How much did Kansas loss hurt Aldrich and Collins' draft stock?

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Yesterday was not a banner day for the University of Kansas basketball team. They fell from being the prohibitive favorite to win the title to being the victim of what many are calling the biggest upset in NCAA history. Their star, Sharron Collins leaves shrouded in failure after winning the title in 2008, but failing to capitalize on the most talented KU team in years. Bill Self can comfort himself with that championship, but also faces early exits thanks to Bradley and now, University of Northern Iowa.

But you knew all that already. What about the NBA prospects of the kids headed back to Lawrence early?

Sherron Collins was thought by some to be the best point guard in the country. Granted, that meant completely overlooking John Wall, but still, the sentiment was out there. Collins enters the NBA as guard with a championship and a starter for a national powerhouse. But if ever there was a game to reveal the weakness in his game, yesterday was it. He was turnover prone, and all the nifty shots that led him to greatness not only weren’t falling, but looked like poor decisions.

Collins excelled at the college level thanks to his penchant for creating and hitting tough shots, particularly after making contact. While the contact piece is good, his lean-away move won’t work in the NBA, where he’ll be swallowed up by the length of NBA defenders. He’s not particularly fast, is shorter than most guards, and doesn’t possess terrific vision. Unlike Ty Lawson and Darren Collison, guards who excelled at major national programs and then lit their respective teams aflame in their rookie seasons, Collins doesn’t possess the same kind of athleticism.

A team will likely reach out and take Collins at some point, but don’t be surprised if yesterday scares him off into the second round.

Cole Aldrich is a much more interesting case. Aldrich is currently at six on the board according to DraftExpress. But last night’s game could have an impact on where he ends up. Aldrich had a tough game, though as opposed to most upsets, he wasn’t facing a smaller lineup. The Panthers trotted out several bigs to keep Aldrich occupied. Then Aldrich turned his ankle in the second half and that also slowed him down.

Aldrich has a tremendous skillset for a big man, offensively. He’s not the fastest or most versatile in terms of offense, but what he does, he does well. The question will be in his passing, which is good not great, and his rebounding. Though he racked up 10 boards and the Jayhawks outrebounded the Panthers yesterday, there were still several times where Aldrich was either beaten to a crucial rebound or unable to effectively tap out the ball to reset the offense.

Aldrich is still a top-ten pick, but after being seen as high as #3 overall at one point this season, yesterday probably dinged up his stock a bit.

Xavier Henry was a big winner yesterday for the Jayhawks, with 8 points and 8 rebounds, and two steals as well. His athleticism was on display, and was evident as KU scrambled to get back into the game. But Henry’s season in full may warrant another year under Bill Self alongside the Morris twins if he wants to assure himself a top 15 pick. Henry struggled early in the system before coming on late. Another season would likely boost him to high lottery status.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.