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10 future NBA draft picks to watch in NCAA Final Four

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The guys who are going to be taken at the top of the NBA Draft this June are done with their NBA seasons. Lorenzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and the rest of the top 10  have seen their teams eliminated.

But there are guys still playing who may well be snapped up by NBA teams, either this year or next. With the Final Four set to tip-off this weekend, here’s a look at the top 10 players still going in the NCAA Tournament in the eyes of scouts (not necessarily the guys most valuable to their teams, we should add). We broke it down by team.

NORTH CAROLINA

Justin Jackson, 6’8” small forward (junior). The All-American wing man with the all-around game has shown just that through this tournament — he’s averaged 19.8 points and 4.3 assists through four games, plus has drawn major defensive assignments such as Malik Monk against Kentucky. He can shoot the three and hits from the midrange, is good on the catch-and-shoot now, and is just a guy who has a knack for scoring and a soft touch. The concerns at the next level are he needs to get stronger, plus he’s not a great pick-and-roll ball handler. He’s likely to land just outside the top 10 in the draft, in the second half of the lottery. He’ll be the highest drafted player out of this Final Four.

Toney Bradley, 6’10” center (freshman). He doesn’t play a ton for North Carolina (14.5 minutes per game this season), and he’s seen as a project at the next level. That said, when you’re tall, long (7’3” wingspan), and have the athleticism Bradley has, teams are interested in taking on the project. He’s raw, but you can see potential in his shooting stroke and just his overall feel for the game. He is expected to spend another year in college and come out in 2018 when he could be a late first round pick.

Joel Berry II, 6’0” point guard (junior). He is of vital importance to North Carolina and how its Final Four weekend goes, but in a draft deep with point guards Berry likely would not get selected at all if he comes out this summer (maybe late in the second round at best). By NBA standards he’s not tall and not particularly athletic, but he brings a great defensive intensity that coaches love, which may land him a Summer League spot down the line. That said, UNC needs him to be a guy considered for the Outstanding Player award to win it all.

Isaiah Hicks, 6’8” forward (senior). He’s considered a bubble pick if anything (maybe somebody takes him at the end of the second round, although probably not). He’s more likely to get a Summer League team invite then, if he can prove himself there, get an invite to a camp to at least get his shot. That said he could have a big game Saturday because he’s a power player who will likely have a smaller man on him all game.

OREGON

Dillon Brooks, 6’7” forward (junior). If Oregon is going be playing Monday night (and winning) it will lean on Brooks — North Carolina rolls out two-big lineups and plays power ball, Oregon uses Brooks as a small-ball four to space the floor. If he has a big Saturday night, the Ducks have a chance. Brooks is a player who is good at everything but not really great at any one thing, which makes NBA teams cautious about drafting him. If he enters are this draft he would likely go high in the second round, but he has to think about that because it’s a non-guaranteed contract at that point.

Jordon Bell, 6’8” power forward (junior). If he’s trying to sell himself to NBA scouts based on his defense, his performance against Kansas was a big step in the right direction — he was dominant on that end. Do that again against the big front line of North Carolina and he will more than turn a few heads. While he has an NBA body, he is offensively very raw and unpolished, so his defense has to be spectacular. If he comes out this draft, he’d be expected to go in the upper half of the second round (a non-guaranteed contract).

GONZAGA

Zach Collins, 7’0” forward/center (freshman). We know how the NBA loves big men who can space the floor, and Collins is that — he is shooting 45 percent from three this year. It’s the future direction of the NBA and he will get drafted because he can fill that need. That said, Collins can score a little inside but isn’t physically strong enough to bang in the paint at the next level, and that hurts him defensively. He’s not athletic or fleet of foot, so if teams can draw him defensively out on the perimeter it’s an issue. He would be a late first round pick this year who could move up to the lottery if he waited a season and got stronger/better.

Nigel Williams-Goss, 6’4” point guard (junior). He is a high-IQ player who orchestrates the Gonzaga attack, he’s also a natural leader who has a crafty game. He’s got the intangibles teams look for in a point guard. The challenge is he’s not terribly athletic for the position by NBA standards (something West Virginia exposed in the last round). South Carolina likes to take teams out of their flow, so how Williams-Goss handles that is something worth watching (because at the next level everyone is long and athletic). Williams-Goss is trying to show to scouts his athleticism will not hold him back at the next level. He also needs to improve his shooting. That said, whether he came out this season or after the next one, he’d be a second-round pick fighting to make a roster.

SOUTH CAROLINA

P.J. Dozier, 6’6” shooting guard (sophomore). He passes the eye test, he has all the physical tools you want in a quality NBA two guard, but has yet to string all that potential together consistently. He shows it in flashes, most recently against Florida, but NBA teams are not going to go for him based on flashes. Right now he’s expected to return to college for a year, do that and show growth in his game and he could make a leap into the first round next year. But we’re a long way from there right now.

Sindarius Thornwell, 6’5” shooting guard (senior). He’s a guy who was considered a bubble guy to get picked in this draft, and his fantastic play in the tournament — he’s a key reason South Carolina is still playing — likely gets him drafted in the second round. He’ll get his chance. He’s strong, plays a physical game, has three-point shooting range, and plays hard. That might make him a fan favorite at Summer League, but can it land him a roster spot? Because he’s a senior, will teams will be looking for guys with more upside? He’s still got a lot to prove.

David West pump fakes past one Trail Blazer, posterizes another (video)

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David West is 37 years old.

Three Things to Know: Rockets extend win streak to 10, Thunder… not so much

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s a roundup of Monday night’s action you might have missed while paying for a $14,000 Uber ride.

1) Rockets fall behind in a shootout, but come back from 13 down late in the third to extend win streak to 10. This was as good a game as the Pelicans could play without Anthony Davis — they put up 103 points on 58.7 percent shooting and hitting 17 threes. DeMarcus Cousins was a beast in the paint, while Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc. Late in the third the Pelicans were up 13, and they were up 10 at the start of the fourth.

It was not enough.

James Harden had 12 points in the fourth (and finished the game with a career-high 17 assists).

Chris Paul added 11 in the fourth, and the Rockets stormed back winning the fourth 37-20 and the game 130-123, extending their win streak to 10 games.

The Rockets are 21-4 and are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions this season — they are the best team in the NBA right now. CP3 and Harden mesh on offense — the Rockets are +7.8 points per 100 when they are on the court together — and Houston surprisingly has the fifth best defense in the NBA this season. None of this is a fluke. This team is playing hard right now, establishing an identity, and establishing themselves as a contender.

Can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a seven-game series? I am not going that far, I think there are things that can be exploited in a series, but we are five months away from the Rockets needing to answer that question. What Houston has shown is it is the team best suited to challenge Golden State — the Rockets can play at pace and thrive, they have multiple elite scoring playmakers (and coach Mike D’Antoni staggers them so one is almost always on the court), they have a switchable defense that can attack the Warriors wings, and they have the right mindset. GM Daryl Morey put together a team to go after the Warriors, and he did it better than anyone. They are a legit threat to the title holders, and the Rockets should only get better as the season moves along.

2) Celtics lose with Kyrie Irving out. Thunder lose because… you tell me? There were a couple of upsets Monday night in the NBA, but only one was easy to excuse.

The lowly Chicago Bulls have not been quite so lowly the past week, winning three straight games, the latest one handily against the Boston Celtics 108-85. Credit best friends Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (*cough*) who combined for 47 points, plus the improved play of Kris Dunn lately continued as he had a dozen points. We would normally call this a terrible loss for the Celtics, and you can be sure Brad Stevens didn’t like it, but with Kyrie Irving sitting out with a left quad contusion, there is at least a good reason for the off night.

There is no good reason for the Thunder — fully healthy — to lose at home to the Charlotte Hornets 116-103. The Hornets hit 13-of-25 from three, and Dwight Howard outplayed Steven Adams all night on his way to 23 points, Kemba Walker had 19 points and 9 assists, but this is the kind of game the Thunder should win. After a Russell Westbrook highlight slam over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the game was tied 66-66, but then the Hornets went on a 22-2 run. Of late, the Thunder looked like they were turning a corner with three straight wins, but then followed it up losing 2-of-3 now and needing to go to overtime against a shorthanded Grizzlies team to get that one win. Royce Young re-tweeted himself and hit the nail on the head.

There is no one thing wrong with the Thunder, but more and more focus is turning to Carmelo Anthony. Not just his lack of defense or his shooting slump — he had 11 points Monday and is shooting 33 percent overall and 16.7 percent from three his last five games — but the roster depth OKC gave up to get him. Paul George and Russell Westbrook have a grove together (the Thunder are +4.8 per 100 when they are paired) but things slow when Anthony is added to the mix and another star sits while Anthony plays. In ‘Melo’s last five games OKC is -1.8 per 100 with Anthony on the court.

The Thunder still have time, but each day the inconsistent play and losing get more concerning. As George said after the game, “We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that, but at some point it’s got to stop.”

3) Matt Barnes retires. Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

For a lot of fans, mention Barnes and they think of the guy who tried to get in a fight with Derek Fisher. Or the New York nightclub incident with Cousins. Or the guy who was a pest on the court and seemed a magnet for technical fouls and fines from the league office. But Barnes was the kind of guy you wanted coming off the bench on your team and hated to play against — he went hard, he could shoot threes, he defended, and he brought a spark to the game. He was the kind of opponent you hate to go against.

Barnes was a second-round pick out of UCLA who played for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well after Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes was thrust into a larger role (the Warriors went on a 14-game win streak in that time).

While he had a rough exterior, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off for him. He’ll be missed by some of us, but he’s a guy ready for life after basketball.

Rockets’ Clint Capela dunks, blocks, plays DeMarcus Cousins to standstill (VIDEO)

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Welcome to Clint Capela‘s big night.

Going toe-to-toe with DeMarcus Cousins — who has been playing at an All-NBA level this season and had 24 and 14 on Monday night — the Rockets’ athletic big played Cousins to a standstill. Capela had a career-high 28 points on 13-of-14 from the field with most of his shots being dunks (every one of this shots was at the rim), plus he had five blocks, most of Cousins.

It was the best game the Swiss national has had as a pro, who also had eight rebounds on the night. Check out his big night above.

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis lead way, Bulls blow out Kyrie-less Celtics 108-85

Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.

Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.

Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.

But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”