The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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Morning Five: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2014

morning5

  1. The announcement that a group of Northwestern football players are asking to be represented by a labor union probably will not elicit the amount of attention it deserves from the general public because… well, they are Northwestern football players, but it could be one of the biggest sports stories of this year. With the backing of the National College Players Association the football players filed a petition to be recognized as employees with the National Labor Relations Board and filed union cards for an undisclosed number of players. Before we get ahead of ourselves we should point out that this is just the first step of the process (“getting a seat at the table” as they say), but it is an important one. As you can imagine the NCAA is not a fan of the idea and has issued a statement essentially saying that athletes do not meet the definition of employees and thus should not be awarded rights typically given to unions. The scope and details of the case go well beyond what we have the space to cover here so we would recommend you check out the excellent Outside the Lines piece we linked to earlier.
  2. We all knew it was coming, but Dante Exum came out and announced it yesterday: he will be entering this year’s NBA Draft. The Australian point guard, who is projected by most to be a top-5 pick in this year’s Draft, had reportedly been considering playing college basketball and even had come up with a list of finalists. Basically it was a list of top programs with no real shot (even UNC where his father played) since Exum is guaranteed NBA millions. Multiple players including Andrew Bogut, a fellow Australian and #1 pick who actually went to college, came out publicly and urged Exum not to go to college. Now college basketball fans can bring back their dreams of landing a star recruit to American high school players.
  3. According to Tim Miles it was not a single incident, but rather a series of them that led him to dismiss Deverell Biggs from the team. Biggs, who redshirted last season after coming to Lincoln as a first-team junior college All-American, was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.9 points per game despite being a reserve playing just 20.5 minutes per game. We do not know the full extent of the series of incidents that led to Biggs’ dismissal, but he was cited in April 2012 for suspicion of DUI and in December 2012 for leaving the scene of an accident then was suspended in July for a violation of team rules. We do not know what happened to make Miles finally decide to get rid of Biggs, but we imagine that there will be somebody else out there to take a chance on Biggs.
  4. We are not sure what “medical and personal reasons” have led Kennesaw State coach Lewis Preston to take off from his coaching duties since January 2, but the school announced that he will return to his coaching duties at the end of this season. Preston, who is 7-61 (not a typo) as a head coach at Kennesaw State, was replaced by Jimmy Lallathin, who did not do much better going 3-12 as the interim coach. As we said we have no idea what the specific reasons were for Preston’s absence were and it would be reckless to speculate on what those reasons could be so we will just wish Preston the best in his return.
  5. Normally the loss of a player who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game would not even merit a mention here (ok, maybe if they did something really dumb), but Xavier’s frontcourt is so thin that the indefinite suspension of freshman forward Jalen Reynolds might have an impact on the team. Despite his limited playing time (partly the result of his propensity to foul) Reynolds is one of the top rebounders on the team and as a freshman one would expect him to improve as the year goes along. Based on the reports on nearly every site it appears that this is an academic issue so we doubt that we will see Reynolds back this season.
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Morning Five: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 20th, 2013

morning5

  1. It seems hard to believe, but it appears that Australian point guard Dante Exum is planning on visiting five colleges – Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, and Oregon (which one of these doesn’t belong…) — in the near-future. The reason that it seems so strange is that Exum could enter the coming NBA Draft and is widely believed to be a top five pick if he did enter the 2014 NBA Draft. Andrew Bogut, a fellow Australian, has spoken publicly advising Exum to enter the NBA Draft if his draft stock is that high. Now this could all just be Exum getting a few trips out of the recruiting process or just wanting to test the college waters to see if he likes the system as a way to prepare for a likely NBA career, but we will believe that Exum is going to college when we see him in a college uniform.
  2. If you were hoping for an in-state rivalry to develop between Kansas and Wichita State you can forget about it. Well at least on the court. According to a report from The Kansas City Star, Gregg Marshall would be willing to play a home-and-home series with the Jayhawks, but Bill Self says he won’t because he sees no upside in it for Kansas. While we are not fans of Self’s decision not to schedule games between the two schools we have to agree with his logic that it does not benefit Kansas in any way. Scheduling Wichita State would only make the Jayhawks’ schedule more challenging (and if you look at your schedule this year you know that they do not need it) and the potential cost of a loss to an in-state school that is several rungs below them on the basketball hierarchy would only weaken their stranglehold on the state. In fact, just getting Kansas on their regular schedule would only further validate the Wichita State program (if a Final Four trip last season didn’t do that) so we wouldn’t expect to see this match-up in the regular season any time soon.
  3. In his final Power Rankings of 2013, Luke Winn has his usual statistical breakdowns, but he also has one of the longest breakdowns we have seen in the column looking at how Arizona defended Michigan in the last possession of its win this past weekend. Outside of that the numbers that jump out at us the most are how infrequently Michigan State gets to the free throw line and how bad Baylor is in the post. It will be interesting to see how the latter two issues play out as the season progresses as both teams are top 10 teams at this point and both issues seem like they might be significant going forward.
  4. How much does it take to get your name attached to an historic college basketball venue? At Indiana, it appears that the price is $40 million, after the school announced on Thursday that Assembly Hall would be renovated and renamed the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall by 2016. The renovations are reported to include “revenue-generating box seats, a new south entryway, a state-of-the-art video scoreboard, escalators and remodeled restrooms and concession stands.” All of that is fine and well, and we’d much rather see a philanthropist’s name on the side of the building than a corporate one (Bob Evans Assembly Hall just doesn’t have the same ring to it), but let’s just be sure that Indiana administrators are not going to let Skjodt, the daughter of a shopping mall magnate, turn the place into a hoops version of the Mall of America.
  5. The NCAA makes a regular practice out of tying itself in knots with its public inconsistencies and embarrassing blunders, but Thursday marked a new one for the likes of Jay Bilas and others to skewer. In a Montgomery County (Maryland) court case involving a wrongful death filed by the family of former Frostburg State football player, Derek Sheely, NCAA counsel wrote in a court filing that “The NCAA denies that it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes, but admits that it was ‘founded to protect young people from the dangerous and exploitative athletic practices of the time.’” From a legal perspective, the NCAA is clearly distinguishing the mission and goals of its current mega-organization from that of something a half-century ago; but from a PR perspective, this is just another quiver in what the public perceives as an organization deeply embedded with hypocrisy and completely out of touch with the world around it. Happy Friday.
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Morning Five: 12.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. It won’t settle any arguments about which conference is the best (we still think it is the Big Ten), but the Big Ten/ACC Challenge did yield some interesting results. The most obvious of which was North Carolina‘s surprisingly comfortable win at Michigan State. At this point, we have no idea what to make of a young Tar Heel team that is missing the two players who were supposed to be their two best players coming into the season. And of course there is the question as to how the Spartans laid such a big egg with all of their apparent advantages, but we will give them a pass because it was so out of character. On the other end of the spectrum was a game we wish we could unsee: Wisconsin‘s 48-38 win over Virginia that was eerily reminiscent of a Big Ten rock fight in 2009. Some of the highlights from the box score: the team’s shot 28.8% and 23.4% respectively from the field, 21.7% and 9.1% from three-point range.
  2. The majority of the discussion regarding the new rules being implemented this year has been based around the number of fouls being called. One area that has been largely overlooked is how it encourages zone defense. As Ben Cohen notes there has been a fairly substantial increase in the use of zone defense so far this year. The percentage of plays that it is being used on is interesting at some level, but the number of programs that are starting to use it or considering use it might be more impressive. While the trend is impressive we will be interested to see how this changes as the season progresses.
  3. Dante Exum is one of the more intriguing recruits in the class of 2014. The problem is that the Australian point guard probably won’t enter play a college game. At least that is what fellow Australian Andrew Bogut is suggesting to Exum. According to Bogut, Exum should not go to college and risk injury since he is a likely top-5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Although we would expect the schools that are recruiting him (basically every big-name program that you can think of) to try to push  the benefits of a year of college we have a hard time disagreeing with what Bogut is saying. Forcing players to spend a year in college is obviously beneficial to the college game, but if the player can go straight to earning millions of dollars we would have a hard time telling a player to turn that down. That’s the same thing each of these programs say they tell their players when they are deciding whether or not to return to school so it will be interesting to see if they do the same with a player that they are recruiting.
  4. We are not sure how we missed this and we are even more unsure of how Rob Dauster of all people appears to be the only one we have seen point this out, but with Tuesday’s win Mike Krzyzewski tied Herb Magee for the all-time men’s wins record with 964 career wins although Magee overtook Krzyzewski with a win last night. As Dauster notes, with Krzyzewski coaching more games each season (and to be frank winning a greater percentage) the record should be his as long as Magee doesn’t coach for many more years than Krzyzewski does. As for the all-time college wins record, that appears to be pretty safe for the next few years as Pat Summitt has a comfortable lead at 1,098 wins.
  5. Over the past few years we have heard a lot of complaints from individuals in print media about how online media was destroying their careers. So it was interesting to read Seth Davis’ piece on Dick “Hoops” Weiss and how he reinvented himself after being laid off. Some might argue that Weiss was fortunate to have a connection that enabled him to land such a job, but based on what others have said about him and our limited interaction with him (about 10 minutes back in 2009) we don’t think it has that much to do with luck.
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No Dante Exum in 2013-14? College Hoops Won’t Suffer Too Much

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 29th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

In the immediate aftermath of the Miami Heat’s thrilling seven-game victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, college and professional basketball fans alike directed their focus not at the player draft looming one week ahead, but at the 2014 draft – the one expected to be populated by the most talented recruiting class, featuring one of the most talented players, of the past decade. Speculation of various teams “tanking” was abundant and widespread. General managers assumed futuristic, pick-stacking, salary-shedding free agency strategies. “Wig-out for [Andrew] Wiggins” entered the lexicon. Everyone wanted to get in on the talent bounty waiting in the 2014 draft lottery. Rightfully so. By now, the biggest prospects basically roll off the tongue as a reflex: Kansas’ Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, among others. But there’s one name you might not be quite as familiar with. That name is Dante Exum, an Australian-born 6’6″, 188-pound slasher who had scouts swooning after stealing the show at the FIBA U-19 World Championships in the Czech Republic this summer (along with a standout performance at the Nike Hoop Summit), where he averaged 18 points per game, just under four assists, and dropped 33 points against a formidable team from Spain.

Even in a loaded 2014 draft class, Exum should be a lottery pick if he declares (Getty Images).

The NBA Draft chatter intensified, and Exum’s lottery bona fides soon hardened into a national scouting consensus, leaving little doubt he would join Wiggins and Randle and the like in upper reaches of the first round next June. Earlier this summer, ESPN.com draft insider Chad Ford ranked Exum third on his list of “Top 100 Draft Prospects” for 2014. The only lingering question about Exum, who is on track to finish his high school course work in October, making him eligible to enroll in any American university at the end of the fall semester, was whether he would bring his hyperbolically mythologized land-down-under skills to the Division I ranks for a few months before entering the draft. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman answered that question on Tuesday:

“Schools have been saying I can start in early December and play this season,” Exum told ESPN. “But if college is the option, I’ll stay in Australia, do workouts with the national team and then go to college next August. Playing this season in college is not an option.”

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Big Ten M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on January 11th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Northwestern suffered through two straight blowouts to open Big Ten play, so the Wildcats were desperately in need of a confidence booster. They got that in by routing Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night. NU had been struggling with its shooting and its freshmen had suffered some discouraging performances, as most freshmen do, but the shooting improved and the freshmen got involved in the win over the Nittany Lions. A blowout like that is just what the doctor ordered, writes Chris Emma of Scout.com. NU is still a longshot to make the NCAA Tournament this season, but this year is all about helping the freshmen gain confidence and improve, and they certainly showed as much against Penn State, which could carry over in the coming games.
  2. People keep wondering if this is finally the year that Iowa breaks through and makes the NCAA Tournament under Fran McCaffery, and while an NCAA berth is certainly coming soon, it may still be a year away. The Hawkeyes have had three chances for marquee wins in the Big Ten so far, with the latest coming Thursday night at home against Michigan State, but they’ve come up empty in each. Thursday’s game was there for the taking, but Iowa couldn’t close it out, which is the mark of a young and inexperienced team. The Hawkeyes need a big win to get over the top, says Mike Hlas of The Gazette, and a close game with the Spartants was an outstanding opportunity to do that to springboard into the rest of the Big Ten season. Now, Iowa is still searching for such a win, and Big Ten games are becoming much more important as its losses pile up.
  3. The “greatness” debate comes up whenever a very good team seems to be on the verge of a special season, and with Michigan undefeated and about to hit the toughest part of its schedule, that debate has arrived in Ann Arbor. There are some criticisms of this team that aren’t really fair, and given the outstanding talent the Wolverines have on hand, there’s no reason that John Beilein’s team can’t be special. Soon we’ll know for sure if Michigan can silence its critics, as the Wolverines go on the road to face Ohio State and Minnesota in the next week. It’s gut check time for this young group of players. Even losses in those games don’t mean Michigan can’t win in March, but two wins could certainly solidify this group as the top team in the country.
  4. When Michigan heads to Columbus for its game against Ohio State this weekend, it will be a homecoming for the Wolverines’ star point guard Trey Burke. It’s rare that a Columbus product would end up in Ann Arbor, but in this case it’s because Burke didn’t even have an offer from the Buckeyes. Thad Matta has to be regretting that decision now, as Burke could have given the Buckeyes just about everything they lack — a consistent, versatile scorer with the ability to burst for bunches of points. The Buckeyes already have a very good point guard in Aaron Craft, and it’s tough to know which recruits will pan out, but OSU has to wonder how different things might have been if Burke were wearing scarlet and gray rather than maize and blue this weekend.
  5. Recruiting never stops in college basketball, and thanks to an NCAA rule change that allows high school juniors to take official visits after January 1, Indiana will have a special visitor from halfway around the world coming to this weekend’s game against Minnesota. The Hoosiers will be hosting Dante Exum, who ranks as the No. 17 guard in the 2014 class by Rivals. He’s also being looked at Boise State, Georgetown, LSU, SMU, Tulsa and Vanderbilt. If there were ever a game for Exum to fly halfway around the world to see, it would be this one, as Assembly Hall will be packed and should have an electric atmosphere for a top 10 match-up.
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