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.

Cavaliers have three choices with Kyrie Irving. And no rush decide on one.

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There were a lot of questions around Kyrie Irving‘s unexpected decision to tell Cleveland he wanted to be traded.

The first was why? He reportedly wants out of LeBron James‘ massive shadow, to “be the man” with another team. It also strikes me as a preemptive move — LeBron could leave next summer and Irving wanted to be in control of his own destiny rather than deal with the “is LeBron leaving roller coaster” for a season.

Next was “why now?” This is harder to find a good explanation for. Back in June, Irving talked about staying with LeBron and finding ways to beat the Warriors, a month later he wants out. It has to be frustrating for the Cavaliers front office, if Irving had told them this back at the start of free agency Cleveland might have been able to land Paul George or Chris Paul.

Finally, the question settled on Cleveland and what will they do?

They have three legitimate options.

1. Do nothing and keep Irving. The Cavaliers do not have to trade him — Irving has two years left on his contract, and the Cavaliers have leverage. Cleveland could take notes from the Lakers after Kobe Bryant’s trade me demand circa 2007 — Los Angeles told him they were looking but not move him, and eventually smoothed things over (and won a couple more rings).

It may be a lot harder for the Cavaliers to do that. How deep is Irving’s dissatisfaction run? Can LeBron and Irving mend fences? Or is the discord in Cleveland too great right now to smooth things over? Usually winning can cure all ills, and the Cavaliers should win plenty again. Then again, star players in the NBA usually get their way so if Irving really wants out…

2. Trade Irving for players to help them chase a title next year. My guess is this is the direction the Cavaliers will go. Why? Because Dan Gilbert looks at his franchise valuation since LeBron’s return and wants to keep him, and if the Cavaliers can get another ring (or at least look like a more serious threat to the Warriors) he’s far more likely to stay.

Because Irving does not possess a no-trade clause, the Cavaliers are not forced to send him where he wants to go (unlike Carmelo Anthony). Irving wants to go to San Antonio, but the Spurs would want to send LaMarcus Aldridge back, a guy who is also older and starting to decline, can be exposed defensively, and it leads to questions about a second ball handler for the Cavaliers. A Carmelo Anthony trade with the Knicks creates the same questions — ‘Melo wants to be a Cavalier, but would he and a young player (Frank Ntilikina or Willy Hernangomez) going to make the Cavaliers better. Or even keep them in front of Boston.

That said, there may be deals with other teams not on Irving’s list that better fit the Cavaliers’ needs. What if Phoenix offers Eric Bledsoe, a young player (Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren) plus a pick? Cleveland gets a good point guard (not as good as Irving overall, but a better defender), a young athletic player, and they can stay near at the top of the East. There will be options like this that come on the table.

3. Trade Irving for young players and picks to jump start a rebuild. This is also known as the “we believe LeBron leaves next summer so let’s just be proactive and get all we can” plan. It should include trading LeBron as well before the deadline and just going into full on rebuild mode.

If the Cavaliers managed this path well — a legitimate question after Dan Gilbert decided he didn’t need one of the league’s best GMs right before the start of free agency — they could stockpile players and picks. It might not be the full Boston stockpile post Garnett/Pierce trade, but it puts the Cavaliers on that road (then it would come down to drafting well and developing players). All of this would require shrewd moves now and patience down the line, but it’s a legitimate course of action.

Regardless of which option the Cavaliers choose, what matters is not to rush into a decision. If they decide to trade Irving, do not trade out of frustration or anger — it needs to be devoid of emotion. It has to be about getting the best possible return. This summer is obviously a huge turning point for the organization, and they need to make a smart decision.

You know, the kind David Griffin would have made.

John Wall agrees to four-year $170 million contract extension

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John Wall had a designated player super max contract sitting in front of him (figuratively) since July 1, but he wanted to wait and see what the Wizards would do this summer, and talk to his family about a decision that could lock him in Washington for six years.

He saw the Wizards spend — they matched a max offer sheet for Otto Porter. He also looked around the East and decided this is where he wanted to be. He agreed to the extension on Friday, a story broken by David Aldridge of TNT/NBA TV.

This is a four-year, $170 million extension that kicks in after the two-years, $37.1 million left on Wall’s current deal.

Wall has developed into one of the top five point guards in the NBA, averaging 23.1 points per game last season while making his first All-NBA team (the third team, which he thought was a let down). He is a strong defensive point guard and still arguably the fastest guy in the league with the ball in his hands. He and Bradley Beal have formed one of the more formidable backcourts in the NBA.

Wall is now getting paid like an elite point guard, and he is just entering his prime.

Check out Boston’s Jayson Tatum’s 10 best plays from Summer League (VIDEO)

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Jayson Tatum was one of the standouts at Summer League.

The No. 3 pick of the Boston Celtics, Tatum came into the draft considered the most NBA-ready player of the class. He showed that at Summer League — he is a fluid athlete who knows how to knock down mid-range shots (and gets to his spots), he has great footwork for a young player, and can attack the rim. He tends to take and make difficult shots, but that will get harder against NBA-level defenders, and he didn’t often play-make for others. That said, he averaged 17.7 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Check out his best plays from Summer League, and if you’re a Celtics fan try not to drool too much.

Memphis Grizzlies sign former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks

Associated Press
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have signed former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, a second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Brooks was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 45th overall pick. The Grizzlies acquired him in exchange for a future second-round pick.

Brooks, 21, averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior at Oregon last season. He was named the Pac-12 player of the year and helped Oregon earn its first Final Four berth since 1939.