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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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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Rui Hachimura has attracted the best athletes Japan has to offer in his rookie season in the NBA. 

From Shohei Ohtani to Naomi Osaka, Hachimura has impressed both on and off the floor, including Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. He stopped by to see Hachimura's Wizards beat the Pistons Monday. 

"That's right," Darvish said to the Wizards' Japanese website. "We are going to dinner after the game so I stopped by."

Darvish and Hachimura are represented by the same agency and are two of the biggest Japanese stars in American sports. Darvish has had two down years with the Cubs in 2018 and 2019, but he's still considered one of the best pitchers to ever come out of Japan. 

Hachimura, while sidelined with a groin injury, flashed plenty of potential as a rookie for the Wizards. Before going down, he was averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 48.2 percent. 

Darvish admitted he didn't know much about basketball, not even what stats are good to use. But he only cares that Hachimura is having fun. 

Selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese born player to be drafted in the top-10. Japan has produced a number of great baseball players but hasn't been able to produce as many hoopers. 

"You don't have to be tall or big to play baseball," Darvish said. "But when it comes to basketball, you have to be tall and athletic and contribute to the team on a nightly basis. I think what he's accomplishing is more exceptional."

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Hachimura will return before the beginning of February and the team has yet to provide a timetable beyond that. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the floor soon because an entire country outside of the US is watching and can't get enough. 

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