PARTING THOUGHTS: MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators center Patric Young and forward Casey Prather each wound up finding a team on Friday with Young headed to the New Orleans Pelicans and Casey Prather going off to the Atlanta Hawks for NBA Summer League action. Though neither player will be under contract with the respective teams, both will have the opportunity to prove they deserve a spot on the roster. Though it is possible that neither New Orleans nor Atlanta will pick them up at the end of the event on July 21, Young and Prather will both get the opportunity to play in front of a wide variety of NBA coaches and scouts, which should increase their chances of landing in the league this season. It was previously reported that point guard Scottie Wilbekin will play for the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers in summer league action.
Although the 2015 NBA Draft is now a year away, plenty of top-100 lists and mock drafts have already begun to surface. It should be no surprise that the first Florida player projected to go in the draft is sophomore F/C Chris Walker, who is currently slated to be a lottery selection and one of the first 13 players chosen next year. Walker has already decided to leave school after his second campaign, so you can mark him as good as gone no matter how the season unfolds. Three other players popping up on lists include PG Kasey Hill teetering the edge of the first and second rounds, junior guard Michael Frazier and redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith. Neither Frazier nor Finney-Smith is expected to leave barring an unforeseen development, though Hill could if he puts together a great all-around 2014-15 campaign.
Three former Gators are currently NBA free agents, each of which is likely taking a different path to the process. Power forward Udonis Haslem and G/F Mike Miller are both unrestricted, meaning they are free to sign with any team they like. Haslem opted out of a $4.6 million contract in order to find a longer-term deal with Miami while giving the franchise more salary cap flexibility. Miller, on the other hand, saw his one-year deal end and is likely looking for maximum money as he readies for retirement in a couple of seasons. Also now free to look around is F Chandler Parsons, who saw Houston decide not to pick up his fourth-year team option. Though Parsons remains in the Rockets' plans, the team hopes to use its open cap space to sign some bigger-name free agents before matching any offer sheet laid out for Parsons by another team, which is their right as he is a restricted free agent. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, there will be plenty of suitors for Houston and the Rockets could wind up losing Parsons if they are not careful, especially if a team uses a poison pill-type deterrent in his deal.
On the mend despite the best season of his career, Chicago C Joakim Noah is currently spending his offseason touring the globe, as is his tradition in the summer. Noah underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the Bulls were eliminated from the postseason. He is now "doing well" but still not running at full speed, head coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPNChicago.com. Noah finished last season as the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 boards and 5.4 dimes while coming off as a double-double machine who helped tie an NBA record for triple-doubles by a center in a single season.
Receiving high acclaim for his performance during organized team activities, wideout Louis Murphy looks to be the favorite for the third wide receiver job in Tampa Bay. According to PewterReport.com, "Murphy performed like a top-dollar player" and "at a very high level during OTAs and mini-camp practices this spring." Murphy is already on his fourth NFL team entering his seventh season - injuries have had some to do with his overall lack of production - but should find a nice home in Tampa Bay where he will team up with other former Florida players including safety Major Wright, running back Jeff Demps and undrafted free agent WR Solomon Patton.
Scratching and clawing to see the court as a rookie, F Erik Murphy barely played during his first NBA season. He will get an opportunity to see more court time than he has in a year this summer when he suits up for the Finnish national team and competes in the FIBA World Cup in July. Murphy, who was picked up on waivers by Utah after being released by Chicago last season, will also play for the Jazz summer league team in hopes of earning some major playing time next NBA season.