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NHL playoffs 2021: Breakdown, predictions, odds for Lightning vs. Islanders Stanley Cup semifinal

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NHL playoffs 2021: Breakdown, predictions, odds for Lightning vs. Islanders Stanley Cup semifinal

Islanders and Lightning.

It’s a series 265 days in the making. That’s how long it has been since these two teams met in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals and when Tampa Bay won the series in six games. It’s also how long it has been since they’ve faced each other in any kind of game. 

And here’s the plot twist: In reality, it’s likely this would have been the Eastern Conference final pairing if things had been per usual this year. So while this round has a fancy new title for 2021 — Stanley Cup semifinal — it’s just one more nudge that things are getting back to normal.

“It’s a great opportunity for us seeing them again in the semifinals,” said Anthony Beauvillier after his Islanders sent the Bruins golfing. “I think we’re taking a lot of pride in what we do, and to get back to the spot that we were last year with some unfinished business, it’s a great opportunity for us. Everyone is excited in the room and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Speaking of normal, both arenas should be rocking with fans back in the seats, especially the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Old Barn is closing its hockey doors when the Islanders’ run ends, and the team is certainly sending it out in style. It has been 38 years since the home team gave Lord Stanley’s Cup a twirl around the ice — 37 since it was in a Cup Final — and this club will be itching to do it one more time. On the flip side, the defending champion Lightning are aiming for a repeat and, this time, to give the fans a chance to see it in person. 

But before they can even think about fulfilling their Stanley Cup dreams, they have to face each other.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders: Schedule, odds, breakdown, prediction

Stanley Cup semifinal schedule

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sun., June 13 at Tampa Bay 3 p.m. (NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Tues., June 15 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Thurs., June 17 at New York 8 p.m. (USA, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sat., June 19 at New York 8 p.m. (USA, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Mon., June 21 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Wed., June 23 at New York 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Fri., June 25 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)

(* If necessary)

Season statistics

The teams did not play against each other in 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s a quick look at some stats against the seven other teams in their respective divisions (per NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick):

TBL STAT NYI
3.21 GF/GP 2.71
2.59 GA/GP 2.23
22.2 PP pct. 18.8
84.2 PK pct. 83.7
52.37 CF% at 5v5 48.6
98.57 xGF at 5v5 102.52
86.76 xGA at 5v5 94.62
58.12 HDGF% at 5v5 58.54

Odds

Lightning -250 Islanders +200

(Odds by FanDuel)

Offense

So here’s the funny thing about all those season stats for the Lightning: Throw them out the window. They look all shiny, but they were missing one key element — Nikita Kucherov. The Russian missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery and has hit the ice running in the postseason. In 11 games, he has racked up 18 points (five goals, 13 assists), with 13 of those on the power play, and averaged an eye-popping 1.64 points per game.

If you’re Barry Trotz and the Islanders, you’re probably thinking, “Let’s shut down Kucherov and we’ll have a solid chance,” right? Well, if you just focused on him, then you’d leave Steven Stamkos (13 points), Alex Killorn (12) Brayden Point (12) and defenseman Victor Hedman (11) open — and those are just the players with double-digit points. That’s the thing about the Lightning; they have a balanced offense across all four lines and their blue-liners chip in, too.

The Islanders have a similar setup with their forward group, especially as of late. More known for shutting down the other team’s high-octane offense, the guys from Long Island are led by . . . a guy from Long Island. Deadline pickup Kyle Palmieri has reignited the offense with a team-leading seven goals. But he’s not the only one putting the puck in the net; the team boasted a 3.67 GF/GP against the Bruins in the second round. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13 points), longtime Islander Josh Bailey (11) and Anthony Beauvillier (11) have double-digit points in the playoffs. 

One guy the Islanders will need to keep pace to have any success the rest of the way is Mat Barzal. The 2018 Calder Trophy winner notched just three points in the six games against the Penguins, but he has turned it up as of late. In six games against Boston, he notched six points, including the game-winner in Game 4. Last season in the Eastern Conference finals, he contributed four assists in six games. The Islanders’ points leader in 2021 will be critical to this squad getting past the defending champion.

Edge: Lightning

(Getty Images)

Defense

Barry Trotz knows defense. Yeah, he knows how to squeeze every last bit of offensive juice from his players, but the man knows defense. His team had the second-lowest GA/GP in the regular season at just 2.23, and since Trotz shipped up north from Washington after winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, the Long Island team has boasted a league-best 2.46 GA/GP. 

In the first round, Trotz sent the East Division’s best team, the Penguins, into a downward offensive spiral. A crew that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went from 3.45 GF/GP in the regular season to 2.67. In the second round, the Bruins, who were at 2.93 for the 2021 season and 3.20 GF/GP for Round 1 against the Capitals, dropped to 2.83. 

Tampa Bay sported a 3.21 GF/GP in the regular season, which isn’t too shabby, but again, it didn’t have Kucherov. The Islanders have one of the worst Corsi For percentages at 5v5 (42.20) — it’s actually 15th out of 16 playoff teams — which means they don’t have the puck a whole lot and they allow a whole lot of shots against. But they do have the best SCSV% (percentage of scoring chance shots against that were not goals, per Natural Stat Trick) at 92.23 and the third-best High-Danger save percentage (87.80).

Jon Cooper’s Lightning are also solid on defense and, in fact, have posted a better GA/GP than the Islanders in the postseason (2.36 compared to 2.75). It surely doesn’t hurt to have the 2020 Norris Trophy winner — and a 2021 Norris Trophy finalist — in the corps in Victor Hedman. Then there’s Mikhail Sergachev, David Savard, Jan Rutta, Erik Cernak and Ryan McDonagh. All but Savard were on the 2020 Cup team, so this crew knows what it takes to get to the final round.

Edge: Islanders

Goaltending

This series may come down to the performances between the pipes. Andrei Vasilevskiy is up again for the Vezina, and for good reason. He led the league with 31 wins — the Lightning won 36 total — and had a shiny .925 save percentage. That was the regular season; as the importance of each game has risen, so has his level of play. 

“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen a lot of goalies that are good, but he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after his team was eliminated by the Lightning. “And how he affects the team and how they can play. That’s kind of what I told him. And it’s true.”

In the playoffs, he’s boasting a .934 save percentage, just .001 behind leader Carey Price, and has two shutouts, including one in the series clincher against Carolina. In 11 starts, he has a 3.57 Goals Saved Above Average and .921 High-Danger Save percentage at 5v5 (per Natural Stat Trick), both of which are the best among the remaining goalies. 

Trotz has called on both his netminders — Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin — in the postseason. Varlamov has started seven games while the rookie Sorokin has gotten the tap five times. Both are displaying sparkling save percentages — Sorokin is at .934 and Varlamov is at .925 — but the latter has been getting the gigs lately. After Sorokin faltered in Game 1 against the Bruins — and despite winning three straight vs. the Pens — Varlamov has been the one in net.

Edge: Lightning

Special teams

There’s really not too much to say here other than Tampa Bay’s power-play is connecting at 41.7 percent effectiveness. The Islanders’ penalty kill is 61.5 percent effective. Translation: You CANNOT take penalties if you’re the Islanders. The Islanders’ power play, by the way, is working at a respectable 28.1 percent and the Lightning’s penalty kill percentage is 77.8. But, again, you CANNOT take penalties if you’re the Islanders.

Edge: Lightning

brayden point lightning 061021 getty
(Getty Images)

Key players to watch

Brayden Point (TBL): The Calgary, Alta., native has been red-hot as of late with five points in the last three games, including the series winner in Game 5 against the Hurricanes. In 11 games this postseason, he has notched eight goals and 12 points and is well on his way to besting the 14 times he hit the back of the net in 23 contests in 2020 bubble hockey. He’s boasting a 6.83 Expected Goals For at 5v5, which is fourth-best on the club, and has won 57.26 percent of his faceoffs taken, per Natural Stat Trick. Last postseason, he played in just four of the six games against the Islanders and still skated away with seven points.

Kyle Palmieri (NYI): Acquired via trade around the deadline along with fellow longtime Devil Travis Zajac, Palmieri has made himself quite at home on Long Island, which shouldn’t be a shocker since the Smithtown, N.Y., native grew up about 30 miles from Nassau Coliseum. After potting just four points in 17 regular-season games, he has turned it up in the playoffs with seven goals and two assists in 12 games. According to Natural Stat Trick, he’s seventh in the league with an individual xG of 2.65. The 30-year-old forward, who is growing back his magnificent beard for the playoffs, is also riding a five-game point-scoring streak.

Lightning vs. Islanders playoff history

It should also be noted that the two times these teams have met in the postseason (regardless of round) and the Lightning have won, they went to win the Cup.

YEAR RESULT
2020 TBL def. NYI in conference finals in six games
2016 NYI def. TBL in second round in five games
2004 TBL def. NYI in quarterfinals in five games

Last five playoff appearances

Tampa Bay Lightning

YEAR FINISH
2020 Won Stanley Cup
2019 Lost in first round to CBJ in four games
2018 Lost in conference finals to WSH in seven games
2016 Lost in conference finals to PIT in seven games
2015 Lost in Stanley Cup Final to CHI in six games

New York Islanders

YEAR FINISH
2020 Lost in conference finals to TBL in six games 
2019 Lost in second round to CAR in four games 
2016 Lost in second round to TB in six games 
2015 Lost in first round to WSH in seven games
2013 Lost in conference quarterfinals to PIT in six games

Lightning vs. Islanders prediction

It’s hard not to think the Islanders will pull this one out — and they just may because, as we’ve learned, you never bet against the mastermind, Barry Trotz — but the Lightning are, soup to nuts, the more stacked team. This club has been to the promised land. It knows what it takes and, when all is said and done, it should have a chance at going back-to-back.

Prediction: Lightning in 6

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Bryson DeChambeau explains US Open meltdown: ‘I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time’

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Bryson DeChambeau had to fly back to Wells Fargo Championship after thinking he missed weekend cut

For a moment, it looked like the reigning U.S. Open champion would make it a second straight title. 

Bryson DeChambeau shot a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole during the final round to put him at 5-under par and move him into the lead with 10 holes remaining. It all fell apart from there. 

Bogeys on both the 11th and 12th holes, and a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in the 13th and 17th holes, respectively, sunk DeChambeau’s chances of winning, ultimately leading to him falling to 3-over during the U.S. Open and tying for 26th overall. 

After the disappointing finish, DeChambeau said that it wasn’t a poor effort on his part, but rather a product of bad luck. 

“I didn’t get off the rails at all. It’s golf,” DeChambeau said, according to the Golf Channel. “People will say I did this or did that, and it’s just golf. I’ve had plenty of times where I hit it way worse than today and I won. It’s just one of those things where I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time.”

MORE: The best moments from Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau rivalry

On the 13th hole, he slipped on the drive to slice the ball into the right rough before later slipping again trying to save himself from too much damage on the hole. It resulted in a double-bogey seven that all but took him out of the running for the championship. 

The struggles on the 13 came right on the heels of a pair of bogeys. 

Later, on the 17th hole, his tee shot hit the ravine and his third shot sailed into a bunker. He overshot out of the bunker and sank to an 8 on the par-4 hole. 

“I hit a great second shot — well, third shot, and the ball just spun too much,” DeChambeau said, according to ESPN. “The wind died down and it landed short and came back off of that front edge into a really, really bad lie. I tried just chopping it out, and I caught the hosel just from a weird line.”

Perhaps even worse for DeChambeau was that when he was leading, rival Brooks Koepka was just a shot behind him. When it was all over, Koepka remained tied for fourth at 2-under for the tournament. 

But DeChambeau said he wasn’t worried about his lackluster performance down the stretch. 

“Right now, I don’t even care. I’ve changed a lot, attitude-wise and everything,” DeChambeau said, according to the New York Post. “It’s frustrating in the moment when it’s happening, but afterwards for me now, I don’t really care as much. I’ve already won [a U.S. Open].’’

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Ben Simmons admits he ‘wasn’t there’ offensively in 76ers’ Game 7 loss to Hawks

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Ben Simmons' free throw struggles contribute to 76ers' blown chance to sweep Wizards

There is plenty of blame to go around for why the No. 1 seeded 76ers fell to the No. 5 seeded Hawks in Game 7 to miss out on the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, but Ben Simmons is stepping up to take some of it. 

Simmons, a former No. 1 overall pick and a huge part of “The Process,” had a disappointing effort in the final game of the series, scoring just five points, and drawing criticism in particular for passing up a dunk late that could have tied the game up and given his team some momentum. 

After the game, Simmons said he just wasn’t playing his best basketball during the pivotal playoff game. 

“I ain’t shoot well from the line this series,” Simmons said, according to ESPN. “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates.

“There’s a lot of things that I need to work on.”

MORE: Ex-NBA player Josh Smith rips Doc Rivers in offensive tirade

Simmons contributed beyond the point column, racking up eight rebounds and a game-high 13 assists. But he attempted only four shots and made two of them. For a player that averaged 14.3 points per game during the regular season, the expectation was certainly that he would attempt more shots than just four when his team needed him. 

With 3:36 to play and the Sixers trailing by two, Simmons was free in the paint after a spin move. But he passed to Matisse Thybulle, who drove and was fouled. Thybulle made one of two, keeping the Sixers down one. Atlanta then went on a 5-0 run to push the lead to 93-87. 

That missed dunk opportunity was not only a focal point of criticism for fans, but also one mentioned by his teammates. 

“Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored,” Embiid said. 

And Embiid, who scored 31 points with 11 rebounds, didn’t just wait until after the game to show his frustration. 

Simmons explained that he thought Danilo Gallinari was right behind him and that John Collins was coming out of the lane, which would leave open a chance for Thybulle to dunk it, according to ESPN. 

Now the biggest question in Philadelphia is whether Simmons will be a 76er by the time the next season rolls around. For Simmons, the offseason will begin for him by trying to get over this postseason. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right,” Simmons said in ESPN’s report. “You got to be mentally tough. You can’t take games for granted. Especially in the playoffs. Every game matters. Every possession matters.”

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NBA Draft prospects 2021: Ranking the top 60 players overall on the SN big board

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NBA Draft prospects 2021: Ranking the top 60 players overall on the SN big board

We shall call this The Class That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

As the game of basketball continues to move inexorably in the direction of the elite long-distance shooter, the next group of prospects wishing to be evaluated and drafted and paid at the NBA level arrives with little accomplishment in the area of 3-point shooting, the skill that made Stephen Curry, in 2020-21 a first-team All-NBA pick for the fourth time.

There is a truckload of highly regarded prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft who have elite athleticism or passing skill or positional size but haven’t shown substantial proficiency as 3-point shooters. Sometimes, middling numbers at the pre-NBA level are corrected through the repetition that comes with basketball being a fulltime job and with a decrease in the pressure attached to each attempt in games that contain about 30 percent more possessions per game. Sometimes, it’s just that guys can’t shoot.

MORE: Explaining the 2021 NBA Draft lottery

That’ll be the trick for teams navigating the two rounds and 60 picks of the July 29 draft, to discern which players have a gift for this skill that supersedes all other aspects of their game, which can be trained to elevate themselves into dangerous if not elite shooters and which will be identified on opponents’ scouting reports as a “non-shooter.”

That’ll be harder with less in-person evaluation than ever before, but teams at least have their individual workouts and the scouting combine over the next six weeks to play catch-up.

Sporting News, though, is tasked with providing you the Big Board of top 60 prospects now. So here it is, subject to revision in advance of the draft:

(Getty Images)

NBA Draft prospects 2021: Big board of top 60 players

1. Cade Cunningham, 6-8, PG, Oklahoma State

There was so much to love about what Cunningham put on display as a Cowboys freshman, and it starts with the skill that so many others in this draft have not yet mastered. Cunningham shot 40 percent from three on 62 makes for the Big 12 Tournament runners-up. He should have little trouble translating that ability to the NBA level. He is a winner who helped OK State advance from 18-14 to 21-9, from out of the NCAA Tournament to a No. 4 seed. He also was a gold medal winner with the U.S. at the 2019 FIBA U-19 World Cup.

He can play all three perimeter positions, though he always has been listed and almost exclusively deployed as a point guard. In that position, Cunningham is an effective passer but not elite; he does not have Penny Hardaway or Magic Johnson-level vision. And he struggles sometimes with his ballhandling; his turnover average of 4.0 per game is disconcerting only because so many of those involved him simply losing his grip on the ball. He must improve in that discipline to prove himself worthy of the first overall selection.

2. Evan Mobley, 6-11 C, Southern California

It’s possible Mobley could rise to the very top of this draft because he so beautifully fits the ideal of the modern NBA big man. He is exceptionally mobile and should become an elite pick-and-roll defender. He protects the rim to the tune of 2.9 blocks per game in his only college season. He finishes strong at the goal and shot 58 percent on 2-pointers. He attempted only 40 3-pointers but made 30 percent, suggesting there is a foundation for him as a jumpshooter. Mobley will have to grow stronger to survive along an NBA baseline, but he’s got a fine frame for carrying more muscle.

MORE: Inside Jalen Suggs’ football career

3. Jalen Green, 6-6 SG, G League Ignite

Entering the G League bubble for an accelerated 15-game schedule turned out to be a much better proving ground for Green than the proposed hodgepodge of G League and international exhibitions that had been proposed at the Ignite program’s introduction. Green got to play legit competition for 32 minutes per game and averaged 17.9 points on 46.1 percent shooting. He hit 36.5 percent on threes from the NBA distance, making two per game. Green has A-level NBA dynamism and could become an unstoppable scorer. The team that wins the lottery also will be tempted by Green’s promise. Yes, he played in games that didn’t matter much, but last year’s No. 1 overall pick (Anthony Edwards) was on a bad college team and thus in much the same situation, and the No. 2 pick (James Wiseman) barely played any post-high school ball.

4. Jalen Suggs, 6-5 PG, Gonzaga

You want to know why Suggs is a fabulous prospect? Forget about the buzzer-beating shot that put the Zags into the NCAA championship game and put in the tape of the final 20 minutes of their West Coast Conference title game against BYU. Suggs put on an astonishing display of shot creation, shot-making and defensive insistence that allowed the Zags to recover from a double-digit halftime deficit and become the fourth team since 1980 to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated. Suggs averaged 4.5 assists functioning as the primary ballhandler in Gonzaga’s double point guard lineup. Has has considerable room to improve as a deep shooter.

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(Getty Images)

5. Davion Mitchell, 6-2 PG, Baylor

Mitchell’s respect level as a prospect progressed nicely as the Bears progressed toward the NCAA championship, but it soared when he flat wrecked every guard Gonzaga put in front of him in the title game. That included Suggs, who managed to score 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting while Mitchell denied him the opportunity to have any influence on actually winning the game. Mitchell’s on-ball defense always had been respected and admired. He was second-team All-American largely for that reason. But to do it against elite opposition with so much on the line, while also scoring 15 points and passing for 5 assists, made it clear he was a big-time prospect. Mitchell improved from a 28.8 percent deep shooter as a freshman at Auburn to 32.4 percent in his first season after transferring to Baylor but then made a massive jump last season, to 44.7 percent. He can be a long-term starting point at the NBA level.

6. Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8 SF, G League Ignite

Kuminga’s dynamism is at an A-plus level, perhaps not quite Andrew Wiggins-level but not far from it. But Wiggins has been viewed as a disappointment to date, even as he has averaged 19.5 points over seven seasons, because his game has had so little variety. Kuminga is unlikely to be the first overall pick, so he won’t have to carry that burden. But can he grow into a complete offensive player? Kuminga can get by defenders, but he spent a lot of G League time trying to prove he’s a deep shooter, with more than a third of his field-goal attempts coming from deep even though he hit only 24.6 percent. NBA opponents might just back off and dare him to show he can make the leap to competence.

7. Sharife Cooper, 6-1 PG, Auburn

You almost certainly will not find Cooper rated this highly on any other draft preview. So maybe I’m nuts. (I also had Saddiq Bey rated 14 spots higher than he eventually was chosen by the Pistons, and he wound up ranked No. 5 among rookies in scoring.) But Cooper is a dazzling creative force, the sort of playmaker that rarely develops. He has the ability to play at multiple speeds, which is so difficult for opponents to defend. Cooper averaged 8.1 assists in 12 college games after being declared NCAA-eligible and before an injury ended his season. He also was good for more than 20 points per game; every Auburn possession with Cooper in charge was an opportunity to be dazzled. If only he were a legitimate shooter (he was just 13-of-57 from deep). However: If he measures out to 5-10 at the combine, which wouldn’t surprise me, I’d drop him a dozen spots.

8. Keon Johnson, 6-5 SG, Tennessee

There are a lot of similarities between Kuminga and Johnson: coveted because of exceptional dynamism, questioned because of meager deep shooting numbers. The difference is that Kuminga is more explosive, whereas Johnson has elite-level ball skill that just hasn’t yet translated to long-distance shooting. Watch his form on mid-range shots, or even on some of his attack-the-rim finishes. His elbow is locked tight, the ball is held high, his eye never leaves the target. With these qualities, Johnson likely can grow into a better deep shooter than the fellow who was 13-of-48 at Tennessee. He may not be a great rookie, but by year three he could be an exceptional contributor.

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(Getty Images)

9. James Bouknight, 6-2 G, Connecticut

Still another player whose value would soar if he were a more consistent shooter, Bouknight hit just 29.3 percent of his deep shots as a sophomore, down from 34.7 his first season. He’s such an electric player, though, capable of getting to wherever he wants on the floor – and above it. He converted well more than 50 percent of his twos. If he’s going to operate as a smaller shooting guard, he’ll have to improve his touch. If he’s going to be a point guard, he’ll need to improve his handle. But some guys are just players.

10. Alperun Sengun, 6-9 PF, Besiktas (Turkey)

You try moving him. If the best bigs in Turkey’s Super League, one of the top pro leagues on the planet, cannot stop him from going where he wants to go, it’s easy to imagine him maturing into someone who is even more of a baseline terror in his 20s. At 18, he averaged 18 points and 8.9 rebounds. In a draft with many flawed players, he at least is a productive, physical, tenacious flawed player.

11. Scottie Barnes, 6-9 PG, Florida State

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton has done a wonderful job with the many pro prospects he has recruited to Tallahassee over the past decade, but one wonders what might have been possible for Barnes if Hamilton’s approach – spreading the minutes among 9-10 players, with no one averaging 30-plus – had been set aside. Barnes only played 24 minutes, averaged only 8 shots per game. The Seminoles might have been his team but never really were. He’s a powerful talent, though, with absurd size for a playmaking guard. He is another player who did not show himself to be a proficient deep shooter.

12. Kai Jones, 6-11 PF, Texas

Texas had so many dynamic big men it was not easy for Jones to make the impact he might have elsewhere. He started only four games and played 23 minutes on average, but there just aren’t many big men who move like him and fly as high above the rim. The trick now will be translating those gifts into basketball success. He improved steadily as last season advanced, producing four consecutive double-figure scoring games at the end, and seven blocks in that stretch.

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(Getty Images)

13. Moses Moody, 6-6 SG, Arkansas

One of the surprises of the 2020 recruiting class, Moody was ranked only the 46th-best prospect but quickly asserted himself as one of the best freshmen in college basketball. Arkansas’ light early schedule helped Moody to gain confidence – not only that he could excel, but also that he could feel comfortable as the Razorbacks’ No. 1 option. He took nearly two more shots per game than such veterans as Justin Smith and J.D. Notae, and that included 162 3-point attempts that were converted at a 35.8 percent rate.

14. Corey Kispert, 6-7 SG, Gonzaga

If the later rounds of his NCAA Tournament hadn’t gone so poorly, it’s possible he’d be ranked even higher in a class that struggles in his specialty: shooting the basketball. But he shouldn’t be dismissed based on a single week in a season that was beyond brilliant. Danny Green, Kyle Korver, Brynn Forbes and Buddy Hield have been important NBA players because they do this one valuable thing so incredibly well. Kispert converted 91 threes at a 44 percent rate for the national runner-up Zags. His shot is compact and his release is quick. He’ll be a long-time NBA player.

15. Josh Giddey, 6-8 PG, Adelaide 36ers (NBL)

Giddey chose to play in Australia’s NBL rather than accept one of his many Division I offers, and he was so successful in his first pro season he was named the league’s rookie of the year. Giddey averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 assists. What he did not do well – and this will shock you – is shoot the ball from long distance. He was only 29-of-99 in 29 games for Adelaide. He has excellent form that should produce a proficient deep shooter in time. He excels at finding gaps in opposing defenses and exploiting those. His first instinct is to get the ball to the lane, and though he does not explode past defenders, he is great at getting them off-balance and in difficult positions to recover.

16. Chris Duarte, 6-6 SG, Oregon

His 24th birthday passed a week ago, which will lead some to devalue his potential to improve, no matter how many times we see NBA players make enormous leaps in their mid to late 20s. Duarte made an enormous leap himself as a college senior, from 12.9 points to 17.1 and All-America candidacy. He shot 42.4 percent from deep and 63.1 percent on 2s, more significant advances. Unlike many first-rounders who’ll be chosen in this group, Duarte is someone who won’t need to spend the next year or two in the G League to become worthwhile.

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(Getty Images)

17. Franz Wagner, 6-9 SG, Michigan

Before he declared he was gone from college hoops for good, I suggested he could be a top-10 pick if he returned to college and made significant progress on his jumper. With so many others carrying the same affliction, he might be one, anyway. Wagner was an excellent defender for the Wolverines, has a great feel for rebounding and finishes well at the rim; there’s a reason he shot 61 percent on 2-pointers.

Wagner had an opportunity to show he could handle stardom when teammate Isaiah Livers was injured prior to March Madness. With Livers and All-American big man Hunter Dickinson to handle the heavy business, Wagner was ideally suited to picking up whatever work they left undone. He was less successful as a focal point. But as ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla likes to say, the NBA is a league of a few dozen stars and several hundred role players. Wagner will fit comfortably into the latter category.

18. Roko Prkacin, 6-9 PF, Cibona (Croatia)

His approach, which amounts to shoving the ball down the opposition’s throat as often as possible, leaps off his tape. He handles the ball with authority, well enough to advance it after grabbing a rebound or to attack on a straight-line drive. He moves well in pick-and-roll offense, setting solid screens, cutting with authority and finishing physically and authoritatively. He’s another player who has not proven himself as an effective deep shooter, but that’s not to say he’s a non-shooter.

19. Jared Butler, 6-3 SG, Baylor

Butler has been enough of a playmaker that perhaps he could function as a point guard, but he has seemed best suited to playing on the wing. Good thing for him the NBA no longer dismisses smallish off-ball guards – so long as they can shoot. Which Butler certainly can. He made 254 3-pointers in three seasons for Baylor at a 38.4 percent conversion rate. He also has demonstrated himself to be a capable defender.

20. Jaden Springer, 6-4 SG, Tennessee

He does not have the dynamism of higher rated off-ball perimeter players, but he is a powerful guard who finishes through contact and shoots the ball beautifully, from long range (43.5 percent as a freshman) or in all manner of concocted attempts. It could be said he is ahead of Buddy Hield at the same stage; it also could be said that Hield stuck around college basketball until he mastered it. Will Springer be able to get enough court time to take the steps he needs to become a significant pro, or will he need to be farmed out to the G League to continue working?

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(Getty Images)

21. Usman Garuba, 6-8 PF, Real Madrid (Spain)
22. Isaiah Jackson, 6-10 PF, Kentucky
23. Tre Mann, 6-5 PG, Florida
24. Ayo Dosunmu, 6-5 SG, Illinois
25. Rokas Jokubaitis, 6-4 SG, Zalgiris (Lithuania)
26. Nah’Shon Hyland, 6-3 SG, VCU
27. Cameron Thomas, 6-4 SG, LSU
28. Greg Brown, 6-9 PF, Texas
29. Joel Ayayi, 6-5 SG, Gonzaga
30. Aaron Henry, 6-6 SF, Michigan State

31. Ziare Williams, 6-8 SF, Stanford
32. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-9 PF, Villanova
33. Charles Bassey, 6-11 C, Western Kentucky
34. Kessler Edwards, 6-8 SF, Pepperdine
35. Jalen Johnson, 6-9 PF, Duke
36. Ariel Hukporti, 7-0 C, BC Nevezis (Lithuania)
37. Brandon Boston, 6-7 SF, Kentucky
38. Matthew Mayer, 6-9 PF, Baylor
39. Miles McBride, 6-2 SG, West Virginia
40. Day’Ron Sharpe, 6-11 C, North Carolina

41. Filip Petrusev, 6-11 C, KK Mega Soccerbet (Serbia)
42. David Duke, 6-5 PG, Providence
43. Johnny Juzang, 6-6 SG, UCLA
44. Isaiah Todd, 6-10 PF, G League Ignite
45. Josh Christopher, 6-5 SG, Arizona State
46. Juhann Begarin, 6-5 SG, Paris Basket (France)
47. Max Abmas, 6-1 PG, Oral Roberts
48. RaiQuan Gray, 6-8 PF, Florida State
49. Isaiah Livers, 6-7 F, Michigan
50. Herbert Jones, 6-8 SF, Alabama

51. Trendon Watford, 6-9 PF, LSU
52. Matthew Hurt, 6-9 PF, Duke
53. David Johnson, 6-5 PG, Louisville
54. Trey Murphy, 6-9 SF, Virginia
55. Luka Garza, 6-11 C, Iowa
56. Sandro Mamukaleshvili, 6-11 C, Seton Hall
57. Derrick Alston Jr., 6-9 SF, Boise State
58. Justin Champagnie, 6-6 SF, Pitt
59. Kofi Cockburn, 7-0 C, Illinois
60. Daishen Nix, 6-5 PG, G League Ignite

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