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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: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.