Virginia Commonwealth v Southern California

NBA Draft: Nikola Vucevic is THE big man in the draft

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You want to turn some scouts heads? Be the biggest man at the NBA draft combine.

That would be Nikola Vucevic — at 7’0”, 260, (with a standing reach of 9.5 feet and a 7’4” wingspan) the center out of USC caught everyone’s attention as the biggest guy at the draft combine. But he also turned heads because he is a dramatically more well rounded player than when he entered college three years ago, and that is the sign of a guy who can grow.

Vucevic has worked hard to develop a midrange game, and in some workouts with teams has reportedly looked strong with it. There are still questions about that shot, as there are his footwork and post moves, but in all those cases things have gotten better. Which gives scouts hope.

Vucevic has what you see with guys who can be solid backup centers in the NBA — not great athleticism but he has a nice faceup game that can provide some offense, plus the size to rebound and defend inside. He is not going to be creating his own shot but he can score some.

Vucevic has had some impressive workouts in recent weeks and with that and the combine has moved out of the second round and into the first. Late first, but first.

I saw a fair amount of his games at USC and he is not going to blow your doors off, he is not an explosive NBA athlete. The word that comes to mind with him is solid. Not explosive, but solid. What he can be at the NBA level is a quality backup center, a guy who can shoot a little from the outside and defend and rebound.

There is real late first-round value in that kind of player, particularly in this draft. There is a reason he is moving up a lot of boards. In the end, a quality back up center you can rely on is a valuable piece. Look for him to go in the 20s.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.