Illini's Leonard should be lottery pick on Thursday


Illini's Leonard should be lottery pick on Thursday

With just three days until the NBA Draft, former Illinois center Meyers Leonard is still among one of the fastest risers among team's big boards. The 7-footer has seen his stock rise into the lottery, and the consensus is that Leonard will be drafted anywhere from the No. 7 to the No. 16 pick. Leonard brings great size, sneaky athleticism and plenty of upside to the table, and an impressive showing at the combine in Chicago has him in good position come Thursday. Leonard was invited today to the draft, which means there is a good chance he will be drafted within the first 15 picks.
Here is a look at some potential landing spots for Leonard.
7. Golden State Warriors: As is the case with most teams that pick in the top-7, the Warriors have plenty of needs. Both centers Andris Biedrins are signed for two more years, and that could be just the amount of time the 20-year-old Leonard needs to be a significant contributor.
9. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe flourished in his sophomore season with the Pistons, but Detroit has little else in the front court to go with the Georgetown product. Last year's first round draft choice Brandon Knight has given Detroit a foundation, and Leonard would do well alongside Monroe. The Pistons aren't in win-now mode, so allowing Leonard to develop for a year or two is doable.
10. New Orleans Hornets: What better way to complement surefire No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis than with a 7-foot-1 center? The Hornets are interested in North Carolina's Tyler Zeller, but if he is gone then Leonard may be the next best available option.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: The last time the Trail Blazers drafted a 7-footer in the first round, it was Greg Oden. With Oden off the books and Joel Pryzbilla a free agent, Portland has a real need inside. If the Trail Blazers go with Weber State point guard Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick, going big with No. 11 seems the way to go.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: The mid-season acquisition of Monta Ellis saw former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut depart, leaving the Bucks shallow at the center position. Furthermore, starting power forward Ersan Ilyosova is a free agent, so it's almost a certainty the Bucks will look to the front court. Leonard has the athleticism and the size, much like a young Bogut.
14.16. Houston Rockets: The Rockets may not keep both these picks, or stay at both spots in the first round, but Leonard would make sense if they did. Marcus Camby is a free agent, and Sam Dalembert (6.7 million), Patrick Patterson (2.1 million) and Greg Smith (762k) all have team options this summer. There will be plenty of turnover in Houston this year, and Leonard would pair nicely with another athletic forward in Luis Scola.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Spencer Hawes is a free agent this season, and his status as a 76er could hinge on where the Sixers draft in the first round. A replacement for Elton Brand could be in order at power forward, but if Leonard were on the board at this point he would be hard to pass up.

Cubs can’t solve Corey Kluber as Indians’ ace possibly looms in Games 4 and 7 of World Series

Cubs can’t solve Corey Kluber as Indians’ ace possibly looms in Games 4 and 7 of World Series

CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber quickly took the shine off a moment 71 years in the making when he struck out Dexter Fowler looking to begin Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. He then struck out Kris Bryant, again on a called third strike, and induced the first of three uncharacteristic Anthony Rizzo pop-outs to sternly put the Cubs away in the first inning.

Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young winner and a 2016 All-Star, turned in a master-class outing against a Cubs lineup that’s oscillated between potent and putrid in the playoffs. The 30-year-old right-hander scattered four hits with no walks and a Cleveland Indians World Series record nine strikeouts over six shutout innings to set the stage for an emphatic 6-0 win.

“Just pretty much as dominant as one could be right there,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “Hitting his spots, really didn’t make many mistakes or give us much to work with. But that’s what good pitchers do.”

Six of Kluber’s nine strikeouts were looking, and the Cubs watched 22 pitches be called for strikes. Kluber’s sinker was his most effective pitch, with Cubs hitters struggling to track its movement: According to, of the 30 sinkers he threw, 24 were for strikes but the Cubs only swung at 10 of them. Five of those 30 sinkers were put in play, and just one went for a hit — Kyle Schwarber’s near-home run in the fourth inning.

Kluber’s curveball became a nasty out-pitch as the game went on — the five whiffs he generated on it were the most of any pitch — and shortstop Addison Russell said his ability to vary the speeds on both his curveball and slider kept the Cubs’ lineup even more off-balance.

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“Whenever he changes speeds off his slider and curveball and kind of deceives the (velocity) a little bit, deceives the movement on his breaking ball, it’s pretty tough to hit,” Russell said.

The Cubs will have to solve Kluber at least one more time in this series, with manager Terry Francona “strongly” considering starting him in Games 4 and 7, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

While both of those starts would come on three days rest, manager Terry Francona didn’t hesitate to start Kluber in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with the Indians seeking a sweep. The Toronto Blue Jays got to him that day, at least by his standards — two runs on four hits with two walks, seven strikeouts and one home run in five innings — but he hasn’t allowed a run in any of his three postseason starts with at least four days rest.

Cubs hitters felt confident in their ability to bounce back from Tuesday’s loss, and Russell pointed to the Cubs having more success the second time they face a pitcher. At least in the National League Championship Series, that was true for Clayton Kershaw, who threw a shutout in Game 2 but allowed five runs in Game 6.

But the Cubs will have to find a way to cobble together some offense against Kluber, otherwise the Indians’ ace could be even more of an X-Factor in the World Series than lights-out reliever Andrew Miller.

“He’s really mastered the art of the sinker/slider on the outer half to righties and inner half to lefties,” catcher David Ross said. “He’s got a cutter in there too to keep you honest, and that ball was coming back there pretty good tonight. Really good movement on all his pitches. That’s why he’s a former Cy Young winner and their ace, he’s really, really good.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs drop Game 1 of the World Series

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs drop Game 1 of the World Series

In the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Todd Hollandsworth and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to break down the Cubs' Game 1 loss in the World Series. 

The panel analyzes the lack of offensive production and discusses Corey Kluber's dominant performance. They also react to Kyle Schwarber's first game since April. Finally, the guys look ahead to Game 2 Wednesday night. Will Jake Arrieta and the Cubs even up the series? 

Check out the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast below: