SH Blog: McGrady expresses regret for leaving Raptors; Ibaka expects Martin to leave; Magic trading pick?

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The Toronto Raptors possessed one of the most dynamic and electrifying scoring tandems the league had ever seen at the turn of the century. The only problem? Nobody knew.

Now, nearly fifteen years and six NBA teams later, Tracy McGrady is playing in his first NBA Finals with the San Antonio Spurs. Yesterday, McGrady admitted that he and his cousin, Vince Carter, had squandered an opportunity to build a dynasty by not staying together north of the border.  Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter

At the Spurs’ press conference yesterday, McGrady told the Toronto Suns’ Ryan Wolstat:

“At that time, I think Toronto probably could have competed for championships with the Lakers, that’s what I think.”

However, the Raptors never had an opportunity to realize their full potential. In 2000, McGrady, who was tired of playing in Vince Carter’s shadow, left the Raptors in a sign-and-trade for a max contract in his hometown of Orlando.

McGrady does not blame himself nor the Raptors for the premature ending to what could have been a championship team. Looking back, McGrady admits that he was never sure he would amount to the two-time scoring champion and seven-time all star that he became.

“Toronto, they didn’t know I was capable of that type of performance as far as scoring. I didn’t (even) know I had that in me,” he admitted.

After all, while McGrady was certainly a blue chipper with the Raptors, few could have foreseen him nearly double his scoring average from 15.4 points per game in his final season in Toronto as a 20-year-old to 26.8 points per game in his first season with the Magic as a 21-year-old.

Of course, if the Spurs do end up winning the championship this year, McGrady will have little to do with it. He has become the team’s human victory cigar this postseason, appearing in only four of the Spurs’ 15 postseason games. He has logged zero points in just over 17 minutes of action.

McGrady’s decline, in a way, can serve as a reminder of just how important it is for stars to have strong supporting casts and reasonable minute limits through the course of grueling NBA seasons. While Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both older than McGrady, they continue to produce at high levels because their Spurs have been powerhouses in the West for years and Gregg Popovich has been masterful at giving them proper rest.

McGrady, on the other hand, had to almost singlehandedly will the Magic and (to a lesser extent) the Rockets to the playoffs on six separate occasions. 

“I had to carry a franchise for a lot of years. I had to do a lot more than a lot of some of these guys do and it caught up for me,” McGrady acknowledged.

Still, McGrady has no complaints with his current situation as a Spurs benchwarmer. When asked about his role for the Spurs, McGrady spoke candidly: “S—, I don’t think I’m going to play. I watch just like you. I just have a better seat.”

Be it as a superstar or super-sub, McGrady has always found a way to enamor the media with golden quotes like this one:

 

Now, let’s see what else is going on around the league:

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2013 NBA Draft: Top Small Forward Prospects

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Will the 2013 draft deliver the next LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Carmelo Anthony? Absolutely not, but it could deliver a quality starter or a key contributor off the bench.

The NBA is a copycat league, and with the majority of the best players in the league playing small forward, it is easy to see why teams are eager to target that position in the draft. 

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Zagoria: NCAA Tournament: Whose Stock is Rising?

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NEW ORLEANS — Here in The Big Easy for the NCAA Final Four, there are a slew of future NBA lottery picks set to take the floor Saturday night at the SuperDome.

Four of the projected top six picks on DraftExpress.com’s Mock Draft and five of the top 12 play for Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State. (Louisville is the lone Final Four representative without a projected lottery pick.)

Numerous other players no longer in the NCAA Tournament have also helped their stock since the Madness began.

Here’s a look at some top prospects who are here, and some who aren’t.

Top 5 NBA Prospects in the Final Four:

1. Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky

The presumptive No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Davis was named the U.S. Basketball Writers National Player of the Year. He impacts the game on both ends of the floor and his offensive game is coming along nicely. Davis has had three double-digit scoring games in the NCAA Tournament, including an 18-point, 11-rebound outing in the rout of Baylor.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky

Though Kidd-Gilchrist previously said he would return to school for his sophomore season, reports recently surfaced that he would come out. And why not? He’s projected as a Top 3 pick. A tremendous transition and inside player, the former St. Patrick star needs to develop his perimeter game.

3. Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas

The latest Kansas big man to follow in the footsteps of recent college successes Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins, Robinson projects to be a better NBA player. He’s more physical, rebounds well on both ends and has been the heart and soul of this undermanned Kansas team all year.

4. Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State

After choosing to remain in school following a freshman season in which he could’ve been a lottery pick, Sullinger has the Buckeyes back in the Final Four for the first time since 2007, when they lost in the championship game to Florida. A big, strong, skilled post player, he and fellow forward Deshaun Thomas form a deadly 1-2 punch that will be on display against Robinson and Kansas center Jeff Withey.

5. Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky

The knock on Jones is that he doesn’t always play hard and his stock has dropped somewhat over the course of the season. But there’s no denying his talent level, and when he decides to play hard he’s one of the best forwards in the college game. He has all the tools necessary to play in the NBA, but questions linger over his commitment level.

Five Players Whose Stock Has Risen in the Tournament:

1. Bradley Beal, G, Florida

A potential lottery pick, Beal has great upside and can rebound well for a guard. NBA scouts love his handle and his ability to play-make in the halfcourt. He has 3-point range but can also get to the basket.

2. Royce White, F, Iowa State

A skilled point/power forward, White went for 23 points and 9 rebounds in third-round loss to Kentucky. NBA scouts like his skill set but feel he has to develop a more consistent jump shot and free throw.

3. C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh

The 6-3 combo guard has declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. He is projected as a mid- to late-second round pick but NBA scouts see him as a scorer who can attack off the dribble. ”When his career is done at Lehigh, he will go to the NBA and help some team win,” Lehigh coach Jeff Jones said.

4. C.J. Leslie, F, N.C. State

Projected as a second-round pick, Leslie is an athlete who rebounds and will be effective in an uptempo style where he can use his athleticism. Leslie is also effective from 15 feet and in attacking the basket off the dribble.

5. Jae Crowder, F, Marquette

The Big East Player of the Year is a tough, physical forward who plays with energy on both ends of the floor. He is projected as a late second-round pick. Marquette finished second in the Big East to Syracuse this year.

Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog covers the future stars of the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamZagoria.