With No. 2 Kansas, No. 5 Tennessee, Marquette and Louisville all on hand, there could’ve been a dozen NBA prospects showing off their wares in the NIT Tip-Off at Barclays Center this weekend.
Precisely how many? We won’t know that until June, but a few have to be considered slam dunks.
As of this writing, no one projects higher than Quentin Grimes, a 6’5” shooting guard who’s viewed as a one-and-done first round talent out of Kansas. He’s been mocked anywhere from the lottery to late in the opening round.
What we do know is that Grimes is off to a rough start for the Jayhawks, averaging just nine points in five games on less than 40 percent shooting overall and 30 percent shooting from three. In 47 minutes over two games, Grimes had a total of only eight points. It was Dedric Lawson, his 6’9”, 235-pound teammate and center, who starred at Barclays, earning MVP honors following a win over Tennessee in the finale.
Only two games, but for Grimes, it’s likely to hurt his chances and maybe make him think about going one-and-done.
G/F Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
He’s seen as a 2, also a 3 and could even be a 4. Listed at 6’6, 240 pounds – was 6’4, 238 pounds as a sophomore – this senior is the only player of this bunch to have a relationship with the Nets. We reported in May that he worked out with the Nets at HSS. He’s since returned to school, and is still projected as a second-rounder if drafted at all. (The Nets only have one second rounder, the Knicks’ pick.)
Brooklyn brings in a lot of prospects —70 or so last spring— but Schofield brings some intrigue in his versatility. Built like a tank, he’s a career 36 percent three-point shooter. Also, not to be overlooked: Experience.
The Nets notably liked four year players Caris LeVert, Yogi Ferrell and Theo Pinson. Schofield has similar big-time college experience. (The loss to Kansas was his 100th career college game.)
He’s also filling up the stat sheet this season with career-highs across the board: 15.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, including 20 and 21 points at Barclays. He recorded 18 points between the second half and overtime on Friday, despite early struggles from the floor. Kansas head coach Bill Self called the second half and overtime showing “unreal.”
“I think the biggest difference is he came back knowing he had to really improve defensively,” Schofield’s head coach Rick Barnes said on Wednesday. “Admiral has worked hard. All these guys work on their offensive game but there’s no doubt he came back and he got the message loud and clear from the NBA guys.
“They want to see him become a better defensive player. When you think about a guy who, really, for most of his career has been more of a post defender, he started getting better really at the end of last year. He became one of our better defenders at the end of last year. But he’s very conscious of that.”
Barnes added that the defense and rebounding has become a primary focus for Schofield, who also continues to grow offensively.
F Grant Williams, Tennessee
Williams was the SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore last season. The 6’7,” 236-pound forward averaged 15.2 points and six rebounds while blocking 1.3 shots per game. He typically does most of his work from inside, but has added a three-point shot this season. He’s hit 5-of-9 while boosting his point, rebound and block averages to 21.6, 8.4 and 1.2, respectively, while also dishing out 4.2 assists per game.
Unlike Schofield, Williams didn’t go through the NBA Draft process last season, but he has gotten praise from coach Barnes, too.
“He’s longer than most people think. He’s quick. He’s gotten himself in better shape, he still has to get in better shape. He had four assists, he should’ve had eight … almost an 8-foot wingspan. People look at his height and I don’t know what they might think. And he’s learned to develop a really high release. He’s worked hard on shooting the ball and the biggest thing he asked me tonight, the first time this year he asked me during a timeout, he said, ‘How many rebounds do I have?’ Because he knows we expect him to really get 12,” he said after Williams had 24 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks against Louisville on Wednesday.
“That will take him to another level. He did better with free throws. He struggled the last two games on the free throw line to punch those in. But he can get better. He’s gotta guard better. He scored 24 but he gave up 26. But he’s learning, too. This is his first time playing on the perimeter as much as he is.”
Kansas coach Bill Self also offered praise for Williams.
“I’ve watched enough tape to know that obviously they have a superstar,” he said before Friday, where Williams had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks. “We might not play a better player than Williams.”
His projection is unknown, but he’s one to keep in mind.
C / F Dedric Lawson, Kansas
The 6’9 big saw himself as a one-and-done playing for Memphis in 2016, He actually received an invite to the NBA Combine.
From there, he had scheduled workouts with NBA teams like the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzles, Utah Jazz And Toronto Raptors, but decided to return to school and later transferred to Kansas, where he is now a junior after sitting out last season.
Lawson was the Tip-Off’s best player last week:
—Wednesday vs Marquette: 33 minutes, 26 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 9-of-16 shooting.
—Friday vs Tennessee: 41 minutes, 24 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 9-of-16 shooting.
Bill Self said Lawson is their go-to guy offensively (not the more ballyhooed Grimes).
“He’s a good rebounder. He’s not the highest jumper but he’s a great precision rebounder. He’s a good rebounder, he got 12. We played through him a lot in the second half. He got 26 tonight and I thought he left a couple out there.”
Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski passed on similar regards after getting torched by him Wednesday.
“I thought Lawson played his best game from all the tapes that I’ve watched.”
Lawson also “loves” New York … to some degree.
“I love New York, people are rude here, though,” he said with a smile on Friday. “I got a door slammed in my face … and it’s real cold – but other than that, they have good restaurants.”
G Quentin Grimes, Kansas
The 6’5 Grimes is held in high regard among NBA scouts, but he certainly didn’t show that in Brooklyn.
Coach Self doesn’t really know why, either.
“I don’t know … I don’t know. He was good in the first game (of the season); he’s labored since then. I think a lot of it is confidence and feel, but he’s a talented kid and we’re certainly going to be a lot better when he starts playing like we know he could play,” he said.
That first game was a 21-point, 4-assists outing against No. 10 Michigan State, which Kansas won 92-87. Grimes followed with 10 points and 10 assists against Vermont six days later, but has averaged 4.7 points and 1 assist since.
But it’s early, and he’ll be on many radars moving forward. Or, he’ll be this year’s Trevon Duval who was a top high school prospect, chose Duke over Seton Hall and wound up going undrafted after his freshman year. He’s currently toiling for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks’ G League affiliate and not setting that league on fire either.
G Devon Dotson, Kansas
Dotson was the best guard last week, and should gain steam regarding the 2019 class, if he comes out.
NBADraft.net has Dotson as a first-rounder in 2020, for what that’s worth. And yes, the Nets have their own first round pick in 2020 as well as the Nuggets unprotected and the Blazers heavily protected second rounder.
The speedy 6’2 Charlotte native is shooting 54% to begin the season, and had a season-high 17 points on 8 shots against Tennessee.
“Half the time I don’t even be across the floor yet,” Lawson remarked of Dotson’s speed. “He’s so fast and athletic. You see it so much at practice. In the game, we just want him to keep doing that, attacking downhill, put pressure on the bigs … he’s just got to keep being him. It frees up a lot. Guys got to help more, guys are able to stand and knock down open shots and things like that. Him being aggressive is great for our offense.”
Self, who pointed out Dotson’s proficiency from the mid-range area, agreed with Lawson’s expression.
“You guys know that kid is good. He can get anywhere he wants with the ball and he’s got range,” said Self.
Coach ‘Wojo’ of Marquette kept it going.
“He’s really good. I think he’s got great competitive spirit. I think he’s got great competitive juice. So I think he’ll be a great player for Kansas.”
So far, so good for at least one Kansas freshman guard.
G LaGerald Vick, Kansas
The 6’5 sharpshooting Vick entered the 2018 NBA Draft but decided to return to Kansas for what is now his senior season. He currently projects as a second-rounder if drafted at all, but he carries much of the big-game experience as Schofield, as mentioned earlier.
Vick also aided Kansas with eight unanswered points, giving the Jayhawks a five-point lead as Tennessee attempted to break away in the second half. He played a vital role in giving Friday’s encounter an extra 5 minutes.
After participating in the other Pro Combine last spring, since he didn’t get invited to the NBA’s official one – nor did he get an NBA workout – Vick’s gotten off to an outstanding start for Kansas, particularly from three, hitting 21-of-36 through his first five games, which amounts to 58.3 percent (!!)
Additionally, he’s averaging close to 20 points per game thus far.
“LaGerald’s been great,” Self offered. “LaGerald’s been great from an attitude standpoint, leadership standpoint, playing standpoint, he’s been intense so far … he’s been terrific for us. We would have no chance ... we may not have those last two home games (against Vermont and Louisiana, pre NIT Tip) unless LaGerald is scoring 15-of-20 from three.”
Vick’s reputation as an elite shooter will only grow with performances like these, which should get him more attention around draft time, which he hadn’t received prior. But will the Nets be interested? In December 2015, he allegedly hit and kicked a female student and wound up getting suspended from the program.
C, Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
Azubuike is 7’0 and about 280 pounds without a long-range jumper, meaning he’s automatically an ‘old-school big man,’ which is becoming a dying breed in the NBA. Still, the talented big has NBA interest on some level, having actually been invited to the NBA Combine after his 2017-18 sophomore season, where he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 77 percent from the floor. (Yes, 211-of-274.)
Azubuike worked out with Los Angeles Lakers last year, and the Philadelphia 76ers posted an interview with him at the Combine on their YouTube.
He was a non-factor in Brooklyn, but Self insists his starting center can, “Really take over a game in stretches,” as he said at Barclays.
F, Sam Hauser, Marquette
Marquette has a couple of scorers who aren’t making a ton of NBA noise yet – and if they ever will, it may not be until 2019-2020, when they are seniors – but both deserve a mention for their contributions last week. You really just never know what could happen in the coming months.
Hauser is a 6’8 forward who is averaging more than 17 points per game as a junior, with 20-of-36 field goal makes coming from three. Hauser, who also pulls down 6.5 boards per game, is shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. He dropped 20 points on 15 shots against Kansas on Wednesday.
“Since Sam has gotten to Marquette, and even in high school, if I had one word to describe him, it could he, ‘Consistent,’” said teammate and fellow go-to guy Markus Howard.
“Each and every day, you know what you’re getting from Sam on a consistent basis. He does pretty much everything, he’s a glue guy for us. Just being able to play with him, he makes the game so much easier for others.”
G, Markus Howard, Marquette
At 5’11, Howard landed on the All-Big East Second Team in the Preseason leading up to his junior campaign, where he leads the Golden Eagles with 19.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. Last season, Howard posted 20.4 points and around 3 rebounds and assists.
The speedy guard had 18 and 6 assists against Kansas and 21 with 5 dimes against Louisville.
“This was one of the best floor games that Markus has had,” coach ‘Wojo’ said Friday. “Since he’s been at Marquette – you need to understand that there’s a lot of pressure on Markus to deliver.”
But 5’11” guards have a tough time getting drafted in today’s NBA. Ask Yogi Ferrell.
F, Silvio De Souza, Kansas (ineligible for first semester)
G VJ King, Louisville
F Kyle Alexander, Tennessee