March Madness NBA prospects to watch: South Regional

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The NCAA Tournament is prime NBA draft scouting time (and it normally doesn’t fall right on the trade deadline — thanks again, NBA lockout). It’s a chance to see guys against good competition and under pressure.

For NBA fans looking at the standings and realizing they could be drafting high, the South Regional is the one to watch — at least three of the top five picks in the draft may come out of this bracket and DraftExpress has the first seven listed below going in the lottery.

We’re going to give you 10 guys to watch when you sit down Thursday and Friday to watch your brackets implode (I watched some of these guys this year and also lean heavily on the great minds at DraftExpress):

1. Anthony Davis (PF, Kentucky). He is your consensus No. 1 overall pick. Why? He has a PER of 36 this season (LeBron leads the NBA at 31). He is long (even for 6’10”), he is quick and loves to play defense — he has blocked a dozen three-point attempts this year. Unlike some NBA shot blockers, he also can rebound and is quick enough to even guard some threes. He’s athletic, can run the floor and has good hands. His offense needs to develop — he hasn’t needed to score a lot at Kentucky because they are so loaded — but he has shown a midrange shot, he can score around the basket. There’s just a lot to like, and by all reports he has a good disposition and work ethic.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF, Kentucky). You come to watch Davis, you fall in love with Kidd-Gilchrist (at least that’s what happened to me). Nobody will outwork this guy on the court, he is always going all out. That effort makes him a good defender. On offense he’s a slashing scorer from the wing, and while he needs a steady jumper that can be taught. Passion cannot and he has it.

3. Andre Drummond (C, Connecticut).
This guy is a real NBA center — 6’11”, 250 pounds — and with a lot of skill. Which is why he will probably move past Kidd-Gilchrist on a lot of boards (GMs love big men more and more the closer we get to the draft). He can leap out of the building and moves well for a big man. There have been questions of focus with him. What everyone wants to see is UConn win in the first round, setting up a showdown with Kentucky — Davis vs. Drummond.

4. Perry Jones (PF, Baylor). Draft Express has him going No 7, but this is the kind of player who can get a GM fired — all the talent in the world but unfocused and wildly inconsistent. (Some scouts have said that is in part on the coaching staff and personnel at Baylor that do not suit his game well.) He is 6’11”, athletic and with a good skill set. When he is on he is as good as anyone in this draft, he can play on the wing with size. But if you see a good game from him you can bet the next one he will float around and not impact it much. Not a guy who likes to mix it up in the paint.

5. Terrance Jones (SF/PF, Kentucky). Like a Dawes song he can do a little bit of everything — a good ball handler who at the college level can bang on the inside. He’s plays a smart game and can defend multiple positions. But he’s another guy who can lose focus and just coast through a game. ESPN’s Chad Ford compared him to Lamar Odom, and while he may be a poor-man’s Odom the idea of a versatile guy who can get you a win or may not show up on any given night is apt.

6. Jeremy Lamb (SG, Connecticut). He is long — 6’5” with a reported 7’1” wingspan — and very athletic. You remember him as a guy who emerged next to Kemba Walker during the Huskies run to the title last year, and he has averaged 17.6 points per game this season. His stock has taken a bit of a hit this year as UConn struggled and he was not a leader. Well, at the NBA level he doesn’t have to be, he could come in and give a team quality minutes at the two from the start.

7. Quincy Miller (SF, Baylor). Another guy who is very long (Baylor says he is 6’9” with 7’7” wingspan) and in this case is a great ball handler on the perimeter. He’s athletic and versatile; he can play a lot of positions. Baylor’s frontcourt is loaded so he doesn’t get a lot of opportunities. Likely a late lottery pick if he shows well in the tournament and in team workouts.

8 Mason Plumlee (C, Duke): He is a true big man — 6’11’ but still very athletic. Problem is he’s never been dominant on the college level and he’s been up and down game to game. Still, later in the first round some team will take a chance.

9. Doron Lamb (SG, Kentucky): Bubble first round pick, he can put the brown thing in the round thing — he shot 45.7 percent from three last season. The best pure scorer on a loaded team. Good basketball IQ as well. Not as explosive as his teammates athletically, but what team doesn’t need a shooter?

10. Mike Moser (PF, UNLV): He’s athletic, can run the floor, and what scouts like best is his defense — he can defend the two or the three. He plays and is listed as a four but at 6’8” and 230 he’s undersized for that at the NBA level. If he can defend NBA wings he’ll find a spot in the league.

Stan Van Gundy backs off feud with ESPN ahead of televised Pistons game

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Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy said he wouldn’t give ESPN its usual access – a private pre-game meeting and an in-game interview – in the aftermath of ESPN publishing LaVar Ball’s negative comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton.

The first test of Van Gundy’s new policy comes with today’s Pistons-Wizards game on ESPN… and Van Gundy is mostly backing down.

Van Gundy, via Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

“I got an email from Rick Carlisle of the coaches association and they want me to cooperate, so my whole idea was to boycott the thing in support of coaches,” Van Gundy said. “If the coaches don’t want that, then it would be a selfish thing, sort of a grandstanding thing.”

“I’m certainly not looking to do extra stuff with ESPN.com when those guys call and want to do things,” Van Gundy said. “They want to put themselves out there as a journalistic enterprise — they’re clearly not. They don’t have any journalistic standards. I have no obligation to do anything extra.”

Many media members have quoted Ball on a variety of issues. Coaches threw a fit over this one because they’re sensitive to coaches being criticized. It wasn’t about journalistic ethics or the source. Van Gundy and other coaches simply didn’t like Ball’s conclusion.

I’m so glad Van Gundy is no longer grandstanding. [extreme sarcasm]

He’s not obligated to speak with ESPN reporters, but when Van Gundy rails on journalistic standards as cover for disagreeing with the opinion a journalist published, he sounds a lot like the guy he loves to criticize.

Pistons’ Jon Leuer to undergo season-ending surgery

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Jon Leuer‘s ankles survived this.

But apparently they’re not invincible.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

After suffering a sprained ankle on Oct. 31, the symptoms worsened, as an exam revealed bone fragments and other issues. Leuer has missed the last 35 games and has decided to have season-ending ankle surgery, he told The Detroit News on Friday.

Leuer, 28, has scheduled the procedure to remove bone fragments for next Friday and will have a four-month rehabilitation process.

The Pistons have applied to the NBA for a disabled-player exception

The Pistons have been without Leuer for a while, and they’ve done fine without him. Anthony Tolliver is a capable backup stretch four, and Henry Ellenson adds even more insurance there. Detroit misses Leuer as a stretch center, providing a different style behind Andre Drummond, but Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic have at least decently handled those reserve minutes.

The bigger issue: The Pistons are paying Leuer $10,497,319 this season and owe him $19,510,724 over the next two years and don’t miss him that much. He’s a luxury they don’t need and maybe can’t afford.

Perhaps, they’ll deal him before the trade deadline, as they look to upgrade the roster for a playoff run. Detroit could send Leuer and a draft pick or young player (Stanley Johnson) for a better player on a more favorable contract. How about Leuer and a first-round pick to the Bulls for Nikola Mirotic?

A disabled-player exception (DPE) would be worth $5,248,660, half Leuer’s salary. It could be used to sign a free agent for the rest of the season or trade for a player in the final year of his contract.

But the NBA grants a DPE only if a league-appointed physician rules the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be unable to play through June 15. The reported timeline would have Leuer back in May.

Still, the league tends to be lax with giving out DPEs. Detroit has a chance to get one.

The Pistons are just $2,745,417 below the luxury-tax line. So, they’re unlikely to use a full Leuer DPE to acquire another player (and would still need to clear a roster spot). But it could be helpful in facilitating a bigger trade.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.