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2014 NBA Draft: Parker tops deep PF class

The Sports Xchange

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With six of the top 10 and 24 of the Top 100 prospects, power forward is a loaded position in the 2014 NBA Draft. The talent haul is led by Duke freshman Jabari Parker, who many scouts believe will ultimately prove to be the most well-round prospect to come out of this draft.

The top power forward prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft:

1. (No. 2 overall) Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Fr., Duke.

Overview: After just one year at Duke, Parker’s size and skillset has drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony. Standing 6-8, 240 pounds, Parker is multidimensional offensively, he can be physical in the paint and can score from the perimeter. In his one season with Duke, he averaged 18.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Analysis: Parker has been drawing interest as a possible No. 1 overall pick since midway through last year and many NBA scouts think he could be the best player in this year’s draft. He lacks the athleticism of Andrew Wiggins and the size of Joel Embiid, but is considered a better all-around player.

2. (4) Julius Randle, PF, Fr., Kentucky.

Overview: Randle was considered a potential top 5 pick entering last season due to his size and finesse. After a standout season at Kentucky in which he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, he has been mentioned as possibly slipping out of the top 5 due to the deep talent base among potential lottery picks.

Analysis: Through no fault of his own, Randle might see guards Dante Exum and Marcus Smart get picked before him come draft night as both have become hot names in the draft. The knock on Randle has been that he might be undersized to play power forward, but he showed up at the pre-draft combine at 6-9, 250 pounds, with a 7’0″ wingspan to put that notion to rest.

3. (7) Noah Vonleh, PF, Fr., Indiana.

Overview: Vonleh is just 18 years old and sports a 7’4″ wingspan; he’s considered by many to have the best natural rebounding instincts in the draft. He’s still raw in many areas offensively, but scouts love his wingspan.

Analysis: Vonleh is still a project on the offensive end, as he makes questionable decisions with the ball in his hands. Where he excels is in hustle situation where his raw talent takes over. At just 18 years old, his 6-9, 250-pound frame isn’t likely done growing and filling out.

4. (8) Aaron Gordon, PF, Fr., Arizona.

Overview: Also just 18 years old, Gordon is extremely athletic for his size and has drawn some comparisons to Blake Griffin. Gordon is at his best in the open floor, which is why many believe he could prove to be one of the best players taken in this draft.

Analysis: The biggest weakness in Gordon’s game is the lack of consistency from the perimeter, but that’s not to say he’s not capable. Most of the time in college, Gordon was able stand out by just simply being a better athlete then the competition. He has already shown in workouts that his perimeter game has improved since the season ended.

5. (9) Doug McDermott, PF, Sr., Creighton.

Overview: McDermott’s stellar senior year combined with his offensive polish should land him in the top 10 picks. The offensive machine will have to continue to score at a very high level to make up for concerns about his 6-6 frame and lack of athleticism.

Analysis: Originally listed in the 6-8/6-9 range, McDermott measured in around 6-6 at the draft combine, which raised some eyebrows. At 6-6 he doesn’t possess the athleticism necessary to play small forward at the NBA level. McDermott’s ability to score isn’t a debate amongst NBA people, but which position he’ll be able to do it at is.

6. (10) Dario Saric, SF/PF, Int. (Croatia).

Overview: Would have been a first-round pick in last year’s draft but withdrew to stay in Europe. At 6-10 and extremely coordinated, many people believe Saric is the most versatile player in the draft. Reportedly has stated if Lakers or Celtics commit to drafting him he’ll stay in the draft, otherwise may pull out before June 16 deadline.

Analysis: Though he has the size to play PF, Saric’s game would likely transfer to more of a SF position in the NBA. Also, even at just 20 years old, Saric likely has the most professional experience in this year’s draft as he has been playing since he was 15.

7. (23) Clint Capela, PF, Int. (Switzerland).

Overview: 19-year-old 6-11 Swiss born big man currently playing in France. Not a lot of scouts have seen much of him, but his ability to block shots stands out. He has long arms, is a good athlete and finishes well around the basket.

Analysis: Capela is still relatively unknown and doesn’t play for one of the better teams in France. Shot blocking and defensive potential are what he’s known for right now, but he did start to come on offensively this past winter, displaying a nice touch around the rim. At just 220 pounds, he will need to put on some weight.

8. (35) Patric Young, PF, Sr., Florida.

Overview: A rough and tumble 6-10, 250-pound brute with very good quickness who could fit in nicely in the right role in the NBA. His 11 ppg and 6 rebound averages weren’t spectacular, but he was a key piece for the Gators all four years he was in Gainesville.

Analysis: Young has basically no perimeter game to speak of, but he has the physique to continue to be effective in the paint in the NBA. Teams seking muscle on the front line and somebody who will provide energy would be wise to take a look.

9. (36) Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Int. (Latvia).

Overview: Raw, wiry 18-year-old 7-footer playing in Latvia whose potential has scouts on notice. Porzingis is extremely mobile for his size, runs well and has very solid mechanics offensively. Defensively, his length alone causes problems for offensive foes.

Analysis: Porzingis looks like a guard trapped in a 7-footer’s body, and at just 220 pound he will need to bulk up if he wants to play in the NBA. He will also need to toughen up defensively, but the offensive skill set to score from both the low block and the perimeter are certainly there.

10. (45) Johnny O’Bryant, PF, Jr., LSU.

Overview: A lack of exposure from LSU’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament has kept O’Bryant under the radar. He is a former McDonald’s All-American who ranked among the SEC’s best big men. O’Bryant is a handful on the low block and is also able to step out and hit perimeter shots from time to time.

Analysis: At 6-8 he could be considered slightly undersized, but what he lacks in height O’Bryant makes up in strength and bulk. With a bit more consistency from his perimeter game, he could become a handful to deal with at the NBA level.

11. (46) Jarnell Stokes, PF, Jr., Tennessee.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

The Sports Xchange

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If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.

Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.

Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”

Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.

Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?

“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”

The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.

“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”

Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”

Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.

Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.

“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”

The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.

Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.

“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.

Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.

NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.

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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

The Sports Xchange

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SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.

Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.

In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”

Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.

“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”

In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.

He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.

Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.

–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.

“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”

Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.

“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.

–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.

Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.

Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.

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