Notes out of first couple days of NBA Draft Combine

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As we told you going in, the NBA Draft Combine is not like its NFL counterpart — the results of the drills matter less, guys draft stock doesn’t move much (it’s the interviews and the medical tests that really matter).

Still, some guys do get noticed at the annual event in Chicago, which wraps up today (Friday).

Here are a few notes collected from around the Web and our own draft expert, Ed Isaacson or NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld.

• Australian Dante Exum — expected to go in the 5-7 range – is drawing a lot of attention, both from the media and from teams looking to meet in the interview process.

“In Exum’s case, he is still an unknown to many NBA people and it would be the first time for some of them to get a chance to speak with him,” Isaacson said. Teams likely to draft him will certainly be bringing him in for workouts as well.

• The other guy drawing interest for interviews is another lottery point guard — Marcus Smith of Oklahoma State. The reason here is the incident this season where he shoved a fan.

“Smart has always been the kind of player where there is always a lot of interest when he is in the room,” Isaacson said. “I think his on-court behavior was so shocking to many this year because he has always been well like among NBA people.”

• One guy who was on the bubble to get drafted at all and helped his cause was Green Bay center Alec Brown. He’s the tallest guy at the combine — measured at 7-foot without shoes — but that’s not what turned heads.

“Brown had one of the best shooting days of any player, including 18 of 25 from NBA 3-point range in the spot shooting,” Isaacson said. In a league that loves stretch fours and bigs who can spread the floor he’s going to get a little interest.

• Speaking of big men whose measurements caught the attention of people, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh did just that — and he was already a guy slated for the Top 10.

“While his height (6’8”) and weight (247) were as expected, his wingspan (7’4.25) and standing reach (9’0) stood out,” Isaacson said. “Also, he had the biggest hands of anyone measured. If this really helps him all that much remains to be seen, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt him. To be fair, Julius Randle was 1/4 inch shorter (without shoes) and his standing reach was just a 1/2 inch less than Vonleh, and Adreian Payne was an inch taller and his standing reach was also an inch more, so Vonleh wasn’t the only power forward who measured well.”

• One guy that caught the eye of a lot of media members in attendance was UCLA’s Zach LaVine, who showed off an impressive shot and some athleticism.

• His UCLA teammate Jordan Adams turned some heads as well. “First, he came to the combine much lighter than what he played last season at UCLA, and then he shot 17 of 25 from NBA 3-point range in the Spot Shooting,” Isaacson said.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.