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Posts tagged with Nba Draft

A month out from the 2020 NBA draft, Azubuike and Dotson remain unknowns

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) have a quick meeting on the court after a timeout during the second half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) have a quick meeting on the court after a timeout during the second half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that the 2019-20 NBA season is finally over — four months later than it usually ends — the focus shifts to the 2020 draft, which is slated for Nov. 18.

Between Oct. 16 and Nov. 16, draft prospects are allowed to go through a slightly altered pre-draft routine that includes virtual meetings with team officials and virtual workouts, as well.

During most years, those prospects by now would not only know which teams they were playing for but they also would be staring down the start of their rookie seasons.

This year, though, the COVID-19 pandemic has put things on hold and players like former Jayhawks Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson have had to wait longer to find out their fate.

For the better part of the past year, Azubuike and Dotson’s draft stock has hovered in the early portion of the second round, somewhere in the picks 31-40 range. And, according to the most recent mock draft by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, which was published on Tuesday, the two former Jayhawks remain in that range.

Vecenie, who provided a detailed look at all 30 projected picks in the first round, slotted Azubuike at No. 41 overall to San Antonio and Dotson to No. 43 overall to Sacramento.

Both could go higher, of course. And past mock drafts have predicted that. In fact, the most recent mock draft published by ESPN.com’s Jonathon Givony in late August had Azubuike at No. 30 (the last pick of the first round) and Dotson off the board at No. 35.

A Monday mock draft from Complex.com — its ninth version of the 2020 draft — had Dotson going to Toronto at No. 29 and did not list a second round.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of people throughout the world enjoy the art of publishing mock drafts, and some are definitely more accurate and reliable than others.

But at the end of the day, it’s all still a guess. Guys like Givony and Vecenie and ESPN’s Mike Schmitz have sources and contacts that help make their guesses much more precise, but even at that very few NBA GMs or front office types are willing to tell anyone on the outside their exact plan for the upcoming draft.

Besides, even if they did, they could change their minds based on the way the board falls or late information, so the information would still be vulnerable to change.

Regardless of who thinks what, Azubuike and Dotson, who have been working out feverishly since the end of the 2019-20 college hoops season, have one more month to make their case.

Whether they wow someone in an interview or put an impressive workout video in the right hands, they still have the chance to elevate their stock.

The best guess here is that the early second-round slot is the safest projection for both players, but I would not be shocked at all to see either one crack the first round. Both of them landing in the Top 30 would be a pretty big surprise, but it just takes one team, one coach, one general manager to fall in love with a player, regardless of what the hundreds of mock drafts say.

There are questions surrounding both players, from size and position to skill and ability. But both are competitive, both are coming off of the best years of their careers. And both carry that Kansas basketball pedigree with them, which has been known to carry weight with certain coaches and talent evaluators.

The recent explosion by Devonte’ Graham in Charlotte certainly has not hurt either player, and, if nothing else, the people making the decisions about who to pick and who to pass on know that, after a couple of years of playing for KU coach Bill Self, both Azubuike and Dotson can handle being pushed and have been coached hard.

At this point, it all comes down to teams figuring out where the two Jayhawks and 58 other players fit.

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Two Jayhawks appear on ESPN’s initial 2019 NBA mock draft

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) watches in the second half as the Jayhawks return to action after a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) watches in the second half as the Jayhawks return to action after a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony released his most recent 2019 NBA mock draft on Wednesday morning and it featured a couple of notable names for Kansas fans.

Even though the 2019 NBA Draft is still 10 months away, it’s worth tracking these sorts of things now so we’ll know how certain players rise and fall during the course of the fast-approaching 2018-19 season.

It did not take long for the first KU-relevant name to jump off the page. Listed at No. 7 overall — solidly in the lottery and to the Atlanta Hawks — is freshman guard Quentin Grimes.

Grimes’ status as a likely lottery pick certainly comes as no surprise. He’s been showing up in the 2019 projected lottery for months and his game and the buzz surrounding it have only improved this summer.

One of the most interesting things about Grimes’ positioning — at least in my eyes — is that he’s just one spot behind Indiana freshman Romeo Langford in Givony’s latest mock draft.

Surely you remember Romeo Madness. When the all-world Indiana guard elected to stay home and play for the Hoosiers, a handful of KU fans viewed it as a blow to Kansas. But that was before Lagerald Vick announced his return for his senior season and during the process of Grimes garnering mention by some unnamed college coaches as potentially the best and most complete player in all of college basketball this season.

Sure, landing Romeo would have been a nice get for KU, but it seems clear that they’ll be OK without him.

The only other KU player on Givony’s Aug. 29 mock draft is KU junior Udoka Azubuike, slotted as the No. 53 pick to Philadelphia.

I’ll give you a minute to process the thought of Azubuike and Joel Embiid playing on the same team................. OK. Minute’s up.

By far the most interesting thing about Azubuike’s appearance on the mock draft is that he’s on there at all. The 7-foot center from Nigeria could not buy his way onto draft boards this summer. And after testing the NBA waters and attending the pre-draft combine in Chicago, Azubuike remained on the outside looking in and decided to return to KU for a third season.

Starting on the draft board puts Azubuike in a much better position to not only be drafted next June but also to move up more quickly. He’s still going to have to show a lot and improve a lot to get there, but he certainly figures to have the opportunity to do so as one of the cornerstones of the 2018-19 Kansas basketball team.

Improved conditioning, explosiveness, shot blocking prowess and rebounding, along with continuing signs of development in his all-around offensive game, figure to be high on the list of things NBA brass would like to see from Azubuike this season.

As for the rest of the 2018-19 KU roster, it was a little surprising to not see junior forward Dedric Lawson in Givony’s Top 60, given the double-double Lawson averaged at Memphis along with his overall skill set and the buzz surrounding him heading into the season.

But then again, Givony left Carlton Bragg Jr., off of his initial 2017 mock draft around this same time in August of 2016 and turned out to be way right on that one.

I think Lawson’s a much better prospect now than Bragg ever was and his college career to this point certainly backs that up. So perhaps in time Lawson will work his way onto these types of mock drafts. That should be as fun to follow as tracking just how far Azubuike can move up.

If you’re asking me, I’d put late lottery as Lawson’s ceiling and would imagine the 35-45 range would be about as low as he could go. It all depends on what he does with his opportunity at Kansas, specifically how well he shoots it and how often he shows any kind of explosive athleticism.

If you’re looking for other Jayhawks not in Givony’s initial mock draft who could wind up sneaking on there at some point, think Silvio De Sousa, Devon Dotson and possibly even Lagerald Vick, who has NBA athleticism, good 2-guard size and the shot to play at that level.

But all three of those guys have quite a bit of work to do to prove they belong on this particular list.

Reply 2 comments from Kall3742 Tony Bandle

Report: Former Jayhawk Billy Preston agrees to join the Cleveland Cavaliers

Kansas forward Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston by Nick Krug

On Saturday evening, nearly two full days after the completion of the 2018 draft, Shams Charania, of Yahoo Sports, reported that Preston had signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The landing spot is notable because, after committing to KU out of high school, Preston compared himself and his game to Cavs star LeBron James. Now, depending on what happens this summer with James' free agency, Preston will get the opportunity to play with or possibly replace James in Cleveland.

Kansas coach Bill Self said Thursday after Preston went undrafted that several NBA teams told him throughout the spring that Preston was a first-round talent, but his inability to showcase himself during his freshman season at KU — stemming from a car accident that called into question his eligibility — ultimately led to various NBA teams passing on him 60 times during the draft.

Preston, at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, with guard skills and a good shooting touch, has the skill set to both impress and stick in the NBA. And now he knows where he'll get his opportunity to do it, most likely starting in early July during the Las Vegas summer league.

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Reply 8 comments from Marius7782 Allan Olson Pius Waldman Dirk Medema Dannyboy4hawks John Brazelton Brian Skelly

The good and the bad of Malik Newman’s two-way contract

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks lock up the win against Seton Hall with seconds remaining in the game, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks lock up the win against Seton Hall with seconds remaining in the game, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

It did not take former Kansas guard Malik Newman long to catch on with an NBA franchise after going undrafted during Thursday night’s 2018 NBA Draft.

Newman, who was a projected second-rounder by most mock drafts leading up to the draft, watched 60 other players hear their names called and then, just minutes after the draft had ended, agreed agreed to a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania.

What that means is simple. Newman knows where he’ll play next season and he will get a shot at impressing the powers that be in the NBA.

What the two-way contract does for him is provide stability with the Lakers’ G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers in El Segundo, Calif., and provides him the opportunity to be called up by the L.A. Lakers for a maximum of 45 days during the 2018-19 season.

While the two-way contracts provide a better opportunity for players in a financial sense, — they’ll make the pro-rated rookie minimum for every day they’re with Los Angeles, which could exceed $200,000 if they’re up for all 45 days — they also limit the opportunity to make the jump to just one team. In the past, players in the NBA’s Developmental League could be signed to an NBA contract by any franchise. Now, with the creation of the two-way contracts, which essentially serve as two extra roster spots for NBA teams, only the franchise that the player has a deal with can bring you up to the big leagues.

Still, for a player who went undrafted, it’s a pretty sweet consolation prize to know you’re going to get a shot and know that you’re going to make some money.

G League contracts can be worth as much as $75,000 these days, which, combined with the call-up possibility, gives these two-way players a clear path to making six figures right out of the gate.

While those facts are now Newman’s reality, the natural question exists whether he made the right move to leave Kansas early?

Even KU coach Bill Self asked it during a conference call with reporters following Thursday’s draft. But one breath after asking the question, Self also answered it.

“Did he make a bad decision to come out,” Self asked. “I don’t think so. He’ll do it the hard way like Wayne Selden did, but he’ll get there.”

Self said his experiences have shown him that the biggest negative for a player who goes undrafted often is the hit to his pride. Every player dreams of being drafted into the NBA and having a franchise tell the world that they want him.

But just because Newman did not get to hear his name called and is not being celebrated quite the same way that Svi Mykhailiuk is by the Lakers, who drafted him with the No. 47 overall pick on Thursday night, does not mean that Newman can’t find a way to make the roster and enjoy a lengthy NBA career.

He’ll have to put in the work to do it and it may be a little bit harder since the team has not invested as much money or commitment in him as they do the draftees. But all these guys seem to want is a chance and Newman is getting one — quickly, at that.

He may not have heard his name called but he did not have to wait long to find out where he was headed in the immediate future and that, coupled with the excitement of having a team tell you they want you, had to take away some of the sting of not getting drafted.

Newman is expected to begin his pro career with the Lakers' summer league squad next month in Las Vegas.

Reply 8 comments from Mlbenn35 Dirk Medema Dannyboy4hawks Cmdradama Harlan Hobbs John Brazelton Bville Hawk Marius7782

Svi Mykhailiuk already being celebrated in Los Angeles

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The general perception regarding the NBA Draft is that it's the first-round picks who get all of the fame and glory.

And while that is true when it comes to all things financial — first-round picks sign guaranteed contracts while second-rounders are not assured of anything — the rise of social media and intense marketing pushes made by the various NBA franchises has changed that notion in recent years.

Take the case of former Kansas standout Svi Mykhailiuk as an example.

Drafted No. 47 overall — 17 picks into the second round — by the Los Angeles Lakers, Svi was anything but an afterthought in the eyes of the Lakers in the hours that followed Thursday night's NBA Draft.

From instant posts on the Lakers official Twitter account to comments from GM Rob Pelinka and Lakers legend Magic Johnson, it's clear that the Lakers are excited to have Svi in purple and gold.

These three posts all came within minutes of the Lakers making Svi the 47th pick.

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And this one was less than an hour after those three.

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Around the 4:30 mark in this video with Pelinka, the Lakers' GM starts praising Mykhailiuk's knock-down shooting and even mentions the job he did defensively on Duke's Marvin Bagley III during KU's Elite Eight win in the NCAA Tournament.

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A little while later, the Lakers threw up this compilation Tweet looking back at Svi's individual workout with the franchise leading up to their decision to select him.

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Lakers coach Luke Walton, around the 1:53 mark in the following video, had a little fun with Svi's name and explained in no uncertain terms where the former Jayhawk would stand as a rookie during the 2018-19 season.

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And finally, the Lakers' Twitter accounted posted the following phone interview with Svi a little while after he was drafted and had time to let it all sink in.

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"Oh, man, it feels great," Svi said in his first official statement on that conference call with reporters. "I feel like it's just a blessing to be part of the Lakers and be part of the NBA. With all of the history the Lakers have, I think it's just a blessing to be a part of the team."

Reply 3 comments from Marius7782 Kenneth Johnson Pius Waldman

Bill Self: Intangibles the key now for undrafted Jayhawk Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) puts up a shot during warmups prior to tipoff against Fort Hays State, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) puts up a shot during warmups prior to tipoff against Fort Hays State, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

People from all walks of life, from Kansas fans to NBA executives, entered Thursday with mixed feelings about whether former Jayhawk Billy Preston would hear his name called during the 2018 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y.

When it was all said and done, after nearly five hours of drafting, two rounds and 60 picks, Preston still was without a team, a fitting end to a tough year that featured road block after road block to Preston starting his professional basketball career.

Consider all that Preston has endured during just the past 12 months:

• After committing to KU in November of 2016, Preston reported to campus in June of 2017 and quickly began working with the Jayhawks in summer workouts and camp scrimmages. But it was not until the team arrived in Italy for its four-game exhibition tour last August that Preston learned he was fully cleared by the NCAA.

• While in Italy, a minor knee injury kept Preston from participating in all four games and his unofficial debut with the Jayhawks was wildly viewed as hot and cold.

• After impressive showings at Late Night and against Missouri in the charity game for hurricane relief at Sprint Center — the power forward scored 12 points and snagged 5 rebounds in 15 minutes against the Tigers — Preston wowed the crowd with a high-flying, fast-break dunk in an exhibition game against Pitt State but also suffered a head injury during that game that limited his minutes.

• Preston missed KU's season opener because of a team suspension, for one game, stemming from his missing curfew and class in the 24 hours leading up to the game.

• Preston was expected to return to action for KU's Champions Classic game against Kentucky in Chicago, but that was the day news broke of the single-vehicle car accident that Preston was involved in that ultimately led to him not playing a single official minute at Kansas.

• Throughout the next several weeks, with KU coach Bill Self providing regular updates on Preston's status, the forward was held out of action as a precautionary measure as the university and NCAA looked into getting a clearer financial picture of how and where Preston got the car he was driving during the accident.

• As the investigation dragged on, stalled significantly because of winter break and the holidays, Preston's patience grew thin and, on Jan. 20, 2018, he and his family decided he would leave KU to pursue professional opportunities overseas while preparing for the NBA Draft at the same time.

• Preston signed with a team in Bosnia but played very few minutes during three games over a six-week period. Preston played all of 47 minutes and scored 21 points on 21 field goal attempts and totaled 12 rebounds in his brief time playing for Igokea of the Adriatic League.

• After returning to the United States, Preston received an invitation for the predraft combine in Chicago in mid-May and while he did attend the showcase, his agent pulled him out of the scrimmages at the last minute, further clouding the situation surrounding Preston as a viable draft pick.

So now the former five-star, can’t-miss prospect ranked in the Top 10 by Rivals.com out of high school must start his career the hard way, catching on with a team via the free agency route and impressing enough to inspire one of them to let him stick around.

“There’s still opportunity,” KU coach Bill Self said following Thursday’s draft. “But the bottom line is you’re going to have to show some toughness and do it the harder way.”

Finding success on the undrafted free agent path is not unheard of, of course. Former Jayhawk Wayne Selden, just a couple of years ago, embarked on this very same type of journey and now, after his first two years away from college basketball, has played in 49 NBA games and averaged 19 minutes per outing with 14 starts. There are countless other examples of this route working out. And it remains to be seen whether Preston join the list of success stories.

But there’s no denying that the issues that plagued him throughout his one season as a Jayhawk — from minor injuries and suspensions to the lingering eligibility issue that led to him leaving the program early to pursue his options in Europe just to be able to play ball again — had a major impact on his Thursday night fate.

Had none of those issues popped up — some of them self-inflicted and others beyond his control — there’s no question that Preston, like former Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, would be in some NBA city today waiting to be introduced by his new team with a smile on his face and a little more money in his bank account.

“Oh God, yeah,” Self said when asked if Preston would have been drafted had it not been for all of the off-the-court issues during the past nine months. “Billy’s first round talent and we’ve had more than one team tell us that. But they haven’t seen him. (That) hurt him. There’s no question about that, as far as the draft goes. But what happens in 2018 isn’t going to define whether you’re a pro in 2026 and the objective is to have a career not a paycheck.”

Because of his past pedigree, 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame and athleticism and skill set, Preston will have plenty of opportunities. Several undrafted players agreed to free agent deals as early as Thursday night and Preston’s time is coming, with a deal and a spot on a summer league squad pretty much inevitable. It’s what he does with those opportunities that matter most now.

And the never-was Jayhawk who stayed engaged with the program during his time in Lawrence and continues to be embraced by his former KU teammates and coaches will have to be locked in and clear of distractions from this point on if he hopes to end up where he always has believed he would.

“Intangibles will be more important than ever concerning these guys,” Self said. “They’re going to have to be hungrier than they ever have been.”

Reply 9 comments from Tom Keegan Barry Weiss Tony Bandle Allan Olson Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Andy Godwin

Draft-eligible Jayhawks taking in tonight’s NBA Draft in different ways, places

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham pump fakes with a ball as he dances on a stage before fans during a video recording with Turner CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham pump fakes with a ball as he dances on a stage before fans during a video recording with Turner CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

We’re closing in on four hours until the first pick is announced in the 2018 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., live on ESPN.

While it’s not yet a certainty that the Phoenix Suns will make Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton this year’s No. 1 overall pick, it is guaranteed that the four Jayhawks eligible for selection in this year’s draft will not have to start sweating until much later in the evening.

Still, if my five consecutive years of covering the draft earlier this decade taught me anything, it’s that draft day is a wild time and butterflies — born from both nerves and excitement — are pretty much present with all of these players and their families throughout the day.

For former Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston tonight’s experience will be different for each.

Graham and his family and close friends are back in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., where they will have a watch party tonight and celebrate the experience, both leading up to the moment Graham gets drafted and after he hears his name called.

Graham’s best buddy, Svi Mykhailiuk, is actually in Brooklyn with his agent, parents, head coach from Ukraine and former KU volleyball player/girlfriend Ainise Havili. That group will be in attendance at the draft and has been in New York City the past couple of days taking it all in.

Last I heard, Newman, like Graham, will be celebrating his big moment in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., with his family, close friends and, of course, some Little Debbie snacks. I'm still trying to confirm that that's where he'll be.

And although I was not able to pin down where Preston will watch it or what he’ll be doing during the draft, the former five-star prospect who never played an official game for Kansas but still is regarded as a Jayhawk by his former teammates, coaches and many fans, recently Tweeted that he had landed in New York so there’s a good chance he’ll be at the draft, or at least nearby, as well.

As you've surely seen, both here and on your own throughout the past several weeks, most mock drafts have these guys all going at some point during tonight's draft. Where and when is anybody's guess, but since we're all taking a stab at it, I'll give you mine.

I mentioned the other day that, if it were me picking, I'd take Svi first out of all four of these guys. But the rest of the predictors do not believe that will be the case so I have to at least take that into account.

With that said, here's my best guess on where each Jayhawk will go during tonight's NBA Draft. And, yes, I do think they all will get drafted.

• Devonte' Graham - No. 38 to the Philadelphia 76ers

• Svi Mykhailiuk - No 47 to the Los Angeles Lakers

• Malik Newman - No. 53 to the Oklahoma City Thunder

• Billy Preston - No. 58 to the Denver Nuggets

The picture below might be an appropriate response to those guesses. But, who knows? What say you, Jayhawk fans?

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, right, laugh as Malik Newman conducts an interview with a KU Athletics staff member during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, right, laugh as Malik Newman conducts an interview with a KU Athletics staff member during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Reply 2 comments from Dannyboy4hawks

Azubuike begins pre-draft tour in Los Angeles

Udoka Azubuike being measured at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo, Calif. (Photo by Ty Nowell, Los Angeles Lakers/nba.com)

Udoka Azubuike being measured at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo, Calif. (Photo by Ty Nowell, Los Angeles Lakers/nba.com) by Matt Tait

Although the NBA's pre-draft combine is still just a little more than a week away, some of the top college basketball prospects either in or vying to be in the 2018 draft class already have started showcasing their talents for NBA franchises.

One such player is KU big man Udoka Azubuike, who on Monday participated in a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers out in California.

Azubuike, KU's sophomore center from Nigeria who is testing the water on his draft stock but still can return to KU for the 2018-19 season provided he pulls his name out of the draft by the May 30 deadline, worked out with Baylor's Jo Lual-Acuil, Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop, Houston's Rob Gray, Florida's Jalen Hudson and Nevada's Caleb Martin at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, Calif.

In addition to being put through a lot of the same things he will discover at the combine May 16-20 in Chicago, Azubuike participated in 3-on-3 scrimmages and met with team officials.

The Lakers, who touted efficiency as “the heart of Azubuike's game” have the 25th and 47th picks in the June 21 draft.

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Azubuike's decision to stay in the draft or return to college is enormous for Kansas.

With him, the Jayhawks will move into the 2018-19 season with a key piece on both ends of the floor and an experienced player who they can run their offense through more than ever before.

Without him, KU coach Bill Self will be forced to replace all five starters from last season's Final Four team and will be left with Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, junior Mitch Lightfoot, freshman David McCormack and, at least as of today, sophomore Silvio De Sousa to hold down KU's front court.

In a May 3 story titled “These eight teams are sweating out NBA Draft decisions,” ESPN.com's John Gasaway further examined what Azubuike's decision means for KU.

“You can make a case that few players nationally present as large a contrast between current draft stock and likely 2018-19 college impact as Udoka Azubuike," Gasaway began.

“In terms of his draft profile, Azubuike appears to be a work in progress. Bill Self's big man is a proven 2-point-making machine and promising rim defender, but, ideally, he'd post higher rebound percentages at his size and on a team that gave him little if any competition for those boards. Indeed, whether it's rebounding or low-foul shot-blocking (or, in the best of all worlds, both), Azubuike will likely have to show the NBA something more to offset a lack of 3-point ability to date.

“When it comes to what he can do for his college team, however, Azubuike's decision might loom larger than that of any other single player.”

Udoka Azubuike participates in 3-on-3 scrimmages at the Los Angeles Lakers pre-draft workout in El Segundo, Calif. (Photo by Ty Nowell, Los Angeles Lakers/nba.com)

Udoka Azubuike participates in 3-on-3 scrimmages at the Los Angeles Lakers pre-draft workout in El Segundo, Calif. (Photo by Ty Nowell, Los Angeles Lakers/nba.com) by Matt Tait

Reply 5 comments from Dhorn Oldalum Carsonc30 Jasontodd John Brazelton

Breaking down KU center Udoka Azubuike’s chances in the NBA Draft

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

So now that we know that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is going to test the water and find out where he stands with NBA scouts and executives, it's time to examine Azubuike's chances of making the jump.

According to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, who runs ESPN's mock drafts and predraft coverage — and used to run DraftExpress.com — the competition to be one of the 60 players selected in the June draft is more intense than ever.

"There are 175 guys currently who are testing the waters according to my count, so the field is getting pretty crowded at this point," Givony told the Journal-World. "He had a good year for KU, outside of after he got injured, but the market for centers in his mold has almost completely evaporated at this stage."

Instead, the NBA has placed a premium on players like Joel Embiid, who, even at that enormous size, still can operate with guard-like skills. Embiid, obviously, is the class of that crop and on pace to become one of the young faces of the NBA's future. But even among the lesser-known big men on multiple teams, it's those skills that translate to roster spots and playing time.

"I think anyone watching the NBA playoffs can see that," Givony explained. "Guys who can't pass, shoot, block shots prolifically or reliably step outside of the paint defensively are essentially dinosaurs these days."

That, of course, does not mean that Azubuike does not have a shot at attracting attention from the powers that be in the NBA. Anyone who stands 7 feet tall and 280 pounds is immediately going to get noticed.

But the change in the game has created a different demand at the center position and the way Givony sees it, the modern game does not make a player Azubuike's size as automatic as it once was.

There was a time, not that long ago, when a man with Azubuike's measurements would have been an automatic lottery pick, with NBA teams valuing a big body to clog up the paint and create problems for opposing defenses on the other end.

But today, with the game moving faster than ever and becoming more of a shooter's game, those Greg Oden-, Spencer Hawes-, Hasheem Thabeet-type players who all were lottery picks within in the past 12 years, are no longer as attractive because they, in many ways, are viewed as one dimensional and a step slow to play today's game.

That's not to say Azubuike can't become the type of player the NBA wants. Even though it's unlikely that he ever will transform himself into an elite shooter, he moves his feet well for a man his size and certainly has the size and drive required to become a force in the paint. And there are plenty of people who believe that the easiest way to make it in the NBA is to find one thing you do well and become elite at it. For Azubuike, that could become shot blocking and/or rebounding.

But Givony, who has not had the KU center on any of his two-round, 60-pick mock drafts in the past two years, does not believe Azubuike has reached that level yet.

"He is a heck of a college player, and I do think he has a chance to develop into a NBA player eventually," Givony said. "But the appetite for taking on a project big man in his mold just isn't where it was 10-15 years ago."

Reply 12 comments from Robert  Brock Brian_leslie Noel Graham Chelseafraserr Jay Hawkinson Dirk Medema Dee Shaw Harlan Hobbs James Miller Lcjayhawk and 2 others

Jayhawks and almost-Jayhawks all over latest NBA Mock Draft

Big East's Mitchell Robinson (22) blocks the shot of Big West's Brandon L. McCoy (44) as Jaren Jackson Jr., left, and Brian "Tugs" Bowen II, watch during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Chicago. The West team won 109-107. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Big East's Mitchell Robinson (22) blocks the shot of Big West's Brandon L. McCoy (44) as Jaren Jackson Jr., left, and Brian "Tugs" Bowen II, watch during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Chicago. The West team won 109-107. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) by Matt Tait

Well, it took less than 12 hours for Jonathan Givony, formerly of DraftExpress and currently at ESPN.com to slot Marvin Bagley III into his latest mock draft after the top-rated prospect in the Class of 2018 announced Monday night that he was going to Duke and would attempt to reclassify into the 2017 class.

If successful — and this remains a big if, in my opinion — Bagley will be eligible to play this season and would give Duke a significant lift while speeding up his own path to the NBA.

Kansas cracked the Top 6 for the 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward but could not get any closer than that. While his addition would have helped the KU roster immensely and immediately, Bagley is a sure-fire one-and-done prospect who will be on a college campus for the absolute minimum time required by the NBA's age limit rule.

With that in mind, here's a look at where Bagley lands in Givony's latest Mock Draft for the 2018 NBA Draft, along with a couple of other notable names who cracked his Top 60.

One thing that jumped out at me big time when scrolling down the list was the number of KU targets on it. Six of the Top 17 players in this mock draft seriously considered Kansas during the recruiting process, a sign that Bill Self and company continue to be in on the top talent in the country year in and year out.

• No. 2 - Marvin Bagley III, Boston

Quick take: How about that for good fortune? As if the Celtics have not been on enough of an upswing of late, they now get to add a player like Bagley to their roster. Big things happening in Beantown. For what it's worth, if Bagley winds up going No. 1 overall, Givony's consolation prize is Michael Porter Jr. Either way, Boston's in great shape.

Givony says: Bagley is a fluid athlete with a natural feel for scoring, rebounding and blocking shots, which helps him post elite numbers at the high school and AAU level. He's a terror in the open court and very difficult for opposing big men to stay in front of in one-on-one situations, getting him to the free throw line at an excellent rate. NBA teams will want to see how easily he'll be able to make the transition to the intensity level of the college game and get a better gauge for his defense and outside shooting potential.

• No. 14 - Mitchell Robinson, Portland

Quick take: This is the name Jayhawk fans are dying for news about and there remains a better than good chance that the 7-footer will be in a Kansas uniform this fall. Whether he'll be eligible to play in games remains the biggest question, but his ranking in this mock draft tells us two things: 1. He's a heck of a talent who, if eligible, could make a major difference for the Jayhawks right away. And 2. He's going to be in college (if he goes) for one year at the most. Still, he's worth the effort and KU, no doubt, will do everything it can to get him to town and have him eligible for the 2017-18 season.

Givony says: Robinson is a freakishly athletic 7-footer with a big wingspan and an impressive frame who plays quick off his feet with solid hands and touch. However, his on-court awareness and feel for the game are very underdeveloped. He left Western Kentucky after a handful of practices, and now his situation is in flux. Did NBA scouts see enough on the all-star circuit to draft him in the top 20?

• No. 33 - Svi Mykhailiuk, Atlanta

Quick take: The last time I looked (which was just a couple of days ago), DraftExpress had Svi as a late first-rounder, pencilled into the No. 29 spot. For all intents and purposes, when it comes to mock drafts, this is basically the same spot and it tells you that, with a strong season, Svi can solidify his standing as a first-round pick in next June's draft. Anything less than that and it's likely a second-round selection for the still-young Ukrainian.

Givony says: Nothing. They did not give commentary for the second round picks.

• No. 36 - Devonte' Graham, Orlando

Quick take: Graham is slotted in the same boat as Svi, just a couple of picks apart and in the position of knowing that a strong senior season could vault him comfortably into the first round. For both guys, it's not necessarily just about the numbers, it's about showing the NBA scouts what they want to see. Graham and Svi both gained valuable information this spring about their NBA stock and there's no doubt that each player has spent a good chunk of the summer and will spend much of the season trying to work on their areas of weakness and showcasing improvement. Neither player will do so at the expense of the team goals at Kansas, though, which should make KU fans happy and could go a long way toward helping these two showcase their skills without appearing to force it.

Givony says: Nothing. They did not give commentary for the second round picks.

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