Five NBA Draft prospects to watch in NCAA Final four

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Let’s be honest, you’re not watching the Final Four this weekend because you still have a shot in your office pool. The old lady who doesn’t watch college basketball but liked her visit to Wichita is going to win it. But if you’re the fan of an NBA lottery team watching the Final Four this weekend — hello Charlotte! — you will be watching with an eye toward guys you may want your team to draft.

Well, here are five guys to watch. Because we want to enhance your viewing experience. We’re nice that way. We got a lot of help on this from our man Rob Dauster at CollegeBasketballTalk.

1) Trey Burke, 6’0”, 20-year-old point guard, Michigan. He has had a monster year — he was the AP player of the year — and has followed it up with a big NCAA Tournament leading Michigan this far. We knew he could shoot, he had drive-and-kick skills, and he has shown to be a strong floor general. One of the questions about him was defense but in the NCAA Tournament he has looked good on that end of the floor and that has helped his cause — DraftExpress.com has him as the No. 7 overall pick now.

2) Michael Carter-Williams, 6’5”, 21-year-old point guard, Syracuse. No player has helped himself more during the tournament, Dauster said on the PBT Podcast. He’s big for a point guard, athletic, is a good ball handler, can shoot and pass, plus he’s got a great first step and can create. The question is would his decision making catch up with those skills, and in the tournament it has, Dauster told us. He’s moved up, DraftExpress has him at No. 14 at the bottom of the lottery.

3) Gorqui Dieng, 6’11”, 23-year-old center, Louisville. He’s known as a defensive stopper, an anchor in the middle of the Louisville defense, but in the NCAA Tournament he has hit 20-of-24 shots. He’ll make a solid rotation player in the NBA, a backup big who can give you solid minutes nightly. DraftExpress has him going No. 21.

4) Nik Stauskas, 6’6, 19-year-old small forward, Michigan. He’s a guy who has turned some heads in the tourney. He moves off the ball and has a great outside shot — something he will need to do consistently against the Syracuse zone on Saturday. He shot 6-of-6 from three against Florida, which is a good defensive team. All that said, expect him to hang out in college for another season after this one. But Dauster says he sees a solid pro here.

5) Cleanthony Early, 6’8” power forward, Wichita State. He had a monster game against Gonzaga and Dauster says not to ignore the Shocker’s star when thinking NBA. He’s a potential second round pick who is out to prove he belongs. He can rebound, and his versatility intrigues, he just needs to be more steady and develop a more solid jumper.

John Wall has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral (VIDEO)

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If the Redskins need a quarterback should Kirk Cousins go down — he has played a full 16-game schedule the past two years, which is pretty remarkable — maybe rather than Colt McCoy Washington should look at the guy who makes the Wizards’ go.

John Wall showed on Friday he has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral, and hit his man.

I love that Wall starts calling out Tom Brady after one good pass.

Michael Beasley had his truck stolen out of his driveway

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Michael Beasley will be getting buckets, shooting long twos, and playing inconsistent defense for the New York Knicks next season (the analysis is just based on recent history).

But first, he’d like to find his truck. Which was stolen.

Well, I did see a Dodge Ram 1500 on the road today, but since I’m on the West Coast and I have no idea what color/year Beasley’s truck is, I’m going to assume the guy I saw didn’t perpetrate the heist.

Still, that sucks for Beasley, even if he can easily afford to replace it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.