Skip to content

Ten prospects NBA fans should watch in NCAA Tournament

Mar 20, 2013, 2:37 PM EDT

WCC Basketball Tournament - Championship Saint Mary's v Gonzaga Getty Images

We fans place a lot more weight in evaluating players on what they do in the NCAA Tournament than do NBA teams scouting the draft. They have already watched the tape on every game the guy has played this season and likely been to some practices. Then later they will measure him at the combine and likely see him in private workouts.

But the Tournament is a piece in that puzzle, and for some players a bigger piece than others. Here is a quick look at 10 guys for whom how they play this weekend (and they hope the next couple) could play a part in their draft status. (If you’re trying to scout the NCAA Tournament, our sister site CollegeBasketballTalk has a lot of great content, such as the tournament’s best big men and guards to watch out for).

Also, it’s a list of guys NBA fans (particularly if you root for a lottery team) may want to get to know.

Kelly Olynyk, 7’0” center, Gonzaga. He’s more than just that guy with long hair — he has size, moves well and has a really good scoring touch. In a league that values efficient scorers, Olynk is that (he shot 65 percent this season). But coming out of a small conference there are questions about how he deals with the size and athleticism he will see in the NBA. The Tournament will start to be a test of that. He’s a late lottery pick right now, but that could rise or fall depending on how he does in big matchups.

Ben McLemore, 6’4” shooting guard, Kansas. Fans need to familiarize themselves with him — he is going to be a top 3 pick. Going No. 1 is possible. He’s athletic and has a silky-smooth shot that has led some to use a Ray Allen comparison. That’s a little steep for my taste, but he’s a late bloomer and a guy you can say the most overused of draft buzzword about — upside — and be right. But because he isn’t great at creating his own shot McLemore has disappeared in some big games and at the end of other key games. Do that in the tournament and he doesn’t help his cause.

Anthony Bennett, 6’7” power forward, UNLV. Guys coming out of smaller conferences always get watched closely in the tournament to see how they do against the bigger and better players that they are likely to face. Bennett is a beast in the paint, a big physical frame who has thrown down some of the best dunks of the college season. He’s shown flashes of an outside shot and handles, but can he do that consistently? Against better talent? He’s already a top 10 pick and can help his cause.

Shabazz Muhammad, 6’6” shooting guard, UCLA. A year ago he was the guy battling Nerlens Noel for the top spot in the draft on projected boards. Now he has fallen back — not out of the top 10, maybe not even the top 5, but he’s seen more as a role player than a guy who can be a franchise cornerstone. He’s athletic and strong, he can score and defend, and his effort isn’t in question. But he doesn’t use his right hand well and doesn’t create off the dribble well. He has a lot of questions to answer for teams and the tournament needs to be the start of it or he could slip down draft boards.

Patric Young, 6’9” center, Florida. He was highly recruited coming out of high school, but he’s been up and down (at best) in college. He passes the eye test, he looks like a powerful NBA inside player, but Kwame Brown passes the eye test, too. Young just disappears for games, he’s very inconsistent. He’s a late first, early second round pick in this draft, a big tournament could help him get the guaranteed money of the first round rather than the make-good contract of a second rounder.

Mike Muscala, 6’11” center, Bucknell. He’s a senior who has developed into a good inside/outside scorer that is the focus of the Bison offense. He’s got a lot of polish on his game, like you expect from a senior. But coming out of the Patriot League, what can he do against bigger, more athletic NBA players? Right now he’s considered an early second round pick. A good tournament and good workouts and he can move up.

Jamaal Franklin, 6’5” shooting guard, San Diego State. He isn’t just a guy who can dunk. Although he does that quite well. He’s an athletic high-flier that is the kind of guy who can shoot up draft boards with a few good games against quality competition. Particularly games where he shows a stead jump shot, because if he had that he wouldn’t be a late first round pick. He’s be much, much higher.

C.J. Leslie, 6’9” forward, North Caronia State. He’s long, athletic, quick, the kind of tools teams look for in a modern forward. He’s also very inconsistent (much like the Wolfpack). If he can string together some big games on the big stage it can raise his stock, but he is a lottery-level talent who will not be taken there.

James Michael McAdoo, 6’9” power forward, North Carolina. He was a projected high lottery pick early on who has fallen to the middle of the first round with his inconsistently. It’s not just that he’s had to play center in the Tar Heel’s small ball lineups, he needs a more consistent perimeter shot at the next level. He needs to show he can score and facing two good defensive teams (Villanova and Kansas) would be a good test.

Gorgui Dieng, 6’11” center, Louisville. He’s a raw offensive player who at 23 is older for the NBA draft. Those things usually make you a second round pick, at best. But Dieng has been the defensive anchor for a top-seed Cardinals and that has pushed him into the bottom of the first round. He can rebound and is a good passer, just not a shooter. But the defense is selling him — NBA team doesn’t want a guy who can protect the rim and allow them to pressure more on the perimeter? A few good games in the tournament can help cement his first round status.

Latest Posts
  1. Dion Waiters explains tweet saying he wouldn’t accept bench role

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT

    2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

    Cavaliers guard says initial response stemmed from his straightforward approach, confidence

  2. NBA considering charity All-Star game in South Africa

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela

    Collective Bargaining Agreement limits offseason charity games to United States and Canada

  3. Report: Gregg Popovich had hip-replacement surgery

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Popovich signed contract extension with Spurs this offseason

  4. Durant says 2014 USA team better than 2010 version that won gold

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT

    Image (1) durant_usa_fun-thumb-250x159-20234.jpg for post 4140

    “That 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.” —Kevin Durant

  5. Report: Magic signing Peyton Siva to unguaranteed contract

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic

    Orlando reportedly plans to send former Pistons point guard to D-League

  6. Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about his free agency but isn’t giving many clues. He liked what LeBron did.

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    “I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, I love it here. Who knows what will happen.” —Kevin Durant on his 2016 free agency.

  7. Report: Eric Bledsoe-Suns ‘relationship is on the express lane to being ruined’

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

    Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

    Bledsoe reportedly resents how differently Pistons, Jazz and Rockets treated their restricted free agents

  8. Report: Mike Scott considering ‘lucrative’ offer to play in Russia

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers - Game Seven Getty Images

    CSKA-Moscow wants to poach Scott from Atlanta Hawks

  9. Mavericks sign Ivan Johnson

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks

    Johnson gets NBA contract after eventful summer league

  10. Report: Timberwolves told Kevin Love to sit out the World Cup

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Kevin Love Kevin Love

    I’m not sure Love is taking advice from Minnesota right now

  11. Byron Scott makes ridiculous optimism sound reasonable

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Byron Scott Getty Images

    Lakers introduce Scott as new coach in press conference

  12. Derrick Rose told Carmelo Anthony that if he came to Chicago “the game would be easy”

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    Rose said he was disappointed but he understands ‘Melo’s decision.

  13. LeBron James strips on stage, throws clothes into crowd (video)

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    LeBron James LeBron James

    Want to see LeBron strip down to his underwear?

  14. Steve Nash: ‘I think this is my last season’

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Steve Nash, Meta World Peace Steve Nash, Meta World Peace

    Lakers guard confirms he’s planning on retirement

  15. PBT Extra: Is this the end of Donald Sterling as NBA owner?

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT

    Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

    Donald Sterling isn’t going away, but he’s pretty much done as the Clippers owner now.

  16. Grizzlies name general manager Chris Wallace general manager

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Yes, you read that headline correctly

  17. Is DeMarcus Cousins the big man Team USA can lean on?

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins AP

    The question with Cousins is never talent, but his maturity seems to be there.

  18. Report: Gary Payton assistant-coaching candidate with Lakers, Bucks

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Gary Payton #20 Gary Payton #20

    Jason Kidd or Byron Scott could hire former Seattle SuperSonic

  19. Kyrie Irving’s contract actually falls short of max

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving

    Irving wouldn’t get full 30 percent of adjusted salary cap by triggering Derrick Rose rule

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (4819)
  2. L. James (4183)
  3. K. Love (3600)
  4. D. Rose (3169)
  5. R. Allen (3047)
  1. J. Nelson (3004)
  2. C. Anthony (2930)
  3. K. Bryant (2672)
  4. A. Aminu (2073)
  5. C. Boozer (2004)