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 DraftExpress.com, 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.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

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Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.

Celtics’ reported plan: Sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George

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The Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward.

They want to trade for Paul George.

It seems those goals are not mutually exclusive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.

For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.

The Celtics can clear cap space to sign Hayward. They have the ammo to trade for George. They could do both.

But, as covered before, there’s probably not a path to signing Hayward and extending George’s contract.

So, how much would Boston surrender for George on an expiring contract? The risk he walks in a year, particularly for the Lakers, should lower the Celtics’ offer.

Still, Boston could trade for the Pacers star and roll the dice on re-signing him. Playing with Hayward – and Isaiah Thomas and whichever other players the Celtics keep in this arrangement – would be pretty appealing.

Rumor: LeBron James would ‘never’ join Clippers

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The Clippers hired Jerry West, in part, to help lure LeBron James.

But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz:

I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it.

I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline.

He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.

I don’t believe in “never” in situations like this. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, teams are just laundry. The Clippers can change owners, general managers, coaches, players. LeBron would remain absolutely opposed to joining?

Maybe, but I won’t go that far without knowing his reason for resisting the Clippers. A lot can change between now and 2018, when LeBron can opt out.

One of the Clippers’ biggest selling points was always going to be Chris Paul, LeBron’s close friend. Reading the tea leaves, maybe this is a sign Paul will leave this summer – for the Spurs, Rockets or somewhere else.