Brandon Knight Kentucky

How did our Thursday NCAA prospects to watch do?

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How a potential NBA draftee does in the NCAA tournament rarely makes or breaks them — scouts have been watching these guys game after game for a season or two. One good or bad game isn’t going to change their opinion.

However, some GMs and coaches see fewer games, but they see the tournament ones. So for them they can have added weight. Again, not make or break, but it can move them up or down the board.

Thursday morning we gave you some NBA draftees to watch (we’ll have our Friday list up in a little while). How did our Thursday prospects to watch do?

Jimmer Fredette, 6’2” guard, BYU: He had 32 points, knocking down 10-of-25 shots. But his scoring was never really in question (well, some scouts wonder if he can do it as well at the next level, but nobody questions his shooting). What was interesting was that was the hardest just about anybody remembers seeing Fredette work on defense. He wasn’t great at it, but the effort was there, which is a bit of a change.

Kemba Walker, 6’0” guard, Connecticut: He put up a monster line of 18 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. That said, it was against an overmatched Bucknell team, so don’t read too much into it.

Terrence Jones, 6’8” forward, Kentucky: He finished with 10 points and two rebounds and, like most of his Kentucky teammates, was not terribly impressive against a Princeton team that outworked them most of the game. Jones inconsistent efforts have been there all season.

Brandon Knight, 6’3” guard, Kentucky: He had just two points on 1-of-8 shooting — but that one basket was the game winner on an isolation play. Now sure he impressed many, but he made the big play when it mattered.

Kawhi Leonard, 6’7” forward, San Diego State: He had 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and pulled down 10 boards. San Diego outclassed Northern Colorado, but Leonard’s motor just never shuts off.

Patric Young, 6’9” power forward, Florida: His numbers were not all that impressive, six points and six boards, but he only played 13 minutes in a blowout win. Can’t read much into that.

Justin Harper, 6’10 power forward, Richmond: He had 13 points but was just 4-of-12 shooting, and had four rebounds in Richmond’s upset win. You saw flashes of his skill but he also just seamed to float through the game at times, happy to be a decoy on the weak side. He got his points but it was not an impressive performance.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.