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Pistons Links: Pistons eyeing ex-Cavs guard, plus updates on playoff competition

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Making the playoffs isn’t going to be a cakewalk.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Pistons interested in former Cavs shooting guard Jordan McRae?

McRae was waived by the Cavs in very early March. Just a few days ago Sam Amico wrote that several teams, including the Pistons, are interested in 6-foot-5 shooting guard’s services. Before you feel too bad for McRae for being waived by Cleveland (well you kind of should feel bad for him, as the Nets will probably sign him soon and then he’ll play with Dinwiddie on the second unit), he at least won a championship with the team last season.

Nice read on McRae and the cruel business of the NBA, here.

“He was a great scorer, worked hard every day, extremely hard, and continued to get better,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “You saw earlier this year he played some backup point for us, he played the 2, he played the 3, and when guys were out, he was always ready to step in and fill in and play well. Hopefully he gets a chance to play on another team, because he is talented and deserves to be in the NBA. Hopefully another team will give him a good look.”

Just the cruel business:

At least McRae got to be a part of the team that won the first pro sports championship in Cleveland in 52 years. Anderson Varejao, Joe Harris and Jared Cunningham all were in the same shoes last year that McRae finds himself in this year -- spending part of the season with the Cavs, only to have the team send them packing before the playoff roster was set. Last season McRae was the new guy who stuck around, while the others didn’t. This season he was the guy who didn’t stick around while the likes of Bogut, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams came in for the final ride.

Thank you to Melo, Knicks

The Knicks beat the Pacers Tuesday night — and actually it was the Knicks third win over the Pacers this season. Found this nugget regarding Detroit’s old buddy in Indy Cornrows’ game recap:

Carmelo Anthony nearly outscored Indiana in the fourth quarter alone, putting in 15 of his 22 in the final 12 minutes (20 of 22 in the final 14). The Pacers meanwhile had no answer for the improved effort of the Knicks, a troubling trend that began with Ron Baker working over Rodney Stuckey pretty good in the first half.

Nothing against Ron Baker, a decent guard prospect in his own right, but Rodney: what happened? You let an undrafted rookie — still in his rookie season no less — work you over.

More updates from the squads who wish to squash Detroit’s playoff dreams

As if Detroit needed any help with that after their last two pretty porous efforts.

THANKS

The Memphis Grizzlies did the Pistons another solid by beating the Bulls Wednesday night. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol came to play.

NO THANKS

The Indiana Pacers made up for their flop in New York on Tuesday with a win against the Hornets on Wednesday. Paul George scored 39 while only missing six shots from the field.

The Milwaukee Bucks earned a pretty nice win in Clippers territory Wednesday as six players scored in double figures with Khris Middleton and the Greek Freak leading the way with 16 apiece.

Here’s the last play of the game. Greg Monroe’s defense got it done:

WELL, NO THANKS — BUT IT’S STARTING TO BE HARD TO ROOT AGAINST THEM

Last but certainly not least... it’s the Miami Heat. Talk about a starting point guard and a starting center who are playing their best ball at the right time (yes, that’s a dig). Goran Dragic (look at his eye from a few days ago) and Hassan Whiteside were beastly in a victory over the Pelicans Wednesday night. Dragic scored 33 on 11-18 from the field and Whiteside notched 20 points and 17 boards.

Here’s the good stuff from the Miami Herald after the Heat win:

Alvin Gentry wasn’t the least bit surprised to see Goran Dragic back in a Heat uniform on Wednesday night.

“I coached him for four years [in Phoenix],” New Orleans’ coach said of the Heat’s starting point guard, who missed Sunday’s game in Indiana with cartoonish swelling in his right eye after being elbowed by the RaptorsCory Joseph on Saturday night. “He’s one of the toughest guys in the league.

Dragic received M-V-P! chants in the third quarter:

What did it feel like?

“Like D-Wade was here,” Dragic said with a grin, referring to former Heat star Dwyane Wade. “I immediately looked around. That’s great [to hear the MVP chants]. But I’m just here to play.”

...

Though Detroit (33-35) and Chicago (32-36) both lost Wednesday to help the Heat’s cause, the Pistons own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami 2-1 with one meeting left on March 28 in Detroit. Therefore, the Pistons currently own the eighth seed.

Without further ado, here’s how the Eastern conference playoff standings shake out currently:

John Collins left a bit to be desired Tuesday night

A Cincinnati.com writer commented on the performance of Wake Forest 6-foot-10 sophomore power forward John Collins (who I attempted to get people excited about in Tuesday’s links since Collins could be a Pistons draft target later this summer) against Kansas State in a play-in game in Dayton Tuesday night for the right to face the University of Cincinnati in the actual 64-team dance:

I kept hearing how great John Collins was. Maybe, but not last night. Last night, Collins looked like he wanted to be anywhere (in the NBA) but Dayton.

After watching a good portion of the game and focusing generally on Collins I, too, felt similar and can echo the writer’s comments. Collins had far from a poor effort (26 points on 9-13 shooting, nine rebounds), however he didn’t at all seem to want to try and dominate the game. Much of the night he let the smaller Kansas State team beat him up and get several easy baskets against him. Kansas State was aggressive; Collins was not. Collins needs to become stronger and use his body more effectively in the post. In a word, Collins’ defensive ability is far behind his offensive ability at this point.

Local news of potential interest

5-foot-9 junior point-guard Marcus Keene of Central Michigan University (CMU), the NCAA’s leading scorer this season at 30 points per game, and someone who I’ve mentioned in links posts a time or two before, is reportedly, and unsurprisingly, declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft. Strike while you’re hot, surely.

Keene scored more than 40 points in a game seven times in 2016-2017, and set the university and conference all-time season scoring record with 958 points scored.

Keene’s ascendance to national stardom was a surprise, to say the least. An undersized zero-star recruit out of San Antonio, Texas, Keene went to Youngstown State and played a bench role for two years before transferring to Mt. Pleasant (CMU).

Keep in mind:

The NBA rolled out a new rule regarding players that declare for the draft last year, allowing student-athletes to explore the draft without hiring an agent and getting the option to withdraw. It is yet unknown if Keene will hire an agent or not. If he does declare for the draft and hire an agent, he’ll leave a year of eligibility on the table.

However, Keene refuted the reports by saying that he hasn’t made the decision yet. If Keene does indeed go all the way pro, he’ll likely end up a late 2nd round pick or go undrafted. There’s probably no better time for him to declare now, though. It will be difficult to have this good of a season again. And being a fringe NBA player and going undrafted isn’t all that bad of a situation, as the count is already 18 for the number of undrafted players in the 2016 draft that have seen action in a regular season NBA game this season.

Is Wolverines' D.J. Wilson playing his way into the NBA?

University of Michigan 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore power forward D.J. Wilson has been playing outstanding basketball these past several weeks, as has the entire Michigan team. Is D.J. getting any kind of itch to go pro?

While his season totals do not stand out, he has had enough big performances to tease his potential. Wilson reached double-figure scoring in three of U-M's four Big Ten tournament games. In the quarterfinal against Purdue, he scored 26 points and had eight rebounds. His balanced game showed in the final, against Wisconsin, with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists.

In my view, and other Wolverine fans I’m sure will agree, D.J. had better not go pro. He should stay another year with fellow frontcourt standout Moritz Wagner, dominate for the entire season, and then reap all the benefits in 2018. Right now his game is just simply not ready. Would any college hoops fans familiar with Wilson like to weigh in?

~~

The 2017 NCAA Tournament officially begins today. Bring on the wildness! Enjoy it, ya’ll!