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Projected NBA Draft picks Birch, Burton snubbed

It’s too late to go back now, but another year of college basketball probably would have served Khem Birch better.

Still, staying for his senior season did not help Deonte Burton.

Birch, a power forward from UNLV, and Burton, a point guard from UNR, each went ignored Thursday night in the NBA Draft after being projected as second-round picks.

“I’m very disappointed for Khem, but it was a very strong, deep draft,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said. “He will have opportunities to be on a summer league team, and I’m sure he will be determined to make it work.”

The 6-foot-9-inch Birch, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West, made a questionable decision to leave UNLV after a junior season in which he averaged 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds to go with 124 blocked shots.

Burton is set to sign a free-agent contract with the Washington Wizards, according to a source.

The snub of Burton was one of the night’s surprises. He considered entering the draft after his junior year, and averaged 20.1 points last season for the Wolf Pack, who swept two games against the Rebels.

Birch was not the only former UNLV player to get the cold shoulder. Roscoe Smith, who averaged 11.1 points and 10.9 rebounds as a junior forward, also went undrafted. But that result was expected.

The draft was just as disappointing for former Rebels forward Mike Moser, who transferred to Oregon for his senior season. Moser, who was being hyped as a potential lottery pick midway through the 2011-12 season at UNLV, also wasn’t drafted.

Two players from the Mountain West — New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow and San Diego State point guard Xavier Thames — did get called in the second round.

The Chicago Bulls selected Bairstow with the 49th pick. He was a first-team All-Mountain West performer as a senior, when he averaged 20.4 points and 7.4 rebounds as the league’s most improved player.

Two of Bairstow’s teammates with the Lobos, center Alex Kirk and point guard Kendall Williams, did not get picked.

Thames, the conference Player of the Year as a senior, was drafted 59th by Toronto and traded to Brooklyn.

Arizona shooting guard Nick Johnson, a Findlay Prep product, went to the Houston Rockets at No. 42.

Pierre Jackson, a point guard from Desert Pines High School, was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade for the 47th pick. Jackson, a former Baylor star, was drafted 42nd by the 76ers last year before being dealt to New Orleans.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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