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. Wizards blow out Raptors to complete first-round sweep

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors

    Another stellar performance from John Wall buries Toronto’s season.

  2. Watch Chris Paul, Blake Griffin combine for big days to even Clippers with Spurs (VIDEO)

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Blake Griffin, ,Chris Paul Blake Griffin, ,Chris Paul

    The Clippers needed their big stars to step up Sunday or they were going to be in a very deep hole. They got it.

  3. Chris Paul scores 34 points, Clippers win Game 4 to even series with Spurs

    Apr 26, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT

    Tiago Splitter, Chris Paul AP

    Blake Griffin grabbed 19 rebounds, and Austin Rivers (!) chipped in 16 points in 17 minutes off the bench.

  4. Report: Sixers to select D’Angelo Russell in 2015 NBA Draft

    Apr 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Ohio State v Indiana AP

    “He’s the guy they want,” the report says.

  5. LaMarcus Aldridge flew back to Portland after Game 2 loss while rest of Blazers stayed in Memphis

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

    Players were given the option by the team’s GM, but Aldridge — who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer — was the only one who chose to leave.

  6. Grizzlies start fast, hang on to beat Portland, take 3-0 series lead

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:37 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Getty Images

    Memphis’ offense was the best it has looked this series.

  7. Bucks outwork Bulls, stay alive on Jerryd Bayless game-winner

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Milwaukee forced 26 Chicago turnovers, a season high.

Featured video

Stephen Curry starting to define playoff legacy
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (4375)
  2. C. Parsons (4060)
  3. N. Mirotic (3621)
  4. D. Lee (3570)
  5. K. Durant (3529)
  1. T. Parker (3436)
  2. K. Bryant (3304)
  3. P. George (3212)
  4. J. Holiday (3078)
  5. A. Afflalo (3076)