, but it's continuing this postseason with Brooklyn and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Given the history between the two, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Pierce approached his coach, Jason Kidd, about guarding his old nemesis — as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com.

In Game 3, Brooklyn had to win to keep the best-of-seven series manageable, and Pierce helped limit the ever-explosive James to 12 points over the last three quarters of a 104-90 Nets win on Saturday, which cut Miami's lead to 2-1.

"I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."

That conversation came after James hit 10 of 15 shots in Game 1. The four-time league MVP shot 9-for-18 in a Game 2 win, and then went 8-for-15 in Game 3.

Pierce's defense against LeBron certainly hasn't been flawless.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPRFQcXWGuY

But matchup data from NBA.com/stats shows that The Truth is making an impact on the defensive end. James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 48 of Miami's 90 points in the Miami's first loss of the playoffs. Pierce spent more time guarding one of those two in the half court than any other Brooklyn defender.

In 8:31 of game time, James and Wade got 29 half-court touches versus Pierce. They combined to score seven points — 3-for-7 field goals, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and no trips to the foul line.

If it's up to the 36-year-old Pierce, one of the few people out there who believes Brooklyn can beat Miami and advance to the conference finals, he'll guard the 29-year-old LeBron the rest of the series. Averaging just 11.7 points a game in the series, Pierce told reporters he has to impact the game on defense.

"I don't have the offensive load that I had in the past where I set on having to carry us all the way offensively and then take the best defensive assignment. Now I can reserve a lot of energy toward trying to defend him. When the time comes for me to score, then I'll do that also."

Game 4 is at Brooklyn on Monday night (7 p.m., TNT).


Collison and Durant go way back

When Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award last week, he thanked each one of his Thunder teammates during an emotional acceptance speech.

The league's MVP made it clear through his words how important the honor was to him, but he also showed humility and appreciation for the players who helped him reach greatness.

Durant didn't come into the league playing at this level, and few know that better than Kansas alum Nick Collison. He has spent more time with Durant than any other player in an OKC uniform — the two began as teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.

Due to his unique perspective (Collison has been teammates with Durant since KD entered the league), Sports Illustrated asked him to write about playing alongside Durant for seven seasons.

Collison shared how limited the future superstar was as a rookie, and how he developed into the unguardable monster he is today. Now in his 10th season out of KU, the backup power forward appreciates what the MVP has meant for his livelihood.

Look at my career. I'm viewed as a guy who does the little things that help a team win. I have a niche, even a little bit of a cult following. But if I were on a losing team, no one would talk about that. And the reason for that is Kevin, and Russell Westbrook. Their success raises all of us.

Collison closes the piece by saying what an honor it has been for him to play with Durant.

And the feeling is mutual.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKiYquVGU7Y

The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers, 2-2, in a West semifinal. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m., TNT).


Social media buzz — Mother's Day edition

Noteworthy tweets and Instagram posts from and about the 'Hawks in the NBA:

None by Drew Gooden

None by Ben McLemore


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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