T.J. Leaf

Atlantic Notes: Carmelo, Sixers, Raptors

Knicks president Phil Jackson has made it clear that his preference is to move Carmelo Anthony to another team this offseason, but if it were up to Lance Thomas, Anthony would be staying in New York. As Marc Berman of The New York Post writes, Thomas called Carmelo one of his “best friends” and a great teammate.

“I love him here,” Thomas said. “I love him as a teammate, love him as a competitor, love him as a person. Everything else is out of my control, but his approach has always been great. He’s an amazing professional. I’m not going to comment on what’s happening with him and the [Knicks] and trade rumors. I just know I love him as a teammate. I want it to work out.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

Central Notes: Pistons, Valentine, Bucks, Pacers

Having remained at No. 12 after Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, the Pistons are scouting a wide range of prospects and won’t necessarily target a player at a position of need next month, per GM Jeff Bower (link via Rod Beard of The Detroit News). As Bower explained, a player’s value and long-term potential may make him the best pick for Detroit, even if he doesn’t immediately fit into the team’s rotation.

Our list of draft picks by team shows that the Pistons’ 12th overall selection is currently their only pick in this year’s draft. That could make it difficult for the club to bring in second-round prospects for workouts, but Bower remains hopeful that those players will be willing to audition for the team, recognizing that they could be undrafted free agents, or that the Pistons could acquire a second-round pick.

“Some guys aren’t going to want to come in and work out if they don’t see a vehicle at the end of it,” said the Pistons’ GM. “The reality of it is we are looking for guys where we don’t have a second-round pick now — we could (via a trade) — but those possibilities change, so you want to try to be prepared. … Our relationships with agents are strong. They like our program and like their guys to have the exposure to us.”

Here’s more from around the Central division:

Heat Notes: Wade, Bosh, J. Johnson, Draft

Udonis Haslem and Tyler Johnson made a public appearance today to help Dwyane Wade sell sneakers, but they avoided questions about whether their former teammate might rejoin them with the Heat, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Wade is considering whether to opt out of his $23.8MM contract with the Bulls for next season. If he does, many believe he will decide to return to Miami, where he spent his first 13 seasons. Haslem and Johnson have both been in touch with Wade since Chicago was eliminated from the playoffs last week. “He’s going to have to make the best decision for him,” Johnson said. “I know he wants to be in a situation where he’s playing for a team that’s kind of established. I don’t think he wants to go through a rebuilding process.”
There’s more news out of Miami:
  • The Heat are expected to petition the league office soon to have Chris Bosh‘s salary removed from their cap. Bosh was kept on the roster all season after failing a physical in training camp over blood clot problems that have plagued him for the past two seasons. Haslem tells Winderman in the same story that he has contacted Bosh but hasn’t discussed his NBA future. “Chris is one of those guys, when he puts his mind it, he can do anything,” Haslem said. “So he doesn’t lack opportunity. He’s going to have a lot of opportunity to do a lot of things. He’s a very well-rounded guy. And whatever he does, he’s going to be great at it.” If Bosh is able to play enough games for another team, his $52MM salary would be put back onto the Heat’s cap.
  • Free agent forward James Johnson may not be guaranteed a starting job if he re-signs with the Heat this summer, Winderman speculates in another piece. With Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic both starting, Johnson may give Miami too many players on the court at the same time who need to handle the ball. Also, Justise Winslow may claim one of the starting forward slots when he returns from injury.
  • Winderman examines who the Heat might take if they keep the No. 14 pick in the May 16th lottery. Players who have been linked to Miami in that spot include Duke’s Harry Giles, UCLA’s T.J. Leaf, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, California’s Ivan Rabb, Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Indiana’s OG Anunoby, Duke’s Luke Kennard, Wake Forest’s John Collins and two overseas players, Terrence Ferguson of Australia and Frank Ntilikina of France.

T.J. Leaf To Enter 2017 NBA Draft

UCLA power forward T.J. Leaf has elected to enter the 2017 NBA draft and will hire an agent, forgoing his remaining NCAA eligibility, he tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link). Leaf, who confirmed his decision on his Twitter account, is coming off his freshman year, so he’ll go pro after just one season with the Bruins.

[RELATED: 2017 NBA draft early entrants list]

Leaf, 19, had a very successful freshman year at UCLA, averaging 16.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 1.1 BPG in just under 30 minutes per contest. He also knocked down field goals at an excellent rate, shooting 61.7% from the floor and 46.6% from three-point range.

A probable first-round pick, Leaf ranks 28th overall on DraftExpress’ big board, though Jonathan Givony has him coming off the board at No. 22 in his latest mock draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford is even more bullish on the young big man, placing Leaf 17th overall in his top 100 and writing that he’ll likely be drafted in the 12-to-20 range.

According to Ford, Leaf’s ability to score from anywhere on the court is “the big appeal” for scouts — he’s one of the most offensively talented big man in the draft. Although his lack of length and possible defensive shortcomings are a cause for some concern, Leaf should still come off the board fairly early in June, Ford adds.

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