Sophomore Year or One-and-Done? Big Choices for Basketball’s 2013 Freshman Class

Over one year ago, Jabari Parker put on a Duke uniform and started his college basketball career. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in high school, and he led his high school basketball team to four consecutive state championships. Parker had a great season at Duke, despite the team’s disappointing loss first round NCAA tournament loss.

In fact, Parker’s season bore a strong similarity to the one that Kevin Durant had at the University of Texas in 2006-2007: great numbers, disappointing tournament.

Parker, along with other members of 2013’s outstanding freshman class including Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky), have officially joined the ranks of the “one-and-done.” Because of the NBA’s minimum age rule, outstanding high school athletes must play at least one year of college basketball before they’re allowed to join the draft.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he wants to raise the minimum age to 20. To those who love to bet on NBA basketball, Silver’s stance might look like another chance for the players’ union and NBA officials to have a giant confrontation.

For now, the minimum age is still 19, and most of 2013’s notable freshmen have already made their choices.

Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)

If Jabri Parker has conjured up images of Durant, then Andrew Wiggins has caused basketball fans to reminisce about a younger LeBron James in the pre-season. Looking back, Wiggins ended up with good stats in Kansas, although his results weren’t as godlike as people anticipated: 17.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and a third-round NCAA tournament loss in which Wiggins went 1-for-6. Wiggins still makes a solid No. 2 or No. 3 draft pick behind Parker, although as an introvert, he might not be the out-of-the-box leader that NBA coaches want.

Julius Randle (Kentucky)

Kentucky didn’t need Julius Randle to step up as much as Duke needed Jabari Parker, but Randle had a good season, averaging 15.4 points per game, 10.4 rebounds and 27 double-doubles. His physically imposing play in the NCAA tournament propelled the Wildcats to the final, where they lost to Connecticut. No doubt, Randle will end up in the top three NBA draft slots, and John Calipari’s 2014–2015 team will have to figure out how to play without him.

Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)

A few NCAA coaches still complain about one-and-dones wanting to make millions in the NBA; however they themselves make millions coaching college basketball because of the excitement that the one-and-dones provide.

One of those coaches is Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who publicly implied that Tyler Ennis could use another year of development before heading to the NBA.

Ennis will be a first-round pick, and although Boeheim suggested that being in the middle of the first round is “nothing.” Ennis averaged 12.9 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists during his one-and-done season with the Orange.

Aaron Gordon (Arizona)

It’s hard to imagine a height of 6 feet 8.5 inches tall could be “too small” for the NBA, but Aaron Gordon is pretty small compared to many other power forwards. However, what he lacks in heft he makes up for in speed, explosiveness and outstanding athleticism.
Gordon may not be a top five pick, but he could go around No. 7 or No. 8. As Gordon improves his ball handling, he’s earning more and more comparisons to L.A. Clippers power forward Blake Griffin.

Gordon, like Griffin, struggles with the two-point jumper, but once he improves his fluidity, he’ll be a formidable force.

Is Anyone Staying in School?

Pretty much everyone from 2013’s “Year of the Freshman” class who has a first-round shot is headed for the NBA draft. Others might be staying in school. Players like the Harrison twins in Kentucky aren’t in first-round contention. Dakari Johnson would go in the second round, or he could sneak into the first round if he’s lucky. Joel Embiid had a great freshman season for Kansas, but he sat out the NCAA tournament with a back injury, which might affect his NBA hopes.

As much as NCAA coaches complain about one-and-done, having these talented freshmen, even if just for a year, greatly increases the excitement and the visibility of their programs. Time will tell whether Jabari Parker does become the next Kevin Durant or whether he gets lost in a very talented pack.

The Dwyane Wade Story

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It’s difficult to imagine now that he’s become one of the NBA’s best players, but after an impressive senior year at Harold L. Richards High School in Chicago, Dwyane Wade received scholarship offers from only three schools.

The lack of major interest in Wade was predominantly due to academic issues, which would also cost him his freshman season as a Marquette Golden Eagle.

Many would fold in surrender after being told that they were ineligible to play their first year of college ball, but throughout his career Wade has shown his strength of character by refusing to give up when faced with an obstacle.

Instead, Wade focused his energy on both his game and his education, and he joined the Marquette squad for the 2001-2002 season determined to make up for lost time.

Wade led Marquette in scoring with 17.8ppg as a Sophomore and the following season established himself as one of the best players in all of college basketball, earning All-American honors while leading the Golden Eagles to a Final Four appearance. He declared shortly thereafter for the stacked 2003 NBA Draft and the Miami Heat eagerly took him with the fifth overall pick.

Despite being somewhat overshadowed by fellow rookies LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Wade immediately made his presence known in the professional ranks, averaging 16.2ppg and leading the Heat to the second round of the playoffs in his first season. He soon became one of the quickest ballhandlers in the league, using a deft crossover that would allow him to pull up before stumbling defenders or use his speed and leaping ability to attack the rim.

The 2004 offseason featured the arrival of future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal in a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. Wade was forced to adapt his playing style to fit with O’Neal’s large frame and even larger personality. He gladly accepted this challenge and instantly jelled with his new big man, making his first All-Star game in 2005 and leading the Heat into the NBA Finals the following season against the Dallas Mavericks.

After dropping the first two games of the Finals, Wade found his team down by 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Fortunately for the Heat faithful Wade thrived under the pressure of the big stage, and he responded by scoring 15 points in the quarter to lead Miami to a stirring comeback win en route to a 4-2 series win.

Wade averaged 34.7ppg in the series to capture the Finals MVP trophy.

The next five years had their ups and downs for Dwyane Wade – the successes of a scoring title and Olympic Gold Medal were offset by a series of frustrating injuries and disappointing team results.

Miami’s fortunes would turn during the summer of 2010, when all-star free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh agreed to sign with the Heat (with some convinced that Wade’s salesmanship deserved much of the credit for the two joining the team).

With the best pair of teammates he’d ever played with, Wade faced a new challenge; even when he played alongside O’Neal, Wade was able to dominate ball possession and let the offense run through him. With James on board, Wade had to suppress his ego and play the role of second (and occasionally third) option. Once again he was up to the task and helped the Heat to three straight NBA Finals, including championship wins in the past two seasons.

Through academic ineligibility, injuries, and the repeated need to adapt his game to his teammates, Dwyane Wade has consistently had to overcome obstacles to achieve greatness. Success must be earned, and he continues to do just that.

It wasn’t easy, but that’s what makes him Dwyane Wade.

Check out the artwork here: Dywane Wade – If it were easy

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Toronto Raptors Are Playing With Fire

The Toronto Raptors are currently sitting atop the Atlantic Division and seven games above .500. While most basketball fans would like their basketball money-lines, their inconsistent style of play have them as a risky bet moving forward.

Fans are elated because the team has one of the easiest schedules the remainder of the season because the combined win percentage of the Raptors’ opponents for the remainder of the season is .453.

On top of that, the team survived a tough early schedule and Toronto is 26-13 since Rudy Gay last played for them which is tied for the 2nd-most wins in the NBA in that time (since December 8).

Things look great, right? Wrong.

Against the Chicago Bulls they dug a hole early when they gave up 31 points in the first quarter. They clawed back after holding Chicago to 39 combined points in the second (17 points) and third quarters (22), but the sluggish start doomed them.

Then against Cleveland they only scored 16 points in the first quarter and had to rely on 37 points in the third quarter to steal the win.

Slow starts hurt them once again when they only scored 19 points against Orlando. Lucky for them they held Orlando to 17 points in the first quarter while exploding for 36 points in the third quarter.

Sure, the team is 7-3 over their past ten and appear to have an easy schedule to close out the season, but things are far from easy moving forward. Toronto needs to find a way to start games strong, play hard on both ends of the court and find some sort of consistency.

If not, Toronto’s surprising season will end in disappointment.

A Look At The NBA After The All Star Break

Most NBA teams have approximately 30 games left but there are still a lot left to be decided.

Well, in the Western Conference at least.

According to the favorite odds and lines on the All–Star Weekend in the past week or so, the Eastern Conference looks to be a two-team race with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat running away with the conference. Both teams look poised to meet up again in the Eastern Conference Finals. It doesn’t take NBA post All-Star Weekend betting tips to know that the Toronto Raptors or Chicago Bulls don’t pose a legitimate threat to either of those teams.

But going back to the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a lot of question marks surrounding them. Head coach Scott Brook has shown a willingness to bounce Kendrick Perkins out of his starting five, only to put him back in again.

There’s also questions about when Russell Westbrook will return to the court and if he will be able to stay healthy. After going under the knife three times in the past 12 months there are genuine concerns about whether his body can hold up.

The current conference champs, the San Antonio Spurs, might be playing their last season with Tim Duncan as whispers of The Big Fundamental retiring after this season were started by George Karl this week. Throw into the mix that Tony Parker is out for an undetermined period of time and the Spurs have their fair share of question marks surrounding them too.

The Los Angeles Clippers are trying to grab the torch but their lack of depth have them in the mix to add some key pieces over the next 24 hours.

Portland started off the season great but have come back to earth with a hard thud. They are 4-6 in their past 10 games and have shown when their three-point shots aren’t falling they are a beatable team.

On top of that, Portland’s defense has looked shaky.

The Houston Rockets are probably the most likely team to supplant Oklahoma City or San Antonio, but they need to address their need for a stretch power forward still. They are putting Omer Asik out there as trade bait but it remains to be seen of a team like the Philadelphia 76ers will bite and trade them Thaddeus Young.