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Brazdeikis wrapping up pre-draft whirlwind

Wed Jun 19 3:07am ET
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer

With only a few days remaining before the NBA draft, Iggy Brazdeikis enjoyed a reunion of sorts when he worked out for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That meant a chance to catch up with John Beilein.

''It was so cool. It honestly kind of felt like home, seeing him there,'' Brazdeikis said. ''It just felt really good, playing in front of him again, and kind of just getting to talk to him and catch up with everything.''

It's no surprise that Brazdeikis welcomed a little familiarity. There's no telling what the 20-year-old should expect in Thursday night's draft, and preparing for it can be a grind. It's a time when a player's life is changing quite a bit, but Brazdeikis will find out his next step soon enough.

''Obviously, you always want to be higher in the draft, but at the end of the day, it's about getting that right fit,'' he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Brazdeikis left Michigan after just one season, part of an offseason of upheaval for the Wolverines. Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole also left early for the draft, but the most jarring change was the departure of Beilein, who coached Michigan back to relevance over the past dozen years. Beilein left to take the coaching job with the Cavaliers, and the Wolverines replaced him with Juwan Howard.

So when Brazdeikis worked out for Cleveland on Monday and had a chance to talk to Beilein, things were different.

''He cares for all his players. But you know, there was a little bit of a difference in the talk, in that it was kind of more relaxed,'' Brazdeikis said. ''We could just talk. ... I'm not his college athlete anymore, so we were just able to talk and have a great, friendly conversation.''

The 6-foot-7 Brazdeikis led Michigan with 14.8 points per game last season, and his impact was immediate. He scored in double figures in nine of his first 10 college games, including an 18-point effort in a blowout win at Villanova, and 24 points in a home victory over North Carolina. Brazdeikis was a confident player all season, but those two games early on really gave him a boost. It was clear he could compete against good competition.

He fit into Michigan's offense nicely, shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, and the Wolverines eventually made it to the Sweet 16.

Beilein left last month to go to the Cavaliers. Brazdeikis said his phone was ''blowing up'' the morning the news broke. He says he wondered if he might've missed his flight to the NBA's draft combine, which was around the same time.

The combine turned out to be a positive experience for Brazdeikis.

''That was really great. That was the first time I actually felt like a professional,'' Brazdeikis said. ''Got to wear suits ... and have those meetings with those NBA teams, which was a lot of fun for me.''

The pre-draft process had some tough moments as well. Brazdeikis was at the workout where Matthews, his college teammate, tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

''It definitely broke my heart and was one of the saddest moments of my career,'' Brazdeikis said. ''He's a real close friend of mine. It's just heartbreaking. I know for a fact that he's going to come back even stronger.''

Brazdeikis is hoping for the best for Matthews, and he says he's kept in touch with Poole. All any of them can do Thursday is wait. A mock draft at si.com projects Brazdeikis to go late in the second round.

Brazdeikis, who is from Ontario, says he'll be watching the draft in the Toronto area with family and friends.

''I feel really good. It's kind of funny. I actually feel kind of calm right now,'' he said. ''Just being on the road and working out for 13 NBA teams, and just working hard every single day - it's just kind of relaxing to be home right now. ... With the draft coming up, I'm so excited, and I'm super pumped up.''

Player Notes
Bryn Forbes Aug 13 11:50am ET

San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes (quad) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Utah Jazz. The team is going to be cautious here, especially with Forbes battling left quad soreness. Keldon Johnson will be asked to play significant minutes off the bench in Thursday's game. He'll be an interesting low-cost DFS option for Thursday's slate.

Kristaps Porzingis Aug 13 11:40am ET

Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis (heel) has been downgraded to doubtful for Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns. He was listed as questionable on Wednesday, but it sounds like the Mavs want to be cautious here. This game doesn't have any value in terms of playoff seeding, so the team will likely opt to rest Porzingis. Maximilian Kleber and Boban Marjanovic will see more playing time if Porzingis sits out. Both players are worth watching for DFS contests on Thursday.

Rui Hachimura Aug 13 11:40am ET

Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (quad) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Boston Celtics. He was a late scratch from the Wizards' bubble finale, but the team wants to be cautious with their young forward. Johnathan Williams is expected to draw the start with Moritz Wagner getting more minutes as well. Neither player is going to be trustworthy in DFS contests.

Shabazz Napier Aug 13 11:40am ET

Washington Wizards guard Shabazz Napier (ankle) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Boston Celtics. He wasn't doing much damage when he was in the rotation, so this won't be a huge blow to the team. Troy Brown should draw the start with Ish Smith coming off the bench. Brown has struggled during the bubble, but is worth a look in DFS contests due to the fact he'll see significant playing time.

Kent Bazemore Aug 13 11:30am ET

Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore (calf) has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings have been eliminated from the postseason, so they have no incentive to play Bazemore at less than 100 percent. Daquan Jeffries should see significant playing time, so he could be a low-cost DFS option for Thursday's slate.

Seth Curry Aug 13 11:30am ET

Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (leg) is listed as probable for Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns. He has been dealing with right leg soreness for some time, but was upgraded from questionable. Curry is expected to be limited since he is still battling an injury. He'll be a risky DFS option, assuming he is restricted for Thursday's game. Trey Burke and Delon Wright could see increased playing time, but neither is worth a look in DFS contests.

Justin Holiday Aug 13 8:30am ET

Indiana Pacers guard/forward Justin Holiday was on a roll in Wednesday's matchup with the Rockets, finishing a 108-104 win with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting. He had a superb 4-for-8 record from downtown while adding six rebounds, two steals, one assist, and one block to his line. This was clearly Holidays' best performance since the restart and also one of his most productive games all season. He's been getting plenty of minutes in Orlando, but he had failed to make at least 30 percent of his shots in all of the previous games, so it's been a huge struggle for him.

Victor Oladipo Aug 13 8:30am ET

Indiana Pacers shooting guard Victor Oladipo was awful on Wednesday against the Rockets, shooting 7-for-26 from the field, but he still ended up logging a game-high 37 minutes. It's the most he's played all season which is great news regarding his health, but he clearly needs to perform better if the Pacers are going to go anywhere in the playoffs. Oladipo finished with 16 points on Wednesday, going 2-for-12 from deep. He also had six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. The Pacers take on the Heat next against whom Oladipo had a 14-point performance in 28 minutes earlier in the week.

Myles Turner Aug 13 8:20am ET

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner became the latest big to shine against Houston, finishing Wednesday's 108-104 win with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also had two assists, one block and one steal in 28 minutes of action. It actually wasn't a particularly good offensive night for Turner, with him going 5-for-14 from the field, but the 24-year-old was busy at the charity stripe and did a great job with 8-for-10 shooting. Turner will get a much tougher challenge next against Bam Adebayo and the Heat. The two teams already met at the start of the week and Turner was limited to nine points and seven boards.

Robert Covington Aug 13 8:20am ET

Houston Rockets forward Robert Covington had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in Wednesday's loss to the Pacers, attempting all of his shots from three-point range and finishing with 3-for-8 shooting from the field. He spent 36 minutes on the floor which was by far the most by a Rocket. Covington's offensive performances have been inconsistent in Orlando, but he's a key guy for the Rockets defensively and could be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. Before the postseason starts, Covington gets a revenge game against the Sixers on Friday. He spent a productive four years in Philly before getting traded in November 2018.

Jeff Green Aug 13 8:10am ET

Houston Rockets power forward Jeff Green missed all four of his attempts from downtown but still had a solid bench outing in a loss to Indiana, scoring 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting and adding three rebounds, one steal and one block to his line. Green has been a very useful pickup for Houston, and he's carved out a solid role for himself, even playing 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games. The veteran forward is hitting form just at the right time, with the playoffs starting next week.

James Harden Aug 13 8:00am ET

Houston Rockets guard James Harden had a wonderful 45-point performance on Wednesday against the Pacers, shooting 13-for-21 from the field with a 7-for-14 record from downtown. He also tied his career high with 17 rebounds and dished out nine assists with six turnovers and three steals. The league's top scorer has been in great form in the seeding games, and he should be very motivated to finally register efficient post-season performances. The Rockets take on the Beard's former team OKC in the first round. Harden shot below 33 percent from the field in three regular-season games against them this season, so it looks like a difficult matchup for him.

Brandon Clarke Aug 12 11:10am ET

Memphis Grizzlies power forward/center Brandon Clarke provided an excellent boost off the bench, but his club still fell short to the polished Celtics. Clarke scored 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting and added six rebounds and a block in his 29 minutes. Clarke has stepped with the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) out and is posting 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting a sizzling 63.3% from the floor over his last three games. Keep him on your radar for Thursday as he has been quite reliable over this stretch.

Jonas Valanciunas Aug 12 11:10am ET

Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas did all he could on Tuesday to try to help his club keep their postseason hopes alive, but it was not enough in the loss Boston. Valanciunas netted 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes but the big man was a minus-22 while on the floor. Gorgui Dieng also provided a solid spark off the bench with 10 points, five boards, and three steals and was actually a plus-seven in his 23 minutes. The Grizzlies have one last try to attempt to secure that their season resumes on Thursday and the Grizz will need their best out of JV in that one.

Ja Morant Aug 12 11:00am ET

Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant brought his prime game on Tuesday as he exploded for a monster line, yet it was not enough in the loss to the Boston Celtics. Morant tallied 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor while connecting on 11 of 15 from the line. Morant also found his teammates by handing out 13 assists with four rebounds and two blocks with a steal for one of the lines of the night. We can assume Morant will have another high-usage outing on Thursday in hopes to keep his club's season alive against the Bucks, who we can assume will be resting many starters.

Jayson Tatum Aug 12 10:50am ET

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continued his elite form on Tuesday in the win over the Grizzlies. Tatum shot an incredible 10 of 13 from the floor en route to 29 points in 29 minutes of action. The young stud did not stop there as he added six boards, two assists, and a steal while committing five turnovers. Tatum looks to be back to where he was before the break and he will be a force come the postseason. The Celtics go again on Thursday and we can assume Tatum will be limited it he does indeed suit up in that one.

Marcus Smart Aug 12 10:50am ET

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looked great in 29 minutes off the bench as he scored 11 points and added nine assists in the win over the Grizzlies. Smart connected on 3-for-7 shooting from the floor and added three rebounds with a steal in this one. The Celtics are healthy entering the playoffs and Smart has been distributing the ball at an elite level over his last four games (7.3 assists a game in that span), which adds a whole new dimension to the Celtics already efficient offense. The Celtics close out the regular season on Thursday and stay tuned to see if Smart suits up in that one, or if he gets the night off.

Kemba Walker Aug 12 10:40am ET

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker needed just 10 shots (making seven of them) to record 19 points in the win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Walker also nailed two triples to go along with four boards and three steals in the fine-tuning game for the Celtics. Walker and the Celtics take on the Wizards on Thursday to close out the regular season. If Walker does suit up in that one, we can assume he will play limited minutes to rest up for the postseason, so there will probably be better options out there.

Nemanja Bjelica Aug 12 10:40am ET

Sacramento Kings power forward Nemanja Bjelica played a heavy 33 minutes and made the most of his time by filling up the box score in the six-point win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Bjelica scored 13 points while adding five rebounds with two assists and two steals with a block. We know when the Serbian gets the minutes he will produce and this could be a similar case on Thursday in the meaningless season-ending game against the Lakers. Thursday is going to be a wild one in the DFS world but put Bjelica on your watchlist as we could see similar production from the big man.

Harrison Barnes Aug 12 10:30am ET

Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes took on the extra workload with De'Aaron Fox sitting out this one. Barnes connected on 9-for-19 shooting en route to 25 points and added eight boards with two assists and two blocks without committing a single turnover in 37 minutes in the win over the Pelicans. We can assume Barnes will take on a similar role on Thursday in his club's season finale against the Lakers - add him to your watchlist, especially if the Kings decide to rest some players once again.