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.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.