NBA Execs Reveal Their No. 1 Pick, Kansas’ Recruiting Struggles & More

Welcome to the Goody Bag, a grab bag of stories from Stadium hoops insider Jeff Goodman. Find more of Jeff’s content here and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter.


What Does It Take to Be No. 1?

A year ago, no one really wanted the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Sure, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas did his best to muster up a smile, but the top of the draft was beyond underwhelming.

This year it’s the polar opposite.

“There are at least three guys that would have gone No. 1 last season, maybe as many as five,” one NBA general manager told me earlier this week.

“No one was tanking last season,” another added. “This year will be different.”

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham stepped onto campus in Stillwater as the de facto frontrunner to be selected first in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he’s got some legit competition after a couple months of college hoops. Fellow frosh Jalen Suggs has been terrific at Gonzaga, showcasing an improved perimeter shot to go along with his elite-level passing and court vision at the point guard spot. There’s also freshman Evan Mobley, a skilled and talented big man at USC, and a pair of wings who opted for the new NBA G League pathway program in Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.

I reached out to more than 25 NBA executives — from general managers to scouts — and got their thoughts on who they would pick if they had the No. 1 pick right now and why they would make that choice.

1. Cade Cunningham (14 votes)

“His shooting has improved, and I think that was the biggest concern. He’s about all the right stuff. He’s got the size, he’s so smart, he can switch and he’s got great feel.” – NBA GM

“His versatility is so intriguing, especially in today’s NBA. He has such poise and a high basketball IQ. He can start the break himself with his defensive rebounding or he can make a play himself ahead of the break, catching it on the wing. When he decides to care more on defense, he’ll be able to switch, cross-match and guard multiple positions. He’s a Swiss Army knife. My only concern is his lack of urgency on ‘D.’” – NBA scout

“You may not be able to build the franchise around him, but if you already have a star or two, he’s the perfect complementary piece that is a rock star of a dude and is pretty effing good.” – NBA assistant GM

“Love that kid. Size, multi-positional, star power and he seems smart as hell. Has a high basketball IQ. He’s tough and coachable. Instant plug-and-play guy.” – NBA GM

“Uber-skilled, can create for himself and others, can shoot it, great feel and vision, size and length, plays at a good pace, always under control and has a high basketball IQ and feel on both ends.” – NBA assistant GM

2. Jalen Suggs (9 votes)

“I think he has a chance to be Jason Kidd. He’s not as athletic, but he shoots the ball better than Jason Kidd did at the same stage.” – NBA scout

“Suggs — and it’s not even close for him. He’s special. I have a man crush on him.” – NBA assistant GM

“Can play him multiple ways. Gives effort on both ends. Will come from a winning culture.” – NBA GM

3. Evan Mobley (3 votes)

“So versatile at his size. Special talent at his size and skill level.” – NBA assistant GM

“He’s not soft, not afraid. He’s really skilled.“ – NBA scout

“He’s super-talented, but his motor doesn’t run enough for me.” – NBA assistant GM

Don’t Forget About Me

Two players that did not receive any votes were the NBA G League’s Green and Kuminga. Multiple NBA executives said they expect both to go in the top half of the lottery and could be in the mix for the No. 1 pick, but they just haven’t watched enough yet because they’ve been focused more on college prospects since they are consistently on television.

Does it bother Green and Kuminga that guys like Cunningham and Suggs have received so much attention thus far while they are basking in relative obscurity?

“The only part that’s difficult is watching them play because we haven’t played many games yet,” Green recently told me. “But I’m happy for all those guys. Excited to see them killing it.”

“As long as I keep working on my game, getting better every day with my teammates, by the time I get the opportunity to go out and show, I might get the attention I want,” Kuminga added.


The Cardinal Can’t Wait to Come Home

Even through the mask, it was difficult to miss the emotion spill out onto Stanford coach Jerod Haase’s face when Oscar da Silva hit the game-winning bucket to beat UCLA on Saturday.

“I was emotional,” Haase admitted. “It was a big deal for us.”

Not only because it was an important win — and one that could ultimately get the Cardinal into the NCAA tourney come Selection Sunday — but also due to the fact that Stanford’s had to deal with added stress because of its challenging schedule in this COVID-19 season.

It’s hard to believe, but the Cardinal won’t play their first true home game until Super Bowl Sunday. This is a program that wasn’t allowed to practice this past summer in their own facility, and thus had to bring a basket onto the concourse. Then in September, they had basketball hoops set up on the tennis courts due to restrictions.

Courtesy of Stanford Athletics

The season opener against Utah Valley was canceled due to positive tests in the UVU program. The Cardinal departed for Asheville on Nov. 28 and were unaware of the restrictions placed upon Santa Clara County until they were re-fueling in Amarillo, Texas — which meant they would be unable to return to their dorms without having to quarantine for 14 days. Stanford opened the season with a win over Alabama in Asheville before losing to North Carolina and Indiana in the relocated Maui Invitational. The Cardinal remained in North Carolina from Dec. 3-8, and Roy Williams offered Haase, his former player, use of the UNC facilities. Stanford added a game against North Carolina A&T while they were there.

After a brief stay in Los Angeles from Dec. 9-15, the entire Stanford team has stayed at a pair of hotels in Santa Cruz while practicing and playing at the Golden State Warriors’ G League facility.

The only time the team has been in their own dorm rooms this season was during a five-day stretch when everyone went back to campus for the Christmas break. They returned on Dec. 21 after a win over Cal State Bakersfield and quarantined until flying to Eugene, Ore. on Dec. 27. After splitting wins with the Oregon schools, it was back to Santa Cruz on Jan. 5.

“It’s been rough. It’s different for everyone, and I’m not saying it’s only, ‘Woe is us!’” remarked Haase. “I understand there are a lot of positives for everybody, but the mental health piece has been difficult — for players and coaches. I’ve barely seen my family. I’ve always understood the mental health component, but never realized how important it is until now, how real and widespread it is.”

Haase was able to finally deliver the news on Tuesday that the county’s stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted, and that the game on Feb. 7 against Cal would now be held at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion. But there are still four road games before they can return to their dorms, which will mean that the Cardinal will have spent 65 of the first 70 days since the season started on the road.


Rock Chalk, Recruiting

Look no further than the NCAA’s investigation into potential recruiting violations as to why Kansas doesn’t “look” like Kansas.

That’s not to say that Jayhawks head coach Bill Self can’t get this team to the Final Four. They still have talent, it’s just not the usual KU talent.

“We’ve lost to the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 teams in the country,” Self told me earlier in the week. “And they are all better. We can beat them, but a lot more has to go right for us than for them.”

I reached out to a couple of NBA executives, and they agreed that while Ochai Agbaji has a chance to go in the first round, the Jayhawks are unlikely to have a first-round pick on their roster. Sure, guys like Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham both came to Lawrence unheralded and have turned into pros, but a clear indication of Kansas’ struggles on the recruiting trail lies in the fact that the Jayhawks have gotten just one top-50 player in the last two recruiting classes (Bryce Thompson) and haven’t been able to secure a top-20 player since Quentin Grimes in 2018. In a six-year span from 2013-18, Self and his staff landed nine players who were ranked in the top 20.

“The NCAA stuff has crushed them. The big difference [between] now and a couple years ago is that kids know that they are going to get hit soon. It’s coming, where a couple years ago it seemed so far away,” said one Big 12 head coach. “In terms of actual talent right now, I’d probably rank them fourth in the league.”

Take a closer look at the talent that’s committed to Kansas over the years.

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2020

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Bryce Thompson 29 21
Tyon Grant-Foster JUCO JUCO
Gethro Muscadin X 167
Latrell Jossell X 309

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2019

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Jalen Wilson 73 53
Tristan Enaruna X 64
Dajuan Harris X 94
Christian Braun X 130
Issac McBride X 137

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2018

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Quentin Grimes 8 10
Devon Dotson 24 21
David McCormack 27 36
Ochai Agbaji X 132

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2017

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Billy Preston 18 20
Silvio De Sousa X 32
Marcus Garrett 64 55

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2016

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Josh Jackson 2 1
Udoka Azubuike 22 33
Mitch Lightfoot 68 116

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2015

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Cheick Diallo 7 5
Carlton Bragg 21 24
LaGerald Vick 51 81

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2014

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Cliff Alexander 3 4
Kelly Oubre 11 7
Devonte’ Graham X 40
Svi Mykhailiuk X 239

 

Kansas Recruiting Class – 2013

ESPN Ranking 24/7 Ranking
Andrew Wiggins 1 1
Joel Embiid 6 14
Wayne Selden 14 13
Conner Frankamp 46 43
Brannen Greene 47 35
Frank Mason X 118

 


Jeff Neubauer Out at Fordham

Jeff Neubauer was finally given his walking papers on Tuesday, and let’s be honest: If not for the pandemic, it would have happened last March.

Now Fordham joins Wichita State and Penn State as schools looking for a permanent men’s head coach. There’s still a chance Wichita State AD Darron Boatright hires interim coach Isaac Brown, but it’s far more likely he brings in someone from the outside after jettisoning Gregg Marshall for verbal and physical abuse just days prior to the start of the season. Penn State’s Jim Ferry also took over on an interim basis after Pat Chambers resigned before the season began.

The Fordham program has been irrelevant for a long, long time. The Rams’ last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1992 under Nick Macarchuk. Bob Hill was abysmal in his four seasons (1999-2003), Dereck Whittenburg was 69-112 in his tenure (2003-2009), Tom Pecora didn’t win more than 10 games in any of his five seasons (2010-2015) and Neubauer was 61-104 in his stint.

New AD Ed Kull will have no shortage of applicants as the Fordham job is attractive because of the large number of mid-major players in the immediate area, and also because the bar has been set so damn low at the school.

Look for the field to include current head coaches such as Shaheen Holloway (St. Peter’s), John Becker (Vermont), Carmen Maciariello (Siena) and Jared Grasso (Bryant), and assistants like Luke Murray (Louisville), Darren Savino (UCLA) and Kimani Young (UConn).


Remember the Ramblers

Since the Ivy League canceled its season and Brown University coach Mike Martin is looking for things to do to keep busy, we asked Martin, who just happens to be Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser’s good friend, to help us out with a scouting report on why the Ramblers could make another NCAA Tournament run come March.

Martin has been helping Moser out over the past couple months and has studied Loyola (13-3, 8-1) closely:

First of all, they have very good players. They have evaluated extremely well in terms of getting guys who fit the school and their program, and they have also worked hard to get kids to pass on other options for Loyola. They’re mature and experienced, starting four seniors and a sit-out transfer. Cameron Krutwig started as a freshman on that Final Four team, and Lucas Williamson was a key reserve. They have really good depth. After Krutwig, the next seven guys all average between 6.0 and 10.0 points per game and any of them can go for 20-plus on a given night.

Their staff deserves a lot of credit for maximizing the abilities of the roster. Their culture is so strong in terms of guys loving to play with each other and for the program, but also doing the gritty things necessary to win. It’s so clear every time you watch them play. Defensively, they are incredibly connected, very disciplined with their attention to detail, and have great versatility in their coverages. On offense, a lot goes through Krutwig, who is like a point guard playing center with his passing and decision-making. They have shooters all around him, and screen, cut, and move the ball well to create really high-quality shots.

If you look at the numbers, it confirms how balanced and efficient they are at both ends. As of Wednesday night, they are top 50 in the country in BOTH adjusted offense and defense per KenPom. The only other non-Power Five/Big East teams who can say that are Gonzaga, Houston, and Saint Louis. Their defense is top 10 and excels in every major statistical area (forcing tough shots, not fouling, limited second chance points, and turning the offense over). Williamson is an outstanding perimeter defender and leads them on that end. On offense, they’re so efficient because they take great shots and have shot makers. They’ve been top 20 nationally in field goal percentage each of the past five years and eighth or better each of the past four years.


Mid-Major Musings

• Drake remained unbeaten after a sweep of Missouri State. There have been seven teams in the MVC to start the season 14-0 and five of them went to the NCAA tourney. The last one was Wichita State, which went 35-0 in 2014 before losing to Kentucky.

• Belmont has won 20 consecutive OVC games, the fifth-longest streak in league history.

• The ASUN will officially announce Friday that Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State will join the league in all sports.

• Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey leads the country in double-doubles, is second in blocks per game (3.4 bpg), and third in rebounds (12.2 rpg).

• The Big West has had 20 of its 50 games canceled this year due to virus-related or county-related pauses, but all 10 games last weekend were completed. The league tourney was moved from the Honda Center to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this year.

• There have been more than 90 changes to the MAAC’s original schedule with the lone series remaining on its originally scheduled timetable coming this weekend between Saint Peter’s and Manhattan. Rick Pitino and Iona have been idle since Dec. 23 and are scheduled to return Wednesday against Manhattan and his former player/assistant Steve Masiello.

• A team to watch if they make the NCAA Tournament is Toledo. Toledo (14-4 overall, 9-1 MAC) has five guys averaging in double figures, but the Rockets have a star in senior guard Marreon Jackson.

• Bryant is 10-3 and 6-2 in the NEC this season with its up-tempo style implemented by Jared Grasso. The Bulldogs are fourth in the country in scoring (89.2 ppg) and have been led by Rutgers transfer Peter Kiss (17.8 ppg) and sophomore point guard Michael Green III (18.3 ppg).