NCAA to NBA: Prospects to watch Friday

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Hope after one day your bracket is better than mine, which now should be used to line birdcages. The St. Johns and Louisville losses hurt me, got to stop picking teams from cities I like just because they’re from cities I like. And big favorites. Oh well….

We’re supposed to be watching for some NBA draft potential — and some big names are coming up on Friday. We spoke with our man Joe Treutlein, Assistant Director of Scouting for, leaned heavily on their great scouting (plus some of our observations on the guys we’ve seen) and put together a guide.

Here are some guys to watch Friday:

Kyrie Irving, 6’2” guard, Duke (DX No. 1): This may be your No. 1 pick (especially if the team that wins the lottery needs a point guard, think Cavs). He has been out due to torn ligaments in his toe since Dec. 4 and he will be on limited minutes. This guy is a classic pure point guard, the kind of player who has had success in the league in recent years. According to Draft Express, this is the one franchise changing guy in this draft. Other scouts disagree, thinking he’s good but not Wall/Rose good. We’d say watch for yourself and decide, but he likely will not be that guy, he’s got three months of rust to shake off.

Nolan Smith, 6’3” guard, Duke (DX No. 23): He’s had to step up with Irving down and his performance in that role has helped his draft stock. Good athlete with a quality shot, he can attack the rim, but there are questions about how he fit. He’s done a good job running a team, but can he do it at the next level? He may be too small for a two guard in the NBA. Tweener. But the guy can play.

Jared Sullinger, 6’8” power forward, Ohio State (DX No. 3): He could be a Paul Millsap kind of guy — a bit undersized, not terribly athletic but long and he just gets boards and scores points in the paint. He’s got a very polished game (sort of the way Kevin Love was so polished in college, way ahead of his peers). He’s got soft hands and is developing a midrange game. He’s got a real motor and is the reason Ohio State is a No. 1 seed. How will he do against better competition in the tournament?

Harrison Barnes, 6’8” small forward, North Carolina (DX No. 4): He was considered the likely top pick before the season, but he struggled early in the season (shooting 37 percent through 15 games) and his stock fell. In the ACC tournament, he dropped 40 on a good defensive team in Clemson. He has a lot of skills, although in the NBA he’s going to run into a lot of superior athletes at the three. He is a guy who can prove he deserves to move up during the tournament.

John Henson, 6’10” power forward, North Carolina (DX No. 11): He has been a very good defensive presence, shot blocker and rebounder at the college level. He however is thin and against the men in the NBA would get pushed around. His offensive game needs work. He’s a big man project who can impress scouts with his play gainst quality bigs as the Tar Heels move through this tournament.

Marcus Morris, 6’9” power forward, Kansas (DX No. 19): There are two Morris twins on Kansas, his brother Markieff plays as well. To use the easy and obvious comparison, Marcus is more the Brook Lopez, Markieff the Robin. Marcus can score inside and out (he has a good jumper), face up or back-to-the-basket, and is simply just very efficient on the offensive end The question is how well he can defend more athletic fours at the next level.

Derrick Williams, 6’8” forward, Arizona (DX No. 6): This may be the guy you want your team to take a risk on — he’s a smart player and can play on the wing or in the paint. A real versatile forward who can fit a lot of systems. Most importantly, he’s a very efficient scorer. He can put up points on the next level. He’s the one guy I saw who really blew my doors off this season (I did not get a good look at Irving). A lot of people out east have not seen him, you should.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.



Cavaliers get Nance Jr., Thompson, Hood back from injuries

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.

Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.

Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.

LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.

“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”

Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.

Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.

But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.