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2014 NBA Draft: Smart tops scoring guard prospects

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. 6 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) 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.

5. (22) 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.

6. (25) 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.

7. (26) 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.

8. (27) 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.

9. (34) 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.

10. (38) 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. (54) 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. (56) 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. (57) Joe Harris, SG, Sr., Virginia.

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

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

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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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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

The Sports Xchange

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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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Ginobili sprains ankle as Spurs rout Timberwolves

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SAN ANTONIO — The fourth and final meeting of the season between the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves looked a lot like the first three.

Forward Kawhi Leonard scored a team-high 15 points as San Antonio defeated Minnesota 123-97 Sunday night at the AT&T Center. The only downside for the Spurs was losing guard Manu Ginobili due to a sprained right ankle.

Leonard was one of seven San Antonio players to score in double figures as the Spurs (41-24) completed a season sweep of Minnesota (14-51). The average margin of victory in the games as 23.

The Spurs earned their seventh win in eight games.

Guard Kevin Martin scored 19 points and guard Zach LaVine added 18 for the Timberwolves, who were missing many players on the final game of a four-game road trip. Minnesota lost its fourth game in a row.

“We moved (the ball) well, but it wasn’t a fair fight,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Their guys are devastated by their injuries, so I thought we had good focus under the circumstances. They still played the right way, so that was the best part of the game.”

The Spurs pulled away in the third quarter behind a 13-0 run. The Wolves only shot 27.3 percent in the third, and the Spurs made 63.6 of their field goals while outscoring Minnesota 33-13 in the period.

“That’s what great teams do,” Martin said. “We knew they were going to do that. Kawhi Leonard had a first half that he probably didn’t want to have, and I’m sure Pop let him know about it. He came out in the second half and changed the whole game.”

Ginobili had to be helped off the court late in the third quarter, and he did not return. He was hurt with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs up by 30 points.

Ginobili was taken immediately to the locker room and did not put any weight on his right leg, and he will be out for a to 10 days, Popovich said. Ginobili finished the game with 11 points in 19 minutes.

San Antonio forward Jeff Ayres sustained a rib contusion in the second half and also sat out the rest of the contest.

Sunday night marked the first time San Antonio stepped back on the court since a 128-125 overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday that included a 57-point performance by Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving. The loss snapped the Spurs’ six game winning streak.

Minnesota dressed only eight players. Forward Kevin Garnett (knee), guard Ricky Rubio (ankle) and center Nikola Pekovic (ankle) were all ruled out by coach Flip Saunders before the game.

“It wasn’t a fair fight,” Saunders said. “We just weren’t alert mentally, as far as trying to play. They just mauled us basically.”

The Spurs took advantage of Minnesota’s depleted lineup and jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead behind guard Tony Parker, who made his first four shots of the game and finished the night with 11 points and eight assists. Minnesota trailed 60-50 at halftime.

The Spurs led by as many as 39 points in the fourth quarter.

Even though San Antonio was facing a team without a full complement of players, forward Tim Duncan said the final game of a 5-1 homestand was a sign of good things to come.

“We’re turning that corner,” said Duncan, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. “I think we’re heading the right direction. The huge loss last game, I felt like we gave that one away. But other than that, we’re on the right track.”

San Antonio will hit the road for back-to-back games in New York on Tuesday and in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Timberwolves head home to face the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.

NOTES: San Antonio moved percentage points ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth place in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers lost Sunday, while the Mavericks were idle. … Minnesota F Kevin Garnett (knee) missed his fourth game in a row. … Spurs G Manu Ginobili was back in action against Minnesota after battling a stomach illness that caused him to miss the team’s game against Toronto on Tuesday and play less than 10 minutes against Cleveland on Thursday.

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