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NBA Draft

Emmanuel Mudiay’s Work Overseas is Done

Even if Mudiay’s CBA career is over, he’s firmly in the mix to go No. 1 in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Yannis Koutroupis

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With all of 10 professional games in the Chinese Basketball League under his belt, top-ranked 2015 NBA Draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay can already walk away feeling comfortable that he accomplished everything he needed to.

His team, the Guandong Southern Tigers, and lottery bound NBA teams that wanted to evaluate him more thoroughly will disagree, but for Mudiay 10 games is just right.

In that limited action, Mudiay posted impressive averages of 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals in 31 minutes a night. He boasted a 25.6 PER and a true shooting percentage of .535. He took the floor against the likes of former NBA players Von Wafer, Dominique Jones, Pooh Jeter, Metta World Peace and Stephon Marbury among others, and consistently proved he belonged despite being just 18 years old.

Before getting too carried away, it’s important to note that the CBA does not have a great reputation. It’s regarded as a league focused primarily on entertainment, with the inflated stats that come out of it commonly taken with a grain of salt. The league is able to attract high-level talent solely because of the financial incentives. Teams are allowed to carry two American-born players, and they will pay them anywhere from $700,000-$2 million. Not only is the pay great, but the playing time and opportunity is as well. American-born players don’t have to deal with some of the politics that have cost them playing time in the past in the truly competitive international leagues. As Brandon Jennings, the original trail blazer of the high-school-to-overseas-to-NBA route, learned the hard way in Italy, teams aren’t anxious to give a lot of playing time to someone they know is going to be gone at the end of the year. In China, American-born players are typically showcased, not hidden and held back. The play is unstructured, though, the talent discrepancy can be pretty large on some teams after their two imports and teams won’t hesitate to make a change if there is a better option out there.

Mudiay has been inactive since November 23 due to a sprained ankle. The Southern Tigers went on to lose three of their next four afterwards and opted to bring in NBA veteran Will Bynum as a temporary, but more likely permanent, replacement for Mudiay. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Mudiay’s representatives are considering bringing him back stateside so that he can focus on pre-draft training after he is cleared to return. He’s projected to be out another three-to-four weeks. If he were to stay with the Southern Tigers and come back on January 7, exactly one month from today, there would be just 10 regular season games left. At that point, taking into account that he’d still need to get his conditioning right after missing a month and a half, the chances of him hurting his stock are far greater than helping it. The smart move here, without a doubt, is to call it a career in the CBA and focus on the ultimate goal.

Mudiay went to China with one thing on his mind: getting paid. He’ll end up netting $1.2 million between his contract with Guandong and endorsement deals, even if he doesn’t play another game. Getting experience against professionals and developing his game were secondary benefits. Mudiay’s family was struggling and he couldn’t wait another year, a year in which SMU and the NCAA would have profited handsomely from his abilities, but he would be limited to just having his tuition, fees, housing and food comped while watching his family still scrape to make end’s meet. Excelling under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown may have been his only avenue to running away from the competition as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. In the history of the draft, only two players (Yao Ming, China, 2002 – Andrea Bargnani, Italy, 2006) not from an American high school or college have been taken with the top overall selection. By going the CBA route, Mudiay’s chances of becoming the surefire top pick reduced drastically. No matter how mind boggling his numbers were, there were going to be those who pointed to the integrity of the league as reason to boost up Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns’ case for the top spot over Mudiay’s. The best he could settle for is being in the mix, garnering enough consideration to get a workout and interview with whatever team wins the lottery. In the worst case, he would slide down draft boards in similar fashion to the way Jennings (selected 10th overall in 2009) did after his overseas struggles.

Even though it was just 10 games, the best-case scenario is firmly secured for Mudiay. His play is the biggest reason why. In this golden era of point guard play, the 18-year-old is a can’t-miss prospect for teams with a hole at the position. He’s blessed with great size at 6’5, already has a chiseled frame at 200 lbs. and is an absolute joy to watch with the basketball in his hands. Mudiay has a unique blend of court vision, creativeness, strength, speed and agility that would have college basketball analysts ready to anoint him the next big thing if he were playing at SMU like he originally intended to out of high school. He did turn it over in excess, over three times nightly, but when you take into account his style of play and age, it’s hard to harp on it too much. He may be more of a shoot-first point guard in the mold of a Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving, but thanks to his size and ability to be a threat off of the ball whether it be by slashing to the hoop or spotting up, he can easily play the two as well.

It’s still very early in the NBA season and a lot can change, but as of right now it’s pretty safe to say that the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery winner will likely be one of the following teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. His biggest competition for the top spot are the aforementioned Okafor and Towns. There are some players with a chance to still get in the discussion, like Kristaps Porzingis (PF/C, International), Myles Turner (C, Texas), Stanley Johnson (SF, Arizona) and Justise Winslow (SF, Duke), but right now Okafor, Towns and Mudiay are the top three by a sizeable margin.

Of the six NBA teams with the best chance to win the lottery, half could be considered set at the point (Minnesota with Ricky Rubio, Utah with Trey Burke and Dante Exum and Philadelphia with Michael Carter-Williams). However, Minnesota tried to sign-and-trade for Eric Bledsoe and the 76ers openly considered drafting Exum – although we can’t say with certainty that was as a replacement for Carter-Williams or as a potential backcourt mate. Regardless, with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, their need is far more glaring in the backcourt than the front. The Knicks and Lakers need a young, quality starting center just as bad as they need a point guard of the same kind, but would definitely give Mudiay as much consideration as anyone. With a logjam in the interior already, the Pistons probably wouldn’t even give the bigs much thought. Odds are, Mudiay would be their guy from the get go, unless they make a move for a long-term solution at the point prior to the deadline with Greg Monroe’s expiring contract (although, he’d have to sign off on any deal).

The point is, other than the Jazz – who you can’t completely rule out from making room for Mudiay if they think more highly of him than Burke and Exum (which this analyst does) – every other team in the NBA’s cellar would take a long, hard look at Mudiay even if his body of work today is all they have to go by come draft night 200 days from now. He’s probably going to have some growing pains transitioning from the free-flowing play of high school, AAU and the CBA to the much more regimented and discipline-oriented systems in the NBA. Coach Brown would have helped him a lot with that at SMU, but considering where he’s at now, it’s hard to argue that Mudiay didn’t make the right decision. He milked the CBA for everything he needed from it, and now it’s time to focus on the draft. There’s no reason to go to the D-League, or try to make a comeback right before the CBA playoffs. He belongs in the NBA. We know that now without a doubt and there’s no reason for him to play organized basketball again until he’s officially in the league.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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NBA

The Best of the Undrafted Players

David Yapkowitz breaks down the best players who weren’t drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Avery Johnson, David Wesley, John Starks; those are just a few former NBA players who didn’t hear their name called on draft night, yet went on to have pretty impressive careers.

Each year there are a few undrafted players who end up making a team’s roster and turn out to be solid contributors. This past season, players like Ron Baker of the New York Knicks, Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns went undrafted in 2016 yet ended up as regular rotation guys for their teams. In Ferrell’s case, he became a starter.

With the 2017 NBA Draft come and gone, here’s a look at some of the top undrafted players who might be able to strengthen a team’s roster.

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley was the best player on a Baylor team that was a No.3 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game.

At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Motley is definitely in the mold of a versatile wing player who can play multiple positions and thrive and in today’s NBA. What he needs to do, however, is improve his outside shot. He shot only 28.1 percent from three-point range. One crucial aspect for hybrid forwards is to be able to step out and hit long range jumpers.

His stock often fluctuated in various mock drafts; some had him going in the first round, others in the second. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Motley signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

P.J. Dozier

P.J. Dozier was one-half of South Carolina’s star duo that helped propel them to a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. The other half, Sindarius Thornwell, had his name called, but at the end of the night, Dozier was still waiting.

Only a sophomore, Dozier was the second leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 13.9 points per game. He was always projected to go in the second round on most mocks and perhaps he came out a bit too early. The talent is there though.

He can have success as a team’s combo guard off the bench. He will need to work on his shooting though. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three. He’ll be in summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers, and from there will hope to entice a team to bring him to training camp.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble might have been one of those players that needed to strike while the iron’s hot. Two years ago, he was talked about as a probable first-round pick had he declared for the draft after his freshman year at Maryland. Instead, he stayed until his junior year and his stock fell.

He actually turned in an impressive junior campaign with 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range.

Trimble will play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and like most undrafted free agents, will look to turn his performance into a training camp invitation. He probably projects to be a backup point guard should he find a place in the league. He had first round and possible lottery talent before, however, so maybe all he needs is an opportunity.

Devin Robinson

In today’s game, where teams put a premium on versatile, do it all type players who can play multiple positions, Devin Robinson certainly fits that description. Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can step out and hit outside jumpers while locking up his opponent’s best wing scorer.

Florida had a surprisingly solid run in the NCAA Tournament and Robinson was a big part of that. His junior year, his best year yet, saw him average 11.1 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field and 6.1 rebounds. He showed a much improved outside shot, connecting on 39.1 percent of his looks from downtown. In the tournament, he upped his averages to 28.3 points on similar shooting percentages.

Robinson will be in summer league with the Washington Wizards, a team that often times lacked production off their bench last season. Depending on how he performs in summer league, don’t be surprised to see him on the Wizards roster come opening night.

Nigel Hayes

Playing in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in years past, Nigel Hayes was given an opportunity as a senior at Wisconsin to show what he could do as the focal point of an offense. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but he did play well enough to be given a shot at making a team’s roster.

His 14 points per game were good enough to tie teammate Ethan Happ for the second leading scorer on the team. As a power forward, he was actually the second leading assist man with 2.7. One area he’ll need to improve on to make an impact in the NBA is his outside jumper. He shot 39.6 percent from three his sophomore season. This year it was down to 31.4 despite taking a similar number of attempts (2.5 and 1.9 respectively).

Hayes looks to be one of those players in between positions. He lacks the quickness and range to thrive at small forward but is a bit undersized at the NBA level for power forward. He is an incredible energy player, though, and players like that have been able to carve out nice careers. He’ll be in summer league with the Knicks, and given their current state of affairs, they need all the help they can get.

L.J. Peak

In the mock drafts that projected him to be drafted, L.J. Peak was most likely going to be a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t have first round talent. He’s a big guard that can play both guard positions.

Despite Georgetown’s futile record this season, Peak was a standout. He was the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He was also their top playmaker, dishing out 3.5 assists. In the NBA, he most likely can find a role for some team as a combo guard off the bench. He only shot 32.7 percent from the beyond the arc, however, so if he wants to make an impact in the league that’s one area he’ll need some work.

He’s set to go to summer league with the Houston Rockets. Depending on what roster moves the Rockets make, it will be tough for Peak to make the final team. They already have two guards capable of playing both guard spots off the bench in Lou Williams and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but he probably has the inside track due to his familiarity with the team. In any case, a strong summer showing should lead Peak to a training camp invite with another team, if not the Rockets.

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NBA PM: Losers Of The 2017 NBA Draft

Who were the two parties who came out of draft night worse off than they went in? Spencer Davies explores.

Spencer Davies

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As the book closes on the 2017 NBA Draft, the league takes a bit of a break before going full throttle into the free agency portion of the off-season.

Before we get there, though, Basketball Insiders will take a look at the winners and losers of Thursday’s draft to get you caught up. Our own Benny Nadeau already took care of the former, so this piece will focus on the two parties who came out of the night worse off than they did going into it.

Early Entrants Going Undrafted

The amount of talent in this year’s draft class was undeniable, so those that decided to come out of college too soon instead of returning to school for another year suffered tremendously.

Let’s take a look at some notable undrafted players that entered as underclassmen:

Kobi Simmons

Simmons was an interesting story this past season with the Arizona Wildcats. It was a difficult one-and-done season for Simmons, as he had trouble converting on the perimeter (33 percent) and contributing anything other than scoring.

In the first couple of months as a freshman, he was basically an every game starter and played at least 28 minutes per game for the team. As the year wound down, though, the 6-5, 175-pound shooting guard barely saw the court, and the time he was given came during blowouts.

His decision to enter the draft was questionable and a gamble, and most teams saw it the same way. Luckily for Simmons, he was reportedly able to come to an agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies on a free agent contract.

P.J. Dozier

A player that surprisingly didn’t get selected was P.J. Dozier from South Carolina. In his sophomore season, the 20-year-old swingman took on a much heavier workload and dramatically improved his game on both ends of the floor.

Dozier was one of the best defenders in the SEC and in the entire NCAA, as well as an aggressor on offense. He was not bashful and took his new role in stride. Over the course of one year, he attempted six more field goals per game and upped his three-point success by 8.5 percentage points.

He also snatched almost two more rebounds per game and averaged nearly two steals for the Gamecocks. Dozier going undrafted was a head scratcher, but the Los Angeles Lakers made sure he landed on his feet with a deal.

Isaiah Briscoe

Briscoe is more of a hybrid type with a bulky build for a backcourt player. In two seasons under John Calipari at Kentucky, he was pretty consistent with his game as somebody who will give you a little bit of everything.

He’s not particularly a good shooter, but he can get some rebounds and dish it out to make the right plays. You’ll see that with when he’s playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League.

Antonio Blakeney

Blakeney—a sophomore guard from LSU—proved that he can shoot the basketball and be a pure scorer (17.2 points per game) when given the opportunity, but what about the defensive end of the floor? He’ll need to work on that, as well as his all-around game that won’t make him a one-dimensional threat.

He hasn’t received an offer from a team yet, but he’ll likely get a chance to showcase his talents in either Orlando or Las Vegas.

The trend here seems obvious—if you’re a shooting guard and haven’t gotten at least three years of college experience, it may not be wise to declare. Executives understand that they need players with the “do-it-all” quality and not just pure scorers that can’t bring more than one or two skills to the table.

Chicago Bulls

Over the past week, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Jimmy Butler and his future with the Bulls. There were rumors all over linking him mainly to the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the dark horse candidate to land the All-Star was the one to pull the trigger.

After the first selection in the draft was made, the Minnesota Timberwolves came to an agreement with Chicago that reunited Butler with his former coach of four years, Tom Thibodeau. The deal came a few weeks after an exit interview regarding the team’s direction that reportedly went well.

The 27-year-old’s trainer didn’t hide his displeasure about the move, but it’s understandable from the perspective of VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, who strived to “set a direction” for the franchise.

However, what they received in return for Butler was not nearly enough for a man that is just now entering his prime as one of the best two-way players in the game today. In exchange for Butler, the Wolves sent Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to Chicago. Furthermore, the Bulls were able to move up nine spots in the draft, but it cost them their 16th pick to do so.

LaVine is as exciting as a player as any young talent in the NBA, but he’ll enter the season coming off a brutal ACL tear that ended his year prematurely. It will probably be a little while before the 22-year-old sees the floor, and, as the centerpiece of this trade, it’s definitely risky not knowing how he’ll respond to the injury.

While Dunn could have plenty of promise as the starting point guard of the future, his rookie season in Minnesota left a lot to be desired. The only defense of his inclusion as one of the key pieces in this transaction is being a top five pick in last year’s draft with untapped potential.

With the seventh overall selection, Chicago drafted Lauri Markkanen out of Arizona. In his lone season under Sean Miller, the seven-footer was a key cog in the Wildcats’ run in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments.

The talent is clearly there as a sharpshooting stretch four or five, but with Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic already in the mix at power forward, the fit may be a problem. He could see some time at center, but remember, Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio, and Joffrey Lauvergne are holding down the fort there, too.

Markkanen’s situation will all depend on if qualifying offers are made to Mirotic, Felicio, and Lauvergne.

To add the cherry on top of the Bulls’ rough night, they excited some fans of the organization when they took Jordan Bell out of Oregon early in the second round. That hope quickly diminished when the Golden State Warriors paid $3.5 million for the pick, and Chicago agreed to send him to the Bay.

Bell was one of the sexier names in the draft for a good reason, but the money was more important to the Bulls, who will have some more decisions to make this summer with their veterans on the roster likely not wanting to be a part of the rebuild.

Without their superstar of the last three years, and still with an inexperienced head coach like Fred Hoiberg to develop the young talent brought into the organization, it’s going to be a little while before basketball is king again in the Windy City.

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NBA

Hawks Didn’t Expect John Collins To Fall To 19

Newly-minted Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk had a relatively easy decision drafting John Collins at 19.

Buddy Grizzard

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During Travis Schlenk’s first NBA Draft as Atlanta GM, fortune smiled as center John Collins of Wake Forest, a player rated highly on Atlanta’s draft board, fell to the 19th pick.

“Through the whole week, we had guys ranked, and he was the highest guy there,” said Schlenk to assembled media at the Omni Hotel, adjacent to Philips Arena. “We thought he’d go a little higher. We had a couple options on the board to move back, but once we saw that John was going to be there, we didn’t entertain any of those.”

Schlenk added that Atlanta also tried to move up but was unable to execute a trade.

“We did have some conversations about trying to move up,” said Schlenk. “We had one player that we targeted that we really wanted to move up for but were unable to do so.”

The process of building the team’s draft depth chart was collaborative, Schlenk added, which meant Collins’ selection was by consensus rather than by decree. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was among those whose input factored into the selection.

“I have a lot of faith in the group that was here before I got here,” said Schlenk. “They’ve been a huge asset to me coming in here in the middle of this process. As I’ve stated all along, I view Coach Bud and I’s relationship as a partnership. It doesn’t do us any good to take a guy that he doesn’t like, so he’s got a voice in it for sure.”

Schlenk was asked about areas where Collins needs to improve and didn’t shy away from questions about his defense.

“That was kind of the knock on him at Wake Forest,” said Schlenk. “But a lot of times, especially in college — when you’re the main focal point — you’ll see the best offensive player doesn’t want to get in foul trouble so he can stay on the floor. We interviewed him in Chicago. That’s what he said: “Coach Manning said, ‘Don’t get in foul trouble, I can’t afford to have you off the court.'”

The Hawks GM also talked about Collins’ shortcomings as a shooter.

“One of the first things we’re going to work on with him is a jump shot,” said Schlenk. “In college, all his scoring came in the post. And he’s got a good post game. We just need to extend his range out, especially the way we play and the way the league’s going.”

But overall, Schlenk was extremely positive about the opportunity to add a player with the upside of Collins, a player who is far from a finished product.

“Last year you saw his athleticism, and then the big jump that he’s made from his freshman year to his sophomore year,” Schlenk said. “Obviously, being the most improved player in the ACC, you see the growth he’s made. And he’s still a 19-year-old kid, so there’s still a lot of room to grow.”

In the second round, Atlanta selected shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who shot 56 percent from three and averaged 23 points during Oregon’s run to the Final Four. The Hawks also selected 6-10 French center Alpha Kaba of Mega Leks, a likely draft-and-stash candidate. With Collins’ youth and lack of polish, it may take some time to judge Schlenk’s first draft. But fortunately for him, the decision was a relatively easy one since the team didn’t expect Collins to fall all the way to 19 where Atlanta could grab him.

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