As NBA draft hopefuls make their cases in Chicago at this year’s pre-draft workouts, questions about all kinds of college basketball rosters are hanging in the balance.
At Kansas, those questions most often center around the stay-or-go status of junior guard Christian Braun and red-shirt sophomore forward Jalen Wilson.
From everything I’ve been told, Braun killed his workouts in Santa Barbara, California, this month and he heads to Chicago looking to make a serious statement about his draft status.
Already projected as a first-round pick by many analysts, Braun could cement his status with a strong showing at the pre-draft combine, today through Sunday.
I still think there’s an outside chance Braun could return, but the odds, at least in my mind, are lower today than they were a few weeks ago. The more I’ve heard and thought about his situation, the more I’ve started leaning toward him staying in the draft. Still, it remains all about the feedback he gets and that feedback will be based largely on his performance in Chicago.
Wilson’s case is a little different. Unlike Braun, he did not receive a combine invitation. Instead, he was invited to the G League Elite Camp for the second year in a row. Generally speaking, not getting invited to the combine, which has 76 participants this year, does not bode well for one’s draft prospects. The draft, in most years, has 60 picks. This year it only has 58 because of penalties taking two picks away.
I’ve always thought Wilson’s odds of returning were pretty high anyway, and him missing out on the combine invitation only furthered that belief. He did, however, show well enough at the camp to earn one of seven invitations to the combine, which is a significant development in Wilson’s testing process.
Today, more than ever, it feels like Wilson is in a heck of a win-win situation with his decision.
The forward from Denton, Texas, can do himself a lot of good by returning to KU for another year. And, thanks to the NIL opportunities out there, he can make himself some decent dough, too.
More than that, though, a decision to return would put him in fairly rare company. Only he and Dajuan Harris Jr. would be returning for the 2022-23 season with 100% certainty about what their roles would be.
Both were starters on a national championship team. So the talent’s there. But knowing their roles, being comfortable in them and having their expectations so clearly defined from the jump can only help both of them in their quest to further showcase their game for professional scouts.
Being comfortable with his role worked wonders for Ochai Agbaji a season ago. Sure, the reigning Final Four MOP improved a ton and became, in many ways, a different player than we’d seen before. But a lot of that was mindset stuff and a shift in approach, born from the feedback he received at the combine. The fact that he knew what his role was at Kansas allowed him to be comfortable enough to take those strides toward greatness and eventual first-round status.
Wilson, should he return, would be walking into a similar situation.
He’d be the clear 4. He’d be the team’s best rebounder from Day 1. He’d be the team’s most dangerous weapon in the open court yet again. And he’d be free to shoot when open and free to speak when he had something to say.
Talk about a perfect situation to thrive.
It might not mean that Wilson becomes an All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year like Agbaji did. But he’d at least have a chance. The rest would be up to him, dependent on him putting in the same kind of work and attention to detail that Agbaji did to become great.
Wilson’s driven like that, so I wouldn’t bet against him. But I’m not sure it’d be the smartest thing to expect a repeat of what we saw from Agbaji either.
Regardless, being comfortable with the role he knows he has at Kansas would pave the way for Wilson to make a big time jump. Whether he would do it or not is anybody’s guess. But you can’t ask for a much better situation than the one he has waiting for him at KU if he decides that making the move to the pro ranks is not for him just yet.
If there’s enough momentum around him staying in the draft and the feedback he gets from NBA execs in Chicago tells him that he would be selected, then that could quickly become the favored move by Wilson. And it would be awfully hard to blame him for making it.
The best mock draft out there — Jonathon Givony’s at ESPN.com — still does not have Wilson on the 58-pick prediction. So he may still have work to do to prove that he’s worthy of being selected. But he now has an even better opportunity to do just that, given that he gets to stick around Chicago for the remainder of the week.
Both Wilson and Braun have until June 1 to make their decisions on whether to stay in the draft or withdraw and return to school. While that date looms large, the rest of this week and what those two find out is even bigger.
Former Jayhawk Joel Embiid’s runner-up finish in 2022 MVP voting no snub nor an indication of his place in the game
The most valuable player discussion has once again become a hot topic with Kansas basketball fans, a little more than a month after debating which Jayhawk should’ve won the NCAA Tournament MOP honors during this year’s run to the national title.
This time, however, it’s at the NBA level, where reports have indicated that former Jayhawk Joel Embiid is headed toward finishing as the league’s runner-up to Denver big man Nikola Jokic in the MVP voting for a second consecutive season.
Embiid was spectacular this season. There’s no arguing that.
In addition to playing a career-high 68 games during the regular season — no small feat given his injury history — the 7-foot center from Cameroon led the league in scoring at 30.6 points per game and ranked third in rebounds per game at 11.7.
Jokic, meanwhile, finished sixth in scoring (27.1 ppg) and led the league with 13.8 rebounds per game.
Those numbers are close enough to be a toss-up. So, too, are many of the others. From 3-point makes (97-93 in favor of Jokic) to free throw percentage (Embiid took that one 81.4% to 81.0%) and more, the stats recorded by the two superstars were equally as impressive all season.
Here’s the thing, though. Jokic, who led the Nuggets to the No. 6 seed in the west while playing most of the season without starters and borderline stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., did something that no player in NBA history had ever done by eclipsing 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
No player. Ever. Not Jordan. Not LeBron. Not Wilt. Not Kareem. No one. You can’t just throw that away. It’s even more meaningful in this context when you look at both basic and advanced statistics for the 2021-22 season.
Jokic out-performed Embiid in the following categories – rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, field goal percentage, 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage, 3-point makes, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, rebound percentage, assist percentage, steal percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, offensive rating and defensive rating.
Of the 20 other advanced+ and miscellaneous statistics used by @statmuse to breakdown to the MVP race (which included Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo), Jokic was the leader in 15 of them.
Add to that the fact that the 7-foot Serbian’s 32.85 Player Efficiency Rating was the highest mark in NBA history, and it’s really a pretty open and shut case when you talk about the overall picture of the race.
It’s awesome that KU fans have almost universally thrown their support behind Embiid. And while not surprising, given how much pride he brings to the program for dominating the way he has on the biggest stage in basketball, it is pretty impressive that KU fans still feel so strongly about him given the fact that he was in Lawrence for just one season and did not play in a single NCAA Tournament game with the Jayhawks.
Again, no surprise, but still cool to see and merely the latest indicator of just how passionate Kansas fans about their Jayhawks.
The biggest thing the Embiid supporters have working in their favor in the argument is the fact that Philadelphia won more games than Denver (51-48) during the regular season and that the Sixers are still playing in the playoffs.
After knocking off Toronto in six games in Round 1, Phily and Miami are tied at 2 games apiece in the second round entering Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 5. The Nuggest, meanwhile, were outsted by third-seeded Golden State in five games in Round 1.
This isn’t a postseason award, though. The NBA’s MVP honor is handed out to the regular season MVP, so who goes deeper in the playoffs does not and should not play a role in the decision.
They could (but won’t and shouldn’t) elect to change the format and turn the NBA’s annual MVP award into a full-season award. But doing that would totally negate what players do during the 82-game regular season and basically would make the whole thing come down to the best player on the team that wins it all receiving the award.
Sound familiar? It should. That’s how KU senior Ochai Agbaji won the MOP honor at the Final Four in New Orleans, even though strong cases could be made that both David McCormack and Remy Martin — if not Jalen Wilson, too — actually delivered better numbers during the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament run.
These things are never going to be easy or clean. There are always going to be debates, snubs and frustrations. There’s nothing wrong with that and, in some ways, it even adds to the fun.
Embiid will win one someday. Jokic is a worthy MVP today. And people on both sides of the coin can debate their stance until their heart’s content.
Nothing wrong with that.
As a wave of positive COVID-19 test results takes it toll on the NBA, the predicament has opened the door for one former Jayhawk to jump back into the league.
According to a repot from The Associated Press, the Miami Heat have used 15 players this season and right now, no more than five of those are available to play.
As a result, the Heat signed three replacement players on Thursday and were closing in on other deals, including one with former Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers — who started on the Heat's NBA championship teams in 2012 and 2013.
Chalmers last played for Miami in November of 2015. His last game in the NBA at all came with Memphis in April of 2018.
Injuries and age in recent years caught up with the hero of KU's national-title-game victory over Memphis at the 2008 Final Four. That drove him out of the league and left him looking for other places to keep playing. Between rehab stints and opportunities overseas, Chalmers kept working and always kept hope alive that he would return to the NBA for at least a small stint before calling it a career.
On Christmas day, Chalmers tweeted that he was "playing for a call up," adding, "That's all I want, Santa lol."
Nobody could've foreseen the pandemic as the event that would lead to him reaching that goal, but now that it has, Chalmers is excited about the opportunity.
“I'm ready," he told The Associated Press. “I think this is more emotion than anything, showing that I've been really working behind the scenes and not just talking about it. I definitely feel good enough to help the team win."
Chalmers' contract is believed to be of the 10-day variety, like many of the players the Heat recently signed. At least temporarily, he will join former KU guard Marcus Garrett on Miami's NBA roster.
Thirteen former Kansas basketball players tipped off the NBA’s 2021-22 season this week, tying for the third most among NCAA Division I schools.
Kansas coach Bill Self recently took time out to film a quick good luck video for KU’s social media accounts.
“We hope you all kill it,” Self said. “You’ve always represented us in a first-class manner and everybody that supports Kansas University and our basketball program are all so proud of you.”
Two of those 13 former Jayhawks — Devon Dotson with the Chicago Bulls and Marcus Garrett with the Miami Heat — opened the season on two-way contracts, meaning they’ll likely split their time this season between the NBA clubs and their G League affiliates.
Former national player of the year, Frank Mason III, also is still battling for a roster spot in the league, following his recent Exhibit 10 contract with the Los Angeles Lakers that lasted all of 19 hours.
Self singled out that trio with a special message during the recent video.
“You know you’re built for this,” he said.
All 30 NBA teams have the ability to carry 17 players on their active rosters — 15 on an NBA bench and two two-way players per franchise.
The 13 Jayhawks scattered throughout the league cover everything from bona fide stars and regular starters to reserves and rotation players.
Here’s a quick look at the status of the former KU standouts who recently opened their quests for a world championship.
Golden State wing Andrew Wiggins, who played at KU in 2013-14 and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, is in his eighth season in the league and his third with the Warriors.
Former Wiggins teammate, Joel Embiid, is a four-time NBA All-Star who is in his eighth season with the Philadelphia 76ers. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft played at KU during the 2013-14 season.
Marcus and Markieff Morris currently own the title of longest tenured Jayhawks in the NBA. The twins played three seasons at Kansas, from 2008-09 to 2010-11, and enter their 11th seasons in the NBA. In 2020, Markieff became the 13th Jayhawk to win an NBA title with the Lakers and he currently is in his first season with the Miami Heat. Marcus, who had his No. 22 KU jersey retired in 2020, is in his third season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sharp-shooter Ben McLemore is in his first season with the Portland Trailblazers and his ninth season overall. McLemore spent two seasons at KU, as a redshirt in 2011-12 and a freshman in 2012-13, and was the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Kelly Oubre Jr. begins his first season with the Charlotte Hornets and is in his seventh season in the NBA. He played at Kansas in 2014-15 and was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Wayne Selden Jr., who played at KU from 2014-16, enters his fourth season in the NBA and his first with the New York Knicks. Following KU, Selden played 2016-17 with New Orleans and Memphis, 2017-18 with the Grizzlies and 2018-19 with Memphis and Chicago. Since 2019, Selden has played in the NBA G League and with Ironi Nes Ziona in Israel, where his team won the 2021 FIBA Europe Cup and he was named the Final Four MVP.
Josh Jackson, the fourth overall selection of the 2017 NBA Draft, begins his fourth year in the NBA and his second with the Detroit Pistons.
Devonte’ Graham, who made a strong push for the NBA’s Most Improved Player honor last season, begins his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans after a successful three-year stint in Charlotte.
Svi Mykhailiuk, a former Lakers draft pick who played at KU from 2014-18, is entering his fourth NBA season and his first with the Toronto Raptors.
Udoka Azubuike, who teamed with Graham and Mykhailiuk to help lead Kansas to the 2018 Final Four, is in his second season with the Utah Jazz after being the No. 27 pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
Jayhawks on 2021-22 NBA Opening Day Rosters
Udoka Azubuike – Utah Jazz
Devon Dotson – Chicago Bulls
Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
Marcus Garrett – Miami Heat
Devonte’ Graham – New Orleans Pelicans
Josh Jackson – Detroit Pistons
Ben McLemore – Portland Trail Blazers
Marcus Morris – Los Angeles Clippers
Markieff Morris – Miami Heat
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – Toronto Raptors
Kelly Oubre Jr. – Charlotte Hornets
Wayne Selden Jr. – New York Knicks
Andrew Wiggins – Golden State Warriors
Former Kansas standout Frank Mason is getting another shot in the NBA.
This time it comes with a veritable all-star team of legends in Los Angeles.
According to a tweet from NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Mason has signed a training camp deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now in his fifth season as a pro, Mason, if he sticks, will be playing with his fourth team in that time. After being drafted by Sacramento and spending two seasons in the California capital, Mason spent the 2019-20 season splitting his time between the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee’s G League team. He followed that up with a short stint in Orlando in 2020-21.
The former college national player of the year appeared in 103 games during those four seasons, making three starts and averaging 6.7 points in 15.7 minutes per game.
In 2020, Mason was named the G League MVP after a stellar stint with the Wisconsin Herd.
He played for the Philadelphia 76ers Summer League squad this summer before being released. Upon his release, Mason tweeted: “I want to give a big thanks to the @sixers organization for giving me an opportunity to join their summer league team. What a great staff and first-class organization. Thank you guys.”
It remains to be seen if there’s an opportunity for Mason on the Lakers’ NBA bench. But if one presents itself, he would be joining a roster that not only features LeBron James and Anthony Davis — two of the top 10 players in the game today — but also includes Laker newcomers Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook.
Also on this year’s Lakers roster are former NBA all-stars Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.
While Westbrook and Rondo are clearly pencilled in as the Lakers' top two options at the point, the only other player on the current Lakers roster listed as a point guard is Joel Ayayi, a rookie from Gonzaga who is signed a two-way deal with the franchise after going undrafted.
Former Oklahoma standout Austin Reaves, along with former Texas Tech gunner Mac McClung also are on the Lakers' revamped roster heading into the season. Both are candidates for roster spots with the Lakers' G League club, the South Bay Lakers.
After creating the kind of defensive havoc during the NBA’s Summer League that he did for four years at Kansas, former KU guard Marcus Garrett received his first reward this week.
According to a tweet from NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Garrett has signed a two-way contract with the Miami Heat.
Wojnarowski got the info from Garrett’s new agent, Mike George of One Legacy Sports, which also represents NBA star Jamal Murray along with former Big 12 players Naz Mitrou-Long and Tariq Owens.
After going undrafted in July, Garrett quickly signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Miami Heat. The contract, which guaranteed very little, simply gave Garrett an opportunity. He did the rest.
From the opening game of the NBA’s Summer League on, Garrett showcased the kind of defense he became known for during his days as a Jayhawk.
He hounded ball handlers and picked their pockets clean. He also played the passing lanes and picked up easy baskets off of his defensive anticipation.
That led to pretty good offensive numbers, as well.
Garrett appeared in four Summer League games with the Heat, averaging 11 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 1.5 assists per game.
He also carried a +9.3 plus/minus number and shot 65.4% (17-of-26) from the floor and 43% (3-of-7) from 3-point range while helping the Heat record a 4-0 record.
The former Naismith Award national defensive player of the year scored in double figures in each of the four games and recorded 10 steals in two contests at the California Classic in Sacramento.
The two-way contract keeps Garrett’s rights with Miami and the Heat G League franchise in Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 2021-22 season.
He’ll be able to freely jump up and down between the two levels as the front office and coaching staff see fit, and he will not count against Miami’s 15-man roster limit.
In the games he plays with the Heat, Garrett will make NBA money and in the games he plays with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, he’ll make G League money.
That typically amounts to a salary of roughly $125,000 per year for standard players on two-way contracts.
Garrett’s goal now, of course, will be to make an NBA roster full-time. But, for an undrafted player, the opportunity to show what you can do on a two-way contract in Year 1 is about as good as you can ask for.
A handful of former Jayhawks still hoping to catch on in the NBA will get their chance to shine at the upcoming NBA summer leagues in Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
While making an NBA roster through a strong showing in Summer League play is uncommon, it has happened in the past with a handful of players. And many others played their way into a two-way contract that led to good money and an even better opportunity.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Jayhawks we know are planning to suit up for their respective Summer League squads during the next couple of weeks, starting with Udoka Azubuike and Marcus Garrett on Tuesday.
Marcus Garrett – Miami Heat
The most recent former Jayhawk to jump to the pro level, Garrett signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Heat in the hours after last Thursday’s draft.
That guarantees him nothing more than an opportunity to show what he can do.
Garrett will be on a Heat Summer League roster that is packed with young guards, and while many of them likely will be looking to wow people with their scoring ability and offensive punch, you can be sure that Garrett will continue to lead with his best asset — defense.
He’ll have to show more than strong defensive skills to get a real shot to catch on, but Garrett knows that. He said in early July that he had been working hard on his jump shot and offensive game throughout the offseason.
Devon Dotson – Chicago Bulls
All signs out of Chicago have indicated that Dotson will be with the Bulls’ Summer League squad in Las Vegas next week.
If he’s there, it will mark the first time Dotson will be able to participate in the famed Vegas summer circuit. Last season, after signing with the Bulls as an undrafted free agent following the draft, there was no Summer League and Dotson was tossed right into training camp and a shortened exhibition season.
Just two days ago there appeared to be an opening for a third point guard on the Bulls’ NBA roster, and some who cover the team believed that Dotson, with a good showing this summer, could position himself as the leading candidate to snag that spot.
That was before Chicago landed Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso via free agency, and their presence, along with that of former lottery pick Coby White, could make it tougher.
Even if Dotson doesn’t stick with the Bulls, the opportunity to showcase his skills for another squad or solidify his two-way status could mean big things for the former All-American.
Dotson, like former Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, recently received a qualifying offer from the Bulls worth roughly $1.5 million, making him a restricted free agent.
Dotson appeared in just 11 games with the Bulls last season, spending most of his time during his rookie season with the team’s G League affiliate.
Udoka Azubuike – Utah Jazz
Azubuike is expected to play for the Jazz summer league teams in both Salt Lake and Vegas. And it could be a big summer for the former KU big man.
Utah just traded away back-up big Derrick Favors and they no doubt want to see what they have in Azubuike, whom they used a late first-round pick on in the 2020 draft.
A severe ankle injury early in his first season as a pro derailed Azubuike’s hopes of contributing right away. And a lot of his success this summer figures to be tied to just how well his rehab of the bum ankle went throughout the season.
Azubuike played in 15 games for the Jazz last season, including spot minutes in their final three regular season games and one appearance in the playoffs. He is slated to make roughly $2 million for the 2021-22 season per his rookie contract.
Dedric & KJ Lawson – Boston Celtics
Their list of teams they’ve played for together grows by one this summer, with the former Jayhawks and Memphis natives joining the Celtics’ Summer League squad.
Word from the Lawson camp is that Dedric has slimmed down a little and leaned up in an effort to become a little faster and more explosive.
His skills were never the issue, as he was a double-double machine throughout his college career, particularly at Kansas. Look for him to try to showcase his new physique and his outside shooting ability during his stint with the Celtics.
Always the overlooked of the two, KJ will try to show that he, too, has a versatile game that includes the ability to score, shoot, pass, rebound and defend.
He showed all of those traits in spurts at KU, and he’ll need to have all of them clicking to get a prolonged opportunity with any NBA franchise.
Malik Newman – Utah Jazz
Azubuike will see a familiar face sitting next to him on the Jazz bench — and perhaps out there with him on the floor, too — in KU’s 2018 postseason hero Malik Newman.
A two-year veteran of the NBA G League, with Canton, Ohio and Sioux Falls, S.D., Newman spent most of the 2020-21 season with Ironi Nahariva of the Israeli Premier League, where he averaged 14.5 points, 3.0 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 19 games.
Newman started the season with a team in Turkey, playing 14 games for Frutti Extra Bursaspor and averaging nearly identical numbers as what he put up in Israel.
Joining Newman on the Jazz Summer League roster will be former Baylor Bears and 2021 national champions Jared Butler and MaCio Teague. Both should push Newman and bring extreme competition to the roster.
Frank Mason III – Philadelphia 76ers
The former college player of the year was a late addition to the Sixers’ summer roster.
While landing a roster spot with Philly, therein rejoining former KU teammate Joel Embiid, would be the dream, this opportunity really opens the door for Mason to join a number of teams.
Past Summer League success stories are full of players who played for one team in the summer but got picked up by another after the session was over because the other team had open roster spots or greater need at a specific position.
So while Mason will be trying to catch on with the Sixers, he’ll also be essentially auditioning for the rest of the league, as well.
The 27-year-old former G League MVP has played for three different teams during his first four years in the league — two seasons with Sacramento and one each with Milwaukee and Orlando. His last two stops featured him on two-way contracts and he spent most of his time either injured or in the G League.
Tarik Black - Denver Nuggets
Another late add to a Summer League roster, Black, who played at KU for one season back in 2013-14, actually has more NBA experience than most of the players on this list.
His stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets — including a front-row seat for Kobe Bryant's final game — gave him a good look at what it takes to succeed in the league. And his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame, with good athleticism and toughness, make him an interesting option to consider for teams needing to fill out the end of their bench.
Beyond his size and experience, Black's best attribute is the way he carries himself. He's always been viewed as a first-class teammate and he's not the type of player who needs to get his to be happy. He'll be content helping the team however he can. That could make it hard for him to standout in a Summer League setting. But if he does, there might still be a little left in the old veteran.
Quentin Grimes – NY Knicks
Drafted 25th overall in last week’s draft, the one-time Jayhawk will get his first taste of pro ball with the Knicks’ Summer League squad.
After an up-and-down first season in college at Kansas, Grimes was a star at Houston. In addition to scoring at a high clip and racking up several individual honors during his two years at UH, Grimes also helped lead the Cougars to the 2021 Final Four.
That run and his performance at the pre-draft combine landed him in the first round of the draft, and he now gets the opportunity to show what he’s made of while making guaranteed money for the next three seasons.
Former Kansas point guard Frank Mason’s journey through the NBA has landed him an opportunity with the Philadelphia 76ers Summer League squad.
Mason, the former college basketball national player of the year and 2020 G League MVP with the Milwaukee Bucks organization, is getting another crack with Philadelphia.
There remains a long way to go before Mason is elevated into the conversation about joining the Sixers NBA roster on a full-time basis. But even a two-way contract with one of the top teams in the East would qualify as a major step for the fifth-year point guard.
Mason has played for three teams in his first four professional seasons — two with Sacramento, which drafted him No. 34 overall in the 2017 NBA draft, and one each with Milwaukee and Orlando.
Mason earned just over $2.5 million for his first two seasons in Sacramento before signing two-way contracts with the Bucks and Magic in the years since.
With the Bucks, Mason appeared in just nine games while starring in the G League for the Wisconsin Herd.
With the Magic, Mason played in just four games before an injury derailed what appeared to be a path toward more playing time with the NBA club.
So now it’s an opportunity with the Sixers. If successful, Mason could be reunited with 76ers star Joel Embiid, with whom he played one season at Kansas as a freshman.
Even if this latest Summer League opportunity does not lead to a contract with the Sixers, Mason essentially is auditioning for the 29 other teams in the league. His blend of poise, toughness and intelligence make him an interesting option for just about any team looking for point guard depth.
In 90 games with the Kings, Mason averaged 7 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game. While those numbers did not lead to a long-term stay in the California capital, Mason often showed that, when healthy, he had what it took to compete at that level.
At age 27, the former Jayhawk great still has a little time to prove that he can stick in the league. Shining with Phily’s Summer League squad in Las Vegas would be a good first step to getting the chance to do just that.
Philadelphia opens Summer League play on Aug. 9 against Dallas.
*Updated at 9:03 p.m. Monday night*
Three days after Charlotte drafted UConn guard James Bouknight, crowding the Hornets’ backcourt even further than it already was, team GM Mitch Kupchak announced the Hornets had made a qualifying offer to free agent guard Devonte’ Graham.
One day after that, Graham was traded to New Orleans as part of a sign-and-trade deal that will send Graham to the Pelicans and a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick to Charlotte.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojarnowski was the first to report Monday's trade.
As part of the deal, Graham, 26, agreed to a new four-year, $47 million contract.
The Pelicans were in need of backcourt help after 2020-21 starter Lonzo Ball agreed to a massive contract with Chicago earlier in the day.
In New Orleans, Graham will join a young core that features star forwards Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, and Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 pick in 2016. The Pelicans finished 31-41 last season, just missing out on a spot in the postseason play-in tournament.
Regardless of where he's playing, Graham's approach to the game has not changed from his days at Kansas.
“At the end of the day, everybody has a role and you just have to go out, maximize it and bring what you bring to the table,” he said during exit interviews following the season, according to Charlotte's team website. “Whatever role it is that I have to play, I can play that role. People who know me know that I’m not a big ego guy, that I have to be starting or this and that. I feel like I’m going to be on the court playing meaningful minutes regardless and helping the team. I don’t let my ego or pride get in the way. It’s all about winning.”
Graham just wrapped up his third season with Charlotte, averaging 14.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 30.2 minutes per game while appearing in 55 games.
Graham ranked 14th in the NBA last season in total 3-pointers made, knocking down 179 shots from 3-point range, making him just the second player in franchise history with 175+ 3-point field goals in consecutive seasons.
The former Kansas All-American also finished 15th among all NBA players in real plus-minus (3.88), an ESPN-generated metric that estimates “on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possession, [while taking] into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.”
Selected with the 34th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Charlotte acquired Graham via a draft night trade with the Atlanta Hawks on July 21, 2018.
Graham has played in 164 career games — with 100 starts — and holds career averages of 13.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 27.7 minutes per game.
In just three seasons with the Hornets, Graham has made 431 3-pointers, which already ranks sixth all-time in franchise history.
Graham's former KU teammate, Svi Mykhailiuk, also received a qualifying offer from the Oklahoma City Thunder, making him a restricted free agent, as well.
A former second-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mykhailiuk started the 2020-21 season in Detroit before being traded to OKC. With the Thunder, Mykhailiuk averaged 10.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in 30 appearances.
Former Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, now in his rookie season with the NBA’s Utah Jazz, was taken off the court on a stretcher after injuring his right ankle in a G League game on Wednesday afternoon.
Reports and videos of the injury first surfaced on Twitter, showing Azubuike landing awkwardly on the ankle after shooting a short jump hook late in the game between Azubuike’s Salt Lake City Stars and the Eerie BayHawks.
The game was the first of Salt Lake City’s G League season, which is being played entirely in Orlando, Fla., in a bubble similar to the one the NBA used to complete its 2019-20 season.
According to the Deseret News, Azubuike, 21, played 28 minutes with 8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in Wednesday’s game, which the BayHawks won, 117-98.
The Stars did not immediately announce the severity of Azubuike’s injury. The former Jayhawk has played in 12 games for the Jazz this season, averaging 1 point and 1.1 rebounds in 4.1 minutes per game.
The injured ankle was the same one Azubuike hurt against Wofford in December of 2018 that forced him to miss a few games during his second injury-plagued season as a Jayhawk.
Azubuike suffered a wrist/hand injury shortly thereafter, which forced him to miss the rest of the 2018-19 season. He responded by returning to school for his senior season and turning in an All-American season with the Jayhawks in 2019-20.
That led to him being drafted No. 27 overall by Utah in the 2020 NBA draft.