Basketball needs a new villain

The curtain has come down on what proved to be an NBA season chock full of storylines. Kawhi Leonard delivered Toronto its first title, LeBron James missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, and Golden State missed out on the first 3-peat since a guy named Jordan did it in the 90s. Yet, as the dust settles, one key role has been left shockingly unfilled in the world of basketball. For the first time in quite a while, basketball does not have a villain.

Kobe Bryant
The Black Mamba won 5 titles spanning the course of 11 years. (Flikr)

This role, most recently portrayed by Kevin Durant, is one common to basketball for decades. Sometimes, it even manifested into teams. The “Bad Boys” were the clear villain in the NBA during the late 80s, led by Bill Laimbeer. The mantle was passed to Christian Laetner in the early 90s. The late 90s were owned by that Kobe kid. He likely held that title for quite a while, even giving his persona a name which struck fear into the heart of his opponents. Although JJ Reddick really challenged him for the crown during the mid 2000’s.

In 2010, LeBron James announced he would be taking up the role until further notice when he created the first modern era super team. When he stepped down, as his character arc brought him back to hero status, Grayson Allen stepped up to bring back the Duke hate. That led us into Durant’s reign when he signed with Golden State.

The King became the league’s best villain ever with his move to South Beach. (Wikimedia Commons)

There is no doubt though that Durant is done with the role, after attempting to play through injury in the finals before rupturing his Achillies, as the Warriors ultimately succumbed to injuries and the might of Kawhi Leonard. That kind of grit and determination won over a lot of the haters. Golden State already seemed to be losing steam as the league’s big bad. With Durant set to miss most or all of next season, Grayson Allen wasting away in Utah and LeBron looking like a business mogul in L.A., it is safe to say basketball will be holding auditions to replace him as its antagonist.

It is hard to know where to look for the next villain of basketball. The men’s college game didn’t produce any worthy candidates. It’s best player was one of the nicest people on the planet. The women’s college game didn’t even come close to manufacturing a leading lady, as Sabrina Ionescu (basically) felled every triple-double record ever known. The closest thing the WNBA might have is Brittney Griner, but she doesn’t seem to command the same level of animosity she did in college.

The NBA seems like the best bet to unearth the next great basketball antihero. With free agency looming and the Lakers acquisition of Anthony Davis, could Los Angeles once again become the home of the sport’s evil empire? This is Hollywood after all. They produce great villains all the time.

LeBron’s Lakers feel like the only remaining hope for a true villain right now in basketball. There is the potential college basketball will suddenly find a worthy contender, but no one seems ideally placed to take on the role. In the NBA, none of the current superstars feel all that hateable. Leonard is way too soft spoken. Giannis Antetokounmpo feels way too lovable. The closest thing the Association currently has to a new villain is Drake. In order for him to truly vault into that position, the Raptors would need to be a consistent contender. That is far from guaranteed. It also feels pretty lame if the villain is not even a player.

I just feel lost right now in terms of who to hate. After so many years of great villains, I can’t buy into hating the Lakers yet. I now feel bad for Durant and the Warriors. I dislike James Harden, but that hardly elevates him to villain status. Basketball just looks like a villain-less wasteland.

No, basketball must truly return to the drawing board and craft up a new character to lord over the sport, inspiring hate in all of our social media diatribes. The NBA capped its incredible storytelling with a masterstroke of having the unsuspecting Raptors vanquish the mighty Warriors, but it came at the cost of its best villain in years.

Uncertainty at the top of men’s college basketball

We are in the thick of the NFL playoffs, but it is time to take a short break from football and focus on the odd phenomenon occurring right now in the world of men’s college basketball.

NCAA_logoThis is the eleventh time this season that college basketball has seen a set of top 25 rankings. For the fifth time already this year, there is a new team atop those rankings, this time in the form of Oklahoma.

However, the Sooners just took a major loss to Iowa State on the road and it is likely that we will see Oklahoma drop from the top spot. Looking at how the schedule is shaking out right now, North Carolina will likely vault back into the top spot. That would represent the sixth change at the top of the poll in just the first 12 weeks.

Talk about a lack of continuity. Six changes through 12 weeks is the most we have seen since 1994, when we had seven changes in those first dozen weeks. North Carolina would be returning to the top spot, but it would be for the first time since the second poll of the season.

After last season when Kentucky went wire to wire as the number one team, this switch to parity seems kind of odd.

In addition to the top 25 failing to find a consistent king, the power five conferences have some unfamiliar faces at the top. The ACC seems pretty uniform with North Carolina perched at the top, with an unblemished conference record. Everywhere else, we are seeing the preseason favorites failing to live up to the hype.

In the Big 12, Kansas, who has dominated this conference for the majority of the last decade, sits behind Baylor. It might only be a one game lead, but Baylor jumping out to this spot about halfway through conference play is surprising.

Looking over at the Big 10, Michigan State has a losing record in conference play. Ohio State isn’t at the top either. Indiana leads the conference with a perfect record so far. Right behind them is Iowa. Odds are this one will shake out as we expected with a modern power back at the top, as Iowa and Indiana match up twice before the end of the season. Indiana also has games at the Big House, East Lansing and in College Park. Iowa still has some tough games on the slate too.

The PAC 12 is all over the place. It’s not Arizona, Stanford or UCLA at the top of the conference, but Washington. Washington, who hasn’t won the PAC 12 regular season title since 2011. Only half a game behind Washington is USC, who hasn’t won a regular season conference championship since 1985. Arizona and UCLA, who have won the last three regular season conference titles, file in at third and seventh respectively. Far from out of the picture, but there is definitely a changing of the guard going on here.

However, the conference with the most confusion has to be the SEC. The conference has been dominated by Kentucky, even during down season’s for the Wildcats. If Kentucky did not win, then it was Florida who stole the regular season title. The last time a team that was the Wildcats or the Gators won the SEC regular season crown was 2009, when LSU captured the top spot. This season, the conference is being dominated by Texas A&M and South Carolina. Both schools find themselves in the top 25 and A&M has a nice spot in the top 10.

In an era of one and dones, we should have always expected for the traditional power to break and for others to rise. Yet, somehow we didn’t. We all expected Kentucky to continue its run at the top. Many figured Virginia would be a national power, following their back-to-back ACC titles. Instead, the Cavaliers have lost four games to unranked opponents. Gonzaga also figured to be a consistent top 25 team, but close losses have knocked them from the rankings altogether.

This should not be anything shocking. It is just a friendly reminder why we should all love college basketball. It is also the first signs that college hoops might finally have some parity. The constant rotation of number one teams and the new faces atop the conference indicate that there is some room for turnover. SMU is the only top 25 team who still has a zero in the loss column. Like I said, for some, this is just a reminder. For others, it is an assurance that college basketball is trending in the right direction and should always command your attention.

Oh and this definitely bodes well for March.

NBA Draft Rapid Reactions

The draft is barely in the books but it is time to react to all that happened tonight. There were plenty of winners and losers and even more head scratching selections. The implications going forward are huge as well. Let’s get started.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Selections: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky, Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Towns will be a superstar and compares well to another Timberwolf in Kevin Garnett. He, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine give the Wolves an exciting young core to build around. The Jones selection is a little troubling. He is unproven and Minnesota has a number of young guards.

Los Angeles Lakers
Selections: DeAngelo Russell, PG, Ohio State, Larry Nantes Jr., PF, Wyoming, Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford
The Lakers made the right choice in selecting Russell. He and Julius Randall certainly give the Lakers some hope for the future. Nantes and Brown infuse some youth and some potential into a team that desperately needs it.

Philadelphia 76ers
Selections: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke, Richaun Holmes, PF, Bowling Green, Arturuas Gudaitas, C, Lithuania, J.P. Tokoto, SG, UNC, Luka Mitrovic, PF, Serbia
Philly had the most picks in the draft and still came away with more. Okafor will be a great player and his presence makes either Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel expendable. If one of the second rounders can develop then this will be a success for the 76ers rebuilding project.

New York Knicks
Selection: Kristaps Portzingis, PF, Latvia, Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame, Willy Hernangómez, C, Spain
Knicks fans aren’t happy with Portzingis being selected at four and it might have been a bit of a reach. However, if they are patient he could be a steal. I love that they landed Grant though as he should be a playmaker on a team that lacks one.

Orlando Magic
Selections: Mario Herzonja, SG, Croatia, Tyler Harvey, SG, Eastern Washington
All signs say that Herzonja is a lights out shooter and with his size he could be a small forward. That might lessen the blow of Tobias Harris potentially leaving. Harvey needs some time but the Magic have to be happy with their draft.

Sacramento Kings
Selection: Willie Caulie-Stein, C, Kentucky
When your star player demands you take a certain prospect, you usually do it. DeMarcus Cousins and Caulie-Stein will be quite the frontcourt duo in Sacramento. Shame he is the only rookie they got.

Denver Nuggets
Selections: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China, Nikola Radicevic, PG, Serbia
Apparently the Nuggets felt they needed a point guard. Mudiay is a huge question mark but oozes upside. Ty Lawson is likely on his way out though with Radicevic being selected as well.

Detroit Pistons
Selections: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona, Darrun Hillard, SG, Villanova
Johnson may very well be great someday but with Justise Winslow still on the board I don’t fully understand this one. Darrun Hillard offers some playmaking ability but nothing eye-popping. Decent hall for Detroit but could have been better.

Charlotte Hornets
Selection: Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Only one pick means that Charlotte failed to do more. Kaminsky is a talented player though and should contribute immediately. Won’t make Charlotte a contender overnight but definitely a step in the right direction.

Miami Heat
Selections: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke, Josh Richardson, SG, Tennessee
Winslow at 10 might end up being a huge steal for the Heat. Richardson won’t contribute right away but he could be a key bench player in a year or two. Good draft for Miami. If only they could find a way to pay all their free agents now…

Indiana Pacers
Selections: Myles Turner, C, Texas, Joseph Young, SG, Oregon
The selection of Turner means that Roy Hibbert is moving. Plain and simple. The team has already begun shopping him. Young is a bit undersized for a shooting guard but he could still turn in a solid player to spell a starter down the line.

Utah Jazz
Selections: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky, Olivier Hanlan, PG, Boston College
Lyles is without a doubt a talented player. He is very raw all the way around but he has a lot of potential. Pairing him with Rudy Gobert will be a lot of fun to watch. Hanlan is a good pick too and could be a future starter for the Jazz.

Phoenix Suns
Selection: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky,
Only one pick but they made it count. Phoenix didn’t make themselves a contender in the draft but they took a valuable piece who should be a starter soon. His shooting alone with get him on the court this year.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Selections: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State, Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
Drafting a pro ready point guard to spell Russell Westbrook means the Thunder are realizing how small their championship window is at the moment. Selecting Johnson helps them prolong that potential window a little longer too.

Atlanta Hawks
Selections: Marcus Erikkson, SF, Spain, Dimitrios Agravanis, PF, Greece
Two second rounders don’t exactly scream championship builders. Neither does Tim Hardaway. No idea what the Hawks were thinking, especially when they had a talent like Kelly Oubre fall into their lap.

Boston Celtics
Selections: Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville, R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State, Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU, Marcus Thornton, SG, William & Mary
Rozier is good but a bit of a head scratcher with Jerian Grant still on the board. Mickey and Hunter are very solid picks though and should immediate contribute to this young Celtics team.

Milwaukee Bucks
Selection: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
He is a steal. Vaughn is a talented scorer coming from a good program. He will be a solid bench piece right away and help a woefully bad Bucks team on offense. Griveis Vasquez isn’t a bad add either, but it came at too steep a price.

Houston Rockets
Selections: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin, Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Passing on Jerian Grant seems a little foolish but Dekker is a top talent. He showed he could do it all this year at Wisconsin. Harrell will be a good bench asset right away. If the Rockets find a point guard in free agency, they could very easily find themselves in the finals next year.

Washington Wizards
Selections: Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas, Aaron White, PF, Iowa
Landing Oubre for jump change was ingenious. He is in a spot too where he can develop for a year as well coming off the bench. Aaron White provides some depth, about what you would expect from a second round pick.

Toronto Raptors
Selections: Delon Wright, PG, Utah, Norman Powell, SG, UCLA
Wright landed in a good spot and now the Raptors have a contingency plan when Louis Williams or Kyle Lowry becomes too expensive. Powell won’t see much action to start but could be in the mix next season.

Dallas Mavericks
Selections: Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia, Satnam Singh, C, India
Anderson could one day be an All-Star if he reaches his full potential. Rick Carlisle will probably get it out of him too. Singh is another big body who can eventually rotate in and disrupt the paint when Tyson Chandler needs a breather.

Chicago Bulls
Selection: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas,
The frontcourt is looking very crowded at the moment and with it likely that either Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler will be gone next year getting a guard might have been good. However, Portis is a steal at 22 and will give the Bulls some depth, or a bargaining chip.

Portland Trailblazers
Selections: Pat Connaughton, SG, Notre Dame, Daniel Diez, SF, Spain
Add in Mason Plumlee as well. With LaMarcus Aldridge set to leave and Nicolaus Batum already gone this team is thinking youth movement. Portland certainly accomplished that.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Selections: Cedi Osman, SF, Macedonia, Rakeem Christmas, PF, Syracuse, Sir’Dominic Pointer, SF, St. John’s
Cleveland landed too high floor, low ceiling prospects in Christmas and Pointer as well as one for the future in Osman. This team is trying to win a title. They made some really good strides toward doing that.

Memphis Grizzlies
Selections: Jarell Martin, PF, LSU, Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky
Athleticism with lots of potential was the trend for Memphis. These two picks were definitely risky but they could pay off in the end. No short term help for the Griz though.

San Antonio Spurs
Selections: Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia, Cady Lalanne, PF, UMass
Of course the Spurs took an international player that most of us had never heard of. I can’t fault them though cause that usually works out pretty well for them. Lalanne could be a role player as well as the Spurs make one last push for a title with their current core.

New Orleans Pelicans
Selection: Branden Dawson, SF, Michigan State
About all you can hope for when you are picking on in the second round. Dawson has some upside and had flashes of brilliance this season for Michigan State. It is doubtful but he could end up like another former Michigan State second-rounder (Draymond Green).

Los Angeles Clippers
Selections: None
Not much to say other than they better have a plan. The Clippers really could have used some new blood so this really hurts.

Brooklyn Nets
Selections: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona, Chris McCollough, PF, Syracuse, Juan Vaulet, SF, Argentina
Giving up Plumlee is no fun but Hollis-Jefferson could be a star one day. McCollough has a ton of potential as well as a highly recruited prospect before he tore his ACL. Vaulet is a prospect for down the road. Good draft for Brooklyn.

Golden State Warriors
Selection: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Looney fits Golden State’s idea of small ball as a stretch 4. With all of Looney’s potential as well, this could be a great pick for the defending champs when we look back in about three years.

NBA Mock Draft

by Matt Luppino

The NBA Draft goes live tonight at 7 pm. Here are my predictions for how the first round goes:

  1. Minnesota Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C, Kentucky

Best player with most upside and fewest flaws.  A sure pick for the Wolves.

  1. L.A. Lakers Jahlil Okafor, F/C, Duke

The Lakers need a big guy more than they need another guard.  Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, and Nick Young are all still there, so grab the polished Okafor and have at it on offense.

  1. Philadelphia Mario Hezonja, G/F, Croatia

A classic “why the $*&%?” moment out of Sam Hinkie, but there is a method to the madness here.  Apparently, he can shoot the lights out, which will help a hapless offense in Philly.

  1. New York D’Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State

Finally, someone on the Knicks that can shoot!  Russell can run the offense and put up points too, perfectly fitting into Phil Jackon’s arsenal.

  1. Orlando Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Latvia

If he’s here at 5, Orlando is ecstatic.  7’1” with a jump shot.

  1. Sacramento Emmanuel Mudiay, G, China

Kings need a guard to feed Cousins and hopefully make him happy enough to stay in Northern California.

  1. Denver Justise Winslow, F, Duke

Winslow is a strong defender and an athletic slasher, but he shot over 40% from 3 as well at Duke.  With those numbers, he could be a beast.

  1. Detroit Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky

So what if Greg Monroe leaves in free agency?  Cauley-Stein will be cheap and probably better by the end of the day.

  1. Charlotte Devon Booker, G, Kentucky

Another great shooter, he can step in alongside Kemba Walker to take the spot of the since-traded Lance Stephenson.

  1. Miami Stanley Johnson, F, Arizona

Johnson is another athlete, who can bring some life to the Heat, who are still reeling from the loss of LeBron James, and maybe now Dwayne Wade too.

  1. Indiana Cameron Payne, G, Murray State

Paul George is healthy, and the front court in Indiana is still pretty strong.  A point guard will put it all together for them.

  1. Utah Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconson

Utah became a defensive stronghold last season, but lacked scoring.  Frank the Tank will not only slot right into the defense, but the big guy can shoot with the best of them.

  1. Phoenix Trey Lyles, F/C, Kentucky

He, like Okafor, is a skilled offensive big man, who could slot in alongside the big, lumbering Alex Len.

  1. Oklahoma City Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia

The Thunder are only here because of injuries.  But in Anderson, they get a good outside shooter and a great perimeter defender – the last piece they might need to finally win a title.

  1. Atlanta Myles Turner, F/C, Texas

Fits in alongside the punishing defender in Al Horford and the skilled shooter in Paul Millsap.  Can fill in for either one off of the bench.

  1. Boston Sam Dekker, F, Wisconson

A good shooter and an above average defender, he boosts the Celtics immediately.

  1. PHILADELPHIA (Tony Wroten, 2 2nd rounders (35 and 37)) Tyus Jones, G, Duke

THAT’S WHAT HINKIE IS DOING WITH ALL THOSE PICKS!!!  In a shocker, and Milwaukee not seeing many players they need here, they take the back up point guard and more picks in a solid group of second round talent.  Meanwhile, the Sixers get the point guard they desperately need.

  1. Houston Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas

Portis is a big bruiser who went toe-to-toe with Kentucky a few times.  The dude can play.

  1. Washington Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona

With Paul Pierce and Trevor Ariza not getting any younger, a fresh infusion of defensive prowess and energy is a great fit here late in the first round.

  1. Toronto Kelly Oubre, F, Kansas

Oubre has a ton of potential, who will have the time to develop with the young, talented nucleus above the border.

  1. Dallas Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame

Arguably one of the best scorers in the draft, Grant can play alongside either Rajon Rondo as the scorer, or Monta Ellis as the facilitator.

  1. Chicago Terry Rozier, G, Louisville

When Derrick Rose is off the court, the Bulls take a serious step back.  Here, they get their much needed asset at the point.

  1. Portland Montrell Harrell, F/C, Louisville

Now that Lamarcus Aldridge plans on leaving Portland, Harrell, skilled at both ends and the centerpiece behind another strong Louisville team, can begin his role as the successor.

  1. Cleveland Delon Wright, G, Utah

With how frail Kyrie Irving is and how inefficient the Cavs were without a true point guard this postseason, a ball handler has to be at the top of the list for them.

  1. Memphis Anthony Brown, G, Stanford

A 3 and D player, Brown fits in perfectly with the tough defense in Memphis, and Mike Conley will get him the ball.

  1. San Antonio Pat Connaughton, G/F, Notre Dame

Another great shooter and a really high energy guy on defense.  He is an excellent role player for Gregg Popovich.

  1. L.A. Lakers RJ Hunter, G, Georgia St.

Not just the star of the Cinderella Bulldogs, Hunter is a skilled scorer and ball handler, capable of stepping up for the now ancient Kobe.

  1. Boston Kevon Looney, F, UCLA

He might be really, really good at the stretch 4, so the Celtics can take that risk with Jared Sullinger proven in front of him.

  1. Brooklyn Michael Frazier, G, Florida

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are getting up there in age, so this begins the new wave of Brooklyn talent.

  1. Golden State Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia
    Scouting report: “Potential pick-and-roll monster that can protect the rim.”  Sounds like the champs to you?  He will be a bigger Draymond Green, alongside Draymond Green.

Value picks in the NBA draft

The NBA Draft is still a few weeks away but the fanfare for the draft got underway today with the pre-draft combine. Some major storylines turned some heads, specifically Pat Connaughton’s 44” vertical jump. The draft always features guys projected to be locks at the next level. There will be others that don’t have the same promise of greatness in the pros but could turn out to be a steal if they reach their full potential. Here are the best potential sleepers or value picks in the this year’s draft.

Robert Upshaw, Junior
Center, University of Washington
Robert Upshaw is massive. He had the biggest hands at the draft combine by far and his 7’5.5” wingspan is intimidating. He stands at 6’10” and weighed in at 258 pounds. Upshaw has the build to be an impact player in the paint for a team that selects him. He played a year of college ball at Fresno State before transferring to the University of Washington. In his 19 games as a Husky, Upshaw averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots. He also shot an impressive 59.3 percent from the floor. Upshaw is obviously much better on the defensive end but he has the physical tools to develop into a good player.

The things that will hold him back are his free throw percentage (43.4) and his off the court issues. Upshaw has been suspended on multiple occasions and was dismissed from both of the programs he was in. Recent reports have indicated that Upshaw spent time in a treatment program and matured a lot but the red flags are still there. Those alone could push Upshaw to the second round. However, with all of the talent he possess, someone will take a chance on him and if has in fact matured, he could develop into a terrifying defensive anchor. His size and shot blocking ability would already make him an instant impact on defense. In the end, Upshaw could be a very good big man.

Ryan Boatright, Senior
Point Guard, University of Connecticut
In recent years, UConn guards have done pretty well at translating to the NBA. Kemba Walker went on a title run and then jumped to the Association. Shabazz Napier led the Huskies to another championship before making his move to the pros. Neither has been transcendent by any means but both are solid players playing starting caliber basketball. That is likely what Ryan Boatright will bring to the table as well. He is going to best serve as a sixth man in the NBA due to his size (5’11”, 175 pounds).

However, he is a quick, sharp shooter. He shot 41 percent from behind the arc last season and averaged 17 points per game. He was an average facilitator at the college level, tallying about four per game to go along with four rebounds. He is an effort player who will make his fair share of plays. He will never really be a starter in the league without some major development but he can be a very useful bench player. Boatright reminds me a lot of Isaiah Thomas with the Boston Celtics. His energy coming off the bench and shooting ability makes him an asset to his team. Boatright will likely go in the second round but with his overall talent, he could turn in a long career as a sixth man when all is said and done.

Vince Hunter, Sophomore
Power Forward, UTEP
Vince Hunter went to a smaller school but today he showed he can compete with the big boys too. In his combine scrimmage, Hunter accounted for 18 points, 12 rebounds and 3 steals. What is the most impressive thing there is that nine of those boards were on the offensive end. Hunter got his team a lot of second chance points. He also shot 50 percent from the floor, which was actually below his college average. Hunter averaged around 15 points and 9 rebounds a night in college. He is a solid player in the paint and excels at cleaning up after his teammates miss.

There are some obvious concerns with Hunter though. He fouled out of the game today, being the only player in either scrimmage to do so. He also is a 61 percent career free throw shooter. Neither of those things are killers but they are certainly knocks on his game. What concerns me a little more is that Hunter had four of his shots blocked in today’s scrimmage. It might only be one game so we cannot read too much into it but that definitely seems like he was pressing a bit and forcing shots. Hunter is young though at only 20 years old and can develop at the next level. He has good size and decent length. I will be paying close attention to how he tests throughout the rest of the combine to see what I can read about his gameplay.

Rakeem Christmas, Senior
Power Forward, Syracuse University
Syracuse dipped a bit this year in terms of overall play but the man who powered that team showed up to play more often than not. Rakeem Christmas played extremely well this season averaging 17.5 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 55.2 percent shooting. He also shot well from the free throw line at 71.2 percent. Christmas showed up into today’s combine scrimmage, dropping 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting to go with 6 boards. He already has a very polished post game and has plays great defense on the block. If Rak could add a viable jump shot to his arsenal, he could be a dangerous player.

Christmas played center in college but not even reaching 6’10” with shoes on, meaning he would likely fit better as a power forward in the NBA. He has already dropped his weight from 250 to 242 making the move even more logical. He is grinder who can go to work and spend the whole night wearing down his opponents. He does not possess outstanding athleticism or great dribbling abilities. He is also a candidate to end up in foul trouble on a night-to-night basis. However, Christmas is a scrappy player who will fight for rebounds and force opponents into tough shots. He won’t dazzle you, but Christmas could become a very accountable big man in the NBA.