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Forced To Learn On The Job, Solomon Hill Showing Promise

By the middle of November, Solomon Hill will have already played more minutes this season than he did in his rookie year. Not needed with Lance Stephenson, Paul George and George Hill on the perimeter, Hill appeared in 28 games and played just 8.1 minutes per game in 2013-14.

That’s what you’d expect from a late first-round pick on a championship contender, but things changed very quickly this offseason.

Just a few weeks after the Indiana Pacers lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals (for the second-straight season), the 23-year-old’s role with the club began to grow. Stephenson left for the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent, making Hill at the very least a rotation player under Frank Vogel.

The Pacers signed C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey to help fill the void left behind by Stephenson, which put Hill in position to blossom in due time, but everything changed when George’s right leg collided with that basket stanchion in Las Vegas. Suddenly, Vogel needed Hill to show his game was ready much sooner originally expected.

“They just told me that they believed in my ability to play the game and that I should continue to play the game the way I’m supposed to play it,” Hill told RealGM when asked about conversations he had with Vogel and the front office heading into the season.

“We knew there could possibly be an opportunity, but we didn’t know it would be like this with Paul [George] out. As a guy that just loves to play the game, I’m trying to step up and make the most of it.”

Hill has started each of Indiana’s first six games. His minutes, shot attempts, rebounds, assists, steals and turnovers have all at least tripled (in some cases quadrupled). There isn’t a huge sample size to study from either this season or last, but Hill’s shooting percentages look good early on.

Despite a significant increase in touches, Hill has seen his field goal (.425 to .455), three-point (.304 to .400) and True Shooting percentages (.545 to .579) all increase.

“He’s being asked to do more than he probably should be asked to do, but he is a confident young man,” Vogel said. “He’s a mature young man and he’s rising to the challenge and enjoying every bit of the opportunity.”

As the Pacers worried about Miami and the top seed in the East, Hill looked for ways to get some playing time in his first professional season. He agreed to a brief stint with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League, but returned after a mixed two-game stint. He averaged 17 points, 3.5 rebounds and three assists in nearly 30 minutes per game, but was unhappy with how minutes were given out.

Hill looks back on the experience much more fondly now that he’s had time to digest it all.

“Confidence. That was the main thing,” he said of the benefits of a D-League assignment. “Just the confidence to go out there and score, being able to see the ball go in the hoop as opposed to just watching from the bench. It helped me know that I could still do it, so that was definitely a good experience for me.”

Seeing the ball go in the basket hasn’t been an issue for Hill so far. He failed to score in 15 of the 28 games he played as a rookie and entered this season having never reached double-digits. He has scored 10 or more points four times already and set a career-high with 14 in an overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

 “[He] is continuing to grow every single game he’s out there. He’s showing more confidence and more ability on both ends of the court,” Vogel said of the second-year wing. “He’s got a chance -- like we believe -- to be one of our best two-way players.”

The Pacers pride themselves on defense, which has made that end of the floor a high priority as Hill develops. Vogel has had to rely on questionable defensive players like Chris Copeland more this month because of a mounting injury report, but Hill’s ability to defend on the perimeter has been his most consistent NBA trait. He even spent time guarding John Wall in the Washington game. As Vogel hinted, Hill is being asked to become a complete player much sooner than the organization planned.

“I don’t think I’m really confident more on one side of the ball than the other. I think one or the other gets me going,” Hill said.

“The ability to use offense and defense to get you going as a player is great because you aren’t relying on one thing. You aren’t just relying on a shot falling, on scoring. You can go get a stop and change a game that way. I feel like that allows me to play more minutes because one side of the ball can feed into the other.”

The one thing you can’t teach or practice is experience, something Hill pointed to as Indiana’s biggest issue as they look to endure a 1-5 start.

“I think collectively, as a group, we’re making up for what we’ve lost, but the one thing that we can’t reproduce are those veteran NBA guys that have been in the trenches of games,” Hill admitted. “I think we’re learning how to try to do that. We’re doing better every game.”

Less will be asked of Hill when C.J. Watson (foot), David West (ankle) and George Hill, (knee) eventually return, but there will still be minutes available and Solomon Hill will be ready for them.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Pacific-12

My numeric projections will be available near the start of the season, but today I want to write a few words about each Pac-12 team’s outlook.

Earlier Previews: ACC Preview, MWC Preview, SEC Preview, WCC Preview, A10 Preview, Big East Preview, American Preview

Pac-12 Favorite

Arizona: Given the importance of the recruiting rankings in my player projections, it was not a huge surprise that Kentucky was the #1 team in my team projections in April. But I want to be clear that Kentucky was not the overwhelming favorite. In terms of probabilities, I project that three teams have a 25-30% chance of finishing with the best margin-of-victory at the end of the year, and Arizona is one of those three teams.

The case for Arizona is very simple. Arizona had the best defense in the nation last year and the vast majority of Arizona’s rotation is back. With all due respect to Nick Johnson, Arizona’s biggest defensive dilemma is replacing Aaron Gordon. And while that won’t be trivial, my model thinks Top 10 recruit Stanley Johnson can step into the lineup without the defense missing a beat. Meanwhile Kentucky brings back a number of lackluster defenders (see the Harrison twins), Kentucky will likely be playing an unorthodox lineup (big men guarding guards at times), and Kentucky also has a lot of young players. The most likely scenario is that Arizona’s defense will allow 4-5 fewer points per 100 possessions than Kentucky this year.

Whether Kentucky has a better season will depend on whether Kentucky is more than 4-5 points better per 100 possessions on offense. And Arizona does have some offensive questions. ESPN even had a recent headline on this point. But I am optimistic for several reasons. First, Arizona was a good offensive team (and was an undefeated team) last year until Brandon Ashley got hurt. You cannot overlook the importance of Ashley’s ability to knock down jump shots and help with the team’s offensive spacing. Second, chemistry matters for an offense. Returning minutes are a little overrated, but teams with a lot of returning minutes do tend to improve on offense on average. The fact that TJ McConnell has now had a year to work with most of Arizona’s roster means everyone should be better. Third, the team adds JUCO Top 10 recruit Kadeem Allen. I’ve said on many occasions that JUCO recruits are lottery tickets, but Allen performed well enough at the JUCO level that he projects as a quality scorer. And most importantly the team adds Stanley Johnson. My model likes Johnson to be the Wildcats leading scorer next year, but that doesn’t mean he has to do it all. I project a balanced rotation with four players in double figures and seven players scoring quite a bit.

I am not saying Arizona should be ahead of Kentucky in the preseason polls, but if this team isn’t receiving some consideration for the top spot, they are being badly under-judged.

Hoping for the Top 25

UCLA: Height, athleticism (recruiting rankings), and past player stats (rebounds, blocks, steals) contribute to my projection of each team’s defense. But often the only piece of information we have that seems to have any real predictive power is the past defensive performances of the head coach.

But looking at the past track record of coaches is not a foolproof way to predict defense. Here are the defensive ranks of Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins and UCLA’s Steve Alford as D1 head coaches in the tempo free era.

PPP

Def Rank

Johnny Dawkins

Steve Alford

2014

43rd

45th

2013

70th

18th

2012

18th

20th

2011

91st

67th

2010

120th

97th

2009

85th

62nd

2008

 

28th

2007

 

76th

2006

 

1st

2005

 

40th

2004

 

49th

2003

 

101st

2002

 

51st

You can look at these numbers and say Alford has been a slightly better defensive coach than Dawkins. But that is not an unambiguous conclusion from this data. It took Dawkins a few years to develop some quality post defenders after Brook and Robin Lopez left for the NBA. And while Alford has had some great seasons in the past (particularly 2006 at Iowa), he hasn’t had a great defensive team every year.

These defensive differences were a key reason why I had UCLA ahead of Stanford in my spring projections. But every year I re-fit the model to the historical data and I found the predictive power of a coach’s historical defense fell in 2014. Perhaps because of the change in the way fouls were called (scoring rose about 3 points per 100 possessions across the nation but all coaches were not impacted equally), there was less correlation between a coach’s historical defense and his 2014 performance. And because historical defensive performances now have a smaller weight in my model, UCLA and Stanford now have a much more similar prediction than when I first ran the numbers this spring.

Whether you agree with that, or like UCLA or Stanford more, I think we all have to acknowledge that predicting defense is extremely difficult. If either UCLA or Stanford is particularly dominant on defense, they could have a borderline Top 10 squad. But with so many new faces, if either team is particularly poor on defense, it isn’t out of the question that either team could miss the tournament too. I spend a lot of time making predictions about teams, but one of the most important things I want to reflect in my rankings is that there is variance in the team projections. Arizona is unlikely to fall out of the Top 10. But for teams like UCLA and Stanford that break in a large number of new players, a wide range of season outcomes are on the table, particularly on defense.

We can feel much more confident in the offensive prediction. And UCLA has some quality pieces on that side of the ball. Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh, and Jonah Bolden are three Top 50 freshmen. Tony Parker has waited his turn and finally has his chance to shine in the post. Bryce Alford was a very efficient backup PG last year, and Norman Powell was an efficient off-guard as well. There are some concerns about UCLA’s outside shooting since Powell’s three point stroke is poor, but with elite prospect Isaac Hamilton finally eligible after sitting out his letter-of-intent issue, UCLA should have enough weapons to score points at a high level. But seasons are made or broken on whether teams make stops, and for UCLA and Stanford, that’s the key question.

Stanford: Johnny Dawkins job was on the line last season. I remember the Twitter debate quite well. One person would write how Dawkins’ career hinged on a player making a pair of free throws to seal a game, and someone would respond by saying that this was a ridiculous standard. Winning a close game to make the NCAA tournament should not be the measuring stick.

But at some point, for most coaches it will come down to a couple of bounces of the basketball. Obviously, for some coaches like Oregon St.’s Craig Robinson, the team’s performance is so consistently poor, that one game was not going to swing the difference between Robinson keeping or losing his job. And obviously, for some coaches like Arizona’s Sean Miller, the team performed at such a high level, that one loss would not cost him his job. But that doesn’t mean that other coaches don’t fall somewhere in the middle. Johnny Dawkins was a coach who wasn’t terrible at his job, but who wasn’t performing at an elite level either. At some point, a coach like that is going to live or die based on the outcome of a handful of games.

It is fortunate that Dawkins made the Sweet Sixteen last year and saved his job, because on paper this is the best roster he has assembled at Stanford. Dawkins has veteran talent with Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, and Stefan Nastic and he has a great recruiting class with Reid Travis, Robert Cartwright, and Michael Humphrey. Stanford’s expectations should be as high as they have been since Brook and Robin Lopez left for the NBA.

The real knock on Dawkins is not the quality of his roster. The knock is that Dawkins margin-of-victory has never been above 36th in the nation. Even with the team making the Sweet Sixteen last year, Stanford’s per possession performance was no better than that of a bubble team. And as you will see below in my discussion of California, among current Pac-12 coaches, Dawkins actually has the worst track record of developing players on offense. Signs point towards a great season, but Dawkins must be a better offensive teacher if the team is to live up to the lofty standards it set last year.

Utah: Utah’s margin-of-victory rose from 297th three years ago to 108th two years ago to 42nd last year. Due to a weak non-conference schedule, Utah was left out of the NCAA tournament last year. But with all the key players back, except the inefficient Princeton Onwas, Utah is close to a lock for this year’s tournament. In fact, I wouldn’t argue with anyone that put Utah in their preseason Top 25. My main problem with Utah’s roster is the lack of elite athletes. The average star rating (high school potential) of Utah’s roster remains among the lowest in the conference. You can make the tournament without elite athletes, but to stay in the Top 25 all season usually requires those types of players. There was a key recruiting breakthrough this year. One of the only Top 100 recruits in-state, Brekkot Chapman, decided to stay home. But Utah hopes another year of sustained success will make that type of commitment less rare.

Hoping for the NCAA Tournament

Colorado: The injury splits were definitive. After Spencer Dinwiddie was injured last season, Colorado became a vastly inferior team. It culminated with a blowout loss to Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament.

On paper, having 91% of the team’s minutes back is a reason for optimism. But Colorado’s full-season margin-of-victory was only 77th in the nation last year (thanks to that brutal closing stretch). The team just wasn’t very good without Dinwiddie. And without a second star to compliment the super-efficient Josh Scott, the team has a ceiling.

At this point, for Colorado to truly reach that next level is going to require for one of Colorado’s player to take a greater than expected step forward. Xavier Talton needs to lower his turnover rate (26%) and raise his assist rate (15%). Askia Booker needs to get in the gym and improve his three point percentage (27%). Wesley Gordon’s hands have to get better (24% turnover rate). And Xavier Johnson needs to improve his free throw percentage (61%). Colorado currently projects as a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament in my model. But to reach that next level, they need another player to become an efficient star.

Oregon: Sharp-shooting three-point gunner Joseph Young is one of the best players in the Pac-12. Forwards Michael Chandler and Dwayne Benjamin are both elite JUCO prospects. Elgin Cook was a very efficient player who was under-utilized last year due to the team’s depth. And if JaQuan Lyle is eligible, his Top 30 recruiting rank is good enough to expect him to be a key player in year one.

When you have five players that good, you can usually compete with anyone. But after a massive scandal decimated the roster this spring, the question was whether Oregon had enough depth to survive the season. Now that Dillon Brooks has re-classified to 2014, Oregon should have 10 quality scholarship players if everyone is eligible. The young guards on the bench might be a little raw, and Jalil Abdul-Bassit might be a weak link given how he played last year. But Altman added enough pieces that the two-year NCAA tournament streak doesn’t have to end.

Cal: With Ty Wallace and David Kravish Back, and with Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews likely to make the sophomore leap and become dominant players, California’s core four players are very strong. But the rest of the roster is filled with a bunch of recruits with fairly low potential. The key question for the teams is whether Martin can develop a few of those unknown players into role players and build a competent rotation. The tempo free numbers suggest that he can.

For the last seven years, based on previous college stats and recruiting rankings, I calculated a projected ORtg for every player. Then I divided each player’s observed ORtg by his projected ORtg and calculated the average ratio for each coach. You can think of this as a measure of each coach’s track record at developing players on offense.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman typically gets his players to perform significantly above where they were recruited, at least on offense. Conversely, Johnny Dawkins players have performed about where you would expect, no worse, no better.

Coach

Current Team

Ratio

Dana Altman

Oregon

1.034

Wayne Tinkle

Oregon St.

1.027

Cuonzo Martin

California

1.026

Herb Sendek

Arizona St.

1.026

Steve Alford

UCLA

1.022

Lorenzo Romar

Washington

1.020

Andy Enfield

USC

1.020

Ernie Kent

Washington St.

1.013

Sean Miller

Arizona

1.005

Larry Krystkowiak

Utah

1.004

Tad Boyle

Colorado

1.000

Johnny Dawkins

Stanford

0.999

You may wonder why Sean Miller is so low on the list despite his success at Arizona. But Sean Miller has been winning by recruiting. Not only has Miller been bringing in Top 100 recruits, he has also been adding some very productive transfers. TJ McConnell was already a very productive player before he came to Arizona, so Miller does not get as much credit for developing his offensive game. This table is also focused on offense, and does not give Miller credit for his team’s great defense last year.

You may wonder why there are no coaches with ratios significantly below one. This is not unusual for a major conference. Coaches that do a poor job developing their players typically get fired. If you are looking for the worst coach at developing offensive players in the Pac-12 in the recent past, that would be Kevin O’Neill. O’Neill’s ratio was 0.972.

Moreover, when programs hire new coaches, they tend to hire coaches that have a great track record of developing players. I have very limited data on Ernie Kent because he has not been a D1 head coach for several years, but Wayne Tinkle and Cuonzo Martin were both among the best at getting the most out of their players. Tinkle took two and three star recruits at Montana and turned them into stars. And Martin improved Tennessee’s offense from 114th in his first year to 63rd two years ago to 17th in the country last season. If that track record continues, California can sneak into the tournament.

Washington: A year ago injuries and inconsistent play in the frontcourt meant Lorenzo Romar had by far the worst defensive team he has had in the last 10 years. This year the team adds 7 foot shot-blocker and former Top 100 recruit Robert Upshaw which should solve a lot of those problems. The team should also get back Jernard Jarreau who blew out his knee in November last year. Not only will the team be taller, it should also be less reliant on freshmen, and that should lead to fewer defensive mistakes.

Washington’s defense should be substantially improved, but I am less confident in the offense. Many people do not appreciate how dominant CJ Wilcox was last season or how much he will be missed. And for everything he brings defensively, Robert Upshaw was a very raw offensive player at Fresno St. But the improvements on defense should allow the Huskies to get back into the bubble picture.

Hoping for the NIT

Arizona St.: On the flip side, Arizona St’s defense should be substantially worse. Only two teams in the nation had better free throw defense, and that probably isn’t something the team can count on again. More importantly, the 7’2” Jordan Bachynski has graduated and his height and shot-blocking will be very difficult to replace. Thanks to Bachynski, Herb Sendek had his best defensive team ever at Arizona St. last season. But the team was still only 50th nationally on defense, and all signs suggest the defense will be inadequate this year.

With JUCO Top 100 recruits Gerry Blakes, Willie Atwood, and Roosevelt Scott joining the team, and with transfer Savon Goodman (a top 100 high school recruit who played for UNLV) joining the fold, Arizona St.’s offense will probably be better than most people think. Jahii Carson was not as irreplaceable offensively as his hype would suggest. Yes, Carson was a high volume shooter, but Carson didn’t have a great ORtg. And Herb Sendek is very good at teaching an offense that spreads the floor and attacks with cuts to the basket. Sendek can figure out a way to replace Carson, but replacing Bachynski will be a challenge.

USC: USC adds three Top 100 recruits, Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart, and Malik Marquetti. Even though none of them are ranked in the Top 30, I could easily see a couple of them finishing as Top 30 freshmen scorers for the simple reason that USC is rebuilding and will give those players lots of playing time this year. The team also adds UNLV transfer Katin Reinhart who was a Top 100 recruit out of high school. Andy Enfield is raising the talent level of the program, but this team is still at least a year away.

Washington St.: Ernie Kent will get Washington St. playing at a faster pace. And with the typical sophomore leap Ike Iroegbu and Que Johnson should thrive in that system. Alongside super-scorer DeVonte Lacy, Washington St. will hope to out-score teams. But the talent level on this roster is still very low relative to the rest of the Pac-12. Iroegbu and Johnson are the only two players on the roster that were rated three stars or higher out of high school, and Kent needs to upgrade the team’s talent level before the team can hope for anything other than the NIT.

Avert Your Eyes

Oregon St.: What’s the worst Power Five conference team this year? In the Big Ten, I dislike Rutgers, but at least they have Myles Mack. In the ACC, I’m down on Georgia Tech, but Marcus Georges-Hunt is a quality player. In the SEC, I’m not a huge fan of Mississippi St.’s roster, but at least they have experience with 74% of their minutes back from last year. And in the Big 12, I think TCU will be substantially improved as they get several players back from injury.

Right now, I’m looking at Oregon St. as the worst team in the Power Five conferences. Langston Morris-Walker and Malcolm Duvivier are the leading returning scorers at 4.1 PPG and 3.1 PPG respectively. That puts a huge burden on the recruiting class. JUCO Gary Payton Jr is going to have to play a lot. But he is going to face immense pressure to live up to his father’s name, and the team is expecting far too much of a player who was great but not super-elite at the JUCO level. Perhaps Cameron Oliver will be the answer. ESPN only thought he was a three star recruit, but Scout.com thought Oliver was a four star prospect. The good news is that the 2015 recruiting class is off to a nice start. But in 2014-15 new head coach Wayne Tinkle has a lot of work to do.

Draft Report: Aaron Gordon Of Arizona

- The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Tjarks' e-book about the NBA Draft that can be purchased for just $3.99.

For a player whose athletic ability has been compared to Blake Griffin, Aaron Gordon does a remarkable job of staying under the radar. He averaged only 12 points a game as a freshman, but he was every bit as effective as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. Nick Johnson was their leading scorer, but Gordon was Arizona’s best player and the engine of their team. There’s a lot more that goes into winning basketball games than taking a lot of shots.

Season

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

3P

3PA

3P%

FT

FTA

FT%

RB

AS

ST

BK

TO

PF

PTS

2013-14

37

31.2

5.0

10.1

.495

0.4

1.2

.345

2.0

4.7

.420

8.0

2.0

0.9

1.0

1.4

2.4

12.4

*Stats courtesy of basketball-reference

At 6’9 225 with a 6’11 wingspan, Gordon was one of the most versatile defensive players in the country as a freshman. He had the size and athleticism to defend all five positions at the college level, with the quickness to switch on the pick-and-roll and the strength to hold position on the low block. Gordon could suffocate smaller players on the perimeter and play in front of bigger players in the post - he was the glue that held together a suffocating Arizona defense.

Gordon lead the Wildcats in rebounding, was tied for second in blocks and was third in steals. He helped their big men clean the defensive glass and protect the rim and he helped their guards pressure the ball and force turnovers. When he was on the floor, the Arizona defense could attack you in multiple ways. If Gordon was on the ball, he could choke off dribble penetration. When he was off the ball, he could jump passing lanes and serve as the second line of defense.

Arizona could go from defense to offense as well as any team in the country, in large part due to Gordon’s ability to run the lanes or start the break himself. He’s one of the rare players who is  just as comfortable throwing the alley-oop or finishing it. You can see where the Blake comparisons come from when he’s playing in transition - you don’t see a 6’9 player with his combination of quickness, leaping ability, ball-handling and basketball IQ very often.

In the halfcourt, Gordon served as one of the hubs of the Arizona offense, moving the ball and setting everyone else up. While he averaged only two assists a game, he had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, unlike Parker, Wiggins or Randle. He can run the pick-and-roll and see over the defense, allowing him to find the open man anywhere on the floor. That’s one of the most remarkable things about Gordon - he almost always makes the right play.

Shooting from the perimeter, particularly the free-throw line, was the one weakness in his game as a freshman. Opposing teams played off him, almost daring him to shoot the ball, and when he drove the lane, they knew they could always foul him. It’s not that his jumper is broken - he went 16-45 from the three-point line - but he lost confidence in it as the season went on. For a player with his ability, shooting 42% from the free-throw line is as much mental as physical.

Gordon might never be a guy who averages 18-20 points a game, but he does everything else on the court that helps you win. He’s the ultimate teammate, a guy who plays elite defense at multiple positions and moves the ball on offense. Passing the ball and playing defense is how you make your teammates better and no one was better at that than Gordon this season. Even though he didn’t score a lot of points, he was one of the most valuable players in the country.

Doug McDermott won the Wooden Award, but Creighton is a much better team if Gordon takes his place. All of a sudden, Creighton would have someone who could lock down the other team’s best player, protect the rim, clean the defensive glass and make plays out of their frontcourt. The shots that McDermott took, meanwhile, would have been redistributed to Ethan Wragge. It’s not that hard to replace a guy who takes a lot of shots and does nothing else. 

Switch Gordon and Jabari and Duke has more shot-blocking, rebounding and passing in their frontcourt and Rodney Hood becomes their primary scorer. Switch him with Wiggins and he plays a deadly high-low game with Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden becomes their primary scorer. Switch him with Randle and Kentucky has a shut-down perimeter defender and plays a more uptempo, 4-out style that gets their perimeter players easier shots in transition.

Gordon is high-level defender, rebounder and passer and he can get buckets without dominating the ball. He does so many things well that he can fit with any team. It’s not about how many points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks any individual player gets - it’s how many the team gets in each category. Gordon is like a ghost in the box score. Whatever category his team needs, he can give them. Just as important, he can do it from any number of positions on the floor.

At Arizona, he could play as a big small forward next to Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski or as a small-ball center with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and three shooters in front of him. Gordon gives his coach a tremendous amount of versatility on both sides of the ball, allowing his team to match up with almost any kind of opponent. He won’t be quite as versatile in the NBA, but he should be able to play as a 3 or a 4 on offense and guard every position but center.

If there’s a player he resembles at the next level, it’s Andrei Kirilenko or Shawn Marion. And while both are universally recognized as great players, neither has ever quite gotten the respect they deserve. Even in their second decade in the league, they are both still key cogs on good teams because they bring value in so many different aspects of the game. They are two of the best defensive players in the NBA while still stuffing the stat-sheet in every category.

There are other players in this draft who might be better than Gordon in a specific role, but there are none who can play as many different roles as Gordon. You never know who your teammates are going to be at the next level - the NBA is a business and rosters change every year. Contracts happen. Injuries happen. Life happens. Just look at Arizona this season, which had to re-invent its identity on the fly when Ashley went down with a season-ending injury.

The Wildcats started the season 21-0, went 3-2 after Ashley got hurt and then finished the season 10-3. They were a different team in each of those stretches - Gordon’s versatility allowed Sean Miller to try a bunch of lineups until he found one that worked. I don’t know how many points a game Gordon will score at the next level or whether he will rack up any individual awards, but I can make this prediction - whoever drafts Gordon won’t be a bad team for long.

- This was an excerpt from Jonathan Tjarks' e-book about the NBA Draft that can be purchased for $3.99.

NCAA Top 25 Projections (Post NBA Draft Declaration Deadline)

I explore the stats that make my model more skeptical of Texas, SMU, San Diego St., and Oklahoma, and I show that Syracuse, Ohio St., and UCLA still have plenty of elite high school talent.

Way Too Early Top 25 Projections

I break out my lineup-based projections model to predict the 2014-15 season.

Counting Down To Four

Why Bo Ryan deserved a Final Four trip, Michigan St.'s poor half-court offense, and other thoughts as we set the field for the Final Four.

Sweet Sixteen Day 1

What it means to have a Cole Aldrich moment, Scott Drew's enigmatic coaching, UCLA's three point defense, and Aaron Gordon's promotional video highlight Day 1 of the Sweet Sixteen.

Major Conference Tournaments Underway

How good would Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizona be if their freshmen stuck around? I also check in on some seniors and the first day of the major conference tournaments.

Injury Splits - March Edition

How well has Arizona played without Brandon Ashley? What about Pittsburgh without Durand Johnson? What about Colorado without Spencer Dinwiddie?

Final Thoughts On Ranking 351 D1 Teams

Over the past few days, Dan Hanner has presented his updated projection model, his season projections on ESPN Insider, Q&A's with Eamonn Brennon and John Templon, along with replying to questions on Twitter. Here are a few additional thoughts that didn't make the cut.

Pac-12 Basketball Early Projection

With the MWC taking a step back, eight Pac-12 teams should be in the NCAA tournament hunt in 2013-14.

2013-2014 Preseason Top 25

A lineup-based statistical model projects the 2013-2014 season.

Weaknesses of Title Contenders

In this edition, we take the teams in the Top 16 of the Pomeroy Rankings and figure out how often they look beatable on the basketball court.

NCAA Power Poll For February

While there are certainly no elite college teams this season, there are a host of teams that can reach the Final Four. In this edition, we outline the various tiers.

Revisiting Recruiting Classes

Michigan's freshmen have exceeded expectations and in this edition we examine other top classes such as N.C. State, UNLV, UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, Indiana, Arizona, Michigan State and North Carolina.

Slim Margins

On Butler/Gonzaga, winning the right way, quantity leading to quality, quality leading to quality, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Rutgers and more.

Who Have You Played?

On the legitimacy of Arizona and Florida as national championship contenders, who has quality wins already and more.

Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, And A Quick Look At How The Top 80 Recruits Have Fared

On Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, Kyle Anderson and the rest of the freshman class as they play such prominent roles to begin the 12-13 NCAA season.

Projecting The 2013 Season (Page 3)

Hot Off the Presses: Projecting the 2013 Season!

Projecting The 2013 Season (Page 2)

Hot off the Presses, Page 2 of the 2013 Projections

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            NHL Wiretap Headlines

              Soccer Wiretap Headlines