2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum, Duke lose as Josh Jackson thrives

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum, Duke lose as Josh Jackson thrives

The first week of the NCAA Tournament has come to a close and so have some college careers for the top players in this June's NBA draft. However, the best players were able to lead their teams to the Sweet 16 and potential glory lies ahead for those select few.

Here's a recap of a few of both, albeit a focus on the winners from this weekend who will be high up on draft boards and could be Sixers in just a few months.

Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Do you remember the beginning of the season when Jackson's jump shot looked crooked? It seems very long ago now. Jackson led all scorers on Sunday with 23 points in Kansas' 90-70 win over No. 9 Michigan State. The likely top five pick did just about everything in the Round of 32 win. He pulled up for jumpers and swished them, grabbed a few boards, played strong defense inside and even had a few blocks.

The Spartans' one hope was that fellow freshman Miles Bridges would be able to outplay Jackson, but Bridges played with little control at times and was simply outplayed, even though he had 22 points of his own. Jackson hit a few big jumpers in his face and was a force throughout whenever MSU cut into the Jayhawks' lead. Jackson may have some big things lying ahead for him in the Midwest Region and beyond. 

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
While Jackson led his team to glory Sunday, Tatum was not able to do the same later in the evening. In Duke's first round game, Tatum was able to run roughshod through No. 15 Troy's defense, scoring 18 points. He added 12 rebounds and four blocks and was simply the best player on the floor. The Trojans had no one who could stay in front of him, as so few teams in the NCAA do. 

But in what was essentially a road game against No. 7 South Carolina, Tatum was held in check in part by the Gamecocks' potent zone. He was also limited by foul trouble. He still had 15 points and made a few nice moves inside as well as some key rebounds. But he didn't rise to the moment like he did in the ACC Tournament. Again, a zone like South Carolina's eliminates his innate advantage against any one defender and the Gamecocks were able to prevent a dominant effort, upsetting Duke, 88-81.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
In UCLA's first game, Ball didn't quite look like himself. He played through a bruised hip and was clearly not his same explosive self. This came after he nursed a thumb injury during the Bruins' Pac 12 Tournament loss to Arizona. Despite any limitations, he still made 6 of 7 shots for 15 points, made two threes and dished out three assists in UCLA's 97-80 win over No. 14 Kent State. Not bad for someone who is supposed to be injured, right?

His first half against No. 6 Cincinnati wasn't remarkable by any means. But as he's done many times this season, he came alive with a thunderous stretch to key a UCLA win. The Bruins trailed 47-46 in the early second half when Ball shed his defender for a step-back three. Next possession, he ran into a trey in transition. A few minutes later, he dished out some pretty assists and put in a layup himself to give UCLA a double-digit lead. Many of his assists during the second half were of his other-worldly self, finding guys for alley-oops with beautiful feeds.

Ball finished with a near triple-double. He led both teams with 18 points (7 of 10 shooting, 4 of 7 from three) and nine assists. He also had seven rebounds and two steals in the Bruin victory.

De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, guards, Kentucky
Kentucky's freshman combo struggled Friday in an easy 79-70 win over No. 15 Northern Kentucky. Fox had 19 points and dished out three assists, although he had an unseemly six turnovers. Monk was off from the field, going 3 of 11 for 12 points. He missed all six of his threes. 

And for most of Sunday, they had similar struggles. Fox's jump shot, which isn't anywhere close to Monk's, was off. Monk was limited by a stout Wichita State defense. With that backcourt in a rut, the Shockers were poised to, well, shock. But as the best players do in March, Fox and Monk made winning plays. Monk made a key three with 2:10 left. Fox drove for a dunk on the next possession. And with the Wildcats up just one with 12 seconds left, Monk came up with a key block and hit two free throws.

Overall, Fox and Monk had 14 points each on 13 and 10 shots, respectively. That's not a very pretty line. But each was essential to the Wildcats' win, combining to score Kentucky's last 10 points and leading the team to see another day in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick hits
Florida St. forward Jonathan Isaac played what are likely the final games of his collegiate career. The freshman was efficient, making 9 of 15 shots for 25 points. While he had double-digit rebounds in both games, his Seminoles were blown out by Xavier on Saturday evening.

Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen may be the best player left in the West Region. In games against North Dakota and St. Mary's, Markkanen scored 36 points on just 18 shots, getting to the free throw line for 14 attempts. He also reeled in 17 rebounds and led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16.

South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell began the weekend with a thorough domination of No. 10 Marquette with 29 points, 11 rebounds, two assist, two blocks and three steals. The senior followed that up with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists while leading the high-profile upset of No. 2 Duke.

Joel Embiid among several NBA players to participate in Basketball without Borders

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Joel Embiid among several NBA players to participate in Basketball without Borders

Joel Embiid is giving back, joining several NBA players for the Basketball without Borders camp in Africa.

The NBA and FIBA will host 80 boys and girls ages 17 and under from 26 African countries, including Embiid's native Cameroon. It'll be the 15th edition of Basketball without Borders.

The camp will be held from Aug. 2 to Aug. 5 at the American International School of Johannesburg, culminating with the NBA Africa Game 2017 at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa. The exhibition pits Team Africa, which includes players born in Africa and second-generation African players, against players from the rest of the world.

It's already been announced that Embiid is on the roster, but not playing, for Team Africa. Embiid, 23, missed the final 37 games of the 2016-17 season with a knee injury. His first NBA season came after he missed the first two years of his career with a foot injury.

There will be a heavy local vibe at BWB this year. Embiid will be joined by assistant coach Lloyd Pierce as well as former Sixers Bruce Bowen, Elton Brand and fellow Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute. Philly native Kyle Lowry and Chester native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will also be there. 

Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and budding star Kristaps Porzingis will also be among the players on hand.

NBA Notes: Derrick Rose, Cavs reach agreement on 1-year deal

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NBA Notes: Derrick Rose, Cavs reach agreement on 1-year deal

CLEVELAND -- For the moment, the Cavaliers have one content, proven point guard.

Free agent Derrick Rose agreed Monday to sign with Cleveland, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. Rose, a former NBA MVP who has struggled with knee injuries, will get a one-year contract at the veteran's minimum of $2.1 million, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the agreement.

The deal is expected to be finalized and announced Tuesday.

Rose played for the New York Knicks last season and averaged 18 points and 4.4 assists. The 28-year-old Rose's role with the Cavs is still to be determined. He could be used as a backup or even start depending on what the team does with All-Star Kyrie Irving, who recently asked for a trade.

Irving's demands have complicated things for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who were beaten by Golden State in the Finals. They'll certainly find interest in Irving, but it may be challenging to find comparable talent in return.

That's where Rose comes in. If healthy, Rose is a dynamic scorer capable of taking over a game, and paired with LeBron James, he could be even more dangerous (see full story).

Spurs: Gasol signs 3-year deal
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs have signed Pau Gasol to a three-year contract.

The Spurs announced the signing on Monday. Gasol opted out of the two-year deal he signed last summer to give the Spurs more salary cap flexibility to supplement the roster in free agency. But he always intended to re-sign with San Antonio, where he averaged 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in just over 25 minutes per game last season.

Gasol played 64 games, filling a starting role and coming off the bench for a team that won 61 games and lost to Golden State in the Western Conference finals.

Gasol's help allowed the Spurs to add Rudy Gay and Brandon Paul in free agency.

Cavaliers: Altman officially named full-time GM
CLEVELAND -- Koby Altman's summer job has turned into something permanent.

The Cavaliers, who have had a bumpy few weeks since losing in the NBA Finals, named Altman their full-time general manager on Monday. Altman's promotion had been expected for days and is a reward for the 34-year-old, who has been serving as Cleveland's interim GM this summer after David Griffin parted ways with the club.

Altman came to Cleveland in 2012 and was promoted to Griffin's assistant last summer after the Cavs won the championship. He will be the fifth GM for owner Dan Gilbert since 2005.

Gilbert said he's been impressed with the job Altman -- and other members of Cleveland's front office -- have done over the past five weeks.

"Koby Altman has led our front office group through this transition period, impressing many inside the franchise and outside the organization, as well," Gilbert said in a statement. "We are very excited that he will now be officially leading the basketball side of our franchise. Koby has the credentials, knowledge, experience and instincts to be an outstanding general manager. In addition to these positive attributes and outstanding relationships around the league, Koby will inspire and impact the best possible culture throughout the organization" (see full story).

Pistons: Montego inks 2-way contract
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Pistons have signed Luis Montero to a two-way contract.

The team announced the deal Monday. The 6-foot-7 Montero played 49 games last season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League. He played in 12 NBA games with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015-16, averaging 1.2 points, 0.3 rebounds and 0.1 assists.

NBA teams are allowed two two-way players on their roster at any time, in addition to the 15-man, regular-season roster.