Winger agrees to eight-year contract with Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are locking up one of their franchise cornerstones. The team has agreed to terms on an eight-year extension with star winger Cole Caufield, the team announced on Monday morning.

The deal will run through the 2030-31 season and will carry an average annual value of $7.85 million per season.

Caufield is coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 26 goals while dishing out 10 assists in 46 regular-season contests. The 22-year-old star’s season came to a premature end in January when he was forced to undergo shoulder surgery.

During the 2022-23 season, Caufield’s 26 goals were tied for the team lead and marked the second consecutive season in which he led the team in that category. At the time of his injury, Caufield was 11th in goals in the league, while also being ranked eighth in the NHL with 19 even-strength goals.

In his first three professional seasons, Caufield has racked up 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) while topping the 20-goal mark in each of his last two seasons. In addition, the star forward has also tallied 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 20 postseason contests, which all came during the 2020-21 campaign.

Caufield was originally selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canadiens after a standout career at the University of Wisconsin.

Golden Knights vs. Panthers odds, NHL picks, Game 2 predictions from hockey simulation

The Florida Panthers attempt to even the 2023 Stanley Cup Final at one win apiece when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 2 on Monday. Florida allowed three goals in the third period on Saturday and suffered a 5-2 loss in the series opener, falling to 0-5 all-time in the Final. The Panthers were swept by Colorado in their only other appearance in 1996. Vegas, which also is in the Final for the second time in its history, has won all five of its home meetings with Florida since joining the NHL in 2017-18.

Opening faceoff at T-Mobile Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET. Vegas is the -140 favorite (risk $140 to win $100) in the latest Golden Knights vs. Panthers odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total goals scored is 5.5. Before making any Panthers vs. Golden Knights picks, be sure to check out the NHL predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

This model simulates every NHL game 10,000 times, taking into account factors like current form, individual matchups, injuries and short- and long-term trends when making NHL picks. The model seeks the best values on the money line, puck line and total.

Now, the model has set its sights on Golden Knights vs. Panthers and just locked in its picks and Stanley Cup Final predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the NHL odds and trends for Panthers vs. Golden Knights:

Golden Knights vs. Panthers money line: Golden Knights -140, Panthers +118
Golden Knights vs. Panthers over/under: 5.5 goals
Golden Knights vs. Panthers puck line: Golden Knights -1.5 (+185)
VGK: The Golden Knights have scored 11 goals in their last two games
FLA: The Panthers are 8-1 when scoring first this postseason after their Game 1 loss
Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Featured Game

Why the Golden Knights can win
Trailing in a game has not bothered Vegas very much this postseason. The Golden Knights are 8-3 when giving up the first goal and have posted nine comeback victories, one shy of the playoff record set in 2009 by Pittsburgh and matched by Colorado last postseason. Jonathan Marchessault is riding a six-game point streak after scoring his 10th goal of the playoffs in Game 1.

The 32-year-old right wing, who is one of six players remaining from the Vegas team that reached the Final in 2018, has netted eight tallies in as many contests and amassed 16 points over his last 11 games. Ivan Barbashev also has been hot of late, registering 10 points in his past nine outings. Captain Mark Stone continues to be an offensive force at home in the playoffs as he has recorded 14 of his 16 points at T-Mobile Arena after scoring a huge goal on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

Why the Panthers can win
Matthew Tkachuk has set a franchise playoff record with 21 points, which ranks him second in the NHL. The 25-year-old left wing, who was kept off the scoresheet in Game 1 for just the fourth time in 17 contests this postseason, scored four of his nine goals during Florida’s sweep of Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final — three of which were game-winners. Tkachuk has not disappointed since being acquired from Calgary last July as his 130 combined points (regular season and playoffs) are the fourth-most by a player in his first season with a franchise.

Carter Verhaeghe also has come up big for the Panthers, with three of his six playoff tallies being game-winners after only two of his career-high 42 during the regular season decided contests. After scoring only two goals in 20 regular-season games, Anthony Duclair has recorded four in 16 playoff outings and enters Monday having tallied in back-to-back contests. Brandon Montour has gone nine games without a point but leads all NHL defensemen with six goals this postseason. See which team to pick here.

How to make Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the goal total, as the simulations have the teams combining for 6.2 goals. It also says one side of the money line has all the value. You can only get the model’s pick at SportsLine.

Golden Knights are dominating the Stanley Cup Final, plus another NFL gambling scandal

This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

In Game 1, the Golden Knights fell behind, went ahead, gave up their lead and then finally took over. In Game 2, they went straight to taking over.

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Vegas scored twice in the first period and twice more in the second, leading the Panthers to pull goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in an eventual 7-2 thrashing that puts Vegas up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Jonathan Marchessault opened the scoring on a power play, and Alec Martinez doubled the lead later in the first.
Nicolas Roy and Brett Howden made it 4-0 early in the second before Florida pulled Bobrovsky. He allowed four goals on 13 shots faced. Alex Lyon took over and ended up allowing third-period goals to Marchessault, Michael Amadio and Howden.
Lyon allowed three goals on just 15 shots faced, so head coach Paul Maurice can’t be feeling too confident in either option.
Florida did score a pair of third-period goals via Anton Lundell and Matthew Tkachuk to at least take something positive home, I suppose.

The Golden Knights have had nine different scorers already this series, the most ever through two games of a Stanley Cup Final. Their offensive firepower and depth is simply overwhelming the Panthers, writes our Austin Nivison.

Nivison: “The Golden Knights’ depth has given them an advantage throughout the playoffs, and that has been the case through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. All four lines have been effective at generating offense against the Panthers.
Vegas has dressed 18 skaters so far in the series, and 15 of them have recorded a point… This comes after every single player recorded a point against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final.”
Honorable mentions
One day after winning the Memorial, Viktor Hovland caddied for a former college teammate at a U.S. Open qualifier.
Five-star 2024 linebacker prospect Sammy Brown committed to Clemson.
And not such a good morning for…

The NFL is investigating Colts cornerback/returner Isaiah Rodgers for possible violations of the league’s gambling policy, the latest episode in an offseason that’s been full of betting-related issues.

Rodgers, 25, reportedly placed “hundreds of wagers,” including on the Colts, through an acquaintance’s account. NFL rules prevent players from gambling on the NFL ever, as well as on any sport at team facilities or while traveling with the team.

Rodgers posted an apology to Twitter, saying he will “work hard to make sure that those mistakes are rectified through this process.”
In April, the NFL suspended five players — four from the Lions and one from the Commanders — for gambling violations. In May, the NFL reportedly began investigating a second wave of violations.
Those investigations and suspensions came after Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on the NFL. He was reinstated in March.
Rodgers, 25, has played three seasons in Indianapolis after the Colts picked him in the sixth round in 2020. After primarily being used as a kick returner as a rookie, he became a significant part of the defense with three interceptions in 2021 and nine starts in 2022.

Not so honorable mentions
Alek Manoah got pulled in the first inning against the Astros as his tough season continues.
Mike Soroka’s initial return to MLB from an Achilles injury didn’t last long.
It might be tough for HBO to find a team for “Hard Knocks.”
Kyrie Irving trying to recruit LeBron James to Dallas 🏀
Getty Images
Kyrie Irving wants to team up with LeBron James, but maybe not in the way you expected: Irving reportedly wants James to come to Dallas, reaching out personally to James to gauge his interest

Irving is an unrestricted free agent this summer (though owner Mark Cuban has stated his desire to build around Irving and Luka Doncic) while James remains under contract with the Lakers. James can opt out of his contract after next season, though he has expressed a desire to play with his son Bronny — who will be playing college ball at USC.

The big problem? Going for James is nearly impossible without including Doncic. As our Brad Botkin pointed out, the chances of anything happening here are slim — even if Dallas tries to build a trade package around their No. 10 pick.

Mandatory minicamp storylines: Quarterback questions, rookie impressions 🏈
We’re three months and one day away from the NFL regular season, and things are beginning to pick up, even if just a bit. Nine teams begin mandatory minicamp today, and there are storylines abound, especially at the game’s most important position: quarterback.

No one has more questions (or potential solutions) than the 49ers, who feature two former first-rounders, but have Mr. Irrelevant leading the race for now. Let our Tyler Sullivan explain:

Sullivan: “Brock Purdy is in line to be the team’s starter in 2023, but the quarterback is recovering from right elbow surgery and has only recently resumed throwing. With that in mind, Purdy likely won’t see the lion’s share of work at minicamp, thrusting either Trey Lance or Sam Darnold into the primary role, which has been the case throughout OTAs. If Lance can flash the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick just a few years ago, it’ll be interesting how that could set the stage for training camp, especially if Purdy is still not 100%.”
Elsewhere, former 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is dealing with his own injury issues in Las Vegas, and the Commanders are turning to Sam Howell.

As for two of the most pleasant surprises of 2022, the Seahawks and Lions are hoping to take the next step with loaded rookie classes. Time for first-rounders Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in Seattle and Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell in Detroit to show what they can do.

Oklahoma softball reaches WCWS finals as winning streak hits 51 games 🥎
Syndication: The Oklahoman
Oklahoma softball has won six national championships (including the last two), produced legend after legend and recorded some of the greatest seasons in college softball history. This team might just be the best ever — not just in program history, but the sport’s as a whole.

The No. 1 Sooners beat Stanford, 4-2, to run their winning streak to a D-I record 51 games and advance to the Women’s College World Series finals.

Our Chris Bengel took a look at some of the most notable winning streaks in D-I history, and while this isn’t quite 111 straight from UConn women’s basketball or 88 straight from UCLA men’s basketball, it’s still plenty impressive.

This streak is longer than the longest winning streak in D-I football, also by Oklahoma (47 from 1953-57), and well past the longest winning streak in D-I baseball (34 by Texas in 1977 and FAU in 1999).
At 59-1 this season, Oklahoma is on pace to have the best record in D-I softball history.
Their lone loss this season was back on Feb. 19 to Baylor .
Oklahoma will face No. 3 Florida State in the finals.

WNBA Power Rankings: Aces still top, but a new No. 2 🏀
We knew the Aces were going to be a powerhouse this season, and at 6-0, they absolutely are. It’s the best start to a season since the Lynx began 9-0 in 2017, and Las Vegas is nearly halfway to the longest winning streak to start a season ever (the 2016 Lynx started 13-0).

Long story short, the Aces are still comfortably No. 1 in Jack Maloney’s WNBA Power Rankings.

But it’s the No. 2 team we have our eye on at the moment. The 6-1 Sun jumped the Liberty for second in Jack’s rankings, and they have their star forward to thank:

Maloney: “The Sun may not always play the prettiest or most entertaining basketball, but they just keep on racking up wins. They added two of them this week to improve to 6-1, which is second only to the undefeated Aces. Alyssa Thomas, who set a franchise record with 16 assists in their win over the Lynx, continues to do it all. She’s on pace to join Candace Parker as the only players in WNBA history to average at least 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists per game for a season.”
Here’s Jack’s top five:

  1. Aces (prev: 1)
  2. Sun (prev: 3)
  3. Liberty (prev: 2)
  4. Sky (prev: 5)
  5. Mystics (prev: 4)
    Here are the full rankings.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺
⚾ Mets at Braves, 7:20 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Fever at Sky, 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Sparks at Storm, 10 p.m. on CBS Sports Network

Flyers trade Ivan Provorov to Blue Jackets as part of three-team deal

The Philadelphia Flyers are embarking on their first offseason under new general manager Danny Briere and aren’t wasting any time getting to work. As part of a three-team deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings, the Flyers are trading defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets, the teams announced on Tuesday.

In return, the Flyers are receiving goaltender Cal Peterson, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans, a 2023 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), and a 2023 second-round pick from the Kings. The Blue Jackets are also sending a conditional second-round draft choice in either 2024 or 2025 to the Flyers as part of the deal.

Flyers minor league defenseman Kevin Connauton will also be headed to the Blue Jackets, while the Kings will receive winger Hayden Hodgson from the Flyers as part of the trade. In addition, the Kings will retain 30 percent of Provorov’s contract.

Provorov has tallied 65 goals and 152 assists during his seven professional seasons since the Flyers selected him with the No. 7 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Russian defenseman is coming off a season in which he scored six goals and dished out 21 assists in a full 82-game slate.

Provorov still has two seasons remaining on his six-year, $40.5 million contract that he signed back in 2019. He has an annual cap hit of $6.75 million.

The veteran defenseman made headlines in January when he refused to wear Philadelphia’s Pride uniforms during warmups and stayed in the locker room. Provorov cited his religious beliefs as his reasoning for not wearing the Pride jerseys.

“I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said following the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Petersen looked like he was going to see significant action in the Kings’ crease this past season alongside Jonathan Quick, but ended up being sent down to the AHL in November after struggling to start off the year. The 28-year old has a 44-42-10 record, a 2.92 goals-against-average, and a .905 save percentage in 101 career games, and has spent all five of his NHL seasons in Los Angeles.

Walker, 28, is a veteran defenseman that has recorded 67 career points (16 goals, 51 assists) in five seasons with the Kings. Meanwhile, Grans is a defenseman that was selected with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Kings and spent the 2022-23 season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign.

Panthers vs. Golden Knights odds, NHL picks, Game 4 predictions from hockey model

A pivotal contest in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final features the Vegas Golden Knights traveling to take on the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The Golden Knights have a chance to secure a commanding 3-1 series lead before heading back to Vegas. The Panthers notched a clutch 3-2 win over the Knights in overtime in Game 3. Florida has won seven overtime games during the 2023 NHL playoffs.

Opening faceoff at FLA Live Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET. Vegas is the -120 favorite (risk $120 to win $100) in the latest Golden Knights vs. Panthers odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total goals scored is 5.5. Before making any Panthers vs. Golden Knights picks, be sure to check out the NHL predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

This model simulates every NHL game 10,000 times, taking into account factors like current form, individual matchups, injuries and short- and long-term trends when making NHL picks. The model seeks the best values on the money line, puck line and total.

Now, the model has its sights on Golden Knights vs. Panthers and just locked in its picks and Stanley Cup Final predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the NHL odds from Caesars Sportsbook and trends for Panthers vs. Golden Knights:

Golden Knights vs. Panthers money line: Florida +100, Vegas -120
Golden Knights vs. Panthers over/under: 5.5 goals
Golden Knights vs. Panthers puck line: Vegas +1.5 (-285)
FLA: The Panthers are 8-1 in their last nine games playing on one days rest
VGK: The Golden Knights are 6-1 in their last seven vs. Eastern Conference
Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Featured Game

Why the Golden Knights can cover
Right-wing Mark Stone is a smooth two-way attacking force for Vegas. Stone excels at creating takeaways due to his quick hands and active stick. The 31-year-old is third on the team in total points (19) with eight goals and 11 assists in the playoffs. He’s scored a goal in two of his last three games, including in his last outing when he finished with one goal and one assist.

Center Chandler Stephenson impacts the game the most as a facilitator. Stephenson has great speed and quickness to create space for his teammates. The 29-year-old can also finish plays around the goal and is tied for fourth on the squad in points (17) this postseason with eight goals and nine assists. In Game 3, Stephenson recorded two assists. See which team to pick here.

Why the Panthers can cover
Center Sam Bennett can line up at multiple spots on the ice due to his versatility. Bennett plays with high energy on both offense and defense as the 26-year-old can create offense for himself while owning good vision. Bennett has recorded 13 total points along with four goals and nine assists in the postseason. In Game 3, he posted two hits, an assist, and three shots on goal.

Center Aleksander Barkov is the complete package for the Panthers. Barkov has great size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and moves well on the ice. The 27-year-old generates plenty of velocity with his shots on goal and has amassed 14 total points with four goals and 10 assists during the postseason. On May 24 against the Carolina Hurricanes, Barkov finished with two assists. See which team to pick here.

How to make Golden Knights vs. Panthers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the goal total, as the simulations have the teams combining for 6.5 goals. It also says one side of the money line has all the value. You can only get the model’s Game 4 picks at SportsLine.

Ranking top NBA stars from college basketball blue bloods: Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid best since 2008 draft

Since the 2008 NBA Draft blue-blood programs (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, UCLA and UConn) have produced some of the best professional talent. Kansas produced the 2023 NBA MVP (Joel Embiid) and UCLA can claim Russell Westbrook, who won the most prestigious individual award in the NBA following the 2016-17 season.

The player who headlines the list of best NBA players from blue blood programs is Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. During his peak, he helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA title in 2020 and could be argued to be the best player in the association at the peak of his NBA career that’s been headlined by injuries the last few seasons.

Rounding out the top-five players on this list is a pair of Duke stars from last decade: Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum. Irving’s Duke career was short-lived. He only appeared in nine college games, but his NBA career has been nothing short of a rollercoaster. As for Tatum, it appears he hasn’t reached his full potential and should be considered an MVP candidate for years to come.

CBS Sports recently ranked the NBA peaks from Kentucky players under John Calipari, Kansas players under Bill Self and Duke players under Mike Krzyzewski. Here are the 25 best NBA peaks from players who came from the programs mentioned.

  1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2012)
    Davis in recent years has struggled with injuries. He played in only 56 games last season and 40 games the season before but when he’s healthy, he is one of the best players in the world. In his 11-year NBA career, Davis has averaged 24 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 blocks. Davis in his lone season at Kentucky compiled one of the best defensive seasons in NCAA history, and those traits directly carried over to the NBA. After starting his career with the Pelicans, Davis was traded to the Lakers and created a championship-caliber 1-2 punch with LeBron James. He is an eight-time NBA All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team four times and appeared on the All-Defensive Team four times.
  2. Joel Embiid (Kansas, 2014)
    There is no debate that Embiid is the best player Self has produced during his time at Kansas. You can even debate that Embiid is the best player on this list. Only he and Westbrook have won the MVP award during their respective career. It seems like yesterday that injuries looked like they would derail his NBA career before it even got started. He missed two full seasons before playing an NBA game. Now he’s considered one of the best players in the world and a dominant force inside for the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid has been in contention for MVP the past few seasons but he finally broke through and won the award. The next step for Embiid is helping the 76ers get over the hump and make a deep playoff run.
  3. Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 2008)
    When Kevin Durant departed Oklahoma City for Golden State during the 2016 NBA offseason, Westbrook became the No. 1 option. In his first season without KD, Westbrook averaged a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists). Westbrook earned MVP honors that season and to this day is one of the best individual seasons in NBA history. Westbrook recently re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason and will look to help them make a title push.
  4. Jayson Tatum (Duke, 2017)
    Tatum had the best season of his career this past season. The former Duke standout averaged 30.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Celtics. Tatum also racked up All-NBA First Team honors and finished fourth in NBA MVP voting behind Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo. As a rookie, Tatum helped Boston reach the Eastern Conference Finals. The four-time NBA All-Star earned NBA Eastern Conference Finals MVP in 2022 before the Celtics lost in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. The best years of his career are ahead of him and the Celtics dynamic duo of Tatum and Jaylen Brown are locked up for years to come.
  5. Kyrie Irving (Duke, 2011)
    From the moment Irving stepped on campus in Durham, his basketball career has been a rollercoaster. The former No. 1 overall pick only appeared in nine games before the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him in 2011 with the No. 1 overall pick. During the first postseason of his career during the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving fractured his left kneecap in Game 1 of the series, which forced him to miss the remainder of the series. Irving hit one of the most iconic shots in NBA history one year later — a stepback 3-pointer with the game tied at 89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to put the Cavs ahead of the 73-9 Warriors for good. Not only did the Cavs beat arguably the greatest team of all time, but completed the first 3-1 comeback in NBA Finals history. Since then, Irving has been on three teams (Celtics, Nets and Mavericks) and he just signed a three-year deal this offseason to stay in Dallas.
  6. Kevin Love (UCLA, 2008)
    Love’s NBA career can be remembered for two things: his dominance with the Timberwolves and the part he played on the Cavs 2016 championship team. Before Love was traded to Cleveland during the 2014 offseason, he was one of the best big men in the NBA. His best individual season came during the 2013-14 season when he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists. When he joined the Cavs, he took a backseat to Irving and James but was still the third-best player during his tenure in Cleveland.
  7. Devin Booker (Kentucky, 2015)
    Booker flew under the radar during his time at Kentucky and came off the bench during his lone season in Lexington. The Phoenix Suns selected him with the No. 13 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and his career has been on a steady climb since. He scored 70 points in a game at just 20 years old and is now considered one of the best shooting guards in the game. The addition of Chris Paul helped jolt the Suns from a lottery team to champions of the Western Conference in 2021. Booker is a three-time All-Star and appeared on the All-NBA First Team in 2022. He hasn’t hit his peak just yet but is coming off a season in which he averaged 27.8 points and 5.5 assists.
  8. Zion Willamson (Duke, 2019)
    Willamson is one of the trickiest players to rank on any list and is one of the greatest mysteries in the NBA. When he’s healthy, he looks like an MVP candidate. Before Victor Wembanyama came along, Williamson was considered arguably the most hyped-up NBA prospect behind LeBron James. During his four-year NBA career, he’s only appeared in 114 total games. He missed the entire 2021-22 NBA season and only played in 29 games last year. The averages he put up in those 29 games: 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Willamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds during the 2020-21 season and made the NBA All-Star team. Pure talent will never be a concern for Williamson because when healthy he’s one of the best players in the league. The biggest question mark going forward for his career is how healthy can/will he be for the rest of his career.
  9. John Wall (Kentucky, 2010)
    Wall’s prime in the NBA was simply electric. He was an explosive and flashy guard and one of the best two-way players in the league. Wall was the first selection from the Calipari era at Kentucky and became a five-time NBA All-Star. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2015, and despite the Wizards never making it past the second round of the playoffs during his time with the team, his college and NBA legacy will forever be remembered despite the final years of his professional career which included him holding out a full season with the Rockets and then being traded back to Houston after spending just over half a season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall gave Kentucky two top-five picks in the 2010 NBA Draft. Getty Images

  1. DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky, 2010)
    During his peak in the NBA, Cousins was arguably the best center in the association. During his later years with the Sacramento Kings, he started to develop a shot from distance, which tremendously expanded his game. Cousins made the NBA All-Star Game four times and was famously traded to the Pelicans after the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. Cousins suffered a handful of devastating injuries during the peak of his NBA career, which is headlined by a ruptured left Achilles tendon. That injury knocked out Cousins for almost an entire calendar year. Cousins is currently playing in Puerto Rico, and it appears his NBA career is over. Having more team success during his time in Sacramento would’ve gone a long way in boosting his personal accolades.
  2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, 2018)
    The best days of Gilgeous-Alexander’s career are ahead of him. The Thunder are loaded with young players and draft assets and have the potential to be a real player in the west for seasons to come. This past season was certainly the best of his career. He ranked fourth in scoring, made First Team All-NBA and received some MVP consideration. It was clear when the Thunder traded away Paul George to the Clippers in a deal that included SGA that he would be the centerpiece behind one of the most fascinating rebuilds in NBA history. The Thunder weren’t expected to do much this season as a rebuilding team but made it all the way to the play-in game. SGA’s ceiling is still sky-high, and he has the chance to be an MVP candidate for seasons to come.
  3. De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky 2017)
    Fox deserves bonus points for helping snap one of the largest playoff droughts in North American sports this past season. Fox was the head of the snake for the Sacramento Kings who made the NBA playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. Not only did Fox help the Kings qualify for the postseason, but Sacramento also earned the No. 3 seed in the west and won the Pacific Division. Fox elevated his game from star to superstar with his performances in the playoffs, which included a 38-point outburst in his first-ever NBA postseason action. Fox shined at Kentucky during the 2017 NCAA Tournament and raised his game even more during the NBA playoffs. A knock on Fox’s game is his team couldn’t win during his first five seasons, but he put those doubts aside this past season. Fox hasn’t hit his peak yet, but the 2022-23 season was by far the most successful season of his career.
  4. Jamal Murray (Kentucky, 2016)
    One thing that Murray has that most players on this list don’t have is a ring. Murray was a true second option for Nikola Jokić during the 2023 playoffs and provided the 1-2 punch the Denver Nuggets needed to win the title. Injuries are something that Murray struggled with in his career. He tore his ACL in 2021 and missed significant time because of it. He hasn’t been named to any NBA All-Star or All-NBA teams, but he’s proved to be one of the best point guards in the game during his peak.
  5. Kemba Walker (UConn, 2011)
    Walker is currently out of the NBA and recently signed a deal with AS Monaco of the French LNB Pro A league this off-season. Walker’s best days of his career came as a member of the Hornets, where he became a four-time NBA All-Star and one of the best true point guards during his era. Walker had an electric career with the Huskies in college and followed it up with an NBA career to remember.
  6. Karl Anthony-Towns (Kentucky, 2015)
    It wasn’t long ago that KAT was considered one of the few players you would want to build your team around. The Minnesota Timberwolves acquiring Rudy Gobert made KAT change his game completely. While Anthony-Towns and Gobert shared the floor together, KAT played more on the perimeter as a stretch-four and less inside as he did at the start of his career. KAT is one of the best shooters at his position but the addition of Gobert hurt his game more than it helped it. He has regressed ever so slightly from his 2019-2020 season when he averaged 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He missed time this past season because of injury, and this season will be a big indicator if he can get back to that level of play. The season that was cut short because of COVID-19 remains the best of his career.
  7. Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, 2017)
    The debate between KAT and Adebayo right now certainly is a spicy one. Adebayo has been the second option on two separate Heat teams that reached the NBA Finals and lost. He is a two-time NBA All-Star but has made NBA All-Defensive Second Team four seasons in a row. He is one of the best rim protectors in the league and a true threat to win Defensive Player of the Year every season. He’s still yet to reach his peak and hasn’t put up a statical season like KAT did at the position, but he’s still one of the best big men in the NBA.
  8. Brandon Ingram (Duke, 2016)
    Ingram is coming off the best season of his NBA career and the long-term health of Willamson will determine if he will be the No. 1 option going forward for the Pelicans. After starting his career with the Lakers, Ingram was traded to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis deal. Ingram averaged 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and a career-high 5.8 assists this past season but the Pelicans lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the No. 9 vs. No. 10 play-in game. Being the No. 1 option in New Orleans is a true possibility if Williamson can’t get healthy.
  9. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, 2014)
    Getting traded to the Golden State Warriors was the best thing that could’ve happened to Wiggins and his career. Once considered a “bust” Wiggins proved his ability to be an elite two-way player during Golden State’s playoff run in 2022. He is a major reason why the Dubs were able to beat the Celtics in six games after falling behind 2-1 in the series. Wiggins is part of one of the most notable NBA trades to happen this century. The Cavs traded away Wiggins in exchange for Timberwolves star big man Kevin Love to pair with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, which paid off big time for Cleveland. Wiggins missed a big chunk of last season due to personal issues but his impact in the playoffs was felt immediately when he returned.
  10. Jrue Holiday (UCLA, 2009)
    The Bucks went all-in during the 2020 offseason and traded for Holiday after he spent seven seasons with the Pelicans. The gamble paid off big time and Holiday joined a “Big 3” in Milwaukee with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton that won the NBA title in 2021. Holiday is one of the best two-way players in the league and is considered one of the best on-ball defenders at the guard position.
  11. Julius Randle (Kentucky, 2014)
    Randle’s NBA career has had its peaks and valleys. He broke his right tibia in his first NBA game and missed his full rookie season with the Lakers, spent one season with the New Orleans Pelicans and became an NBA All-Star with the New York Knicks. Randle isn’t the most notable player to come out of Kentucky during the last decade, but he’s still had a very respectable NBA career.
  12. Victor Oladipo (Indiana, 2013)
    Oladipo suffered a devastating knee injury during the 2023 NBA playoffs. He tore his patellar tendon in the opening round of the playoffs, which forced him to miss the rest of the postseason. Injuries have been an unfortunate theme for the two-time NBA All-Star. When he was healthy and at his peak with the Indiana Pacers, he was one of the most exciting players in the league. Now he faces another uphill battle to get back on the court.
  13. Eric Gordon (Indiana, 2008)
    Gordon will play for his fourth NBA team this fall after splitting time with the Clippers and Houston Rockets during the 2022-23 season. Gordon has played in over 800 games during his career and his best individual season came during the 2010-11 season when he averaged 22.3 points and 4.4 assists. Gordon will look to help the Suns get over the hump this season.
  14. Paolo Banchero (Duke, 2022)
    After only one season in the league, Banchero is already climbing up the leaderboards for the best NBA players to come out of Duke. Banchero averaged 20 points and nearly seven rebounds in his first season, en route to winning NBA Rookie of the Year. Banchero’s bruising style of play makes him one of the most versatile young players in the league. The Magic appear to be close to getting out of a long rebuild and Banchero will certainly be the centerpiece of the organization for years to come if he keeps developing his game.
  15. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina, 2011)
    The player that’s had the best NBA career from North Carolina the last decade-plus is Barnes. After starting his career with the Warriors and winning a championship with the organization in 2015, he signed with the Mavs the following offseason and then was traded to the Kings in 2019. Barnes has been a reliable veteran presence for a young Kings team and signed a three-year contract extension to stay with the organization. He was one of only a handful of players who played all 82 NBA regular season games during the 2022-23 season.
  16. Marcus Morris (Kansas, 2010)
    During Morris’ NBA career, he has played for six different NBA teams and almost added to that list when he was nearly dealt to the Washington Wizards in a three-team deal before it fell apart just 24 hours after it was reportedly accepted earlier in the offseason. The best statistical season of his career came during the 2019-20 season with the New York Knicks where he averaged 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. He’s played in almost 800 NBA games during his career and is a respected veteran in the NBA. Morris was never considered a star and hasn’t won any major NBA awards, but his longevity has to be admired. He is one of the best players Self has produced during his time with the Jayhawks.

Mac McClung signing deal with Orlando Magic, per report

The Orlando Magic are loaded with young guards and are adding another to the mix. Mac McClung has agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the team, according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The former Georgetown and Texas Tech standout is looking to stick with a team after logging just four NBA appearances through his first two pro seasons.

McClung only played one game for the Philadelphia 76ers last season but had plenty of success with the Delaware Blue Coats. The 2023 slam dunk champ notched 18.9 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds over 31 games for the 76ers’ G League affiliate. He shot 54.8 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from deep. It could be difficult for him to steal minutes from the lanky, athletic ballhandlers Orlando already has, though.

Markelle Fultz is fresh off a strong season in which he posted career highs in points (13.9) and assists (5.7) per game. Then there are Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, who provided scoring support and much-needed defensive intensity off the bench last season. Anthony Black, the sixth overall pick from the 2023 NBA Draft, will join that trio of guards in 2023.

McClung has his work cut out for him if he wants to break into the rotation despite his success in the G League. He’s averaged 21.8 points per contest through 55 games split between the Windy City Bulls, South Bay Lakers, and Blue Coats.

Lakers’ LeBron James, USC’s Bronny James accompany Drake to the stage for concert at Arena

LeBron James has walked out of the Arena tunnel many times, but on Monday the NBA star did so with his eldest son, Bronny James, as they escorted Drake to the stage at the beginning of a concert. This was one of Bronny’s first public appearances since the incoming USC freshman suffered cardiac arrest last month.

On Saturday, Bronny also joined his dad and younger brother, Bryce James, at the LeBron James bobblehead night at Dodger Stadium.

Drake has been getting support from the entire James squad as Bryce was at a concert with his friends earlier this month in Inglewood. During Monday’s concert, the crowd cheered while Drake talked about “the gentleman that walked me to the stage.”

🦉The Boy and The King 👑
Drake walks out with LeBron and Bronny at #cryptocomarena

— Arena (@cryptocomarena) August 22, 2023
The rapper called the Los Angeles Lakers forward his “brother” and explained that LeBron has been supporting his music from the beginning.

“In 2009, when nobody believed in anything I had going on, that same guy showed up to a release party for a mixtape that was called ‘So Far Gone’… He came all the way to Toronto to support me when I was trying to figure out how to live my dreams,” Drake told the crowd. “Tonight, however many years later, it’s an honor to be inside his building.”

“In 2009, when nobody believed in anything I had going on, that same guy showed up to a release party… He came all the way to Toronto to support me… Tonight… it’s an honor to be inside his building.”

Drake on LeBron’s early support in his

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) August 22, 2023
Bronny collapsed on the court during a practice with USC on July 24 and was taken to the Cedars-Sinai Hospital intensive care unit. He was stabilized and discharged days later, but the family has not given many updates since then.

On July 27, LeBron thanked everyone who sent love and prayers to his family, saying they will share more when they are ready. The proud father also shared a video of Bronny showing off his musical talent by playing piano for his family.

James Harden fined $100K by NBA after public comments about 76ers trade request, NBPA to challenge ruling

James Harden has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for his “public comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team,” the NBA announced on Tuesday.

“The league’s investigation, which included an interview of Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded,” the league’s statement concluded.

Later on Tuesday, the National Basketball Players Association issued a statement disagreeing with the ruling and promising to challenge it.

“We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands,” the players’ union’s statement said. “We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

For reference, here is what Harden said at an event in China on Aug. 14.

“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said to a room full of people in a video obtained by Shams Charania. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

It would appear that the part of that comment that really got Harden in trouble, even more so than calling Morey a liar, was when he followed up by saying “will never be a part of an organization that [Morey is] a part of.”

Translation, unless Morey is fired, Harden won’t play for the Philadelphia 76ers — which is interesting considering the fact that in June he willingly opted in to his $35.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season with … the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here is the language from the CBA.

The rule is new and $100K is the maximum allowed.

The maximum player fine that may be imposed for (1) conduct or statements prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball, the NBA, or a team, or (2) violations of the tampering…

— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 22, 2023
You might recall that Kevin Durant was reported to have told the Brooklyn Nets that the only way he would play for them, even though he was under contract, was if they got rid of their head coach at the time, Steve Nash, and GM Sean Marks. But Durant never said this publicly.

When Ben Simmons basically refused to play for the Sixers, he cited mental health. He didn’t just flat out say he wouldn’t play in Philadelphia.

Stuff likes this goes on behind the scenes a lot. Business is dirty, and the NBA is a business. Damian Lillard has made it pretty clear he wants a trade out of Portland, where he’s under contract for the next four years, and that specifically he wants to go to Miami, but he hasn’t stepped out and said this publicly.

That’s where Harden went wrong. You can’t stand up on a global platform, effectively grab a megaphone, and start refusing to play for the team with which you are under contract. The NBA has to get at least somewhat of a handle on this. Player empowerment is one thing; complete manipulation and outright refusal to honor contracts is a whole other issue that certainly falls within the language of “statements detrimental to basketball, the NBA or a team.”

Subsequently, the NBA launched an investigation into Harden’s comments and whether his calling Morey a liar potentially referenced a handshake agreement between the two when Harden took a lower salary last summer. Did Morey tell Harden he would make it up to him this summer with a long-term deal? If so, this would qualify as something of a wink-wink salary cap circumvention.

Instead, what emerged from the investigation was Harden confirming that his liar comment was in reference to Morey “telling Harden he will trade him quickly following the $35.6 million opt-in for the 2023-24 season,” per The Athletic.

So Harden believed he was only opting in to be traded, and the Sixers’ stance now is that they dont intend to trade him. For Harden, such are the breaks when nobody out there — notably the Clippers — wants you enough to present Morey with a reasonable trade offer.

Never mind the hypocrisy of a guy who has bailed, or is in the process of trying to bail, on three different teams with whom he was under contract calling somebody else a liar. When Harden signed those deals, that’s a pretty clear agreement to give your all to that team. Did he keep his word?

He would tell you that circumstances changed from the time he signed those deals. Well, circumstances have changed for the Sixers, too.

Harden’s value is in the tank, pretty simply. He can walk after this season. He flamed out (again) when the Sixers needed him most in Games 6 and 7 of the conference semifinals against Boston last year. He very clearly is always a threat to up and force his way out of a contract and turn your team into a mess, as he has now done three times — first in Houston, then Brooklyn, and now Philadelphia.

Oh, and he’s about to turn 34 years old and isn’t anywhere near the player he once was. He doesn’t have the leverage he thinks he does, or certainly that he used to have. His best bet is to swallow his pride, come back to the Sixers and give them 100% for one more season. If he plays well, and isn’t a problem, he can perhaps restore some of his value and have his agent start sweeping the landscape for creative deals next summer to land him with one more long-term deal.

Or he can being stubborn and try to become such a headache that Morey capitulates. I wouldn’t count on that happening. Morey showed with the Simmons saga that he can stay locked into a staring contest with the best of them. In other words, stay tuned.