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Around the SEC

SEC Football Preview: Running Backs

For the next few weeks leading to the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week I rank the top running back UNITS in the conference. This isn’t a ranking of the best individual running backs. Instead, this ranking is judging each team by their overall depth and talent at the position.

1. Alabama

With the departure of Bo Scarbrough to the NFL, senior Damien Harris is now the leader for the Crimson Tide ground attack – which is great news for Alabama.

Scarbrough was indeed talented, but both Damien Harris and Najee Harris are better overall running backs. The fact that they will see considerably more carries this season is simply addition by subtraction for Alabama.

Last season Damien Harris notched over 1,000 yards rushing while also becoming the all-time leader at the school in yards per carry. That kind of career speaks for itself. I’m expecting a huge year from the Berea, KY product which could even include a Heisman candidacy.

However, don’t be surprised if Najee Harris steals the spotlight some this season. Like Damien, Najee was also the No. 1 running back in his class and for good reason. Also, who could forget the way he played in the National Championship game as a true freshman against the vaunted Georgia Bulldog defense?? As always, Nick Saban has an abundant of riches in the backfield.

2. Georgia

Personally, I think it’s completely unfair how Georgia loses both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and they will still manage to roll out D’Andre Swift this season.

Even with both Chubb and Michel running for over 1,200 rushing yards last year, Swift still managed to run for over 600 yards while averaging 7.6 yards per carry as a freshman in the SEC.

I expect Swift and Damien Harris to be two of the best running backs in the conference this year. In fact, I think it’s completely within reason to expect that Swift may get close to tripling his rushing total from last season. He honestly has that much talent.

Behind Swift is an absolute stacked stable of backs. They also return Elijah Holyfield and welcome in freshmen Zamir White and James Cook. All three of these players were ranked in the top 10 in their classes at their position, and White was ranked as the No. 1 running back in this year’s class.

This kind of depth is truly special. It’s the deepest in the SEC, and if Swift had more experience and production to judge from then Georgia would be my No. 1 running back unit.

3. Kentucky

I know this ranking may upset Kentucky fans who were expecting UK to be either No. 1 or 2 on this list as Benny Snell has the best stats out of any running back in the conference returning from last season.

But just by looking at the depth and overall talent that both Georgia and Alabama have at the position, it’s obvious they have better units than the Wildcats do. It is just that simple.

However, Mark Stoops may just have the best starting running back not only in the SEC but in the entire country. Snell is on track to break a truckload of UK records this season and even some conference ones as well.

Simply put, Snell is the best running back in the history of the school and he should be selected in the first couple of rounds of the next NFL draft.

Behind Snell is senior Sihiem King who I believe is underrated. He is extremely elusive and might even be faster than Snell. While other parts of his game need to improve, King is the definition of a dependable backup to an absolute workhorse.

After King, Kentucky’s depth at the position is pretty much a question mark which is why, despite having Snell, the Wildcats are below Georgia and Alabama.

4. Florida

This may be a surprising ranking to many considering just how disappointing the Gators were last season. However, expect Florida to be a team that will really surprise fans this season.

One area that will be a major strength for the Gators will be their ground game. It starts and ends with junior Jordan Scarlett. Scarlett has a bit of a troubled past as he was suspended last season, but as a freshman he managed to run for almost 1,000 yards while averaging five yards per carry.

Add Scarlett back into the equation along with Lamical Perine and Malik Davis who each ran for over 500 yards last season and you have one of the most experienced tailback units in the conference.

Just in case injuries become an issue for this unit this season, the Gators also signed Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement in this year’s recruiting class. Both were considered among the top 20 running backs coming out of high school.

Florida finished 76th in rushing offense in all of college football last season. With the return of Scarlett and the addition of Mullen’s new offense expect that number to drastically improve in 2018.

5. Mississippi State

Question: After Benny Snell, who is the second leading rusher in the SEC returning from last season? Well in case you didn’t know, let me introduce you to Mississippi State’s Aeris Williams.

Williams carried the ball 236 times last season for 1,107 yards. Even with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald getting the ball a ton on the ground, it’s crazy that Williams was depended upon that much.

Former head coach Dan Mullen knew exactly what kind of talent he had with Williams, however. Good things just happen when he has the ball. Expect an even bigger season in his senior year at Starkville.

Backing him up is Kylin Hill who notched five yards a carry last season as a highly touted freshman. Because Fitzgerald is coming off a gruesome injury, I expect that new Head Coach Joe Moorhead will run the ball primarily with Williams and Hill early in the season which means better numbers for both.

Honorable Mentions:

Texas A&M

Missouri

Auburn


Tennessee ditching checkerboard pattern on uniforms

Tennessee ditching checkerboard pattern on uniforms

For decades, the checkerboard pattern has been synonymous with Tennessee football (even if Kentucky did it first). Not for long. According to a new report, the Vols are retiring the checkerboard stripe on their helmets and pants and replacing it with a single solid stripe:

Can Kentucky please do the same???


WATCH: Man successfully prank called Nick Saban

WATCH: Man successfully prank called Nick Saban

A Tennessee man with a phenomenal southern accent somehow managed to successfully prank call Nick Saban over the weekend.

When Saban picked up the phone, the man introduced himself as “98” and then asked about Alabama recruiting “his boy,” a kicker out of “Happy Valley.”

Saban seemed to be fooled by the call considering he answered all of the prankster’s questions. But it was kind of impressive to hear how well Saban sounded on the phone when he clearly didn’t know the person on the other end, and he was on vacation at the time.

Watch:


SEC Football Preview: Quarterbacks

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

For the next few weeks leading up until the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week I preview the most important position on the field for each team: the position of quarterback. Teams are listed by alphabetical order.

SEC West

Alabama

The Crimson Tide have the best problem college football. They have a competitive quarterback competition between two fantastic options in Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.

While Tua is obviously the better passer, he tends to gamble at times which will result in more overall interceptions than Hurts will have. In past seasons, Saban has used Hurts primarily as a game manager and in the ground attack so it will be hard for Saban to go against Hurts as the starter.

However, Tua’s arm talent speaks for itself. I expect Saban will go with the sophomore to start the season under center, and that Alabama will have its best passing attack possibly in Saban’s tenure there.

This program has never had a quarterback win the Heisman Trophy, but that has a strong chance of happening this year if Tua starts and turns the ball over at a low rate. Believe the hype, folks.

Arkansas

We go from one of the best quarterback situations in the SEC at Tuscaloosa, to one of the most uncertain in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are a team in transition as they are adopting an offensive spread system under new head coach Chad Morris.

While last year’s starter Austin Allen departs, Arkansas does return sophomore Cole Kelley who saw considerable time under center last season when Allen was injured.

While Kelley seems like the favorite just because of his arm strength, experience, and size (6’7) it’s not certain who Morris will pick to run his new spread system as there are other talented QB’s on the roster.

Expect to see an improvement in the air-attack no matter who wins the job thanks to the new pass-friendly system.

Auburn

Welcome to the Jarrett Stidham show. After a solid first year in the SEC (18-6 TD-INT ratio, 3,000+ passing yards) the former Baylor transfer enters this season with not only some Heisman hype but NFL hype as well.

Many scouts have him pegged as a first rounder in next year’s NFL Draft due to his blend of arm strength, accuracy, and size. Even better news for Stidham is that the Tigers return their top 5 receivers from last season.

Even though Head Coach Gus Malzahn loves to run the football, the loss of Kerryon Johnson may enable the passing attack to be utilized more this fall. Either way, the Tigers will be fielding debatably the most NFL-ready quarterback in the SEC next fall, and that is a dangerous weapon to have.

LSU

Tell me if you have ever heard this one before: LSU enters the fall with uncertainty at the quarterback position. While quarterback Danny Etling had a nice season under center last year, it seems like every fall the Tiger’s biggest question mark is at quarterback.

This year is no different as Etling departs and a quarterback competition from the spring rages on. The competition was mainly between Myles Brennan, Justin McMillian, and Lowell Narcisse but none of which separated from the pack.

Enter Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow. I expect him to start week one due to his experience going up against the Buckeye’s talented defense in practice throughout the years.

No matter who starts, the cupboard will be bare. LSU loses Derrius Guice along with their top three receivers. Even with the move to a more pass-happy system, it’s a rebuilding year on offense for the Tigers.

Mississippi

When a player like Shea Patterson transfers, you would think your team would be hurting at the quarterback position. In the SEC however, never underestimate a team’s depth.

When Patterson went down with injury last year, senior Jordan Ta’amu stepped up in a big way for the Rebels. He led Ole Miss to three victories including one such win over rival Miss. State. He also managed to somehow top Patterson in completion percentage and overall quarterback rating.

It’s easy to see why Patterson transferred because he might not be starting this season even if he was healthy. That’s how good Ta’amu is. He may just be the best kept secret in the SEC.

Mississippi State

There may not be a more respected quarterback in the SEC than Nick Fitzgerald. He is as tough as they come and is also one of the most experienced play callers in the conference as he enters his third year behind center.

He is coming off a devastating ankle injury he suffered in the Egg Bowl last season, but expect him to be back at full strength by the time the season starts. While he is an incredible athlete in the open field, Fitzgerald still needs to develop further as a passer as he only completed 55% of his passes last season.

If he can take that next step with the assistance of new Head Coach Joe Moorhead and become considerably more accurate, expect a loaded Miss. St. team to make a lot of noise next season.

Texas A&M

Kellen Mond was an extremely highly touted prospect out of high school, but he suffered a very bad freshman season. Luckily for the Aggies another freshman quarterback in the form of Nick Starkel stepped up and showed considerable promise (60% comp. percentage, 14-6 TD-INT ratio).

With Jimbo Fisher in town I expect Starkel to impress even more in his sophomore season. There will be growing pains as the entire program must adjust to the addition of Fisher so don’t expect a huge year coming from College Station in 2018.

Better days are on the way. In the meantime, Starkel will at the very least be a steady hand at the quarterback position.

SEC East

Florida

The Tebow curse has been a real one for this program. Ever since he left, the Gators have yet to field a consistent, good quarterback. Even when they had one in Will Grier he was forced to transfer.

Expect those days to come to an end with the arrival of quarterback whisperer Dan Mullen. Feleipe Franks and Emory Jones will battle for the starting spot this fall. I expect Franks to start out the season, but I really think that Jones will be starting by the time November rolls around.

Jones is incredibly talented, and he committed to Florida only after Mullen was hired. Seems like the plan is for Jones to be the quarterback of the future for the Gators. I expect better numbers from a much-improved unit this year thanks to a better system being in place.

Georgia

Oh boy. This is the most controversial quarterback unit in the SEC. If you think having to choose between Hurts and Tua was tough, try picking a starting quarterback between Jake Fromm and Justin Fields.

Of course, this is a win-win scenario for the Bulldogs as both are truly great players. I really, really like Fromm’s talent. If he can keep away Fields from overtaking the starting spot, I think that Fromm will be selected early in the 2020 draft.

But that’s easier said than done. Many people think that Fields will eventually become the starter this season which is crazy to think about. If Head Coach Kirby Smart does decide to go that route than Fields better be the next Deshaun Watson. Starting out the freshman in a tough SEC is a risky move to say the least.

Kentucky

Heading into this fall, the Wildcats’ quarterback unit is by far the worst in the conference. Now before all you Kentucky fans come after me understand this: I’m not saying it will be that way during the season.

The Wildcats simply don’t have a single quarterback with even a second of playing time in Division I football. No other team in the SEC can say that. However, even with that lack of experience everything isn’t all doom and gloom Lexington.

The competition is between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak who are both talented. Wilson is incredibly fast and is a good runner, while Hoak may be the more polished pocket passer.

However, both had inaccurate springs and neither separated. Not having a truly good quarterback has held back a very talented UK squad, and it will do so again this fall if neither Wilson or Hoak can prove to be consistent.

Missouri

Remember how I said that Stidham was debatably the most pro-ready quarterback in the SEC? Well that debate exists because of Missouri’s Drew Lock. Lock set the conference on fire last season, and he also carried a mediocre Missouri squad to a winning season.

Expect more of the same this year as most of the offense around him returns. Lock is a prototypical pocket passer with his great size and arm strength. However, like Fitzgerald he needs to work on his accuracy as he only completes 57% of his passes.

If he becomes more accurate, then I think it’s very possible the Tigers could finish second in an SEC East that’s wide open after Georgia. This guy might just be the No. 1 overall pick next spring if Missouri has a breakout year.

South Carolina

Jake Bentley had mountains of hype heading into his sophomore season after he showcased a lot of talent in his first year in Columbia. The results were pretty average as he led the Gamecocks to a much improved 9-4 record.

Now that South Carolina has proved they are a good team in the SEC, they need to take that next step into becoming a great team. That begins and ends with Bentley. If he can take that next step and have a Drew Lock-type of season, then the Gamecocks will make some serious noise this fall.

If he stays at around the same level he is at now, then expect another season like last year for the Gamecocks.

Tennessee

After a truly terrible season last year the Volunteers are turning the page with a new head coach and possibly a new quarterback. Graduate transfer Keller Chryst comes over from Stanford to bring assistance to a passing attack that badly needs it.

Tennessee’s offense as a whole was trash last season, but Chryst could help change all of that. He was a very highly touted quarterback out of high school, and he was solid at Stanford.

While Jarrett Guarantano showed some promise last fall, it’s obvious that he needs more time to develop. Sitting behind a pro-style quarterback like Chryst should only help his college career. Expect an improvement in stats from this unit.

Vanderbilt

This is Kyle Shurmur’s team. He had a breakout season in 2017, however the Commodores still finished with a losing record while also missing out on a bowl game.

Despite a 26-10 TD-INT ratio from Shurmur, Vanderbilt looked like one of the worst teams in the SEC in the second half of the season finishing with a 2-7 record.

Shurmur is another big, talented pocket passer and I expect him to have another good year. He does need to become more accurate as well, but the Commodores have a lot of other problems to worry about first. Sadly, it probably won’t matter how well he plays because Vanderbilt seems to be at least another year away.


Bruce Pearl: Calipari liking his team so soon is “scary”

(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

It’s not just Kentucky fans that are picking up on John Calipari’s excitement for this season. On today’s SEC Summer Teleconference, Bruce Pearl said Cal’s summertime swagginess is “scary” for the rest of the conference.

“John [Calipari] likes this team and he likes them in June,” the Auburn head coach said. “That’s scary for the rest of us. He usually doesn’t like them until March.”

Kentucky will be the favorite to win the league heading into the season, but the conference is loaded from top to bottom, with five teams in ESPN’s Way Too Early Top 25 (1. Kentucky; 5. Tennessee; 11. Auburn; 21. LSU; 22. Mississippi State). The SEC sent a record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, but with so many returning players and even more elite talent coming in, Pearl expects the conference to be tougher than ever.

“Top to bottom, the league was the best I’ve ever seen it last year. There truly wasn’t a night off,” Pearl said. “Next year, I think the top is going to be even stronger than it was last year. This is going to be the most competitive year that I can remember in SEC Basketball because the quality at the top of the league is going to be even stronger. You look at Mississippi State and LSU, what those teams have brought in and Vanderbilt, how much they’re improved. Tennessee’s got everybody back. We’ve got a lot of guys back. Alabama’s got a lot of guys back that have a lot more experience.

“Kentucky is loaded again, like they’ve always been, but with a little bit of experience. I think [PJ] Washington coming back was huge. I’m a big fan of him and his toughness.”

We are too.


Photo from USA Today

Rookie Season Predictions for SEC Draftees

Photo from USA Today

Below are predictions for how the rookie seasons for the seven SEC Players in the selected in the 2018 Draft might play out. These are of course predictions sure to be wrong, but hopefully you will have a better idea of what these players will be facing in their first seasons.

Collin Sexton-Cleveland Cavaliers

This prediction of course depends a lot on if LeBron James is going to be a Cleveland Cavalier next season so let’s play this out both ways.

If LeBron stays: Sexton will be playing with arguably the best to ever lace up basketball shoes. It will do nothing but help how the Alabama guard will come along in his introduction to the league.

Also, the Cavs will yet again be making a deep postseason run which means Sexton will get a lot of valuable experience playing on some of the biggest stages in the sport so notoriety will come his big time like it did for Tatum on the Celtics.

If LeBron leaves: Sexton will be playing on a bad team apart from Kevin Love. Instead of LeBron, he will be having to look up to George Hill which is a big difference. However, don’t forget that Hill played the role of mentor for De’Aaron Fox at the start of last season.

Prediction: Sexton is a pure competitor. Expect him to hit the rookie wall and struggle like all rookies do, but he will showcase that he is a valuable young asset no matter what LeBron does. Worst case scenario he fails to make the All-Rookie First team and instead settles for the second team.

Kevin Knox-New York Knicks

Knox’s rookie year will have some ups and downs so prepare for them. First off, I expect him to struggle A LOT at first. Remember, this is an 18-year-old we are talking about here.

Don’t expect anything special this year, or possibly the next. Knox needs time to let his game and more importantly his body get adjusted to the NBA and that will take time. He isn’t as NBA ready as Sexton or other prospects are in my opinion at this moment.

And that’s perfectly fine. I think Knox will eventually blossom into a potential star player once he nears his mid-20’s. Go back and watch that West Virginia game from this year. He annihilated the best defense in the nation. That’s when I knew he would become a dependable NBA player at worse.

Prediction: Porzingis will more than likely miss the entire first half of the season so there will be playing time and stats for Knox to go for as the Knicks are going to truly stink. Overall, he will be a guy battling to get on the all-rookie second team, but he will pull it off after getting somewhere in the ballpark of 9-11 points and 5-6 rebounds per game.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-LA Clippers

This is the hardest prediction to make out of the seven SEC players. I love Shai’s defensive potential even as a rookie. However, he is on a team with three other point guards who all averaged at least 25 minutes per game last season (Patrick Beverly, Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic).

However, they spent too high of a draft pick on Shai so I expect him to somehow get decent playing time this year. I predict that at least one of those guards above won’t be around at the start of next season. There have been some rumblings that the Clippers are looking to trade Beverley which would give Shai added playing time.

Prediction: Shai is on a team that badly needs his defensive capabilities. As far as stats go, don’t expect anything impressive. Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, Danilo Galinari and possibly DeAndre Jordan if he returns will handle the scoring load on this team.

Where Shai will make his impact is in the steals and assists departments for the Clippers. An all-rookie team is a stretch, but he will get some votes. The important thing for him is to just show that he belongs on this team as a team-first player, which he will do.

Michael Porter Jr.-Denver Nuggets

Porter Jr. had an unfortunate draft night as he experienced an embarrassing fall to the No. 14 overall pick as teams had growing concerns over his back injury.

However, falling to Denver is a win for him. This is a stable franchise with a talented young core that just missed the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.

Rumors are swirling that Porter Jr. may miss half or even all his rookie season. If he does, it would greatly put a dimmer on whatever I predict for him, but it may pay dividends for him in the long run. Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons both missed the entirety of their rookie season and they turned out just fine.

Prediction: If Porter Jr. does get to play at least half of this season, don’t expect too much from him. He is returning off a bad injury and will take time adjusting to that while also adjusting to a new league. Plus, the Nuggets are pretty good to go roster-wise so he will be coming off the bench at first.

If he makes the impact that I think Kevin Knox will make in New York, it would be an impressive accomplishment for Porter Jr. in his first season.

Robert Williams-Boston Celtics

Many experts called this the steal of the draft. I for one was shocked that a player with Williams’ talent fell this far to Boston. This was bar-none one of the best picks in the draft considering his value and the Celtics’ need for a dominant rim protector.

He doesn’t always play his hardest at times, which is why he almost fell into the second round. However, expect Brad Stevens to push and get the most out of Williams.

Prediction: The centers on the Celtics are currently Aaron Baynes, Greg Monroe, and Daniel Theis. I really think Williams is going to crack this rotation and potentially even start some games. I see him having a very similar year as Bam Adebayo had with the Miami Heat. He will have several ESPN Top 10 plays (like the one below) while making a strong case that he is this team’s future at the center position.

Jarred Vanderbilt-Denver Nuggets

I did not expect a team to select both Porter Jr. and Vanderbilt in this draft but here we are. Coming into the draft I assumed that a pretty talented team would pick him to provide energy off the bench so that is a positive sign.

As far as Vanderbilt’s rookie season is going to go, I expect him to start out in the G League at first. Strangely like Porter Jr., he is coming off an injury as well so that is probably a good place for him to start.

Prediction: Hopefully the Summer League (if he plays in it) and the G League will be platforms for Vanderbilt to show off his first-round talent. I’m not for sure if he makes an impact as a rookie this season, but I do predict that he eventually makes the full-time roster by season’s end, which would be a massive win for him.

Hamidou Diallo-Oklahoma City Thunder

I for one am glad Diallo fell to the Thunder in this draft. That’s an organization that is routinely in the playoffs and one that also has a solid front office.

Plus, the Thunder are not an NBA team known for having a deep bench, let alone a good one. Depth at the guard position behind Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson looks like this: Corey Brewer, Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, and Raymond Felton.

If Diallo can unleash his athletic game in the Summer League and prove that he should be on the active roster there is a small chance he can get into that rotation and see some playing time.

Prediction: Diallo is the definition of a project. His skills are so raw that it will honestly take 2-3 years to fully polish his game if he ever wants to be a reliable player in the league.

If he can earns playing time at any point this year with a team that will be back in the playoffs, that will be a huge accomplishment at this early stage of his development. But my optimism for that happening is low.


Best and Worst Fits for SEC NBA Draft Prospects

Here are what I believe are the best and worst fits for the seven SEC prospects slated to be selected on Thursday night. (Note: This post is looking at teams who may realistically draft these players, otherwise everyone’s best fit would be with great franchises like the Spurs or Warriors).

1. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

Best Fit: Dallas Mavericks at Pick No. 5

Worst Fit: Cleveland Cavaliers at Pick No. 8

Porter Jr. is possibly the most interesting prospect in this draft. He barely played at Missouri last season due to a terrible back injury which will scare off some teams, but he has incredible talent.

Unless teams are secretly terrified of his injury past, there is no way Porter Jr. falls out of the top 10 picks. Ideally, he should be hoping that he gets selected by the Mavericks.

Dallas still has a solid infrastructure with Rick Carlisle as the head coach, an NBA legend in Dirk to help bring along Porter Jr., and a budding young star in Dennis Smith Jr.

Cleveland would be the worst spot as Porter Jr. would be asked way too soon after returning from such a serious injury to try and replace LeBron James (yes, he is going to leave). That won’t be an easy task alongside such a bad roster.

2. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Best Fit: Charlotte Hornets at Pick No. 11

Worst Fit: Orlando Magic at Pick No. 6

Charlotte seems like a great fit for Knox’s talent. The Hornets have a nice inside-outside game with Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard, and they are just missing an offensive threat from the forward position.

Nicholas Batum and Marvin Williams took huge steps back last season, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just isn’t good offensively. Slide Knox into the rotation and the Hornets will be in business.

The Magic are one of the worst franchises in the entire league. Combine that with the fact that their roster is full of athletic forwards fighting for playing time, and I’m afraid Knox will get lost in the stupid chaos. In a weird way, I hope he does not get drafted this high.

3. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Best Fit: New York Knicks at Pick No. 9

Worst Fit: Philadelphia 76ers at Pick No. 10

Yes, I know saying that the Knicks are an ideal destination for someone sounds stupid, but hear me out on this one. I’m still high on Sexton’s talent. His flashy style of play will work perfectly with the Knicks who are badly missing an exciting point guard.

Pick and rolls with him and Porzingis would be deadly. Guard Frank Ntilikina is going to be a great defensive guard. Pairing him with Sexton will prevent the Alabama star from spending a lot of energy on defense.

The 76ers drafting Sexton makes literally no sense at all, which is why it won’t happen. They have ball dominant players already in Simmons and potentially Fultz. Landing in Philly means Sexton will struggle to fully translate his talent onto the court.

4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky

Best Fit: L.A. Clippers at Pick No. 12 or No. 13

Worst Fit: Milwaukee Bucks at Pick No. 17

Personally, I think the Clippers taking Shai would be one of the best fits in the entire draft. They are incredibly weak at the point guard position considering that Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic couldn’t guard a trash can.

He would give them an immediate upgrade defensively from those players and become an active player in their rotation. At the end of a lottery, a player like that isn’t always a guarantee.

I don’t think Shai will fall all the way down to 17, but if he did I have a feeling the Bucks would take him to backup Eric Bledsoe. That franchise has a thing for players with huge wingspans, but I feel like he could get lost in this rotation alongside Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings, and Matthew Dellavedova.

5. Robert Williams, Texas A&M

Best Fit: L.A. Clippers at Pick No. 12 or No. 13

Worst Fit: Washington Wizards at Pick No. 15

(Photo: John Glaser, USA TODAY Sports)

I really think it would be in the Clippers best interest to pick Shai and Williams back-to-back on Thursday night. Both players would provide immediate defensive help while also providing potential sparks on offense.

I know that the Clippers still have DeAndre Jordan, but he only has one year left on his contract, and I’m willing to bet he will be getting out of town. Who better to mentor Williams his first year in the league than a fellow Aggie who has a very similar playing style?

The Wizards could potentially select him as they need some rim protection as well. However, they seem like a team with too much drama. Williams doesn’t always play his hardest on the floor, and he certainly doesn’t need to go to a team that will not push him to always play hard.

6. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky

Best Fit: Atlanta Hawks at Pick No. 30

Worst Fit: Orlando Magic at Pick No. 35

Sneaking into the first round would be huge for Diallo. This draft is supposedly weak at this point which could cause a team like Atlanta to prevent a talented prospect like Diallo from being a second-round pick.

The Hawks are such a young and bad team, and they could really use an athletic defender like Diallo at the two-guard spot. Their current shooting guards are Tyler Dorsey and Antonius Cleveland. Diallo should be an upgrade from those guys.

Can you tell I don’t like the Magic? Similar with Knox above, the Magic are pretty set at Diallo’s position and he could get lost in their terrible infrastructure. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they selected him because they need the defensive help.

7. Jarred Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Best Fit: L.A. Lakers at Pick No. 47

Worst Fit: Houston Rockets at Pick No. 46

In case you haven’t heard, the Lakers are about to completely change up their entire roster. They are a prime team in the LeBron sweepstakes, plus Kawhi Leonard supposedly wants to play there as well.

If they do transform into a super team, Vanderbilt would be a great selection near the end of the draft. A high-energy rebounder that also provides toughness is an ideal skill set for a bench player trying to earn playing time. Plus, he could be learning from Leonard and James which is perfect.

The Rockets were the best team in the regular season last year, but wow does Vanderbilt not need to go there. All they do is shoot three-pointers, and he pretty much has no outside jump shot right now. It wouldn’t make sense for Houston to draft him, but good teams like selecting good defensive players.


© Adam Hagy | USATSI

SEC Media Days will now include a fan day

© Adam Hagy | USATSI

SEC Media Day’s evolution from press conferences to a full-blown circus is now complete. The league just announced they are adding a fan day to this year’s festivities, which will take place in Atlanta.

The event, “SEC Football Kickoff Summerfest,” will be held Sunday, July 15 from 1-8 p.m. ET at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and will include a live broadcast of SEC Nation, music, food trucks, interactive games, and much, much more. Think of it as a giant tailgate party. In Atlanta. In the middle of July. Even though it will be hot as Hades, you know this guy will be there:

The main event takes place Monday, July 16 through Thursday, July 19 at the College Football Hall of Fame and Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center. Mark Stoops and Kentucky will help get things rolling on day one, along with Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher (that still feels weird to type) and LSU’s Ed Orgeron.

MONDAY, July 16

Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
LSU – Ed Orgeron

TUESDAY, July 17
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Florida – Dan Mullen
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke

WEDNESDAY, July 18
Alabama – Nick Saban
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
Missouri – Barry Odom
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt

THURSDAY, July 19
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
South Carolina – Will Muschamp
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

Nick Roush will be in the middle of it all, bless him.

[SECSports.com]