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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.

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

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Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.

Bulls: No decision yet on Rajon Rondo’s future with team

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.

Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.

Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.

Report: Chris Paul met with Clipper officials to talk future of franchise, himself

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Chris Paul is going to talk to a lot of teams this summer, but if you ask people around the league, most seem to think he will re-sign with the Clippers. The ultimate reason is money: As president of the players’ union he helped steer the new CBA negotiations, which included changing the “over 36 rule” — limiting max contracts to players who turn 36 during the time of the deal — into the “over 38 rule.” That meant 32-year-old Paul could sign one more five-year max contract.

Paul also wants to win, and it’s hard to see how the assembled team in Los Angeles — which is certainly a top 5-7 NBA team, maybe a little higher when healthy — picks up a ring. Especially with the Golden State juggernaut not going anywhere.

Paul has started talking to the Clippers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

I doubt that discussion was much about money — the Clippers will offer a five-year max contract. That’s not even up for debate.

The discussion was how to build the Clippers into a contender. Will Blake Griffin, also a free agent, be back and be part of that? What about J.J. Redick? Can the Clippers get the cap space to lure huge free agents in 2018? LeBron James reportedly wants to come to Los Angeles, although whether he wants to be a Clipper is another question. (For the record, I don’t buy the idea LeBron would “never” be a Clipper. While it may be highly unlikely, people I have spoken to around the league closer to LeBron’s thinking say he wants to keep every option open, play out next season, then see where things stand. He would not fully rule out playing with Chris Paul, who could still be in L.A.)

The Clippers have backed themselves into a corner by trading away picks for veterans, and not developing young players into guys who can contribute in the rotation. When was the last time the Clippers had their Patrick McCaw or Dewayne Dedmon? Without those young, affordable players, it becomes hard to put a good roster together and keep it together. It’s part of what Jerry West — with some help from GM Lawrence Frank — need to bring to Doc Rivers’ Clippers.

That’s likely part of the discussion, too.

There’s a lot for the sides to talk about.

Michael Jordan sent Russell Westbrook personal MVP congratulatory note

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Russell Westbrook is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, he’s now an MVP, and he wears Jordan Brand Nikes.

Still, it has to be a bit humbling to get a personal, signed note from Michael Jordan himself.

Which is exactly what he got on Tuesday, a congratulatory note from the GOAT.

The note said (in all caps):

Congrats Russell.

I got buy first MVP award before my first ring, too… keep going!

It was then signed by Jordan.

Westbrook could probably fill a second home with memorabilia from his career, but this is one he’s likely going to keep safe.