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Xavier's Edmond Sumner (4) drives around Villanova's Darryl Reynolds, left, and Mikal Bridges, second from left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Cincinnati. Xavier won 90-83. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NBA Draft

Nardone: Edmond Sumner could play his way into lottery

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Calm down. Relax. Take a few deep breathes. The 2017 NBA Draft is still a little bit (sarcasm) away, but it is never too early to discuss players who have the potential to move up mock drafts and become the center of a general manager’s universe.

Oh, hello there, Xavier Musketeers point guard Edmond Sumner.

Sumner is such a fun, intriguing and riddled with potential prospect that I almost jumped the gun as far as being ready to shout from the mountaintops “Sumner is going to be a lotto pick!” Then, as any sane person would, I did some research and found out he isn’t as under-the-radar as I assumed he would be.

DraftExpress currently has the guard projected to go with the 23rd pick. That’s a really respectable slotting for a player who still has much to prove, especially when coupled with the fact that DE — as do most other people — is giving a large benefit of the doubt to incoming freshmen and some international guys.

We assume a lot of those guys are going to be all that and a bag of salt and vinegar chips, but we will have no earthly idea about any of that until some games are played.

With that being said, I am on the side of the fence that doesn’t give freshmen — or, really, that many freshmen — that sort of benefit. Because of that, my early projections for Sumner is that of a player who will hear his name called during the ping-pong ball portion of the process.

Xavier's Edmond Sumner (4) in action during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Now, last season wasn’t a terribly great year for Sumner. He averaged 11 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Solid numbers for sure, but they become rather less impressive when one realizes he shot below 40 percent from the floor and 30 percent from behind the arc.

That’s the bad. In fact, that’s the reason I assumed he would be a guy most people weren’t recognizing as a potential lottery pick.

He did, however, show tons of potential. When you couple that with what his playing situation will be like this year, it is easy to envision him becoming a well-regarded NBA prospect.

It is in his potential as a player, coupled with his size (he’s over 6’5 in shoes) and athleticism, plus the fact that he’s about to be on a Xavier team that should — theoretically speaking — feature him in the best of lights that make him more enticing as that second glazed donut.

Because of some roster turnover, Xavier head coach Chris Mack is going to be forced to ask Sumner to do a lot more in the upcoming season. Handle the ball even more, shoot even more, play defense even harder — all the things, all the “even harder/mores.”

Thanks to that, his production should rise mightily. To put that even more simply: His box score will reflect a more polished player, even if that isn’t necessarily true, and it will make the idea of him as a draft prospect become more acceptable.

Seriously. That alone can be it. The perception of him, if only due to an increased fancy box score, will be enough to have him shoot up mock drafts.

That doesn’t make him a tangibly better pro prospect or anything, but it will make the idea of him be just that — and that’s all anyone is doing when evaluating or drafting players. We are only actually discussing them in terms of ideas of them.

Sumner will also be playing alongside a more polished bucket-making marvel in Trevon Bluiett (15.1 PPG). Opposing coaches are (more) likely to give the point guard more open looks at the basket while attempting to shut down Bluiett. Because of that, those iffy efficiency numbers should become better, and the (again, sorry) idea of him becoming a better player will start to take shape.

To be clearer than a window recently cleaned via Windex, Sumner still has to prove a lot of things. He remains a prospect who has to show that all those ideas of what he can become are rooted in at least a little bit of reality. That won’t happen, or can’t, until the season starts.

But when it does, and if he is able to even only marginally improve upon last season’s box score, expect him to begin shooting up toward the lottery section of mock drafts as some of the freshmen hyperbole begins to fall back down to Earth.

Nardone: Edmond Sumner could play his way into lottery

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