Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rakeem Christmas’ draft stock is on the rise.
The 6-foot-9 senior center from Syracuse could be playing himself into becoming a late first-round pick in the NBA Draft.
Christmas is averaging 18.0 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while helping to keep Syracuse (14-5) afloat during a subpar season.
“He wasn’t on the board before,” one veteran NBA scout who recently saw Syracuse told SNY.tv. “He’s averaging 18+ and 9 rebounds, he shoots over 72 percent from the free-throw line. There aren’t a lot of big guys who do that.
“He’s an example of a guy staying four years made all the difference. He would’ve made a mistake if he came out, he wasn’t going to the NBA. But you stay in all four years and work it…It’s interesting. I think he’s a bubble guy now, end of the first, beginning of the second [round].”
ESPN’s Chad Ford has Christmas, 23, listed as his No. 50 player available in the draft, but quoted one GM as saying he could sneak into the first round.
“Age matters in the NBA draft,” Ford quoted one general manager as saying, according to Syracuse.com. “But size and athleticism matter even more. No one will take him really high, but he’s really improved and at his size and with his physical tools, I think he’s worth the risk in the late 20s or 30s.”
Meantime, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has been singing Christmas’ praises, telling Syracuse.com he’s “probably the best center in the country.”
“He’s going to play 10, 15 years in the NBA,” Boeheim told the New York Post. “He can guard two positions, he can play the four or the five, he can run the court, he can defend, he’s got a good low-post game. There aren’t many guys like him in the NBA.
“The hardest thing for teams to get is somebody with size who can run and be athletic.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.