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Why Mark Cuban thinks elite basketball recruits are 'crazy' if they choose college over G-League

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Why Mark Cuban thinks elite basketball recruits are 'crazy' if they choose college over G-League

WASHINGTON -- Mark Cuban has "crazy" thoughts on drawing attention.

Before last week’s matchup between his Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards, the outspoken entrepreneur and NBA owner spoke with NBC Sports Washington on several topics including NBA ratings should LeBron James not participate in the playoffs, anonymity among NFL and NHL players, and why elite basketball recruits are "crazy" if they don't bypass college for the G-League. 

Cuban discussed the concept of dodging college basketball during a discussion on about another sport. 

The new Alliance of American Football league generated some decent buzz at launch. The “Shark Tank” star believes the AAF could work if the league avoids becoming the NFL's "stepchild" and instead develops players cast aside by the NFL and then sells player contracts back to the NFL in a way similar to the international basketball system.

“All that falls apart unless people show up to the games,” Cuban warns.

The topic then shifted to whether the G-League, the NBA’s minor league organization, could receive similar attention. “We will,” Cuban stated confidently. 

He then offered a rather specific and entrepreneurial reason citing Lavar Ball and a 5-foot-7 high school basketball player from central Florida Cuban follows on social media.

Julian Newman, a member of the 2020 recruiting class, became a viral video sensation starting at eight years old.

“He’s got a few 100,000 followers on Instagram, and after every one of his games, he’s selling merchandise. He’s his own little business,” said an impressed Cuban. “I don’t know if he’s good enough to make the NBA… but people recognize what the Ball’s did with Big Baller Brand and what others have done. There are building businesses and brands around themselves.”

The G-League is where Cuban sees basketball, branding and capitalism colliding.

In October the G-League, which is comprised of 28 teams including the Wizards’ Capital City Go-Go affiliate, announced it would begin offering "select contracts" worth $125,000 annually starting with the 2019-20 season to prospects not yet eligible for the NBA. Often these prospects join the college ranks for a “one-and-done” season.

Cuban sees another path for those headliners armed with a social media following.

“If you’re a strong enough brand and a good enough basketball player, you’re crazy I think if you don’t take the [$125,000 salary] in the NBA G-League (because) they can also do their own marketing deals. They’re not constrained by the NBA players association.”

Duke’s Zion Williamson, the consensus no. 1 overall prospect ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft and a YouTube sensation before stepping on campus, suffered a knee injury last month. The episode sparked a new round of debate over the restrictions of paying college athletes.

“Pick a very popular player that has a couple of million Instagram followers,” Cuban said. “You can go right to the G-League and probably sign a multi-million shoe deal. Why wouldn’t you do that instead of going to college? Because you’re going to play against better players. You don’t have the ridiculous NCAA  rules that say you can only practice X number of hours against your teammates. You can only spend so much time with your coaches. You can’t earn any extra money.”

Cuban said players joining the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ G-League team, would receive help with finding an appropriate education path should they desire. This “Snapchat generation” would also get paid. 

“They already have followings,” Cuban said. “They can sell merchandise. They can do marketing. They are already Instagram and online influencers. They can finally get paid for that. … If by chance you ‘re not good enough for the NBA, at least you don’t find yourself going from none-and-done to one-and-done to two-and-done to three-and-done to never-and-done and not making a penny. The world has changed.”

The NBA may be on the verge of changing in a rather profound way starting next month.

The playoffs have included three-time NBA champion LeBron James, 34, each year since 2006. Barring a miracle by James’ Los Angeles Lakers, that streak ends this season. Not having the sport’s biggest star likely negatively affects television ratings. 

Cuban pushed back on such thinking.

“Not that big a hit. The good news/bad news is – and this applies to every player no matter who – father time is undefeated and fans recognize that, and there are always new guys coming up that fans get interested in. That’s been the nature of the beast. People said we’d never replace Michael Jordan and it happened," Cuban said.

Even without James, several famous stars with massive q-ratings remain including Stephen Curry and 2019 MVP favorites James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

“The NBA is more of a talent driven league, and the NFL is more of a league driven league,” said Cuban. He put the National Hockey League on the NFL’s side of the aisle.

“I couldn’t name you who the best player in the NHL if it’s not Sidney Crosby. I heard someone say (Edmonton forward and two-time NHL scoring leader) Connor McDavid. I don’t know who that is or where he plays. 

“With football, if the entire Redskins’ team just happened to be in the arena here and they said (they were) football players, and you could tell by their size, I don’t know if I could name anybody anymore,” Cuban said. “What was the guy’s name, Griffith, that was the quarterback from Baylor?”

Do you mean Robert Griffin III, Mark?. 

“Yeah, RG3,” Cuban continued. “That’s the last guy I could name that played for the Redskins.”

Now that's a guy who was all in for generating attention. 

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NBA Draft 2019: Rumors, predictions, and a preview of draft night

NBA Draft 2019: Rumors, predictions, and a preview of draft night

The day we have been waiting for has finally arrived. Sixty prospects will be selected and their careers will begin.

This year’s draft has a lot more anticipation than many others in recent memory, and that can be attributed to one man who needs no introduction. Zion Williamson took the NCAA by storm. Duke last season and New Orleans is prepared to add him to their core as soon as the draft commences.

There will surely be surprises, trades, storylines, and a lot of emotion when the 2019 NBA Draft begins, and NBC Sports Washington has everything you need to know to get you ready for the big night.

2019 NBA Draft Preview

The 2019 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 20. The Wizards hold the ninth overall pick. Here's everything you need to know...

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

TV: NBC Sports Washington will have Wizards-centric draft coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on TV and the MyTeams app, the official broadcast is on ESPN

Final Mock Draft: READ

Final Big Board: READ

I Am the Prospect:

Bruno FernandoFrom Angola to the NBA Draft, Bruno Fernando is about to make NBA history. FEATURE.

Ty JeromeTy Jerome's relationship with his hard-driving father shaped him into a bona fide NBA prospect. FEATURE.

Isaiah Roby: Isaiah Roby's journey from small-town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal. FEATURE.

Nickeil Alexander-WalkerVirginia Tech's Nickeil Alexander-Walker is ready to elevate Canada's profile in the NBA. FEATURE.

DeAndre HunterNBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level. FEATURE.

Wizards Draft Prospects by Position:

Guards: The Wizards have worked out multiple prospects that will be able to assist them in the backcourt from the get-go. With John Wall sidelined for the foreseeable future, Bradley Beal can't do it all. Hopefully, some reinforcements will lighten his workload.  READ

Wings: In this era of NBA basketball, there is no such thing as too much wing depth. After adding Troy Brown Jr. in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Wizards could look to add to their arsenal. READ

Big Men: Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant are free agents. Jabari Parker may not be back in D.C. next season. The Wizards could opt for some help down low. READ

2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles:

Zion Williamson, F, Duke: The freshman sensation may be the most talked about prospect heading into the draft since LeBron James. Profile.

Ja Morant, G, Murray State:
The mid-major star broke onto the scene in his sophomore campaign, and the Memphis Grizzlies look to be sold.  Profile.

R.J. Barrett, G, Duke:
The Canadian swingman was the presumed No. 1 pick for a long stretch prior to Williamson’s arrival, and is slotted to go in the top four. Profile.

DeAndre Hunter, F, Virginia: After a strong showing in the NCAA Title Game, Hunter has a lot of buzz going in his favor. Profile.

Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt:
The biggest wild card of the 2019 Draft, Garland has been gaining a lot of traction ahead of the big night. Profile.

Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech:
An impressive 2019 season and Final Four run has propelled Culver into a lottery prospect. Profile.

Coby White, G, North Carolina:
Breaking Michael Jordan's freshman records at UNC, White is near the top of most big boards. Profile.

P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky:
Don't call him a one-and-done from Kentucky. Washington raised his stock with a second year in college. Profile.

Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga:
Hachimura was one of the best players in the NCAA last season, but evaluators see flaws in his game. Profile.

Cam Reddish, F, Duke:
Reddish took a backseat behind Williamson and Barrett at Duke, how much will it cost him? Profile.

Jaxon Hayes, F, Texas: 
He's considered the best center of this draft class. Profile.

Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland:
You're not going to find a better rebounder in the draft than Fernando. Profile.

Bol Bol, C, Oregon:
The Oregon star dazzled when he was on the court, but that wasn’t often. Profile.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech:
The Hokies’ star is ready to contribute from the get-go. Profile.

Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky:
One of the many Wildcats projected to go in the first round, Johnson has a very high upside. Profile.

Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga:
The tip transfer last season in Spokane, Clarke provides a lot to like as a prospect.  Profile.

KZ Okpala, F, Stanford:
The Cardinal looks to be one of the more NBA-ready prospects in this class. Profile.

Romeo Langford, G, Indiana:
The Hoosiers missed the tournament in March, and Langford’s draft stock may have taken a hit as a result. Profile.

Sekou Doumbouya, F, France: 
The French forward has a lot of suitors and will surely be one of the first international players off the board. Profile.

Kevin Porter Jr., G, Southern California:
A major wild card, Porter showed flashes at USC of a bona fide star, but couldn’t stay on the floorProfile.

Grant Williams, F, Tennessee:
After a solid career in Knoxville, Williams will look to elevate his game at the biggest level. Profile.

Wizards Pre-Draft Workouts:

There were not many players expected to go around the ninth pick that worked out for the Wizards. However, there are several prospects expected to go in the later rounds, or perhaps would not be drafted at all.

-Coby White, G, North Carolina
-Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
-Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
-Brandon Better, G, Southern Utah
-Joe Cremo, G, Villanova
-Jon Davis, G, Charlotte
-Malik Dunbar, F, Auburn
-Paul Eboua, F, Africa
-Kaleb Johnson, F, Georgetown
-Aubrey Dawkins, G/F, UCF
-Jordan Caroline, F, Nevada
-Justin Robinson, G, Virginia Tech
-Kavell Bigby-Williams, F, LSU
-Elijah Thomas, F, Clemson
-William McDowell-White, G, Australia
-Bryce Brown, G, Auburn
-Jessie Govan, C, Georgetown
-Frank Howard, G, Syracuse
-Anthony Lee, G, Kutztown 
Myles Stephens, G, Princeton
-Harry Froling, C, Australia
-Shizz Alston, G, Temple
-Shannon Bogues, G, Stephen F. Austin
-Jamall Gregory, G, Jacksonville State
-Trey Mourning, F, Georgetown
-Ed Polite Jr., F, Radford
-Trey Porter, Forward, Nevada
-Corey Davis, G, Houston
-Jaylen Hands, G, UCLA
-Lyle Hexom, F, Peru State
-Jonathan Kasibabu, C, Fairfield
-V.J. King, F, Louisville

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NBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level

NBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level

When asked if his family had a motto, De'Andre Hunter summed it up in two words: "Family first."

"We have a great bond, we're really close and we all get along. I feel like that really helped me in the long run," the 2019 NBA Draft prospect told NBC Sports Washington for its miniseries I Am The Prospect. "We know we have each other's back, we always put each other before anyone else."

The Hunter family has always had De'Andre's back, supporting him from the days during his childhood when he'd wake them up early in the morning to play basketball, to the night he helped Virginia win its first NCAA title.

Things weren't always easy in the Hunter household. De'Andre's father, Aaron Hunter Sr., died when De'Andre was 7, forcing the entire family, especially his mother Priscilla, to take on more responsibility and bond together. 

"My mom is the rock of the family. She does anything for every single one of us. No matter where she is or what she's doing, she's willing to help us in any kind of way," Hunter said. "And as far as my brother and sisters, they're the same way. They're really caring, and we ... really look after each other. 

"In a family that's what you need, and we just always support each other, no matter what the circumstance is."

And as he grew up, De'Andre's older brother Aaron Jr. took on a more paternal role. 

"Once my father passed away, he really stepped up," De'Andre said of Aaron. "He really taught me a lot of things that he went through. I didn't see him grow up, but I saw him become, I feel like, a man in some sense. Because he had to take care of our family in a certain way.

"He cares for me a lot, so I thank him a lot for everything he's taught me."

In fact, it was Aaron who De'Andre called upon when he got the disappointing news he would be redshirted his first year at UVA and thus ineligible to play that season.  

"The decision to redshirt really hurt," Hunter said. "I didn't see it coming, but when coach (Tony Bennett) told me, I just took it."

"I told my brother, I probably complained to him a little bit but he just told me to use it in a beneficial way and don’t look at it in a negative way. I tried to do that, and I feel like in the long run it definitely helped me.

Over those next two seasons in Charlottesville, Hunter became a bonafide college star. He won the ACC's Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2017-18 season then earned the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2018-19, not to mention leading the Cavaliers to a national championship, scoring a team-high 27 points in the title game against Texas Tech.

Hunter recalled how special it was having his family in the arena that night to celebrate with him. 

"It meant a lot for them to come all the way out to Minnesota to watch me play," he said. "They took off from work, took off from things they probably had to do, just to come see me play. That means a lot to me because they really don't have to do that. But they were there for me." 

Now, Hunter is preparing to take the next step into the NBA ranks. And when his name's called Thursday night at the draft, his family will be there cheering -- and probably crying -- for him. 

"Draft night's gonna be really emotional. I don't know if I'm gonna cry or not, but I know a few members of my family will be crying, so that'll probably get to me a little bit," Hunter said with a smile. "It's gonna be a great moment for not only me but for my family as well."

"My mom's for sure gonna cry. My sisters might even cry, but I feel like Aaron might let a few tears out."