Blackhawks

Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 2:07 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WithJune's upcoming NBA Draft on the minds of fans of pro teams without ashot to make the playoffs down the stretch of the regular season,here's a look at some of the top remaining pro prospects left in theNCAA Tournament.

Harrison Barnes, 6-foot-8 freshman, North Carolina:Projected as a first-team All-American and the hands-down No. 1 pickbefore the season even started, Barnes endured early struggles, thenbounced back to show the potential--specifically, a sweet shootingstroke, good athleticism, a high overall skill level and solidunderstanding of the game--to restore him back to the draft's lottery.

Jon Diebler, 6-foot-7 senior, Ohio State:One of the most prolific shooters in NCAA history, Diebler has recentlybeen gaining steam as a pro prospect because of his near-unlimitedrange, good size for the wing, savvy game and underrated ball skills.

Jimmer Fredette, 6-foot-2 senior, BYU:There has been much debate about how Fredette, the darling of thiscollege basketball season, will fare in the NBA, but while hisdeficiencies of defense rightfully give teams some pause, hiscreativity and pure shooting stroke should enable him to be at least aninstant-offense guard in the league.

Justin Harper, 6-foot-10 junior, Richmond:A sleeper from a sleeper team, Harper's versatility, length andoutstanding shooting range for his size and position--he appearscapable of transitioning into a face-up power forward in the pros--hasNBA scouts very intrigued as of late.

John Henson, 6-foot-10 sophomore, North Carolina:Henson is far from a finished product, but the ACC defensive player ofthe year's length, shot-blocking prowess, athleticism and mostimportantly, potential somewhat mitigate concerns about how his skinnyframe will fare in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving, 6-foot-2 freshman, Duke:Thought to be the consensus top pick after his hot start to the season,a toe injury sidelined the talented point guard until the start of theNCAA Tournament and while he might not return to form before season'send, his return to health alone, combined with his previous blend ofplaymaking and scoring could return him to his throne in June.

Terrence Jones, 6-foot-8 freshman, Kentucky: Jonesstarted this season with a bang (some thought he could be the top pickin the draft), but despite the versatile forward's inconsistency, thesouthpaw's perimeter skills, rebounding ability, athleticism andoverall versatility still have him projected as a lottery pick.

Enes Kanter, 6-foot-10, Kentucky:Don't blame yourself if you're not familiar with the Turkish bigman--he hasn't suited up all year because of an NCAA suspension forbeing paid to play in Europe--but NBA scouts project him a consensustop-five pick, based on his strength, post-up game and reboundingability, which they viewed prior to this season.

Brandon Knight, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kentucky: The latest in John Calipari's point-guard tree (following Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall),

Kawhi Leonard, 6-foot-7 sophomore, San Diego State:A sleeper coming into this season, Leonard and his team are no longersecrets, especially to NBA teams, who view him as an athletic,versatile swingman with playmaking skills, rebounding prowess,defensive acumen and transition scoring ability worthy of a lotterypick.

Jon Leuer, 6-foot-10 senior, Wisconsin:After creating some buzz with a solid performance while scrimmagingagainst Team USA last summer, Leuer has built upon it with a solidsenior campaign, in which he has carved out a niche as a "stretchfour," a highly-valued role in the NBA.

David Lighty, 6-foot-5 senior, Ohio State:A jack of all trades, but master of none on offense, the fifth-yearsenior (he was a freshman on the Buckeyes' Final Four team with GregOden and Mike Conley) projects as a defensive-oriented wing in the NBA,where there should be a spot for him because of his maturity and highcharacter.

Marcus Morris, 6-foot-8 junior, Kansas:The Big 12's MVP broke out this season to become a true inside-outsideforce as a go-to scorer and rebounder and while pro scouts aren't surewhich forward position he's best suited for (there are questions abouthis speed in the wing and his athleticism inside), he has certainlysolidified himself as a first-round, if not lottery, pick.

Markieff Morris, 6-foot-9 junior, Kansas:"The big twin" (due to his one-inch height advantage and morepost-oriented game) came even further than his brother this season, ashe has developed into a dominant low-post presence, separating him fromhis brother, due to his projected NBA position, power forward, beinghis natural role.

Chandler Parsons, 6-foot-9 senior, Florida:The SEC's MVP is a big wing with finesse--range on his jumper, superbballhandling skills for his size--and underrated athleticism, but thereare persistent questions about his toughness, although his high skilllevel should earn him an opportunity, at the very least.

Mason Plumlee, 6-foot-10 sophomore, Duke:Some believe Duke's style of play inhibits the monster athlete, whileothers think he's simply not developed enough to be productiveconsistently, but regardless of which opinion is correct, hisrebounding, shot-blocking and agility have NBA scouts drooling,regardless of his current readiness for the pro game.

Thomas Robinson, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Kansas:The only non-starter on this list, Robinson's off-the-chartsathleticism, rebounding prowess and high-energy style make him asleeper among NBA personnel types, some of whom view him as theJayhawks' best NBA prospect, although his game still needs polishing onoffense.

Josh Selby, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kansas:After coming into the season as a projected lottery pick, then missingearly action because of an NCAA-mandated suspension, the athletic comboguard started his career with a bang, then dropped off to the pointwhere he fell out of Bill Self's rotation, almost ensuring he'll beback in a Jayhawks uniform next season to deliver on his potential.

Kyle Singler, 6-foot-9 senior, Duke:Some might question his decision to return to school after winning atitle last season, but while his stock took a slight dip because of aprolonged shooting slump, his polish, versatility, intangibles andwinning background make a coveted piece for NBA teams looking to add alow-maintenance young player.

Chris Singleton, 6-foot-9 junior, Florida State:One of the most versatile defenders in the country, his late-seasoninjury woes could push him back to Tallahassee, but if thesuper-athletic forward does leave school early, he has prototype lengthfor the wing in the NBA and adequate enough scoring ability to succeedas a rotation player.

Nolan Smith, 6-foot-2 senior, Duke:Throughout his career, Smith's talents were nit-picked by observers,but his improved all-around game and point-guard skills in Irving'sabsence showed he'll at least be able to function as a versatile andvaluable combo guard, particularly if he ends up sliding in the draftand getting picked by a playoff team.

Jared Sullinger, 6-foot-8 freshman, Ohio State:Although the freshman sensation is a tad undersized, not the mostexplosive player and could stand to improve his conditioning, hismassive frame, savvy beyond his years and dominance on the glass andwith his back to the basket justify his projections as a top-five pick.

Kemba Walker, 6-foot-1 junior, Connecticut:Probably a few inches shorter than his listed size, Walker's yeomanscoring efforts, shot-making ability, exciting ballhandling, nerves ofsteel and unbelievable heart have overshadowed his tough defense andplaymaking ability--prior to this season, he functioned as a pass-firstfloor general--which should allow him to be an effective NBA scoringpoint guard.

Derrick Williams, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Arizona:The Pac-10's MVP blend of solid athleticism, emerging perimeter skillsand a rugged low-post game has made believers of many, especiallycoupled with his ability to rise to the occasion in big situations,which has elevated him to a potential top-five pick.

Tyler Zeller, 7-foot junior, North Carolina:The rail-thin big man had been plagued by injuries prior to thisbreakout season, but his ability to run the floor, polished post moves,underrated toughness inside, soft touch and clutch play as of late hasopened eyes and have him pegged as an agile, high-energy, pick-and-popspecialist on the next level.

Honorable Mention:Kevin Anderson, Richmond; Jimmy Butler, Marquette; Matt Howard, Butler;Doron Lamb, Kentucky; Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut; Shelvin Mack, Butler;Vernon Macklin, Florida; Roscoe Smith, Connecticut; Jordan Taylor,Wisconsin; Patric Young, Florida.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

corey_crawford_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

All of the good graces Bill Belichick may have won on Tuesday afternoon -- when he compared the Bears' offense to Kansas City's -- are officially gone. 

Today, when talking to reporters, a Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison came up. Belichick, who coached LT as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in the 1980s, was NOT having it: 

"Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. I’m not putting anybody in (LT’s) class. Put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor."

A bit harsh, Bill. 

For what it's worth, here's Khalil Mack's 2018 projection, assuming his latest ankle injury doesn't make him miss time: 

20 sacks, four interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries

That's .5 sacks less and four INTS, 16 FFs and 4 recoveries more than LT had in his 1986 MVP season. And yeah, maybe "they didn't record tackles/fumbles in 1986" and "16 forced fumbles would not only blow the current record (10) out of the water but is just plain unrealistic" but whatever, we're just sayin'. 

UPDATE: shocker, LT agrees: