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2014 NBA Draft: Smart pick among SGs

The Sports Xchange

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A point guard at Oklahoma State, NBA teams view Marcus Smart as a combo guard who could slide to shooting guard. He’s listed there by The Sports Xchange, along with top-15 rated sophomore shooters Gary Harris (Michigan State) and Nik Stauskas (Michigan).

The top shooting guard for the 2014 NBA Draft:

1. (No. 4 overall) Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Soph., Oklahoma State.

Overview: After a volatile year that included a suspension, Smart is still one of the top guards in this class and could crack the top 5 overall picks. His strong frame and 18 ppg average have him as the clear frontrunner at SG.

Analysis: A bit undersized at 6-4, Smart makes up for his lack of height with a monster 6-9 wingspan. He’s polished offensively and has an NBA ready game for transition and pick and rolls in the half court. Scouts are also intrigued at the defensive potential Smart presents with his long arms.

2. (11) Gary Harris, SG, So., Michigan State.

Overview: A very good all-around guard whose stock was helped by a good end of the season and tournament run by Michigan State. He measured well shorter than scouts expected at the combine at just a bit over 6-2, which is a concern.

Analysis: Harris brings a solid all-around game to the NBA after two years at Michigan State. He’s a good perimeter player who will be solid in the mid-range game. Defensively, Harris is able to guard both PGs and SGs, which makes him a valuable commodity.

3. (13) Nik Stauskas, SG, So., Michigan.

Overview: Sharpshooting guard from Michigan whose stock increased due to an increased role in Michigan’s offense last season. Stauskas is known for his shooting, but his offense in general took a big jump the past year, putting him in position to be a potential lottery pick.

Analysis: Stauskas leaves Michigan with a 17.5 ppg average and a reputation as one of the most dangerous shooters in this year’s draft. Offensively he’s capable of creating off the dribble as well, something he hadn’t shown until last season. There are concerns about his athleticism and defense.

4. (15) Zach LaVine, SG, Fr., UCLA.

Overview: A wildly athletic prospect who probably should have stayed at UCLA for another year. Will most likely take a couple years to develop, but the payoff could be huge. LaVine has skyrocketed up draft boards with impressive workouts, including a remarkable 46-inch vertical.

Analysis: The biggest question surrounding LaVine is whether he will play PG or SG in the NBA. Coming out of high school he was a PG, but was asked to play SG at UCLA. His physical gifts are a sight to behold, but LaVine will most likely need some time to add some weight to his slight frame.

5. (22) T.J. Warren, SG, So., North Carolina State.

Overview: An elite wing scorer with nothing left to prove at the college level. At 6-8, 220 pounds, he possesses good size and leaves NC State with a gaudy 25 ppg average.

Analysis: For someone who scores so much, he’s not particularly great on the perimeter but does have a knack for finding open space and getting his shot off in traffic. Defense is a concern, as he wasn’t asked to guard perimeter players in college and will have to do so in the NBA.

6. (25) C.J. Wilcox, SG, Sr., Washington.

Overview: One of the best pure shooters in the draft, Wilcox is deadly in spot-up and catch-and-shoot situations. He has trouble making plays with the ball in his hands but has shown he’s willing to work on his ball handling.

Analysis: Wilcox entertained the idea of bolting Washington after his junior year but decided to return. While the Huskies didn’t have the season they hoped, Wilcox turned in a very solid 18.3 ppg built primarily around spot-up shooting. Definitely has the potential to help space the floor at the NBA level.

7. (26) P.J. Hairston, SG, Jr., Texas Legends NBDL.

Overview: Played in the NBDL after being dismissed from North Carolina. Has NBA 3-point range and can score in bunches.

Analysis: Playing in the NBDL might have been a blessing in disguise for Hairston as now many scouts believe he’s more seasoned and ready for the NBA game having played in a professional setting. At just 21-years-old he has shown the offensive potential to indicate he can make it.

8. (33) Jordan Adams, SG, So., UCLA.

Overview: A natural scorer who plays with a high basketball I.Q. Finds ways to get shots and scoring opportunities despite being labeled an average athlete.

Analysis: Adams leaves UCLA after a solid two-year career in which he went from relative unknown to potential first-round pick. Since the season has ended he has dropped about 20 pounds and has measured a 6-10 wingspan, both of which could combat the notion he’s not a strong athlete.

9. (35) Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Jr., Colorado.

Overview: Had he not torn his ACL midway through last season, Dinwiddie would probably be higher on this list. Has the potential to jump up with a healthy knee and good pre-draft workouts.

Analysis: He missed the last half of the season but when he was able to play, Dinwiddie put up impressive numbers against top competition. Offensively he’s one of the more polished SG’s in the draft, he’s just going to have to put concerns about his knee to rest.

10. (37) Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Int. (Serbia).

Overview: The 6-6, 21-year-old led his team in scoring at 15 ppg in the Euroleague last season and also made a mark as a solid contributor for the Serbian National Team.

Analysis: Bogdanovic has made a name for himself playing well against top-level competition over in Europe. He has been on the NBA radar a couple years and has always opted to stay in Europe.

11. (52) Jabari Brown, SG, Jr. Missouri.

Overview: Oregon transfer known for being a spot-up shooter used his junior season to upgrade offensive game. After one year at Missouri he leaves with a 19.9 ppg average and SEC All-Conference First Team honors.

Analysis: Brown’s NBA potential lies in his offensive game, where he is a very good perimeter shooter who’s able to put the ball on the floor and get to the line as well. Defensively he’s expected to struggle a bit as he’s undersized and limited as an athlete.

12. (54) Markel Brown, SG, Sr., Oklahoma State.

Overview: Three-year starter at Oklahoma State and wingman to Marcus Smart the past two years; averaged a shade more than 17 ppg last season.

Analysis: Brown is a highlight waiting to happen in the open floor. His bread and butter is in transition and attacking the basket, but he has improved his offensive game so he’s not just known for his highlight reel dunks anymore.

13. (55) Joe Harris, SG, Sr., Virginia.

Overview: The knock on Harris is that he’s not a great athlete, but

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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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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Irving leads Cavaliers to rout of Magic

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ORLANDO — Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving is in the midst of an incredible shooting zone. And he’s loving every minute of it. Irving followed his NBA-best, 57-point scoring burst on Thursday with a more-efficient, 33-point effort Sunday, leading the Cavaliers to a 123-108 victory over the outmatched Orlando Magic.

Irving was sensational again.

In the last two games, Irving has made 12 of 13 shots from 3-point range. He has made 32 of 47 shots overall. He made the Cavs look unstoppable.

“It’s just a feel, an overall body feel right now,” Irving said. “The basketball feels a little bit better. It’s a fun game right now, and it’s fun to be part of something like this.”

Irving made 12 of his 15 shots Sunday and hit five of six from 3-point range, finding time to add four rebounds and four assists in leading the Cavs (43-25) to their fourth consecutive victory.

“Someone did ask me (before the game), what does he do for an encore (after his 57 point effort),” said Cavs coach David Blatt. “I didn’t have a good answer, But 12 of 15 from the field, in 34 minutes. That’s a pretty good encore. And he played right, which is the most important thing. It’s not the scoring as much as it is him just being engaged, locked in.”

LeBron James happily provided the perfect complement and setup man. He had 21 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds, and three steals, creating opportunities for everyone else. The Cavs buried the Magic by making 18 of 35 3-point shots, most of which were wide open.

Guard J.R. Smith scored 25 points, leading the 3-point onslaught by making six of his 10 from long range.

“I thought LeBron seemed to be seeing everyone in the gym tonight,” Blatt said. “And he threw it to them in the shooting pocket, and it seemed like that made every one. It seemed like he found guys in the eighth row that could make an open shot tonight.”

The Cavs received a brief scare midway in the third period when James went up to contest a shot and landed awkwardly, twisting his right knee. He continued to play and looked fine, but he raised the issue about his availability for Monday’s game in Miami.

“A scary moment for myself obviously,” he said. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there. I haven’t had one of those falls in a pretty long time. I was happy to stay in the game.”

The Cavs made 45 of 76 shots (59.2 percent). The Magic (21-47) made 42 of 88 (47.7 percent, but they never seriously challenged in the second half, even though they closed to nine points twice in the fourth quarter.

Magic guard Victor Olidipo had 25 points and seven assists. Center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton had 13 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Tobias Harris had 24 points and eight rebounds. Reserve guard Luke Ridnour had a season-high 15 points.

Irving made his first four 3-point attempts, giving him 11 consecutive 3-pointers without a miss, dating back to his 7-for-7 effort Thursday against San Antonio. He finally missed from 3-point range midway in the third period.

The Magic twice fouled Smith while he was shooting beyond the 3-point line, accounting for all five of his free throws.

“That’s a tough team. You have to give them credit,” Harris said. “They have a lot of options out there, and guys who can make tough shots. It’s just overall tough for us against a team like that.”

The Cavaliers led 100-86 going into the fourth quarter. Smith made a trio of 3-pointers in the third period, helping hold off every Magic charge in the period.

Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cavaliers a 84-68 lead. Irving hit a pair of 3-pointers earlier in the period.

The Cavaliers led 66-55 at intermission, riding a red-hot shooting start and a 40-point second quarter. They made 26 of 42 shots (61.9 percent) and eight of their 16 3-point attempts in the first half.

Irving hit both of his 3-pointers in the first half. The Magic held a 28-16 rebound edge in the first half, but they couldn’t keep pace with the Cavaliers, who exploded in the second period when they made 16 of their 20 shots.

The Magic led the entire first quarter. Forward James Jones gave the Cavaliers their first lead when he opened the second with a 3-pointer.

Vucevic and Harris each had 14 points by halftime. James had 15 points and six assists before intermission. Irving made six of his first seven shots for 14 points.

NOTES: The Cavaliers were without PF Kevin Love (sore back), but they were helped by the return of veteran Shawn Marion, who missed the past three weeks with a strained hip muscle. F Tristan Thompson started in Love’s place. … The Magic were without reserve G Willie Green, who missed his third consecutive game with lower back spasms and F Evan Fournier, who missed his eighth consecutive game with a sore right hip. … A quirk in the schedule gave the Cavs two-plus days in balmy Orlando before the game Sunday. The extra time gave one fan of James the opportunity to invite him Friday to his wedding reception Saturday night at the posh hotel where the Cavs were staying. James politely declined.

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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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