University of Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein underwent successful double bypass surgery, according to a university release.
Beilein, 65, will be in the hospital for a few more days before returning home to recover. Assistant coach Saddi Washington will coach the team in place of Beilein during their upcoming trip to Italy.
“Coach Beilein underwent a two-vessel coronary bypass graft surgery Monday morning,” said Francis D. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., the doctor who performed Beilein’s surgery, in a statement. “The procedure is designed to improve blood flow to the heart, by taking a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body and grafting it to the obstructed coronary artery. The operation went well, and we expect him to make a full recovery and be back to his usual activities within a few weeks.”
“I feel grateful and blessed that this surgery was performed at the University of Michigan,” Beilein said in the statement. “Kathleen, and our family appreciate all of the world-class care that was provided for us. Dr. Kim Eagle, Dr. Francis Pagani, Dr. Stanley Chetcuti and all of their staffs at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center are so talented and performed like champions over this past week. I am going to work very hard in my rehabilitation to be stronger than ever by the time practice begins for this upcoming season.”
Who will be the best college football players in 2018? Sure, there will be plenty of representation from Alabama and Clemson — a list-high five players apiece — and a load of quarterbacks.
But it all starts up front with a game-wrecking Group of 5 defensive tackle. Not only does Houston’s Ed Oliver top most NFL draft boards, he leads the way here.
And remember, this is about what players will do in 2018, not what they’ve done to this point. So you’ll find Tua Tagovailoa high on this list, as well as breakout candidates like Georgia RB D’Andre Swift and Clemson WR Tee Higgins.
No true freshmen made the list, so check out our list of instant-impact first-year players here. And what fun is a list like this without some heated debate? Check out our roundtable on snubs, who’s overrated and underrated and which Group of 5 players deserved more love.
To get the final ranking, we had our expert panel vote on pairs of players. Bryce Love vs. Christian Wilkins. Trace McSorley vs. Jonathan Taylor. We asked, “Which player will be better in 2018?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.
1. ED OLIVER DT, Houston Class: Junior Key stat: Currently No. 1 on Mel Kiper’s 2019 Big Board
The last defensive lineman to finish in the top five of the Heisman voting was Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The unblockable Oliver could replicate Suh’s feat on the way to potentially becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
2. BRYCE LOVE RB, Stanford Class: Senior Key stat: 2,118 rushing yards in 2017
The speedster is just the third player in college football history to return to school after rushing for 2,000-plus yards and has a chance to become the first Heisman Trophy runner-up to win the award the following year since Georgia’s Herschel Walker in 1982.
3. WILL GRIER QB, West Virginia Class: Senior Key stat: Threw for 3,490 yards in 2017
Arguably the top returning quarterback in the country, Grier was second nationally in passing touchdowns and third in passing yards before breaking a finger last season. Armed with one of the top receiving corps in the country, Grier’s recently launched Heisman campaign could be a viable one.
There’s so much talent on Clemson’s roster, it’s hard to pick one player as the team’s best, but there’s no question about who the heart and soul of the locker room is. That’s Wilkins, a senior defensive tackle who does everything from rushing the passer to catching passes on special teams to ensuring the rest of the group is out on the field early for offseason workouts. Wilkins’ return to the defense this season was a surprise to many, but the truth is, the guy loves playing college football, and he has a chance to make his mark as one of the Tigers’ all-time greats.
5. DEXTER LAWRENCE DT, Clemson Class: Junior Key stat: No. 9 in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
You don’t need to watch much film to see how fearsome Lawrence is at blowing up the pocket or annihilating a run play. But the truly scary thing is, we’ve yet to really see Lawrence at his best. In 2016, he was a true freshman playing behind veterans on the line. He got a lot of work, but he was still refining his craft. Last year, injuries plagued Lawrence’s season, and while he did his best to stay on the field and make an impact, it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent. In 2018, we might finally get to see what a monster Lawrence can be when he’s clicking on all cylinders, and that’s bad news for the rest of the ACC.
6. NICK BOSA DE, Ohio State Class: Junior Key stat: 8.5 sacks in 2017
The younger Bosa’s first two seasons have been a step ahead of the trajectory his All-American brother, Joey, took before getting drafted in the first round after three years at Ohio State. That bodes well as Nick heads into a junior year where he’ll be the top pass-rusher on a reloaded defensive line. Bosa’s balance, technique, speed and tendency to never give up on a play make him nearly impossible to stop.
7. JONATHAN TAYLOR RB, Wisconsin Class: Sophomore Key stat: Averaged 6.6 yards per carry in 2017
By breaking Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman rushing record with 1,977 yards, Taylor put himself on the national radar last year. Don’t be surprised if he tops his 2017 performance after a full season in the program and running behind arguably the nation’s best offensive line. He has speed, power and durability, recording 10 100-yard performances and three 200-yard performances on 299 carries.
8. RASHAN GARY DL, Michigan Class: Junior Key stat: No. 3 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board
One of several talented juniors on Michigan’s defense, Gary has great speed and impeccable footwork for a 285-pound pass-rusher. He approached offseason workouts with renewed focus, which should help him keep pace with the high expectations he created the past two seasons and as the No. 1-ranked prospect coming out of high school.
9. TRACE MCSORLEY QB, Penn State Class: Senior Key stat: Threw for 3,570 yards and 28 TDs in 2017
Those lamenting the departure of Saquon Barkley seem to forget the Heisman Trophy contender still in Happy Valley. McSorley has won big at every level of his career. He matured into an accurate, reliable field leader last year after filling the highlight reel in 2016. After throwing 59 touchdown passes, McSorley could become the best statistical quarterback in PSU history.
10. JARRETT STIDHAM QB, Auburn Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 3,158 yards last season
After a somewhat slow start to his first season at Auburn, the former Baylor transfer still threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. With a year under his belt and more control at the line of scrimmage, his numbers could climb.
11. TUA TAGOVAILOA QB, Alabama Class: Sophomore Key stat: Zero career college starts
It was a small sample size but a memorable one. After appearing only in mop-up duty during the regular season, Tagovailoa saved the day as a true freshman in the title game against Georgia, entering at halftime to throw three touchdowns, including the winner in a 26-23 overtime victory.
12. CLELIN FERRELL DE, Clemson Class: Junior Key stat: No. 3 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s DE underclassmen rankings
After a breakout finale to the 2016 season, Ferrell became a household name as a sophomore in 2017, finishing the year with 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, seven QB hurries and two forced fumbles. He’s a high-motor rusher off the edge, and his instincts for the position make him arguably the most dangerous pass-rusher on a line absolutely loaded with NFL talent.
13. DAMIEN HARRIS RB, Alabama Class: Senior Key stat: 7.4 yards per carry in 2017
He flies under the radar sometimes, but all Harris has done in each of the past two seasons is rush for 1,000 yards. During his senior season, he could climb up the chart for career rushing yards at Alabama.
When Herbert was on the field last season, Oregon was one of the most dangerous offenses in the country (the Ducks scored 49.1 points and averaged 516.5 yards per game in his eight starts). If he plays to his potential this year, an early departure to the NFL might loom.
15. JAKE BROWNING QB, Washington Class: Senior Key stat: Has thrown for 9,104 yards in three years
After finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and leading the Huskies to the playoff in 2016, Browning wasn’t nearly as productive in 2017, but the senior is a primary reason Washington is viewed as the best team on the West Coast.
16. NICK FITZGERALD QB, Mississippi State Class: Junior Key stat: Had both 100 rushing and passing yards in six 2017 games
One of the first things Joe Moorhead did when he got the job as head coach at Mississippi State was to call his starting quarterback to tell him to make room for a Heisman Trophy. While Fitzgerald might fly under the radar on Heisman lists, with 66 combined touchdowns (36 passing, 30 rushing) the past two seasons, he has some serious production already under his belt.
17. RAEKWON DAVIS DL, Alabama Class: Junior Key stat: Projected first-round pick by Todd McShay
Da’Ron Payne was the anchor of the Alabama defense last season, but now it’s another 300-pounder’s turn. Davis, a lean 6-7 and 306 pounds, enters the spotlight after earning All-SEC honors last season by posting 69 tackles, 10 of which were for a loss.
18. DAVID SILLS V WR, West Virginia Class: Senior Key stat: Tied for FBS lead with 18 TD receptions
A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, Sills led the country with 18 touchdown receptions in his first season as a full-time wide receiver. Because of added depth to West Virginia’s receiving corps, Sills might not replicate that gaudy touchdown number. But the former quarterback figures to be even better with a season of experience playing receiver behind him.
19. KHALIL TATE QB, Arizona Class: Junior Key stat: Set FBS QB single-game rushing record with 327 against Colorado
Arguably the most exciting player to watch in the country, Tate enters the season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender under new coach Kevin Sumlin. Though he’s known more as a runner, Tate’s ability as a passer should not go overlooked — he throws one of the best deep balls in the country.
20. MCKENZIE MILTON QB, UCF Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 494 yards to 2OT win over Memphis
UCF has begun the Heisman pitch for its star quarterback, after a sophomore season in which he set single-season school records for passing yards (4,037), passing touchdowns (37) and rushing yards by a quarterback (613). Hopes are high for UCF to keep its forward momentum going with Milton back behind center.
21. CAM AKERS RB, Florida State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Ran for career-high 199 yards against Syracuse
Last season, Akers broke Florida State’s single-season freshman rushing record with 1,024 yards, but the expectations are even higher this season. And those expectations come from Akers himself. Already a preseason All-ACC selection, one of Akers’ goals this season is to rush for 2,000 yards. The other is to win a championship.
The new leader of Michigan’s stacked defense had a team-high 102 tackles and five sacks in his first season as a starter. Good instincts and a fearsome attitude will make Bush the tone-setting centerpiece for another fast, aggressive group in Ann Arbor.
23. J.K. DOBBINS RB, Ohio State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Rushed for 1,403 yards in 2017
Ohio State fans want to see more of Dobbins, who last fall averaged 7.2 yards a carry and 100.2 yards per game despite only 13.9 carries per game. Mike Weber is still in Columbus, but Dobbins should move into more of a featured role. He had a team-high 16 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or longer last season.
24. AUSTIN BRYANT DE, Clemson Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 4 senior DE
There was a play against Virginia Tech last season that perfectly illustrated why Bryant is the unsung hero of Clemson’s elite defensive line. He was lined up in coverage, split wide against the Hokies’ speedy receiver Sean Savoy on a fourth-down play. A swing pass to Savoy was caught and immediately blown up by Bryant, who converged with his 270-pound frame to drop Savoy for a 5-yard loss. That’s an astonishing amount of athleticism for a guy considered the fourth-best defensive lineman on his own team.
25. SHEA PATTERSON QB, Michigan Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 2,259 yards before season-ending injury
The former Ole Miss starter is now the preordained savior in Ann Arbor. Patterson’s ability to extend and make plays will — provided he wins the starting job — give Jim Harbaugh’s staff a weapon it has not had under center at Michigan. Wolverine faithful are hoping he’s the missing piece to a Big Ten title run.
26. A.J. BROWN WR, Ole Miss Class: Junior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 1 underclass receiver
Arguably the best pro prospect at his position, Brown caught 72 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore last year. Brown also eclipsed 100 receiving yards six times, with five of those resulting in him gaining at least 150 yards. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Brown can outmuscle just about any defensive back.
White probably will be the first linebacker taken in next year’s NFL draft, and for good reason. In just his second season with the Tigers, he collected 133 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2017. The sideline-to-sideline linebacker registered double-digit tackles in eight of 13 games last year.
28. MYLES GASKIN RB, Washington Class: Senior Key stat: 4,055 career rushing yards over three seasons
Gaskin is already the school’s all-time touchdowns leader (45) and has a chance to become the first Pac-12 player and 10th in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons. He enters the season with 4,055 rushing yards.
He’s 6-4 and 310 pounds, but he’s nimble, reportedly having just 15 percent body fat. He already has found the end zone twice, and last season racked up a whopping 41 quarterback pressures, earning first team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches.
30. JAKE FROMM QB, GEORGIA Class: Sophomore Key stat: Threw for 2,699 yards in leading UGA to title game
He has been somewhat overshadowed by Tua Tagovailoa’s emergence in the title game and No. 1 recruit Justin Fields’ arrival on campus, but Fromm deserves to stand on his own. As a true freshman, all he did was throw 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, leading the Bulldogs to within an overtime of a national championship.
31. JONAH WILLIAMS OL, Alabama Class: Junior Key stat: Crimson Tide rushed for 3,509 yards in 2017
There’s a reason he has started from day one. Already at 29 career starts, Williams won a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016 and followed that up with third team AP All-America honors last season. The right tackle has been one of the most consistent linemen on the roster, proficient in the run game as well as pass protection.
32. DWAYNE HASKINS QB, Ohio State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Completed 40 of 57 passes in 2017
J.T. Barrett’s 50-game run in Columbus is over, and the Haskins era begins this fall. Haskins impressed in relief of Barrett last year at Michigan Stadium, rallying the Buckeyes past their archrival. The strong-armed sophomore steps into the featured role for an offense loaded with options at the skill positions.
33. D’ANDRE SWIFT RB, Georgia Class: Sophomore Key stat: 618 rushing yards on only 81 carries in 2017
With longtime backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb gone, it’s Swift’s turn in the spotlight. In a supporting role last season, the sophomore showed flashes of big-play ability, averaging 7.8 yards per touch (rushing and receiving).
34. LEVONTA TAYLOR CB, Florida State Class: Junior Key stat: Recorded two interceptions against rival Florida
Taylor came into his own last season in his first year as a starter, and goes into 2018 as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the ACC. Thanks to several key departures, including Derwin James, Taylor is now the veteran among the group and will be asked to anchor a unit that has the potential for a big year.
It went largely unnoticed as Missouri struggled to find its footing last season, but its quarterback shined throughout, finishing just 36 yards shy of 4,000 yards passing. He didn’t miss the mark, though, when he set an SEC record for passing touchdowns in a single season with 44.
36. A.J. DILLON RB, Boston College Class: Sophomore Key stat: Rushed for 895 yards in final five games of 2017
Here are the numbers for Dillon from his true freshman season: 1,589 yards, 14 touchdowns, five straight games with at least 149 yards to end the season. That’s all pretty good, but don’t forget he wasn’t even Boston College’s starting running back until Week 5. So when Dillon says he has a lot he can still improve upon, that’s a frightening thought, and he’s the biggest reason there’s real enthusiasm about Boston College’s chances for a big season in 2018.
37. GREEDY WILLIAMS CB, LSU Class: Sophomore Key stat: No. 6 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early draft
Williams’ nickname fits him perfectly. He’s coming off of a sophomore year in which he led the SEC with six interceptions and was second in the league with 17 passes defended. Arguably the best cover corner in the SEC — and maybe beyond — the first-team All-SEC member is getting tons of All-America attention this season. Williams is a rangy, big-bodied corner who absolutely sticks to receivers but isn’t afraid to lay the lumber.
Having signed with the Oakland Athletics for $4.7 million over the summer, Murray now faces the enormous task of replacing Heisman winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Baker Mayfield. The Sooners, however, are loaded around the quarterback on offense again. And Murray, a former five-star recruit, has the talent to propel Oklahoma back into the CFP.
39. GREG LITTLE OL, Ole Miss Class: Junior Key stat: No. 4 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
Perhaps the most talented offensive lineman in the SEC, Little has a chance to play his way into the first round of next year’s NFL draft. The former freshman All-America and Outland Trophy watch list member is tasked with protecting the blind side of Rebels QB Jordan Ta’amu.
40. TEE HIGGINS WR, Clemson Class: Sophomore Key stat: No. 18 prospect in 2017 recruiting class
Clemson’s sophomore receiver said he grew up idolizing former Georgia star A.J. Green, and that’s fitting. Higgins is a carbon copy. At 6-4, 200 pounds, Higgins is an imposing target, and his long strides and quick breaks make him nearly impossible to defend. He came on strong late last season before an injury derailed his Sugar Bowl, but he utterly owned the field during Clemson’s spring game and appears poised to become one of the ACC’s best players in 2018.
41. DERRICK BROWN DL, Auburn Class: Junior Key stat: No. 15 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
Those at Auburn believe they have the most talented defensive line in the country, and it starts in the middle with Brown. The 6-5, 325-pound defensive tackle is a run-stuffer who can also get into the backfield, as evidenced by his four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
42. DAVID EDWARDS OL, Wisconsin Class: Junior Key stat: No. 19 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
This mainstay on Wisconsin’s offensive line during the past two seasons started his career as a tight end before bulking up to play tackle. He was as good of a blindside protector as anyone in the Big Ten last year and is part of the talented and massive group that paves the way for Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor.
The Badgers are replacing seven starters on defense, which makes Edwards an essential player for their continued success. He was a Butkus Award finalist last year after making 81 tackles in the middle of one the nation’s most stingy defenses. He, Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr should make the linebacker spot a huge strength for Wisconsin.
44. RODNEY ANDERSON RB, Oklahoma Class: Junior Key stat: Rushed for more than 110 yards in 6 of last 8 games
After taking over Oklahoma’s starting running back job early last October, Anderson led the country in yards from scrimmage, culminating with more than 200 rushing yards in the Rose Bowl. Anderson and speedy quarterback Kyler Murray could form a devastating rushing combination out of the Sooners backfield.
45. MONTEZ SWEAT DE, Mississippi State Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 3 senior DE
The second of Mississippi State’s two first team All-SEC defensive linemen, Sweat is as good a pass-rusher as there is in the conference. Last season, the 6-6, 241-pounder tied for the SEC lead in sacks and tackles for loss.
Winovich built on a solid 2016 season by boosting many of his key stats, from tackles for loss (9.5 to 18) to sacks (5 to 8) to forced fumbles (1 to 2). The first-team All-Big Ten selection bypassed the NFL draft for one more shot at a Big Ten title as he joins fellow All-America candidate Rashan Gary on Michigan’s line.
47. DEEBO SAMUEL WR, South Carolina Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 1 senior WR
Injuries cut Samuel’s 2017 season short, but according to coach Will Muschamp, he was one of the most explosive players in college football when healthy. A true all-purpose player, he can catch passes, rush the football and make a difference in the return game. In only three games last season, he scored six touchdowns.
Quarterman has started every game he has played at Miami (26). Going into his junior season, he has the potential for an All-America type season. The heart of the Hurricanes’ defense, Quarterman had 83 tackles a year ago and picked up the most votes among linebackers on the preseason All-ACC team.
Injuries have been an issue at times, but when he’s on the field he’s a productive playmaker, dating to his eye-popping hits on special teams as a freshman. Last season the gifted inside linebacker had 40 tackles, and despite being used mostly in a reserve role, he led the team with four interceptions.
Nobody really calls him Devin. They call him “Motor,” a nickname from his dad, but it is fitting given the way he plays. Singletary led all FBS players with 32 rushing touchdowns last year, and rushed for 1,920 yards — fourth in the nation. He needs 589 yards this season to set the school career rushing mark.
Writeups by Andrea Adelson, Edward Aschoff, Kyle Bonagura, David M. Hale, Dan Murphy, Adam Rittenberg, Alex Scarborough, Jake Trotter
Now that fall practice is starting and we’re less than a month away from real, live college football, it’s time to get riled up by preseason polls.
The Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday afternoon and featured the usual suspects — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State — at the top. Michigan State was voted No. 12 and Michigan came in two spots behind at No. 14.
The Spartans and Wolverines were two of the five Big Ten teams selected in the top 15, along with Ohio State (3), Wisconsin (7) and Penn State (9). Northwestern also received votes.
Looking ahead, Michigan State will play three ranked opponents this season and Michigan will face five, including the season opener in South Bend against No. 11 Notre Dame.
The Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 each had five teams voted into the poll, while the ACC had four and the PAC-12 had three. University of Central Florida, the self-proclaimed “national champions,” were ranked No. 23.
Others receiving votes: South Carolina 138, Florida 135, Oregon 105, Utah 81, Texas A&M 67, Northwestern 67, Kansas State 35, Florida Atlantic 27, Memphis 23, Boston College 23, NC State 22, Arkansas State 19, Troy 19, Appalachian State 16, San Diego State 15, Kentucky 8, Iowa State 8, Iowa 8, Washington State 7, South Florida 6, Duke 5, Fresno State 4, Louisville 3, Arizona 2, Houston 2, Army 1, Northern Illinois 1
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — John Beilein said he was never offered the Detroit Pistons’ coaching job.
“I never really had to make the decision,” the Michigan coach said. “That would have been a tough one.”
Beilein is now looking ahead to another season of college basketball after briefly emerging as a candidate for the Pistons. Not long after the news broke about Beilein’s talks with Detroit, he said he would be back at Michigan. The Pistons eventually hired Dwane Casey earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Beilein held a news conference to talk about the offseason. He led Michigan to the national title game this year before falling to Villanova, so the possibility of losing Beilein to the NBA was a jolt to Wolverines fans.
“I was not offered the job by the Pistons,” Beilein said. “We certainly had some mutual interest. I think they had a great candidate in Dwane Casey.”
Beilein said he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching in the game’s top league.
“I love coaching basketball a lot, and you’re watching the NBA playoffs, and you’re seeing what guys are doing, and you’re looking, like, they’re running stuff that we run,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if they watched us or I watched them. You can see, boy, if you have really highly skilled players — [Boston Celtics coach] Brad Stevens kept telling me, ‘I’m having a blast.’ When you hear those words, and your season’s over — so that was appealing.”
With the Pistons’ search behind him, Beilein can prepare for the 2018-19 season with the Wolverines. Michigan announced Tuesday that the team will go on a tour of Spain from Aug. 17 to Aug. 26 that will include exhibition games.
The Wolverines lost star big man Moe Wagner early to the NBA, but some key players return from what was one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers will be joined by what is expected to be a strong group of new recruits.
So Beilein has plenty to look forward to at the college level, and he indicated there might not be any more flirtations with the NBA.
“I think that I ran that race, and you can’t run that race too many times,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done, but I was really impressed with everybody in that organization, and I’ll be rooting for them like I always have.”
The other intriguing bit of recent news that at least partially involved the Michigan basketball program was Chris Webber’s appearance with Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh on Ann Arbor’s WTKA radio last week. Harbaugh asked Webber to be an honorary captain for the football team next season, and Webber sounded amenable to the idea.
A return to Ann Arbor by Webber — even if it’s for football — would be a big deal. He led the Michigan basketball team to the Final Four in 1992 and 1993, but a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three other players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes, and the NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until 2013.
“There was five or six years where I was limited what I could say about that era. Since the ban’s been off, I’ve reached out to Chris several times,” Beilein said. “I continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to try and build bridges and just really work at making sure there’s a lot of healing going forward.
“I want every player that ever played here to feel like he’s a part of that building, including Chris and anyone else.”
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers added some size, rebounding and shooting Thursday night by drafting Michigan big man Moritz Wagner with the 25th pick of the first round.
Lakers team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka hope they were able to find another late first-round gem in Wagner, a 6-foot-11 forward who helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game last season. Last year during their first draft together, Johnson and Pelinka found Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart with the 27th and 30th overall picks.
The Lakers were impressed by Wagner during their interview with him at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Head coach Luke Walton said Wagner’s personality electrified the room.
“Selecting Moe Wagner was a big target for Magic,” Pelinka said. “When you build a team, you have to have pillars that you build on. For us we are sticking to those core principles, which are guys that are high IQ basketball player that play the game the right way and can shoot and have length and have versatility and play with toughness.
“The game, as you know, requires bigs that can spread the floor. What we noticed in all the games we went to in person is, he is a tremendous passer and great screener in pick-and-roll situations, coached by John Beilein, who is a terrific coach. And Luke felt that when we had him in our building that he had off-the-charts basketball IQ. Magic had to get over a Spartan drafting a Wolverine but once we got over that, he was our guy.”
The Lakers went all international with their draft this year. After tabbing the German Wagner, the Lakers used the 39th pick (acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for their 2019 second-round pick via the Chicago Bulls and cash) on another German, 6-9 forward Isaac Bonga. And with the 47th pick, the Lakers tabbed 6-8 shooting guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a Ukrainian native who set a Kansas single-season record with 115 made 3-point field goals.
Wagner said he grew up influenced by Germany’s greatest NBA product, Dirk Nowitzki, but that he also liked Kevin Garnett’s game. He said he considers another player of that generation, Kobe Bryant, to be the greatest Laker of all time.
“I am a big Kobe fan,” Wagner said when asked who he considers to be the greatest Laker in the storied franchise history. “I think I got to go with Kobe, especially since he stayed there for his entire career. Magic is up there, of course. This is a question where I can’t win.”
The Michigan product, though, likes how the current Lakers are trying to play as fast as the Showtime Lakers did.
“They obviously are a flashy franchise, they like to play fast,” Wagner said. “Coach [Luke] Walton used to play, he is a player’s coach, he wants his players to play and be confident, and they focus on playing fast, and that is something I am very excited to prove.”
Thursday night’s draft came a little more than a week before what could be the Lakers’ most important free agency period since Shaquille O’Neal signed in 1996.
With Julius Randle about to hit restricted free agency, the Lakers’ selection of Wagner gives them some depth inside. Wagner, 21, averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds and shot 52.8 percent from the field last season while earning second-team All Big-Ten honors. He joined Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to have 20 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal.
The Lakers, in need of perimeter shooting, now have a fiery big who shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range over the past two seasons, draining 108 3s during that span.
“I’m speechless,” said Wagner, who fought back tears after being selected. “I am just going to give it all, my 100 percent every day. … I am going to love it and leave it all out there [for the Lakers].”
This was the first time in five years that the Lakers were not drafting in the lottery. After taking Randle with the seventh overall pick in 2014 and D’Angelo Russell (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016) and Lonzo Ball (2017) with the second overall picks in the past three drafts, the Lakers had to wait until near the end of the first round to pick this year.
The Lakers’ own pick, No. 10 overall, belonged to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012. The Sixers used the pick on Villanova’s Mikal Bridges before trading him to Phoenix for Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, who was selected 16th, and a 2021 first-round pick via Miami.
But Johnson and Pelinka acquired the 25th pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers during a February trade-deadline deal that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavs for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye.
That deal helped the Lakers clear cap space and put them in position to pursue two max free agents in July when Los Angeles will be in the running for LeBron James and Paul George. With Kawhi Leonard reportedly hoping to play in Los Angeles, the Lakers will be busy exhausting all avenues to significantly improve their roster.
The Lakers worked out 125 players over the past few months.
Almost 30 years ago, Michigan faced nearly the same situation as Spain when coach Bill Frieder announced before the NCAA tournament that he would leave after the season to take over Arizona State.
Michigan decided to fire Frieder immediately and promoted assistant coach Steve Fisher, who led the 3-seeded Wolverines to the national title.
“I don’t want someone from Arizona State coaching the Michigan team,” athletic director Bo Schembechler famously said of his decision. “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.”
Spain replaced Lopetegui with sporting director Fernando Hierro, who said he hopes to change as little as possible within the team as they prepare to face Portugal, Iran and Morocco in Group B.
Former Spain great Xavi Hernandez said he believed the national federation made the right move.
“I think [federation president Luis] Rubiales acted correctly and was looking out for the federation, which should be above any single individual,” Hernandez told Marca. “It wasn’t an easy situation but I think he did the right thing. The players have seen things like this before and I am sure they are going to have a good World Cup.”
The NBA Finals aren’t technically over yet, but we’re already turning our attention to the NBA Draft, coming up June 21. Everywhere you look, someone has a new “Mock Draft 27.5” that promises “big changes at the top!”
Instead of making you sift through dozens of websites just to find the players you care about, I decided to do the work for you. The three players we are really interested in are Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges and Michigan’s Moe Wagner. The rest is just filler.
Here is what some of the “experts” are saying about these local stars in their latest mock drafts.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Unsurprisingly, Jackson’s draft stock is by far the highest of the three. He’s been consistently hovering around the 2-5 range since he officially declared for the draft. Teams love Jackson’s defensive prowess and inside-outside offensive game. Plus, he’s not even 19 years old yet and has barely scratched the surface of his true potential.
He possesses a critical duality for modern bigs: he can step out and shoot from outside, while also defending in space and protecting the rim. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally before he can become a mainstay, but with the strides he’s made over the last couple years, he’s worth a substantial investment.
Jackson averaged 5.5 blocks and 2.0 threes per 40 minutes during his lone season at Michigan State, which is a rare, valued mix of abilities. The Mavericks will be thrilled with that skill set and can bet on the rest of his offensive repertoire to develop over the next few years.
After returning for his sophomore season, Bridges’ stock has remained pretty much the same. He was never projected as a top-five pick and he likely won’t last past the lottery. Bridges’ fit in the NBA will be different than at Michigan State. Instead of being criticized for not taking over games and settling for 3-pointers, Bridges’ value will be directly tied to how well he hits threes and he won’t be asked to take over games yet.
Teams love wing prospects who can shoot, rebound a little and play some defense. Bridges fits the mold. His ceiling might not be as high as Jackson, but his floor is that of a solid role player.
CBS Sports – No. 14 (Denver Nuggets)
I think he falls to 14 due to players ahead of him offering up a bit more well-rounded, NBA-style skills. This is not a knock on Bridges, though, who if anything might be a tad underrated at this point.
Sports Illustrated – No. 11 (Charlotte Hornets)
Bridges immediately makes their rotation more athletic, and has enough scoring ability to conceivably contribute right away. He’s a strong, powerful player who rebounds, thrives in transition and can knock down open shots.
Bleacher Report – No. 11 (Charlotte Hornets)
Bridges should be a draft-night target for the Hornets, who need offense from both forward spots. He would work best as a small-ball stretch 4 alongside Dwight Howard, though continued progress on his shot-creating and off-the-dribble scoring should mean Bridges could also play next to Marvin Williams.
Wagner made nice strides in his game this season, but what you see is what you get. Many experts think he’s pretty close to his ceiling right now. Good shooter, not so good defender. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Shooting big men are all the rage in the NBA. Wagner will likely find a home somewhere in the second round or late first.
CBS Sports – No. 36 (New York Knicks)
The vision of a Wagner-Porzingis international team-up playing in Manhattan seems like a ton of fun.
Sports Illustrated – No. 37 (Sacramento Kings)
Bleacher Report – No. 29 (Brooklyn Nets)
The Nets could use a big man to stretch the floor, which will be Wagner’s NBA calling card. He struggles defensively, but his shooting (39.4 3FG%) and ability to attack closeouts are valued in today’s NBA.