Drafting the NCAA Tourney: Georgia Tech

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We all love the NCAA tournament, but as NBA fans we watch it with a different eye — who is going to be coming out of this showcase and on to the NBA. This is part of a series looking at future NBA players you should watch this weekend.

Georgia Tech has a long list of NBA studs to its name — Chris Bosh, Kenny Anderson, John Salley, Mark Price, Thaddeus Young, and the list just keeps going.

And will keep going — Georgia Tech has two players to watch when they take on Oklahoma State Friday night. One would think that with two potential first round picks the Yellow Jackets would be higher than a 10 seed. But their problem is a lack of guys to fear on the perimeter, so their two big stars have a lot of company in the paint.

The big name is Derrick Favors, the power forward (certainly at the NBA level) who likely will go somewhere between three and five overall in the draft. Favors is as athletic as anybody in college basketball right now, he can just explode at the basket — watch him on the boards.  He shoots well (hit 59% of his shots this season). But at the NBA level he ideally needs to be on a team where he can use those gifts in the open court because this season has shown limits to his halfcourt game. Like having enough post moves to consistently create his own shot. But this is a case where a guy can get over-analyzed — you can teach him post moves (and he has been better lately at that). You cannot teach leaping out of the building.

On the opposite low block is Gani Lawal — another big long athlete (seven foot wingspan) who likely goes in the first round. DraftExpress Assistant Director of Scouting Joe Treutlein gave us some exclusive comments on Lawal:

“Gani Lawal has flown a bit under the radar this year, but playing alongside Derrick Favors on a team with shaky guard play, specifically in terms of post entry passes, certainly hasn’t helped him stand out. A high energy athlete who’s very good on the boards and could do some garbage work, he’s a fringe first rounder now, but could contribute quickly in the NBA in the right situation.”

How good either of these guys look in the NCAA tournament may depend on the guard play the Yellow Jackets get — if you can double team without fear of getting burned on the perimeter, you can slow anyone.

But what you want to see out of an NBA prospect is how they deal with the adversity and big stage of the tournament. That will be interesting to see for Favors and Lawal.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.