Kurt Helin

Jahlil Okafor

NBA prospects in NCAA Tournament: Seven guys to watch Friday/Sunday

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The NCAA Tournament, with its orgy of games the first weekend, is a hoops junkie’s dream. It is also when a lot of fans of an NBA team fall in love with a particular player they hope their team can draft come June. NBA scouts and GMs already have far more formulated opinions on players by this point; they want to see how players so against better competition, and under the pressure of a lose-and-go-home situation.

Here seven NBA prospects to keep an eye on from the Thursday/Saturday games. We reached out for some expert opinions from Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog, as well as Rob Dauster of our NBC sister site CollegeBasketballTalk.

We have to start with the likely No. 1 pick.

1) Jahlil Okafor, Duke. He’s as skilled a post player and scorer as you’ll ever find at age 19 — he is going to put up points as a rookie in the NBA. Where he’s improved as this season has worn on is his recognition and passing out of double teams. Where he continues to struggle is the defensive end of the floor.

From Ed Isaacson:  “We may have to go all the way back to Tim Duncan to see someone with such a pure, back-to-the-basket post game that Okafor has. He’s ready. Whoever ends up picking him he’ll come in and he’ll do well right away, at least as a scorer. What Okafor is really missing is that mean streak. It comes out once in a while, but on defense he really needs to learn to be a battler.”

2) Montrezl Harrell, Louisville. He’s a bit undersized at the four in the NBA, he doesn’t have a steady jump shot, his post game lacks polish, yet this is a guy that fans will gravitate toward — he plays hard every possession. Energy is a skill and Harrell has that, and it will help him at the next level.

From Rob Dauster: “No one in college basketball plays as hard or with as much emotion as Harrell. He’s an aggressive rebounder and a more mobile defender than he gets credit for, but at this point he doesn’t seem to be much more than an undersized four with a mediocre jumper and a limited post game. I think he has a future in the league in a Kenneth Faried kind of role.”

3) Justin Anderson, Virginia. He’s a junior swingman and a highly-regarded prospect who never seemed to put the entire package together at Virginia. He’s athletic and and can defend, he also can finish at the rim. His jumper has been up and down over the years, but it’s something he seemed to work on this season.

From Rob Dauster: “I don’t know if Anderson is going to be a first round pick, but I think he has quite a future in a 3-and-D role at the next level. He’s a terrific athlete that has played his college ball in a system that teaches you how to defend, before fracturing the pinky on his left (shooting) hand, Anderson was hitting 48.5 percent from three, a drastic improvement for the career 30 percent shooter. If that’s a permanent thing or just a fluky year remains to be seen.”

4) Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. He is one of the leading candidates for national player of the year, a rock solid big man who helped lead the Badgers to a No. 1 seed. He is comfortable playing on the block or out on the perimeter, which makes him a challenging matchup.

From Ed Isaacson:  “He’s a skilled seven-footer with the ability to score in the post or from the perimeter, Kaminsky posted career highs of 55 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three-point range this past season. Though not particularly strong or quick, Kaminsky uses strong footwork and nice shooting touch to create scoring chances in the post, and his ability to shoot from the perimeter makes him a great option in pick-and-pop situations. Defensively, Kaminsky is average.… As with many seniors, there may not be a lot of upside with Kaminsky, but he is the kind of player who could contribute quickly in many different NBA offenses.”

5) Kris Dunn, Providence. He is one of the most entertaining players in the nation — he will grab a rebound and push hard from coast-to-coast, putting a lot of pressure on the defense. He can make the spectacular play, but with that comes some misques and turnovers. Finally healthy, he averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds a game this season.

From Ed Isaacson:  “I think Chris Dunn would be a fantastic backup point guard at the NBA level, or the third guard in a three guard rotation…. He’s a good ballhandler with excellent vision, Dunn can be a spectacular passer, though his decisions can often leave a lot to be desired. He thrives when Providence pushes the tempo, doing a great job getting the ball up the floor quickly and finding open teammates for easy scores. He’s not as good in the half court.”

6) Kelly Oubre, Kansas. Oubre is a bit of a project as a 6’6” wing player. He is a freak athlete (as good as anyone in this class) who is long and has potential as a jump shooter. His ceiling is insanely high. However, his handles need work, he needs time on the court to get a better feel for the game. There’s a lot of work to be done here, is he willing to put in the effort? (And how patient will the team be that drafts him?)

From Rob Dauster: “I’ve soured a bit on Oubre as a prospect as the season has gone along, but I still think that he’s worthy of being a lottery pick. His height, length, explosiveness and shooting ability are all terrific for a wing, but he’s still learning how to play. He gets lost defensively at times, his handle is suspect and at this point, he’s essentially a spot-up shooter and straight-line driver. His ceiling is higher than, say, Devin Booker, but he has longer to go to get there than I thought when I saw him in high school.”

7) Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga. He is the son of Lithuania/Soviet legend Arvydas Sabonis. He is skilled and has polished footwork, he can work out of the post or hit shots out to the arc. He’s not athletic by NBA standards, and he needs to get stronger.

From Rob Dauster: “I love Domas as a college player. He’s tough, he’s athletic, he’s aggressive on the glass, he’s really good at scoring over his right shoulder (left hand). He’s a bit of a long term prospect, but he plays extremely hard and he’s not one to back down from anyone, which are two skills that are quite valuable to have.”

Rockets’ Terrence Jones spent night in hospital, out “a while” with rib injury

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers
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It happened in the middle of the first quarter: In the scramble for a loose ball, Wilson Chandler pushed the Rockets’ Terrence Jones, who fell forward and hit his ribs on the knee of Kenneth Faried.

Jones left the game not to return and spent Thursday night at the hospital for observation.

Fortunately it doesn’t appear to be anything worse than that, but Jones likely misses a few games for this. He will be missed as he has had some strong games recently, such as 16 points against the Clippers and 17 against the Trail Blazers.

Three Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: It’s not always pretty, but Harden is serious MVP candidate

James Harden
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while watching your NCAA Tournament bracket go up in flames…

1) James Harden gives us 50 reasons he’s an MVP candidate. If you’re going to base your MVP choice on who has the most aesthetically pleasing game, pick Stephen Curry. James Harden’s game isn’t pretty. He isn’t the explosive athlete that Russell Westbrook is. Yet Harden is effective — very effective. He dropped a career-high 50 points on the improved Nuggets, shooting 12-of-27 and getting to the free throw line 25 times (hitting 22). That’s what he does; he attacks and you can’t guard him without fouling. It’s not always pretty, just look at is shot chart.

source:

However, thanks to Harden the Rockets have held on to the three seed in the West without Dwight Howard in the lineup. That’s Harden. That’s the work of a guy you have to consider for MVP.

2) Ugly game sets Pelicans’ playoff chances back. And the game of basketball. The Pelicans won four in a row without Anthony Davis not all that long ago, but if you watched the Suns and the Pelicans play Thursday you’d have to ask “how?”Here is all you need to know about the New Orleans vs. Phoenix game: The Suns shot 34.9 percent overall and 9.1 percent from three and won. The real issue for the Pelicans was this is the kind of game they really needed, they are now one game back of the Thunder for that final playoff spot in the West (and the Thunder likely get Kevin Durant back this week).

3) Utah keeps racking up wins since All-Star Game. The Jazz are now 12-4 since the All-Star break and have played the best defense in the league during that time. That said hopefully you watched Kentucky’s game, or caught up on the new season of House of Cards, or something else rather than watching this game. It wasn’t pretty. Utah won 80-73 behind 22 from Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz will take the win. Now let us never speak of this game again.

James Harden drops career-high 50 on Nuggets (VIDEO)

Denver Nuggets v Houston Rockets
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James Harden kept making his MVP case Thursday night — he dropped a career-high 50 points on the Denver Nuggets in a needed Rockets win. With the victory, the Rockets move a game up on Portland for the No. 3 seed in the West.

Harden did his damage all game long and in the most Harden of ways — he attacked, he got to the rim, and he got to the line. He was 12-of-27 shooting but was 22-of-25 from the free throw line. Just look at his shot chart.

source:  One of those corner threes was the 50 you see in the video above.

He also did this.

PBT Extra: Just how great is Golden State’s home court advantage?

Stephen Curry
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Today’s PBT Extra focuses on some of the storylines from Wednesday night in the NBA, and that starts with the fact Golden State blew out Atlanta up in the Bay Area. That got Jenna Corrado wondering, just how good is Golden State’s home court advantage?

After that, we talk about the run that Dwyane Wade is on right now, followed by what we should expect out of Kevin Love going forward in Cleveland (that’s a hard question to answer).