Anthony Davis

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.

Celtics, Nuggets, others make runs but Paul George still a Pacer. For now.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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During the All-Star weekend in New Orleans, an at times frustrated Paul George sat down with the Pacers ownership and front office and told them, in so many words, “I want to be a Pacer for life, but only if we can build a team that can contend for a title.”

Fans from Los Angeles to Boston only seemed to hear the second part of that, then when the trade rumors started to fly people were convinced he was on the move.

The Pacers focused on the first part of that sentence. Which is why he’s still a Pacer tonight.

Indiana went out and kicked the tires on deals, talking to a lot of teams. We know Boston came hard because this was the first time they have put one of their prized Brooklyn picks the next two seasons on the table.

The Hawks were trying.

Denver wants to make a run at the big time — remember they came hard at Dwyane Wade last summer — and they made a run at George.

Although, this would have gotten Denver to back off.

Those teams were not alone, but in the end, the Pacers passed on all of it.

Why? Because they heard the first part of that sentence above — they love Paul George and want him to be their cornerstone. They listened to offers, not nothing rose to the Godfather offer level it was going to have to for the Pacers to deal away their star and start a massive rebuilding project around Myles Turner.

That said, this conversation is not over.

Only two things will keep Paul George in Indiana past his free agency of 2018 (and if he leaves then his hometown Lakers are seen as a clear, runaway favorite). First, Larry Bird is able to build a contender around George in the next year. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

The other is that George makes an All-NBA team this season, if that happens, the Pacers can offer him the “designated player” larger contract, around $210 million over five years (and $30 million more than he could make anywhere else). George may have frustrations and issues in Indiana, but he’s not leaving that cash on the table.

If George is not an All-NBA player this year (he’s on the bubble, but likely just outside the list with the top six forwards), and if Bird cannot quickly construct a contender, then the Pacers have to revisit these trades and try to get something back for their star.

They just weren’t ready to go there on Thursday.

Rumor: J.J. Redick has also already committed to re-signing with Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) reacts after making a 3-point shot during the overtime period of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The Clippers won 140-132 in overtime. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Clippers face a make-or-break offseason.

It seems they might have already handled their major business.

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have reportedly already agreed to re-sign. Now, it seems L.A.’s third major unrestricted free agent – J.J. Redick – might also be staying.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

there is a belief that Redick already has committed to re-sign in July. Like Griffin and Paul, Redick is viewed as a core piece, and while his $7.3 million price tag is likely going way up, there is a belief that Rivers and the Clippers are ready to pay it.

The capped-out Clippers will have no mechanism to adequately replace Redick if they re-sign Paul and Griffin. Exceeding the cap to re-sign Redick is the only feasible path to maintaining contender status – a must with Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in place.

If Redick agreed this early to re-sign, that suggests he’s not going to extract every penny he can from the Clippers or that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is willing to spend big. Redick really could have put the screws to the Clippers by playing hardball through free agency.

His leverage due simply to the Clippers’ cap situation would have been immense, but the rest of the league would have also provided a safety net. The 3-and-D skills that make Redick valuable to the Clippers would help any team.

All this said, Redick – and Paul and Griffin – can’t re-sign until July. No matter their intent today, there’s plenty of time for these deals to fall apart.

But the Clippers having assurances from all three to stay would be a big deal.

Report: Raptors acquire P.J. Tucker from Suns for Jared Sullinger, second round picks

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The Toronto Raptors went into the last few weeks in a slump on the court and with the need to improve at the forward slot if they had any dreams of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals again.

Then the Raptors added Serge Ibaka.

Now they have added P.J. Tucker from the Suns to the mix, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

This is a strong move for Toronto. Tucker is a physical guy who can play the three or the four, and he brings a strong defensive presence to the court — he is statistically one of the better defending small forwards in the league this season. He and DeMarre Carroll can give the Raptors a needed boost on that end, and Tucker is going to be great as a defensive matchup in certain playoff situations.

Toronto has made its move — first they hope to get back up to the two or three seed in the East (and avoid Cleveland in the second round). Then to make a stronger run at Cleveland in the conference finals — remember they took the Cavs six games last year.

What the Suns wanted was the picks. Sullinger is a solid player who can step into their rotation now, but is a downgrade — especially defensively — from Tucker. What the Suns start doing is looking for draft steals they can find in the second round.

Reports: Bulls trade Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott to Thunder for Cameron Payne, Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31:  Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls reacts after being called for a foul against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Barclays Center on October 31, 2016 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Back in 2014, the Bulls front office of John Paxson and Gar Forman traded two picks to the Denver Nuggets — picks that became Gary Harris and Josef Nurkic — to move up in the draft so they could pick Doug McDermott.

Thursday, the Bulls all but admitted that was a mistake.

Chicago traded McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow, as reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

This is a good trade for Oklahoma City, especially while Enis Kanter remains sidelined. Gibson, in particular, gives them a rock-solid power forward out of the old school. Gibson can score inside and help Steven Adams, he can crash the boards, and while he’s not what he once was on that end he’s a solid defender.

Gibson is also a free agent this summer, and the Bulls were not going to pay the market value. Oklahoma City may, but Gibson will have options.

McDermott can shoot the three, hitting 37.6 percent this season, but that’s about all he brings to the table. Maybe that’s all the Thunder need. McDermott doesn’t create his own shot and he’s a big defensive liability. Maybe he can spread the floor a little for the Thunder, hang out at the arc waiting for a Russell Westbrook drive and dish, but he’s not doing much else.

Chicago gets a player with a lot of potential in Cameron Payne, he could be the point guard of the future there next to Jimmy Butler. That’s the best player on their end in this deal. But Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow are nice players who don’t actually move the needle.

This trade by the Bulls echoes their moves over the summer bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo — what exactly is the plan? Payne could be part of the future, but are the Bulls a team rebuilding around Butler? It remains difficult to see what the vision is in Chicago. Which has to frustrate Butler.