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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Wednesday's early withdrawal deadline threatens to alter prospect pool

2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Wednesday's early withdrawal deadline threatens to alter prospect pool

Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke's standing in this 2019 NBA Draft class is reminiscent of Shane Battier entering the league.

Clarke doesn’t come close to entering the NBA with Battier’s college credentials after playing a lone season at Gonzaga. Yet in the 2019 class, one where uncertainty reigns after the top 2-3 selections, the San Jose State transfer is one those helpful options front offices might consider rather than aiming for pure upside.

The Duke All-American’s career played out almost as expected. Never part of a so-called Big 3, Battier turned into a high-leverage role player teams would often keep on the floor during big spots. 

That type of player does not always go off the board early in drafts seeing as teams historically target franchise-altering players. In the 2001 NBA Draft, three teams took shots on far riskier high school players with greater potential before the Grizzlies selected Battier sixth. 

That eventually worked out with Tyson Chandler, but not so with Kwame Brown (gulp) and Eddy Curry. Battier ranks second in the entire 2001 class in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) behind Pau Gasol, the third overall selection.

One league source believes Clarke’s range starts at 6-7. The springy forward -- his 40-inch maximum vertical leap was the highest among the projected lottery picks -- delivered the goods for the Bulldogs. 

The junior forward finished with as many blocked shots (117) as missed field goals (68.7 field goal percentage) while averaging nearly 17 and 9 in his lone season with Gonzaga. 

Others view a top 10 projection as rather ambitious. NBC Sports Washington showed two team sources a projected pre-Combine big board with Clarke at nine, which is where the Wizards currently pick in the first round. Both stated that seemed a bit high.     

Offensively, Clarke must play around the basket. He finished his college career attempting only 24 three-pointers and shooting 61.9 percent from the free throw line over three seasons. That on-court location gets tricky on both ends of the court for a player who only weighed 207 pounds at the Combine and whose wingspan matches his height.

There are no longer pure high school players in the draft, but there are several with minimal experience that ooze upside including Cam Reddish, Bol Bol and Nassir Little. Those players come with various forms of red flags. 

Clarke, who turns 23 in September, isn’t that type of prospect, but what he offers can help lead to winning on a good team. He upped his free throw percentage to 69.4 last season and finished with a wow 39.4 PER.

“He’s a fifth starter for the next 10 years,” said one source, “which isn’t a bad thing.” 

*** 

As for the overall class, the latest Big Board expands to 60 prospects. Some of the names might change by 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday. That’s the deadline for early-entry candidates to decide whether to withdraw from the draft if they want to maintain the college basketball eligibility for next season.

Players yet to declare their intentions include Nicolas Claxton (Georgia), KZ Okpala (Stanford), Jordan Bone (Tennessee), Isaiah Roby (Nebraska), Neemias Queta (Utah State), Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky), Devon Dotson (Kansas), Quentin Grimes (Kansas), Myles Powell (Seton Hall) and Killian Tillie (Gonzaga). 

Tennessee forward and potential first-round pick Grant Williams announced he would remain in the draft. Same for Michigan’s Ignas despite no certainty he would be drafted. Brazdeikis is part of a large pool of prospects in the 45 to UDFA range along with Bassey, Dotson, Bone and Grimes.

Okpala and Claxton are the most likely to hear their names called in the first round.

The buzz leaving the Combine had Roby’s decision comes down to whether the versatile defender’s camp believes he’s a top-40 pick.

The Wizards do not have a second-round selection, but the belief is the organization is considering acquiring a pick in that range. Their Combine meetings suggested as much.

2019 NBA Draft Big Board

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International

10. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

11. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

12. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

17. Goga Bitadze, C, International 

18. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC 

19. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana 

21. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia 

22. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky 

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

25. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.

26. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

27. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

28. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

29. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia 

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

32. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee 

33. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

34. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA 

36. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

37. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova

38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA 

39. Louis King, SF, Oregon

40. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

41. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College

42. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU

43. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

44. Naz Reid, C, LSU

45. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

46. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

47. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

48. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania 

49. Neemias Queta, C, Utah State

50. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

51. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

52. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

53. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee

54. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest

55. Miye Oni, F, Yale

56. Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas

57. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan

58. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi

59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa

60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others:  Charles Matthews, SF, Michigan; Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St.; Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga; Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil

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Sashi Brown on his role, team culture and how he can sell the Wizards to free agents

Sashi Brown on his role, team culture and how he can sell the Wizards to free agents

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Wizards have bucked convention by hiring Sashi Brown as their chief operations and planning officer, as he comes from outside the basketball world. He has served as top executive but in the NFL, not in the NBA. 

Brown and Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis, though, believe there are plenty of skills that will translate. After all, there are many commonalities in running the front office of professional sports teams.

They are constructed similarly with executives, scouts, and medical staffs. And the same principles apply to contract negotiations and pitching free agents. 

Brown admits it will take some time for him to acclimate to working in a new league, but is confident his experience as a sports executive, in business and as a lawyer will help the Wizards right away.

"There is far more that will transfer than I think people would imagine," he told NBC Sports Washington. 

"When you have sat in that seat as a GM, the job is so big. These are now billion-dollar enterprises. We've got a lot of things that we want to accomplish and you really just can't have enough talent. That's what it feels like a lot of days. From technology to strategy to contract and negotiation and league initiatives, but also just operational support; things that we would like to get done day-to-day to be world-class."

What could take time is Brown's impact on basketball insight. He was known as a forward-thinking NFL executive when it came to analytics. But advanced stats and their utilization are very different in basketball.

Brown said during his introductory press conference on Monday that basketball decisions will ultimately be made by Tommy Sheppard, the team's new general manager. Brown's role will be making those decisions more comprehensive and informed by organizing and developing the team's resources. 

Between Brown and Sheppard, no one is working for the other. Their boss is Leonsis and they are expected to work in tandem.

"They can focus on the team and the players and winning titles," Brown said of Sheppard and those running the Go-Go, Mystics and District Gaming.

"We're going to be a team. Tommy talked about being a team of teams. Ted would like that as a vision from the top down."

Over time, there will surely be some pain points. Everyone has their own philosophies. There will be disagreements.

But disagreements can be productive. The Wizards feel they need new, outside voices and Brown's fresh perspective will be very valuable to resetting their direction and culture.

Brown knows what that process is like, having started from the bottom with the NFL's Cleveland Browns three years ago. He laid a foundation there as GM that has helped lead to a bright future for one of the NFL's most moribund teams.

Culture is a nebulous concept in sports. It is hard to define. The Wizards just know theirs needs an adjustment.

Brown, for one, believes good culture leads to winning and not the other way around.

"I think that if you're relying on winning to develop your culture you probably don't have a very good culture," he said. "It really has to be the driver for winning. That's what we're going to do. We've got guys that are experienced and passionate that will hold the entire organization accountable."

Brown, 43, has little basketball experience to draw from as he joins the Wizards. He played the sport as a kid growing up. His best claim-to-fame in basketball is that his grandfather coached at Kentucky State University.

"It's been in my family for years. It's in my blood," he said.

What Brown does have a firm grasp of is what professional teams need in order to win. One is a cohesive message when pitching a free agent on signing with them.

Brown will part of that process for the Wizards. He is Harvard-educated and charismatic, the type of person you would want on your side in the negotiating room. And he has a plan to make the Wizards a more attractive destination.

"I think [players] want a commitment. I think they want a chance to win championships. We've seen that in abundance over the last two or three offseasons. The league is transforming itself and continues to evolve. We want to be at the forefront of that," he said.

"Our facilities are top-notch and we'll do everything to keep them there. Our people, our doctors and our medical care for players is great. Our coaching is going to be top-notch and championship-caliber. We want to be comprehensive in terms of what we offer all of our athletes."

Brown is smart, engaging and smooth. It is easy to see why Leonsis is enamored with his potential. Now Brown just has to prove him right.

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Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

 Rui Hachimura and Zion Williamson, two of the most high-profile NBA rookies from the 2019 NBA Draft class, have joined forces on a new team, Jordan Brand. 

The New Orleans Pelicans' new star and No. 1 overall draft pick announced Tuesday afternoon that he'll be signing with Jumpman on a multi-year deal; the details of the deal have yet to be revealed. 

This decision comes about a month after Hachimura became the first Japanese-born player to sign with the brand

Both players have entered the NBA with an incredible amount of fanfare and hype surrounding their transitions to the Association. Hachimura was the star attraction for 61 media members from 21 different outlets in Japan during the NBA Summer League, while Zion's American media presence, understandably, was also substantial.

When Hachimura signed in June it was a dream come true for him and his family. Williamson shared similar sentiments when outlining why he decided to join the Jordan Brand team:

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson told Nike News. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to, and I really can’t express how happy and excited I am for this journey.”

Since their thrilling faceoff in college, when Gonzaga edged an 89-87 victory over the Blue Devils thanks to Hachimura's 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks, the two talents have experienced a similar, yet unique, tip-off to their careers.

It's said that if you look good you play good, and it seems both Hachimura and Williamson have that first part figured out.  

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