NCAA Players Revealed in FBI Report to Receive Benefits

It looks like we have our first name drop in the FBI investigation over corruption within college basketball. Yahoo Sports reported this morning that numerous players, from major programs, received impermissible benefits while at, or currently at, school from the ASM Sports agency. The reports come directly from the financial records and spreadsheets of Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins, two men formerly associated with the agency. Dawkins was one of the ten people arrested in September when this news first broke.

The report lists in detail the payments and loans given to players in an attempt to get them to sign with ASM upon declaring for the NBA Draft. The report includes current NBA players such as Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma and more. It also lists current NCAA athletes such as Wendell Carter (Duke), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Miles Bridges (Michigan State).

It’s important to note that these transactions were mainly between the player’s families and ASM directly, which is different from the school’s directly funneling money to the player and his family in return for a commitment. It’s possible coaches were unaware of these deals occurring, so I don’t expect much to happen to them based on this report. No school other than Xavier would comment on the report. Below is head coach Chris Mack’s comment:

“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. He plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf. Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed. We are prepared to cooperate with any and all investigations at any level.”

Former Xavier player Edmund Sumner was a name listed in the documents. I don’t disbelieve Mack. I’m sure he did not utilize ASM to land recruits and I’m sure he was never introducing Sumner to Andy Miller. As I said before, these transactions are primarily between families of players and the agency. It could have gone on behind a coach’s backs. However, as a head coach, you have a pretty good idea of what goes on within your program, on and off the court. For all these coaches to be 100% blind to these deals happening seems a little farfetched, but I’m not here to point fingers and make up rumors.

The news basically just cures a craving that most of the college basketball world has had since last week, when the report of hundreds of documents being in the FBI’s possession broke. It’s illegal, but nothing earth shattering. Most players have dollar amounts next to their name in the thousands, but others are much less. Some players are listed on the report solely because the agency picked up the bill for dinner meeting. Others received a couple hundred dollars to make some bill payments, allegedly.

As for the NCAA, they released a statement this morning, but it was pretty vague and unconvincing. “The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity.” That’s just a piece of the full statement put out by Mark Emmert. Unless those changes are compensating players and their families, in some fashion, for the monetary value that they provide to the NCAA and universities, these cases will never go away. I’m not saying players need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but some of these records are for hundreds of dollars. There is some middle ground that would eliminate this corruption and help players’ families. That’s a conversation for another day.

As I said before, not much should happen to head coaches with this report. I would expect a lot of teams to have to eventually forfeit some wins (joy) for having ineligible players play. We may just get to a point where the NCAA just vacates every National Championship for the past 20 years. Just pretend no one won anything and try to start fresh. It will be interesting to see how the programs with active NCAA players fair for the rest of the year. With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday coming up it’s worth monitoring. This report gave everyone a taste at what could be out there, but it remains a waiting game.

NBA Rookie Power Rankings

After a couple week hiatus, we are back with a new edition of the HG Insider NBA Rookie Power Rankings. We are closing in on the all-star break and the race for rookie of the year is becoming clearer. Markelle Fultz has still yet to return for Philadelphia, but some other rookies are becoming consistent and making a name for themselves as we are sprinting towards the finish line in year one of their careers. Without further ado, let’s dive into the rankings:

1. Donovan Mitchell – Jazz

Mitchell is once again on top of our Rookie Power Rankings, as he has been playing the best out of all of the rookies since the middle of December. He is making a push towards averaging 20 points per game for the season, and would become the first rookie to average 20+ a game since Blake Griffin’s rookie season with the Clippers. Mitchell is averaging 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assist per game this year, and his shooting percentages are holding at a respectable clip; 44.4% from the field, 35.3% from 3 and 83.7% from the free-throw line. Mitchell will have to keep his foot on the gas in order to hold off Simmons, but so far, so good for the Louisville product.

2. Ben Simmons – Sixers

Simmons, who was leading these rankings for most of November & December, is still in the thick of the rookie of the year race with two months to go. Philadelphia is currently holding onto the 8th seed in the East, and with Simmons rounding back into form they have a chance to get hot and make a run at home court in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. Simmons, who has been vocal about being an all-star snub, is averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. If Simmons can hold his numbers steady and get the Sixers into the playoffs he has a very good chance of taking the Rookie of the Year trophy away from Mitchell come June.

3. Lauri Markkanen – Bulls

To no ones surprise the Bulls have been awful this season, but they have shown signs of promise, highlighted by Markkanen’s steady play all season long. The power forward is averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Along with Zach Lavine, The Bulls are showing a decent young nucleus, that could be further bolstered by a lottery pick in the 2018 draft. Markkanen has shown to be a lethal asset in pick and roll situations, and can score at all three levels. The Bulls are struggling, but they may have the next great, versatile European forward at the NBA level.

4. Kyle Kuzma – Lakers

The Lakers added an additional draft pick, and a ton of future cap space this week, but they have to be happy with the rookies and sophomores already on the roster. Perhaps no one makes them happier for their future than Kyle Kuzma, who is averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds during his rookie campaign. He has held steady shooting the ball with averages of 45.2% from the field, 36.2% from the three and 70% from the line. While he has had his share of great weeks, and poor ones, Kuzma is going to be a fixture of the Lakers plans moving forward, even if they get some big names in free agency over the next couple of summers.

5. Jayson Tatum – Celtics

Tatum may end up having the best career on this list, but as a Rookie he is playing on one of the best teams in the league, and he has sacrificed numbers for wins. The Celtics are a better team when Tatum plays well, as he is averaging 14.8 points, 5 rebounds and shoots 50% from the field in wins. While his shooting has fallen off a little bit, Tatum is already a very good NBA shot maker, and he has also been a plus defender for the Celtics, which is asking a lot of a rookie. Tatum will not win Rookie of the Year, but will win a championship before anyone else in the top 5 of this list.

6. Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavs

While Smith spent the first part of the season dealing with injuries and inconsistent minutes, he has suddenly found his stride over the last month. Over his last 10 games, Smith is averaging 15 points, 6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. Smith has still struggled to shoot the ball well at a consistent clip, and will have to improve in this department moving forward to take the next step as an NBA player. It will be interesting to see how he improves over the coming years, and what the Mavs will do to surround him with talent moving forward.

7. De’Aaron Fox – Kings

Fox has come on strong over the last month, after recovering from injury, and is showing sings of the player who terrorized college basketball in Lexington just one year ago. Over his last ten games, Fox has averaged 14.3 points, 4.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds while shooting 43% from the field. The Kings have continued to struggle, but Fox’s play gives Sacramento fans something to look forward to in the coming years. His role will only increase as George Hill was moved to Cleveland this week, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the extra responsibility over the last two months of the season.

8. John Collins – Hawks

Collins leads all rookies in PER at 20.12, but plays on one of the worst teams in the league. Collins has been uber-efficient for a rookie, and it will be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of seasons for the woeful, yet rebuilding Hawks. He is averaging 10.3 points, 7 rebounds and is shooting 58.5% from the floor. With the emergence of some of the guys behind him, it will be tough for him to stay at 7, without an uptick in his current level of play, however, Collins is going to have a long and prosperous career.

9. Josh Jackson – Suns

While the Suns are still among the worst teams in the league, no rookie has improve their play over the last month than Josh Jackson. Devin Booker has missed some time hurt, and Jackson has taken advantage of the extra touches and responsibility with Booker out. Over his last ten games, Jackson is averaging 17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just under 20 minutes per night. Jackson has been a mainstay in the honorable mentione section all season long, but he has earned his way into the top 10 in these rankings with his recent play.

10. Jarrett Allen – Nets

If Jackson has been the fastest rising rookie of late, Allen is not too far behind him. Over the last month, Allen has seen his minutes skyrocket, and he has become increasingly comfortable with the pace of play at the NBA level with each passing game. Over his last ten games he is averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and is shooting 68.8% from the field. He is flashing the long term potential he possesses and is turning out to be a hell of a pick for the Nets and their rebuilding efforts moving forward.

Honorable Mention:

Bogdan Bogdanovic – Kings
Jordan Bell – Warriors
Josh Hart – Lakers
OG Anunoby – Raptors
Lonzo Ball – Lakers
Bam Adebayo – Heat

NBA Draft Lottery Prediction: Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns – #4 Pick 2017 NBA Draft

The Pick: Josh Jackson – Kansas
Other Possible Picks: Jayson Tatum – Duke
 The Suns are stuck with a good problem. Having the fourth overall pick, there seems to be a lot of talent down the line even after the first three picks. It’s because this freshmen group of prospects have a tremendous upside, with little to no disparity down the line. With a solidified front court of Kentucky Wildcats (Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis), Phoenix will look to sure up their front court this draft. To their benefit, both the 76ers and Lakers will likely be looking at point guards, leaving a dynamic wing to fall to them. The good news is the Suns have a reason to believe Kansas Jayhawks’ Josh Jackson could still be on the board as No. 4 overall. There’s a high chance Jackson gets taken by Boston at 3, which would leave the Suns with Jayson Tatum, not a bad “Plan B.” The pick trade from the Celtics to the 76ers benefits the Suns simply because Philadelphia needs more assurance with perimeter shooting – something Jackson isn’t the strongest in.
Jackson, a 6-foot-8 freshman that averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, will need to improve these mechanics and quick if he wants to make an immediate impact on the Suns. The latter half of his season proved his capability to step up along the perimeter. His appeal comes mostly in his athleticism as a high-energy forward. He is effective on both sides of the court, bringing defensive stamina as well. With improvement, he’ll be perfect along guys like Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe. After the Suns traveled to see Jackson work out last week, expect to see Phoenix make a move toward him at the No. 4 overall spot.