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NBA Draft: Risers and fallers — Checking in on Stone, Hield and others


NBA Draft: Risers and fallers — Checking in on Stone, Hield and others

The NBA Draft is three months away, but the NCAA Tournament represents the last chance for prospects to show their wares in a true competitive game format. Therefore with March Madness in mind and recognizing the combine plus numerous workouts remain, a look at some risers and fallers.


Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma, Sr.

Teams tend to side with potential over productivity in the draft. The dynamic perimeter threat could change that angle this year. Hield shot 46.5 percent on 3-pointers during the season and then did even a little better over his first four games in the tournament, sinking 19 of 40 (47.5%) from deep while averaging 29.2 points. It's not just the stats that intrigue, but the vibe. Hield takes on the challenge of defensive focusing on him above all and he doesn't blink. Lottery teams aren't looking at just the upcoming season, but there's little doubt the 6-foot-4 guard is the best bet for immediate help among the projected lottery picks. Outside of first round projections before the season started and the lottery a couple of months back, Hield could now crash the top 5. 

Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina, Sr.

When I put together my initial NBA mock lottery, I was surprised North Carolina big man wasn't considered anywhere near that range. The 6-foot-9 forward won't be even 22 by the time we reach the June 23 draft, but Johnson should be in the first round after his latest wave of impressive work. Including the ACC Championship, Johnson shot 33 of 54 (61.1%) from the field over the last five games. In wins over Providence, Indiana and Notre Dame, he recorded double-doubles while scoring at least 20 points. Not the biggest of bigs, but playoffs teams needing a frontcourt boost will be cool with what Johnson offers.

Ben Simmons, F, LSU, Fr.

Of course the Aussie forward didn't actually play in the NCAA Tournament so any change in stock is more about what others did or didn't do. By others we essentially mean Duke's Brandon Ingram. The 6-foot-10 freshman forward with long arms capable of touching the both ends of the National Mall simultaneously impressed during the tournament with three straight games of at least 20 points. He also disappeared for long stretches in Duke's round of 16 blowout loss to Oregon and generally lacks the same game-impacting spark Simmons offers, not to mention tremendous court vision. Assuming Simmons sharpens up his perimeter shot before pre-draft workouts and can display leadership qualities to organizations, he remains the best bet as the No. 1 overall pick.

Others: F Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), G Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), G Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), F DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph's), F Jake Layman (Maryland)



Malcolm Brogdon, G, Virginia, Sr.

The immediate devastation for Brogdon lies in the Cavaliers blowing a large second half and falling to Syracuse Sunday with a Final Four berth at stake. What consecutive brutal shooting performances do to his draft remains uncertain, but no way they helped and the ordinary athlete needed a boost. From ESPN's Chad Ford (Insider):

Brogdon, along with fellow seniors such as Denzel Valentine, have been making the push up the Big Board all season. His play won him ACC Player of the Year and he was slowly getting scouts to concede he might be a late first-round draft prospect. Brogdon's play in the tournament hasn't helped him much, though.

In his past two games against Iowa State and Syracuse, he shot just 6-for-27 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3. He did display the versatility of his game, averaging six assists in those two contests, but I think his lack of elite athleticism really showed, especially in the Syracuse game.

He's still a possible first-round pick, but the draft keeps getting more and more crowded.

Jaylen Brown, F, California, Fr.

Maryland ended up facing upstart Hawaii in part because the heralded freshman for the fourth-seeded Bears had a brutal four points and seven turnovers in the first round. Currently the fourth overall prospect in 2016 according to Draft Express, Brown had a chance to secure a top 5 status with an impressive performance especially since Cal played multiple top options. Instead the 6-foot-7 wing looked far more raw than polished and without a clear feel for the game. Fortunately for Brown, the draft is loaded with plenty of uncertain which his boom-or-bust candidacy won't be as scary compared to other years.

Diamond Stone, F, Maryland, Fr.

In fairness, I should create a "Flat" category for draft value, but since that didn't happen, Stone takes a hit because of another underwhelming round of games. The 6-foot-11 center made shots (9 of 15) during the tournament, when he wasn't plagued by foul trouble. Picking up too many whistles is rather common for young big men, but Stone's limited grasp of defense generally works against him. Considered a possible lottery pick before arriving in College Park, Stone dropped to 23 on Draft Express's board. Most observers believe he'll enter the draft regardless. There's lot to like about his polished offensive game, but hopefully the team drafting Stone has a D-League team in place, not to mention patience. 

Others: C Jakob Poeltl (Utah), G Melo Trimble (Maryland), G Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall)

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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

The Wizards have signed point guard Ramon Sessions for the rest of the 2017-18 season following the expiration of his second 10-day contract, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Sessions, 31, has played in five games for the Wizards this season with averages of 7.2 points and 3.4 assists. He spent 13 games with the Knicks previously this season before first signing with the Wizards on Feb. 23. He signed his second 10-day contract on March 5.

The Wizards were only permitted to sign Sessions to two consecutive 10-day contracts per league rules. They had to decided at the end of the second deal whether to sign him for the rest of the season or release him to free agency.

"His reputation is amazing and rightfully so. He showed me and the staff that he comes and does his job every day," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was more than deserving of the opportunity to stay here all year."


Sessions is eligible for their playoff roster if they do indeed make the postseason, as he was let go by New York before March 1. That was always going to be a consideration in their plans at the end of his second 10-day contract. If they were to go out and get someone else, the March 1 deadline would come back into play.

Sessions gives the Wizards depth at the point guard position along with Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier, who have collectively held down the fort with John Wall out recovering from left knee surgery. By keeping Sessions, the Wizards have another backup plan in place.

Brooks said on Friday that Wall will be placed back into the starting lineup immediately when he's ready to return. That was expected and it will have a domino effect on Sessions and the other guards once he is back. The minutes may dry up completely for Sessions, a 10-year NBA journeyman.

"You're gonna have guys that are going to have to be good teammates," Brooks said, suggesting the playing time would go away. "Sacrificing is a big part of this league."


Satoransky will be the primary backup to Wall and Sessions may be out of minutes alongside Frazier. Brooks did, however, note that Satoransky could spend time at shooting guard and small forward. That could theoretically open the door for Sessions or Frazier to get playing time.

Whether Sessions plays or not, he's happy to be in the fold. Though he often said the uncertainty of the 10-day deal didn't weight on him, he admitted on Friday that it wasn't easy to navigate.

"This was my first time doing a 10-day and those were probably the longest 20 days I've been a part of in the NBA," he said. "I'm just excited to be back here. D.C. is my home." 

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

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Bullets legend Wes Unseld excited for Phil Chenier ahead of jersey retirement

Associated Press

Bullets legend Wes Unseld excited for Phil Chenier ahead of jersey retirement

When Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey is raised to the rafters at Capital One Arena on March 23, there will be a lot of emotions for those who have followed his career. There will be a unique sense of pride for his former Bullets teammates who know how integral he was to the franchise's success in the 1970s.

Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, for one, thinks it's not only well-deserved but that it is probably overdue.

"It's about damn time, to be honest with you," he said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Julie Donaldson. "I thought it should have been up there a long time ago. This guy was instrumental in a lot of the success this organization has had over the years."


Chenier and Unseld played nine seasons together with the organization, first in Baltimore and then representing Washington, D.C. Unseld recalls Chenier, a three-time All-Star, as a gifted player on both ends of the court. Many remember Chenier for his shooting abilities and the fact he consistently averaged 20-plus points per game, but Unseld wants everyone to remember the defense as well.

"He was the total player," Unseld said. "He could get into you defensively."

Unseld first met Chenier when he had already made a name for himself and Chenier had yet to set foot on campus of the University of California. It was in San Francisco and Unseld was stopping through on his way to Japan.

They played together in a scrimmage and Chenier was just in high school. 

"They brought this little kid out on the court who looked like he was in the sixth grade. I thought, man, this little kid could play," Unseld said.


It was just four years after that when Chenier joined Unseld on the Bullets as a selection in the hardship draft. Chenier made an instant impact and earned All-Rookie honors for the 1971-72 season.

Unseld still saw Chenier as a kid playing well beyond his years.

"When he came to the team, he looked so young. I remember a few of the older guys said they had to protect this guy because he could carry us. He could give us something that we really needed. We couldn't allow him to get beat up or hurt," Unseld said.

There was one time in particular where Unseld remembers he had to look out for Chenier. They were playing against Walt Bellamy, another NBA Hall of Famer who had previously played for the Bullets. Bellamy would stick his knee out on screens and caught Chenier a few times with the trick.

Chenier was furious and told Unseld in the huddle. Unseld made sure it didn't happen again.

"I sure as hell didn't want him hurting Phil at that time. We needed him," Unseld said. "I just wanted to make sure that if Walt stuck another knee out then it was something we would have to deal with."



Unseld saw Chenier grow up as a basketball player and as a man. He is now thrilled to know that Chenier's jersey will be hanging up along with his and that Chenier will finally get this day he has so long deserved.

Chenier will have many close ones on hand for the ceremony including his kids, grandchildren and longtime friends. Unseld hopes they and all the Wizards fans out there understand how good Chenier truly was.

"It just shows them visually and it tells the rest of the Washingtonian people that they recognize that [Phil] was a pretty damn good player," he said.

Chenier's jersey retirement will take place at halftime on March 23 when the Wizards host the Denver Nuggets.

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You can listen to Wes Unseld's full interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast right here: