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2019 Champions Classic: Eight NBA prospects for Warriors, Kings to watch

2019 Champions Classic: Eight NBA prospects for Warriors, Kings to watch

The NBA season just tipped off, but it's never too early to get your eyes on the next crop of young talent.

A rash of devastating injuries has left the Warriors behind the eight ball out of the gate, while a preseason trip to India disrupted the Kings' ability to get off to a fast start.

It's a long season. At 2-5, both the Dubs and Kings still have a long way to go until they start thinking about the 2020 NBA Draft.

As shown Monday night, rookies Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and two-way guard Ky Bowman have the heart and grit to try and keep the Warriors in the fight until Steph Curry (broken hand) and Draymond Green (torn finger ligament) return. The Kings are loaded with young talent but will need De'Aaron Fox to take hold of the star title he's capable of owning if they are to weather the injury to Marvin Bagley and fight for a playoff spot. 

While the Warriors and Kings fight through the early season bumps, the NBA's next stars will take the court Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in The 2019 Champions Classic.

First, No. 4 Duke takes on No. 3 Kansas. Then, No. 1 Michigan State battles No. 2 Kentucky.

All four teams are loaded with NBA talent and have multiple players that will have their name called next June, be it in the lottery or later in the first round.

The Warriors and Kings both are focused on the present season, but there's no doubt they'll have one eye on the action Tuesday, looking to see who might be donning their jersey next season.

Here are eight players to watch in The Champions Classic:

Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky, Freshman

At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds the lanky freshman is the perfect combo guard. He's an efficient scorer on all three levels, but is especially adept with his floater game. He has a lightning-quick stroke and has worked hard to improve his shooting from distance.

Expected to be drafted inside the top 10, Maxey has an array of moves he uses to finish inside 10 feet. Furthermore, he's a rabid defender who uses his 6-foot-6 wingspan to hound opponents and create turnovers. He's a smart, intuitive player who the college basketball world is going to love this season.

Maxey likely will play more off ball for coach John Calipari, but he will need to work on showcasing his vision in the halfcourt and creating for teammates in order to maximize his NBA potential. 

Matthew Hurt, Duke, Freshman

Nothing screams modern NBA like Duke's 6-foot-9 sharpshooting freshman forward.

Hurt has a silky stroke with a high release to get his shot off from anywhere on the floor. An exceptional athlete, Hurt also has the quickness and handle to beat closeouts and has a solid floater game to finish in the lane. A high-IQ player, Hurt has shown a great ability to draw the defense in and make the smart pass once the defense collapses on him.

The Duke freshman will need to get stronger and there are questions about how his body will hold up against more physical competition. Projected as a mid-first-round pick, Hurt will be able to help a team right away with his ability to facilitate and create his own shot.

Khalil Whitney, Kentucky, Freshman

Upside. Upside. Upside.

Whitney, at 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, is the prototypical high-ceiling draft prospect. An incredible open-floor player with next-level athleticism, Whitney has all the tools, both physical and skillwise, to be one of the best players of the upcoming class.

The star freshman will have to polish his game to succeed at the next level. All of his athleticism makes him dangerous on straight-line drives, but he is a bit careless and turnover prone when forced to go horizontal and into traffic.

Still, Whitney will be one of the first names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver next June.

Wendell Moore, Duke, Freshman

Another one of coach Mike Krzyzewski's prized freshmen, Moore is a high-IQ wing with good size, length and ability with the ball in his hands.

At 6-foot-5, Moore doesn't possess great athleticism which could become an issue at the NBA level. He relies on his drive a lot with his jump shot still being a work in progress. His lack of dynamic athleticism means he plays his game below the rim for the most part, but his length allows him to finish.

During what is expected to be his lone year at Duke, Moore needs to show improvement with his jump shot and ability to space the floor in order to take himself from mid-to-late first-round pick to lottery pick.

Devon Dotson, Kansas, Sophomore

Hey, someone who isn't on Duke or Kentucky! What do you know?

After declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft, Dotson elected to return to Kansas and work on his game after getting feedback from NBA scouts. A great ball-handler with above-average athleticism, Dotson was one of Kansas' best players last season as a freshman, but his overall game needs work if he's going to have staying power in the NBA. While his quickness, speed and tenacity on defense give him the profile of a player with NBA potential, his ability to create and shooting needs to improve in order to warrant being a high pick.

If Dotson shows marked improvement, he could be a late first-round pick.

Tre Jones, Duke, Sophomore

The brother of Grizzlies point guard Tyus Jones, Tre returned to Durham in order to work on the skill that will determine his staying power in the NBA: Shooting. 

Jones is a terrific initiator on offense, great at getting his teammates the ball in their preferred spot and is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. But the shooting was bad during his freshman season at Duke, with defenses eventually choosing to leave him alone in order to clog the paint around Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. 

The defense and floor-general skills make Jones a candidate to be a solid backup guard in the NBA, one worthy of a late first-round selection. If the shot comes, though, he could rise up boards.

Xavier Tillman, Junior, Michigan State

The Spartans center might find himself waiting until the second round to be drafted, but he's got enough tools to warrant a first-round pick.

An incredible shot-blocker and rebounder, Tillman can be a valuable player right away with his ability to defend and clean the glass. He's also a good finisher at the rim and has expanded his offensive game out to 10-13 feet,

Another year with Tom Izzo surely will do wonders for Tillman and could see him get drafted somewhere in the 20s.

[RELATED: Whole world paying attention to Warriors' Paschall now]

Aaron Henry, Sophomore, Michigan State

Another borderline Spartan, Henry has all the offensive tools that NBA teams will love.

Henry shot 38  percent from the 3-point line as a freshman and showed great instincts for making good decisions. His improvement on both sides of the ball will be a big focus for Izzo and the No. 1 ranked Spartans.

If Henry shows more polish on offense and is more locked in on defense, he could become a hot name in the draft.

Why Draymond Green believes Andrew Wiggins can be All-Defensive player

Why Draymond Green believes Andrew Wiggins can be All-Defensive player

SAN FRANCISCO – When Andrew Wiggins came to the Warriors two weeks ago in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, it was as if he arrived with five unwanted tattoos scripted across his 6-foot-8 frame.

Doesn’t play defense.

Doesn’t shoot the 3-ball.

Doesn’t have a passion to be great.

Doesn’t love the game.

Doesn’t, repeating for emphasis, play defense.

Draymond Green, one of Wiggins’ new teammates, is on a quest to remove those invisible tats. Green fully believes they can fade into history, thereby reshaping the reputation attached to Wiggins over five-plus seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I think he can be an All-Defensive (team) player,” Green said after practice Wednesday. “That’s one of my goals for him, as the leader of this team, one of my things that I really want to push him on. He has all the tools. He has the athleticism. He reminds me a lot of Kevin (Durant), where they’re both long and lanky, but agile and can move. Very skinny guys, but not weak. From that aspect, it reminds me a lot of Kevin.

“Kevin’s a great defender. If (Wiggins) can continue to build on that, which I think he can ... on the defensive end, he can be really, really good.”

Wiggins’ defensive stats generally rate at the bottom levels, but there is reason to believe in appreciable improvement. His 2016-17 defensive rating of 107.9 was identical to that of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who entered the league one year earlier. Wiggins has twice over the past four seasons posted better individual defensive ratings than Trevor Ariza, who still maintains a reputation as a solid, if declining, defender.

Those numbers don’t vary much from those Wiggins posts in defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus.

Such statistics, however, only hint at a player’s impact, rarely capturing the complete tale. There is plenty of video exposing Wiggins’ defensive ineffectiveness, and every one of them is with him as a part of a Timberwolves defense that annually ranked among the NBA’s worst.

Minnesota ranked no higher than 24th in defensive rating in any of the five full seasons with Wiggins on the roster. Only once over that span did the Timberwolves reach the playoffs.

“The thought wasn’t that he was a bad defender, anyway,” Green said, pointing out that the Warriors never sought to target him on that end. “He just hasn’t really been in a winning situation. And that’s when the defense gets the notoriety. He hasn’t been in that situation.”

Green also pushed back on the notion that Wiggins is low on desire, in the NBA perhaps for reasons other than love of the game.

“He wants to be great,” Green said. “He’s a guy who has been beat down a lot. Once again, people never talk about the situation guys are in. He wants to be great. He’s not demonstrative. He’s not very talkative. People would never say that or see it.

“But just talking to him, trying to get to know him and watching him work, he wants to be really good. I take that upon myself as a leader of this team, as one of the older guys on this team ... I want to help him do that any way I can.”

Not grasping, or even observing, reasons for the many critiques of Wiggins’ game, Draymond’s assessment is of a 23-year-old still building a career that has been no worse than respectable.

“That guy has averaged 20 points a game (actually 19.7) for three or four years, probably over his career,” Green said. “It’s not a f---ing bum we’re talking about. So, I’m not going to sit here and act like we found some diamond-in-the-rough that no one (knew about). He was the No. 1 pick. He’s averaged 20. He’s a player.”

[RELATED: Draymond jokes about wanting buyout from Warriors]

Green has spent the past few seasons providing guidance, offering constructive criticism while also giving his share of pep talks. Those things didn’t seem to move D’Angelo Russell, a tremendous scorer who plays to a beat only he can hear.

Wiggins is more malleable. And listening closely to Draymond’s vociferous defense of his new teammate, while also vowing full support, it’s clear that his new project is one in which he believes.

Warriors' Draymond Green jokes about wanting buyout to join playoff team

Warriors' Draymond Green jokes about wanting buyout to join playoff team

Breaking news: The Warriors are not going to the playoffs this season.

That means they have 27 games left and the offseason begins after the final horn sounds at around 9:30 p.m. PT on April 15.

So what does Draymond Green want to accomplish before the 2019-20 campaign comes to an end?

"A buyout," the three-time NBA champion told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "Go to a playoff team."

After a couple seconds, he smiled and said: "I'm just playing."

Draymond, whose four-year contract extension worth just under $100 million begins next season, has never missed the postseason since entering the league as the No. 35 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

It's going to be very strange for him to view the games from afar.

It's safe to assume that in addition to checking out the games on TV, Draymond probably will watch a lot of film on the top draft prospects as the Warriors most likely will have a top-five pick.

[RELATED: Why Kerr isn't entertaining idea of Klay playing this season]

But that's a conversation for another day. Green and his teammates have a job to do the next two months.

"Just trying to continue to get more rhythm with the guys that are here, continue to help them improve," Draymond said. "And really just work on my own game. Not often you get the opportunity to work on your game in a game setting.

"These games matter, but they don't matter. You're not playing for seeding or trying to preserve your legs for the playoffs. So you really get the chance to work on some things in game situations."

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