Illini's Leonard should be lottery pick on Thursday

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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.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”