Tag: NBA Draft 2017

Lauri Markkanen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Lauri Markkanen is one of the top NBA prospects for the 2017 NBA Draft. (Getty)

While Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz have received the majority of the 2017 NBA Draft buzz, Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen has as much potential as any prospect. Markkanen has not declared for the draft yet, but he is predicted to be a top 10 selection if he does declare.

Markkanen is originally from Finland and speaks three different languages. According to SB Nation, he speaks Finnish, English and Swedish. Given Markkanen has experience playing in both the United States and Europe, he possess a unique skill set. While capable of doing other things, Markkanen is a remarkable shooter for someone 7’0″ and 230 pounds.

During the 2016-17 season, he averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting over 43 percent from behind the three-point line.

Learn more about the Finnish player who is likely to hear his name called early by the NBA in June.


1. Markkanen’s Father Played Basketball at Kansas & His Mother Played Professionally

Athleticism runs in the Markkanen family. According to The Daily Wildcat, his father, Pekka, played college basketball at the University of Kansas. His mother, Riikka, played professional basketball. While his father was unable to play professionally, all signs point to Markkanen having an NBA career.

He will not be the only person in the family to have a career in sports. His older brothers are both professional athletes. His oldest brother, Eero, plays pro soccer in Sweden. The middle child, Miikka, played pro basketball in Finland.

“We had a lot of futbols and basketballs around our backyard. I was just all the time with basketball. I think that was part of my family. My mother played basketball and my brother plays basketball,” Markkanen told The Daily Wildcat.


2. He Is Predicted to be a Top 10 Pick in the 2017 NBA Draft

Markkanen is one of the best shooting big men we have seen from an NBA prospect in recent years. While he has not officially declared for the draft, draft analysts expect him to be a top 10 pick if he does head to the NBA. GM’s have images of Kristaps Porzingis’ shooting and offensive flexibility in their minds as they watch Markkanen play.

Draft Express’ analyst Mike Schmitz describes his game in detail in his scouting profile.

His shot-preparation, body control and range are almost unheard of for a player his size, and the fact that he is a threat in spot-up situations, pick and pops, and dribble hand-offs helps keep the floor spaced perfectly for Arizona and gives his guards plenty of room to operate in the half-court. With the added spacing of the more distant NBA 3-point line, it’s not a stretch to wonder how much more room Markkanen will have to get clean looks.

Markkanen will need to continue to get stronger and prove he is a capable defender as he makes the jump to the NBA.


3. Markkanen Is Originally From Finland

Markkanen has a unique skill set for someone his size. He is from Finland and has the European game to thank for his development. Markkanen has the ability to handle the basketball since he played a lot of guard growing up.

“If [a coach] tried to put Lauri under the basket, we changed the team. If you play under the basket your whole career when you handle the ball, it’s going to be extremely difficult,” Pekka Markkanen told Bleacher Report.

Prior to coming to Arizona, he played on the Finnish national team under FIBA rules. While it has been an adjustment learning the different rules in college basketball, his time playing under FIBA rules will ultimately help him in the NBA where things like the shot lock are similar.


4. He Played in Finland’s Pro B Division Rather Than High School Basketball

When Markkanen reaches the NBA, it will not be the first time he has played professionally. Rather than playing high school basketball, Markkanen opted to play in Finland’s Pro B Division. He made the all-tournament team in the FIBA U20 2016 European Championships.

Markkanen offers a unique blend of European experience with the benefit of already adjusting to the American culture during his time at Arizona. His time with the Wildcats has also helped familiarize him with the American game.


5. Markkanen Does Not Embrace the Dirk Nowitzki Comparison

Markkanen’s game has drawn comparison to NBA-great Dirk Nowitzki. Both players have the ability to shoot and hail from Europe, but it is a comparison that does not fully fit. An NBA scout explained to Bleacher Report why the comparison is frequently mentioned.

“There’s kind of an instinct there—overseas shooting bigs—to compare him to Dirk. That’s a comparison you should never make. But he’s in that lineage of skilled, face-up, big 4 men,” the scout told Bleacher Report.

Markkanen prefers to be seen as a unique player. He spoke with SB Nation about the comparison.

“Some people talk about it, but I don’t think we’re that similar. There are some similarities obviously, like shooting the ball, but he’s 7-3…There wasn’t like one certain player [he patterns his game after]. I just try to take small moves from different players but when I grew up I really liked Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, but obviously they’re not players in my position, but mostly when I grew up I played the 2 and the 3,” Markkanen told SB Nation.

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Tina Ball, Lonzo’s Mother: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Lonzo Ball is a household name as one of the top NBA prospects in the country. His father, LaVar Ball, has become almost as recognizable given his entertaining interviews and bold statements. Lonzo’s mother, Tina Ball, has shied away from the spotlight.

While Tina can be seen in various interviews seen below with the family, she is more likely to let her husband do the talking for the family. The couple has three sons: Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo. All three of which have become well-known for their basketball abilities, with their oldest son, Lonzo, in the running to be the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The former college basketball player is still involved in sports as the athletic director at a Southern California middle school.

Get to know the matriarch of the Ball family.


1. Tina Is an Athletic Director at a Southern California Middle School

Instagram Photo

A passion for sports runs throughout the family. According to Los Angeles Magazine, Tina is the athletic director at a middle school in Montclair, California. The two met while they were playing college basketball at Cal State. Tina’s basketball abilities and physical traits were not lost on LaVar as he explained to CBS Sports.

And I knew they were going to hoop like this from Day 1. That’s why I married my wife. Before they even came out the womb, I said, ‘I’m having three.’ And with the way I’m built, and the way she’s built, I knew I was going to have three killers. So this thing was planned long ago. Because I knew if you put two basketball players together, this is what you’re going to get. I knew this is what we were going to get.

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2. A Reporter’s Question to Lonzo Went Viral After Asking About His Mother’s Health

A reporter drew criticism after asking Lonzo about his mother’s health in an NCAA tournament post-game press conference. “Lonzo, I apologize for asking a personal question, but there was a report that your mom had suffered a stroke. I just wanted to know if that was the case and how you’re holding up,” the reporter asked (via USA Today).

“I got no comment on that, man, it’s a family thing,” Lonzo said.

The question was spurred after Armchair All Americans reported the site had been contacted by a member of the Ball family. The source wished to remained anonymous but claimed Tina suffered a stroke on February 21, 2017. The report went on to say Tina remains paralyzed on the right side, and Lavar has not allowed his sons to see their mother.

The Ball family has not commented publicly on the report.

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3. She Met Her Husband, LaVar, When the Two Were College Basketball Players

While LaVar has no problem making brash statements, Tina is more reserved but is active on Twitter. Their personalities may be different, but Tina does not seem to have a problem with her husband’s gift of gab.

“I laugh, because whoever they try to compare my boys to, he’s gonna say they’re better than them. It doesn’t matter who because that’s what he believes. The bar’s high. That’s fine with me,” Tina told CBS News.

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4. LaVar Told Tina He “Only Makes Boys”

“When we met he told me were were going to get married and have boys because he only makes boys, of course,” Tina told ESPN in an SC Feature.

LaVar had a dream of having a basketball family as he has made clear during his media rounds. “He’s always had a master plan,” Tina told The Mercury News.

The family has used basketball as a way to bond. How important is basketball to the family? While the Balls exchange gifts on Christmas Day, they also fit their daily basketball workout into their routine.

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5. Tina Founded the Big Baller Brand With LaVar & Their 3 Sons

The Balls founded their own clothing company in 2016. According to the Orange County Register, LaVar is meeting with various shoe executives to try to form a partnership with the Big Baller Brand. The family wants to package the three brothers to form an apparel partnership, but this is challenging given LaMelo is still a high school sophomore.

LaVar told the USA Today the family is looking for a billion dollar deal.

“A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years,” LaVar told USA Today

This is a bit lofty given the only player who currently has a $1 billion shoe contract is LeBron James. James is one of the most recognizable athletes in the entire world.

The clothing line is not exactly targeting the bargain shopper. Hats range from $50 to $100. T-shirts are just as expensive starting at $50 per shirt.

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Josh Jackson NBA Draft Stock: Latest Rumors & Projections

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With every subsequent NCAA tournament game that Kansas forward Josh Jackson controls on both ends of the court, his NBA draft stock continues to rise.

Not that there’s much more room for it to do so.

In my newest mock draft, I have Jackson slotted third overall to the Phoenix Suns. ESPN and CBS Sports have the same projection, while Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp tabbed Jackson as the No. 2 pick before the tournament started, along with the following examination:

Josh Jackson’s jumper is a work in progress—he’s been hitting more threes recently, but still doesn’t quite pass the eye test—but he does everything else well, and he’ll be a handful to deal with at the next level. He’s like a bigger Justise Winslow, and surrounding him with the Suns shooters could be perfect.

About that jumper, which was a concern heading into the season and admittedly pretty inconsistent early in the year. Since January 21, Jackson has knocked down 50 percent of 3.1 three-point attempts per game. Against Miles Bridges–a likely lottery pick–and Michigan State in the second round, he hit a catch-and-shoot three, a step-back three and two mid-range jumpers off behind-the-back dribbles, showing off that improvement on the biggest stage.

Jackson is 6-foot-8 and 203 pounds with a 6-foot-9.8 wingspan. He has absurd athleticism (Exhibit A of many). He can get his own shot in the half-court. He’s a nightmare in the open court. He’s a fantastic passer. If he continues to shoot like he has over the last couple months, he’s going to be a problem.

And that’s only half of what he brings to the table.

Jackson’s biggest impact in the NBA, at least right off the bat, will likely be on the defensive end. Adding quick feet, the intelligence to jump passing lanes, and an endless motor to his already elite size and athleticism combo, the Kansas freshman averages 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest. He’s Top 150 in the country in steal percentage (3.1) and Top 300 in block percentage, a rare feat.

“He’s one of those guys who you’d throw out there and he’s going to do something positive,” one NBA general manager said, per NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper.

Ultimately, concerns about Jackson’s shot mean he probably won’t challenge for the No. 1 pick, but with the way he’s playing right now, anything else is possible.


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Zach Collins NBA Draft Stock: Latest Rumors & Mock Draft Projections

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Gonzaga’s Zach Collins has spent most of his freshman season in the shadows–namely a 7-foot-1, Przemek Karnowski-sized shadow–but he can’t hide from NBA scouts.

A quick glance at Collins’ numbers may not exactly scream “NBA prospect”: 10.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 0.5 steals per game.

But those numbers suddenly look a lot different when you factor in him coming off the bench behind Karnowski in all 36 games this season. On a per-40 minutes pace adjusted scale, he averages 22.8 points (12th among DraftExpress’ Top 100 prospects), 12.9 rebounds (seventh) and 3.7 blocks (second, behind only 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall). He’s also been an efficiency monster, ranking first in true-shooting percentage (72.0).

Skeptics may say, “yeah, but WCC,” and while that’s fair, Collins, a 7-footer with a versatile inside-outside offensive game, a soft touch, an ability to protect the rim and tremendous agility for a player of his size, also tends to pass the eye test.

In Collins’ seven games this year against schools from the power conferences (Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, Washington, Tennessee, Northwestern, West Virginia), he’s averaging 7.4 points on 60.0 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 17.1 minutes per contest. Certainly not eye-popping numbers, but again, he has often looked the part.

Most outlets (according to the mock drafts for ESPN, CBS, Sports Illustrated and Draft Express) don’t seem convinced that Collins is leaving, while I have him slotted as the 24th overall pick in my newest mock draft simply because I tend to include the best players until they announce one way or the another.

It’s pretty clear that Collins would help himself by staying another year and showing that he can dominate for 30 minutes per game, but for now, there’s no clear answer on what he’ll do.

“He might make the decision to jump, he may make the decision to come back,” said his Dad. “But one thing I know about Zach he’ll be very cerebral about it. He’ll make up his own mind.”

Either way, whether it’s this year or next, Collins has the look of a first-round talent on the rise.


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Josh Jackson NBA Draft Stock: Latest Rumors & Projections

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NBA Draft 2017: Justin Jackson Helps Himself in March

As Kentucky and North Carolina square off for a trip to the Final Four, much of the NBA Draft attention will center around Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. Jackson has quietly had himself a nice NCAA tournament and could slip into the lottery come June.

Jackson is somewhat of an anomaly, a top NBA prospect that is not a college freshman. The junior forward entered the 2016 NBA Draft and attended the Combine. He did not sign with an agent and decided to withdraw his name last summer to return to Chapel Hill.

The consensus was Jackson needed to improve his shooting. During the 2015-16 season, he shot just 29 percent from behind the three-point line. To Jackson’s credit, he spent the summer improving his game and shot 38 percent from behind the arc this season.

Roy Williams spoke about the improvement in Jackson’s game as the Tarheels prepared for their Elite 8 matchup.

We spent quite a bit of time talking last spring after the season was over, after the Combine, of what he needed to do, and I would just check with him during the course of the summer: How’s it going, what are you doing? But then when wegot to July, we practiced once a week for an hour and a half, four straight weeks, and I thought I saw a different Justin then because it was pretty easy because the ball kept going in as opposed to rimming out and that kind of thing. Then when preseason practice started, or pre-conference, before we started playing games, schedules changed so much, we started like the first weekend, October 3. And those first three or four weeks it was just so much more confident a player, and I think that carried over right into the start of the season.

The UNC swingman is 6’8″ and 210 pounds. Draft Express has Jackson inside the lottery at 12 while NBADraft.net has him all the way down at 24. Jackson’s strength is in his versatility. He contributes in so many different ways to North Carolina’s success.

Everyone knows about his ability to score, but Jackson has games like he did against Arkansas where he gets eight rebounds and five steals to go along with his scoring contribution. Jackson averaged 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.

Jackson had 34 points and five rebounds in North Carolina’s last outing against Kentucky. He has an opportunity to showcase his skills once again against Kentucky’s three projected first round prospects.

NBA teams will ponder long and hard about selecting Jackson in the 2017 NBA Draft if he decides to declare. He represents a player who may not have some of the upside of the younger players but gives a team a very high floor.

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