Every other Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2014 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…
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How does your bracket look heading into the Sweet 16? Yeah, same for me and everyone else’s bracket. As your teams lose and the games go on, the fate of potential NBA prospects is affected so here is a look at how the 2014 NBA Draft is shaping up midway through the NCAA tournament.
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
ONE: What Do We Know?
Well, only three of the NDI Top 75 Prospects remain in the NCAA tournament with Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Gary Harris all advancing with their teams. The key word there being “team.” The NCAA tournament often brings out the best in team play, which is why underdogs like Butler, VCU, George Mason and Wichita State, to name a few, have entered our lives in March during the madness. That is also the reason why Kentucky, Arizona and Michigan State advanced in the tournament along with their future NBA lottery picks.
Some of the better teams in the country do not boast a lottery or even a first-round prospect like Florida and Virginia; they will beat teams along the way with better individual talent like good teams do every year. That is the unglamorous side of the NCAA tournament, folks: great teams beat great individuals.
TWO: What Do We Not Know?
How will early-round tournament losses affect the draft stock of prospects? Is it better to not have played at all (Noah Vonleh and Joel Embiid) than to have lost too early (Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker)? Will this allow the international crop of prospects to jump the college athletes because of a bad game? Is Dario Saric now a better NBA prospect than Rodney Hood because he didn’t go 2-for-10 from the field in a loss to Mercer?
All of these questions are going to be asked in the media, NBA offices and the main question is: Are they even relevant questions?
THREE: Stock Rising
Two names have stood out with their individual play, and because of that, their teams are still playing in the tournament. Dwight Powell has led Stanford in two upset victories behind his all-around play. In the tournament, he is averaging 9.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.5 APG/SPG, with the offense primarily running through him on the high post. He carved up Kansas after being a decoy against New Mexico. Powell has been in college for seemingly a decade, but has begun to put together all of his talents on the perimeter with his size (6-10), becoming a legitimate NBA prospect again.
Then there is Xavier Thames, who is averaging 26.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 SPG and can be a one man show on offense when needed. Thames is one of the more undervalued prospects in the country and some NBA teams have him rated higher than the more hyped point guard prospects, even as high as the first round.
FOUR: Stock Falling
Let’s take a minute to say nobody. As I mentioned above, are the questions we are asking about these prospects–that lost early or didn’t play at all–even relevant? No. It is common to see a star come out of the tournament, but it is rare to see one lose their basketball talent entirely, like Larry Johnson in Space Jam.
So for every bad game Andrew Wiggins, Doug McDermott and others have, they have tape of 10-20 good ones. Do not take one game as the defining measure of a prospect.
FIVE: Quick Hitter
Have you been watching the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) too? If you have then you have seen the K.J. McDaniels Show as he is putting up monster numbers, taking Clemson to the Final Four of this smaller tournament. So far, he is averaging 19.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG and 3.1 BPG in three games. McDaniels, all season, has led the Tigers in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-point makes, free throws and minutes. He is a one-man team it seems and is also one of the top 2-3 athletes in college basketball.
As a perimeter player, McDaniels has the best shotblocking instincts and timing that I have seen in my time covering the game. In three years, he has grown from being simply a great athlete with potential to a legitimate first-round NBA Draft prospect… on his way to cutting down the nets in the NIT.
Five Undervalued NCAA Tournament Prospects To Keep An Eye On
1. Dyshawn Pierre: 6-6, 210 pounds â€“ F, Dayton
Stats: (In 27.1 MPG) 11.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 49.3 percent FG
The best athlete and player on the team that upset two of the bigger programs in college basketball has to be mentioned here. Pierre is a strong, athletic forward that plays with toughness on both ends of the floor.
2. Scottie Wilbekin: 6-2, 176 pounds â€“ PG, Florida
Stats: (In 33.6 MPG) 13.1 PPG, 3.7 APG, 39.7 percent 3PT
Along with Thames (see above), the Gator point guard might be the most undervalued at his position in the country. Wilbekin has improved as a three-point shooter and runs the offense with efficiency.
3. Frank Kaminsky: 7-0, 234 pounds â€“ F/C, Wisconsin
Stats: (In 26.5 MPG) 13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 36.6 percent 3PT
Frank the Tank is a threat to score from three at any time, but has also become a very effective and consistent scorer on the low block. He is a non-traditional center, used mainly as a floor spacer, but is one of the best shooting big men in the country.
4. Jordan McRae: 6-6, 185 pounds â€“ SG, Tennessee
Stats: (In 32.0 MPG) 18.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 35.9 percent 3PT
The NBA is fast becoming a league that requires nearly every player to have a high level of athleticism and the ability to create their own shot. McRae is both of those, but he is not one to force shots and looks for his teammates more often than his peers. At the next level, McRae can be a dynamic offensive player off the bench.
5. DeAndre Daniels: 6-9, 195 pounds â€“ SF, Connecticut
Stats: (In 28.3 MPG) 12.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 44.7 percent 3PT
Remember when Daniels was a one-and-done hyped high school phenom? That all changed rather quickly, but in three years he has developed his jump shot, become a quality defender, and is back on the NBA radar where he should be with that length and athleticism.
There are more prospects to keep an eye on here, which is the beauty of the NCAA tournament. As this becomes a tournament of eight, then four and finally two, the prospect pool will narrow and a few will rise to heights they did not imagine as shortly as a month ago.
Who do you think is undervalued?
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