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.

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

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Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

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The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.

Pat Riley says he wishes he gave Chris Bosh’s max contract to Dwyane Wade

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Heat president Pat Riley has said he should’ve given Dwyane Wade a max contract in 2014 after LeBron James left Miami.

Instead, Wade stayed with the Heat on what became two one-year contracts. That lack of long-term security bothered Wade, who took discounts in prior years, and contributed to his exit to the Bulls.

But paying Wade and Chris Bosh, who got a max contract from Miami two years ago, so much into their late 30s likely would have cost the Heat dearly. It’s nearly impossible to build around two declining max players.

Riley apparently has a retroactive plan for that – re-signing only Wade, not Bosh.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade.

Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” he says. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”

When he describes his reaction to Wade’s leaving, it’s always in terms of how sad it makes him feel

Riley has done a much better job explaining to the public how sad he is about Wade leaving rather than actually doing something while he had the chance or even expressing his regret to Wade after the fact.

It’s almost as if Riley knew excommunicating a Heat Lifer would be both good for the franchise long-term and a terrible look in the short term and is trying to mitigate the damage. Wade might even realize that, too.

To a certain degree, Riley could be speaking in hindsight. Bosh’s deal has not worked out, with Riley believing the big man’s career is over due to blood-clot issues. But hindsight also says giving Wade, now 35, a five-year contract two years ago would’ve been disastrous.

There’s sentimentality at work here. Wade is the greatest player in Heat history. Riley drafted him, groomed him and built three championship teams in two eras around him.

I just can’t figure out how much Riley is exploiting that sentimentality to warm Miami fans after coldly letting Wade walk and how much Riley genuinely regrets contract negotiations with Wade. This is almost certainly shades of both.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 5 (photo)

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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 5 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson: