What NBA scouts will be watching in each Thursday tourney game


What are the best NBA draft matchups of the day in the NCAA tournament, what’s at stake, and what will scouts be watching for? We’re breaking down the field game by game.

Up first: a Thursday slate featuring nine prospects in the lottery in our latest mock draft.

While trying to develop neophyte point guard Dejounte Murray, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is trying to keep a 20-year postseason streak alive. Troy Taormina/USA TODAY
The loss to the Rockets left San Antonio sitting at 10th in the West behind the LA Clippers, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, teams that occupy the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 spots. The Jazz own the tiebreaker with the Spurs, while a tiebreaker with Denver will come down to both teams’ final conference records.

The Spurs are on pace to win just 45 games.

We’re in a position now where we’ve dropped, veteran center Pau Gasol said. We’ve lost a few in a row, and now, there’s no margin for error anymore. Before, it was slim. Now, there is none. So now we’ve just got to go out there, and compete and win.

The current playoff format really hampers the Jets in that they’d have to face the titan of their own division in the second round. I just think Nashville is a deeper team overall — even though I don’t think the gap is as significant as you might think — and after getting so close last year, the Predators are even better now. On the other side, the Caps are used to the playoff format putting them in a tough spot, but you have to find a way, right? They might have just enough to get past the Penguins this time, but I’m going to need to see it to believe it.

Regardless of which team goes further, I think this is going to be an important building-block season for Winnipeg. The Jets are right on the cusp of taking their place among the league’s heavyweights. They have a few key contracts to resolve this summer, namely Hellebuyck’s and Jacob Trouba’s new deals as restricted free agents, but the Jets’ core has a chance to be special over the next few seasons. That Stanley Cup window seems like it’s peeking open. It will be interesting to see what Winnipeg can do during this postseason, where it should be viewed at least as a legitimate threat.

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