Sixers draft target: G/F James Young

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Sixers draft target: G/F James Young

In this installment of our series before June 26’s draft, we look at a swingman who can shoot:

James Young
Position: Guard/Forward
Height/Weight: 6-6/210
School: Kentucky

Another one of John Calipari's "one-and-done" prospects who is entering the NBA after just one season at Kentucky. Young was often overshadowed by Julius Randle and Andrew and Aaron Harrison at Kentucky, but he finished last season as the Wildcats' second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. As a freshman, he shot 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range.

Young bolstered his draft stock significantly with his performance in the national championship game. He was far and away Kentucky's best player in a six-point loss to UConn, scoring 20 points on 5 of 13 shooting from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. Young's driving dunk in the first half was the highlight of the game and left no doubt that he has the athleticism and explosiveness to succeed in the NBA.

Young has ideal size for an NBA swingman. He will play either the shooting guard or small forward position at the pro level. This year's draft is brimming with prospects at each of those positions. How Young stacks up with the rest of that crop remains to be seen.

Strengths
Young has extraordinary athleticism and a polished offensive skill set for a player who has yet to turn 19 years old. He also doesn't shy away from big moments. Young averaged just under 17 points in Kentucky's final three games of the season, which happened to be the Elite Eight, Final Four and national championship. Young is capable of taking over a game with his ability to score the ball. In addition to having an effective (though sometimes inconsistent) outside stroke, Young can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.
 
There is no doubt that the scrutiny that accompanies playing at Kentucky prepares you for life in the NBA. Young never seemed to have a problem dealing with that.

Weaknesses
His biggest issue in college was consistency. Young had eight games last season with 20 or more points. He also had eight games with fewer than 10 points. Some of this was due to Kentucky's deep roster and vast supply of scorers. But there is no denying Young has the tendency to disappear for prolonged stretches of games.

There are also questions surrounding his defensive abilities. Young has the foot speed to be a solid perimeter defender, but never seemed invested on the defensive end during his one season at Kentucky. This is a common trait among NBA players, but Young could separate himself by working to become more of a two-way player.

Young wasn't exactly a willing passer in college. In over 32 minutes per game, he averaged just 1.7 assists. That's actually difficult to do for a player who has the ball in his hands as often as he did.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Young is exactly the type of raw athlete that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie seems to covet. But Hinkie also prefers players who can play defense, and Young is a long way from earning that label. At just 18 years of age, Young's game and body are still rounding into form. His potential is enticing and the fact he's still two or three years away from his best basketball meshes well with the Sixers' long-range rebuilding plan.

But if the Sixers hold onto the 3rd and 10th picks, they're very unlikely to call Young's name on draft night. If they really like him, they could trade down to the middle of first round to take him.        

NBA comparison
Arron Afflalo, who was more advanced coming out of UCLA than Young is entering the league. But they have very similar body types and offensive skills. Afflalo has made himself into an elite outside shooter. He shot 43 percent from three-point territory last season, upping his career average to 39 percent. Those percentages aren't out of the question for Young, who may be a better athlete than Afflalo.

Draft projection
Mid-first round (13th to 20th pick). 

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Going No. 1 still 'hasn't hit' Markelle Fultz after whirlwind draft process

Let’s pretend you were drafted No. 1 in the NBA draft: how would you commemorate it?

Chances are, it’s not doing what Markelle Fultz did. 

“I got some sleep,” Fultz said. “That was my celebration. I packed my bags and got some sleep.”

The 19-year-old had been on a whirlwind during the draft process. Up until a week ago, he was projected to land in Boston. A trade between the Sixers and Celtics quickly shifted Fultz’s new home to Philadelphia. Then he had the anticipation of the actual draft in New York City with public appearances and media circuits all before his name was called Thursday night.

“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about what just happened about the pick,” Fultz said. 

Sixteen hours after being selected by the Sixers, Fultz was back at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey, for an introductory press conference. He had been to the facility last Saturday for a workout, but this time his trip wasn’t quite the same as a three-hour drive from his home in Maryland.

“The difference is my mindset coming in here today,” Fultz said. “I know that I’m officially a part of this organization. I’ve just got my heart and soul into it now. I’m opening up, meeting everybody. I’m very happy. I’m very excited.”

Fultz was ushered around the court from the podium to stations with multiple media outlets and groups of reporters. He answered questions about his fit with the current roster, expectations, and long-term goals for the organization. 

Fultz’s world has been moving forward at rapid speed. Meanwhile, he still has plenty to catch up on from his day-old, pre-NBA life. Fultz had kept his phone turned off during the draft. He received over 300 missed messages and calls. 

“When I turned it on, it actually froze up,” he said. “I still haven’t replied to everybody. I’m pretty sure everybody knows what’s going on right now. I’m going to take the time out one day to make sure I reply to everybody.”

Fultz planned to go back to Maryland after his day in Philadelphia. His destination once he returned home: the basketball court. At first, Fultz thought he hadn’t worked out in two days. Then he remembered he had in fact done so while in New York for the draft, but the gym rat already was itching to get the ball in his hand again. 

“I’ve got to get back in the gym and get a workout in,” Fultz said. “Then I’m trying to get up here (to Camden) as soon as I can.” 

Even though Fultz still was soaking in his new future, he already has plans once he gets settled in Philadelphia. Fultz intends to volunteer his time to the youth, students, and homeless. 

“I want to impact the community a lot,” Fultz said. “Growing up, my mom has always put me in stuff like Food and Friends where we delivered dinners. I just know I have a blessing and I want to make other people feel blessed."

There will be little downtime for Fultz. Just as soon as he digests draft night, he will be traveling out west for summer league (see story). He's in no rush, though, to move beyond the enormity of being selected No. 1.

“I’m glad that it hasn’t hit me yet,” Fultz said. “I think when I sit down and it hits me, it’s going to be a very emotional time. Right now I’m just happy.”

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

Blake Griffin has decided to test free agency, telling the Los Angeles Clippers that he is opting out of the final year of his contract.

A person with direct knowledge of Griffin's plans confirmed the decision to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the five-time All-Star nor the Clippers have publicly announced the move.

The move was expected, and gives Griffin the chance to either pursue a deal elsewhere -- or, of course, re-sign with the Clippers for more years.

The Clippers have had six consecutive successful regular seasons -- winning at least 60 percent of their games each year, something only San Antonio has done in that same span -- but never cracked the code of finding success in the playoffs. The Clippers never made it out of the second round in any of those six seasons, and lost in the first round each of the last two years.

And now with Griffin, along with LA guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick all potentially on the move as free agents, as well as speculation that DeAndre Jordan could be a trade possibility, next season's Clippers could have a decidedly different look (see full story).

Clippers: Paul re-elected as NBPA president
NEW YORK -- Chris Paul has been re-elected president of the National Basketball Players Association.

Paul's new four-year term begins immediately. He will be assisted by the union's newly elected vice president, Garrett Temple of the Sacramento Kings.

In his first term as president, Paul most notably helped the players and the NBA come together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that goes into effect on July 1.

Paul says he's "humbled that my fellow players have voted to have me continue."

Temple has a three-year term as vice president, which also begins immediately. He replaces Kyle Korver in that role.

The other members of the NBA's Executive Committee are First Vice President LeBron James, Secretary-Treasurer James Jones, and Vice Presidents Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol and Anthony Tolliver.

Pistons: Caldwell-Pope suspended 2 games
NEW YORK -- Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA on Friday for pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Caldwell-Pope was sentenced to a year of probation last week in a March traffic stop in suburban Detroit.

Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after police say he was spotted going about 45 mph in a 25 mph zone about 2:50 a.m. March 29 in Auburn Hills. He was arrested after a field sobriety test. A further test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.

Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent.

NBA: Camby sued over nephew’s drowning
HOUSTON -- Former NBA player Marcus Camby has been named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit over the drowning of his 9-year-old autistic nephew in a pond on Camby's Houston-area property last Thanksgiving.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by the boy's father, Marcus Kendall McGhee, alleges that Camby was aware of the limitations of his nephew, Marcus Carter McGhee, but failed to supervise the child and used no protective measures to keep him away from the pond.

The boy was found dead two days after he was reported missing. He'd traveled to Texas from his home in the Hartford, Connecticut, area for the holiday.

Camby's property includes several acres in Pearland, a Houston suburb.

Camby could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. He played 19 NBA seasons for six teams, including the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. The 2012-13 season was his last.