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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.

Spurs advance: San Antonio beats Grizzlies 103-96 in Game 6

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs wanted no part of playing a seventh game against the Grizzlies, not with the Houston Rockets looming in the next round.

Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, and the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating Memphis 103-96 on Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich congratulated Memphis on a great year, especially rookie coach David Fizdale.

“I’m seriously thrilled that we were able to get through that first round,” Popovich said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that now we have to go play Houston.”

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio’s second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round. But this was the first time all season that the visiting team won.

“It’s huge for us,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “Memphis, you have to give them a lot of credit. They played unbelievable. They’re a great team, and they made it hard on us and so we didn’t want to come back for Game 7. We treated this game as if it was Game 7. We wanted those days off before playing Houston because it’s going to be a fast-paced game against them.”

Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Fizdale said rebounds, points in the paint and who pressured the best impacted each game in the series.

“I kept stressing that to our guys,” Fizdale said. “To their credit, (the Spurs) won it more games than we did. But it definitely wasn’t from a lack of competition on our part. I can sleep at night knowing my guys battled and competed their tails off.”

The Spurs’ semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18.

The Grizzlies fell to 3-10 in elimination games, losing six straight.

This was a taut game with 16 ties and nine lead changes, especially with four ties in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs took control after the Grizzlies went up 88-81 on three free throws from Conley with 6:29 left. Then Leonard scored eight straight for San Antonio, starting a 22-8 run to finish the game.

“The guys were amazing in the fourth quarter,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Huge plays. Great defense too. So, happy to go back home with a win and win the series.”

Even with Conley and Gasol a combined 2 of 10 in the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed only 24-22 after Conley knocked down a 3 at the end of the quarter for his first bucket of the game. Conley hit another 3 for the final shot in the second quarter, putting Memphis up 50-45. The team that led at halftime won each of the first five games.

Parker hit his first six shots before finally missing his seventh with 29 seconds left in the first half.

The Grizzlies took their biggest lead at 57-47 on a 3-pointer by James Ennis III. That gave Memphis as many made 3s (9 of 17) as the Spurs had attempted (3 of 9) at that point. Randolph’s layup with 7:19 left matched that 10-point lead at 63-53.

Then the Spurs went on a 13-3 run over a 4-minute span to erase that lead on Aldridge’s three-point play at 67-66. Aldridge finished with nine points in helping the Spurs lead 75-74 at the end of the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: They improved to 36-15 with a chance to clinch a series under Popovich, who took over in the 1996-97 season. … Ginobili converted a four-point play with 1:31 left in the third, putting the Spurs up 73-69. … The Spurs wound up tying the Grizzlies’ reserves with 16 points thanks to Mills.

Grizzlies: The Grizzlies set a franchise record hitting eight 3-pointers in the first half, topping the previous mark of seven in the second half May 1, 2005, against Phoenix. … Conley has 20 or more points in five straight playoff games, the longest such streak in franchise history.

HE SAID IT

Popovich: “I’m thrilled we were able to win because if we played 10 times, we each would probably win five.”

FREE THROW WATCH

Fizdale earned a $30,000 fine from the NBA for his “Take that for data” rant about the free throw discrepancy in Game 2. Well, Leonard was 9 of 10 at the free throw line through three quarters compared to the Grizzlies’ 7 of 8. The Spurs were 18 of 20 through three quarters. The Spurs finished 22 of 25 compared to 20 of 24 for Memphis.

 

Cavaliers celebrate Raptors win over Bucks because they don’t have to practice (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors closed out the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night in Game 6, 92-89. Toronto’s social media team even tried trolling the Bucks about it.

In any case, the Raptors now move on to the second round, despite their best efforts, to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have been waiting for an opponent after sweeping the Indiana Pacers.

Cavaliers wingman Richard Jefferson — a Snapchat legend, it should be mentioned — took to the social media platform to celebrate playing the Raptors.

Er, or maybe just the fact that the team didn’t have to practice Friday.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland’s biggest test before the Finals might just be the Raptors, and we will get to see them head-to-head in the second round.

Raptors troll Bucks after closing in Game 6 with RapsIn6.com website (VIDEO)

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Despite a disastrous fourth quarter performance, the Toronto Raptors closed the series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. The Raptors came away from Game 6 with a 92-89 victory and a chance to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between the Raptors and the Bucks appears to be alive and well, as the Raptors pushed a video on social media after the game ended that was pointed toward the Bucks.

In it, the Raptors mascot registers a domain name for the team at RapsIn6.com, then proceeds to sip tea in the style of the famous Kermit meme.

In case you are out of the loop, this is a reference to Brandon Jennings saying Milwaukee would beat the Miami Heat in six games back in 2013.

Meanwhile, game ops at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee played the theme song from the children’s TV show “Barney” during Raptors player introductions.

Nothing really happens if you go to RapsIn6.com. There’s nothing on the website save for the video the Raptors posted to social media, which you can watch above.

Toronto has their core together and presumably will for a little while. The Bucks are a growing young team. I’m cool with them duking it out in the postseason for years to come.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

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Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.