DimeMag

The 15 Must-Watch NBA Draft Prospects In The NCAA Tournament

Finally, it’s time for March Madness. Everyone is online filling out brackets, looking up the best players and trying to figure out who’s going to win the tourney. That also means that the NBA playoffs are only one month away, which also means that the NBA Lottery is coming up soon too.

There are plenty of prospects in the tournament that are definitely worth a look or two. If you haven’t kept up with your NCAA prospect scouting, don’t worry. I have you covered here. Listed below are some must-see prospects that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. If you know your team is headed for the lottery, this is a must read for you. Even if your team is selecting at the end of the first round, there are still some diamonds in the rough.

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CODY ZELLER, Indiana
Projection: top-three pick
Key Stats: 16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 7.2 FTA, 75 percent FT, 57 percent FG
Zeller brings something to the table that teams just can’t coach. Teams can’t teach players how to be tall and Zeller has been tall for quite some time. Being a seven-footer boosts his draft stock already. On top of that, Zeller is as good as advertised on the offensive side of the ball. He’s just as fluid on his feet as his brother and he gets up and down the floor. He’s a great finisher at the rim and also has a midrange jumper to go with that. He’s great at getting to the line and very fundamentally sound in transition. He’s the best in the NCAA at rim running and that breaks down the defense in transition more than anything else.

SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD, UCLA
Projection: top-three pick
Key Stats: 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 40 percent 3FG, 44 percent FG
Shabazz Muhammad is pegged as a top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. He’s not a player who has a defined playing style, but what we do know about him is that he’s a scorer. He likes shooting and he makes them 44 percent of the time. That isn’t exceptionally great for someone who has such a high ceiling, but as his shot selection improves so will his shot percentage. He’s has the tools to be a very good defender on the next level if he becomes committed to that and is also a capable spot-up shooter. He isn’t really an adept ballhandler yet, but at his position he doesn’t really need to be. He’s very fluid off of the ball and is able to create with his feet rather than his hands. He also has a very pure stroke — he’s shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc on the season.

OTTO PORTER, Georgetown
Projection: top-five pick
Key Stats: 16.3 ppg, 48 percent FG, 42 percent 3FG, 7.4 rpg, 2.7 apg
Otto Porter brings everything that you want in a wing player. He’s 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan, a very capable defender already and he’s very fluid off of the ball. He’s a great finisher on the inside and he shoots the ball well from the outside as well. Like Muhammad, he isn’t a very good creator off of the dribble, but he’s a good post player and can also pass out of the post. Coming from a team like Georgetown, you know Porter is going to come into the NBA with very sound fundamentals. There’s a good chance the Hoyas make a deep run in March, and Porter’s draft stock reaps the benefits.

MARCUS SMART, Oklahoma State
Projection: top-five pick
Key Stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.7 rpg, 2.9 spg
Marcus Smart is going to make a very good point guard for some team in the NBA. He has great talent, speed and athleticism. He’s one of the best facilitators in the NCAA right now and is also a great rebounder for his position. At the guard spot, he brings size at 6-4 and he jumps out the gym with his speed and quickness. He isn’t a very good scoring threat as of yet — he’s only shooting 40 percent from the field. But if he lands with the right team in June, he’ll be a project that’s worth taking on. He has defensive skill and could potentially be a lockdown defender. With that, he also brings the intangibles that you need to be a leader on the next level.

TREY BURKE, Michigan
Projection: lottery talent
Key Stats: 14.4 ppg, 6.7 apg, 1.9 topg, 47 percent FG, 40 percent 3FG
Trey Burke may be the most NBA ready guard in this draft class. Like Damian Lillard last year, Burke is very fundamentally sound in most of what he does. He’s a very efficient scorer, shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. He holds on to the ball on top of that. As a lead guard, you can’t afford to turn the ball over. Burke’s assist/turnover ratio is 2.8. When a point guard is close to 2.5 at the college level, that’s great, but Burke is closer to three, which is outstanding. I think he may make a push to win Rookie of the Year next season if he chooses to come out and is drafted by the right team.

MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, Syracuse
Projection: lottery talent
Key Stats: 12 ppg, 7.7 apg, 2.7 spg
Carter-Williams is a very raw talent at the point guard position. He’s already a very good passer on the college level and that should translate into the NBA ranks as well. He knows how to read defenses at an advanced level and has a very high basketball acumen. It doesn’t translate into the decisions he makes when shooting the ball, but as a passer he’s very good. Sometimes he’ll make passes that are too difficult for him to complete and it’ll result in turnovers, but he’s very athletic and has length at 6-5. He has the tools to become a very good defender on the next level and also knows the principles of zone defense, thanks to the 2-3 zone system that is implemented in Syracuse. Though zone defense isn’t exclusively ran in the NBA ranks, there are certain help defense principles that zone defense brings to the table. Those same principles are used often in NBA defense. If drafted by the right team, Carter-Williams has a great future.

KELLY OLYNYK, Gonzaga
Projection: mid first-round pick
Key Stats: 17.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.3 orpg, 65 percent FG, 78 percent FT
Olynyk is an underrated prospect in many respects. He brings a lot of things to the table that are key for the next level in the NBA. He’s a seven-footer, so that’s a plus for him already. Teams draft high for size because it’s so hard to acquire, but he brings more than just that. He’s great at finishing around the rim. He has amazing touch, shooting 65 percent from the field. He has also developed a nice post game with his back to the basket and can score as a face-up player as well. His speed in transition is elite for a college player and he is light-footed enough to get pass the defense in transition. Like Zeller, he’s a very good rim runner. He may not be the most athletic prospect, but he’s very fundamentally sound.

ANTHONY BENNETT, UNLV
Projection: top-seven pick
Key Stats: 15.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 53 percent FG, 38 percent 3FG
Anthony Bennett is a very versatile forward out of UNLV. He’s able to play either the small forward or the power forward position and still remain effective. He’s a great forward to run pick-n-rolls with because he’s able to stretch the floor with his three-point shot and his midrange game as well as finish at the rim. He’s very quick and explosive as well. If he’s rolling to the rim, you’ll be able to hit him with a pass quick to finish the play. He can also crash the glass well, too. He doesn’t get buried under the rest of the bigs on the inside because of the strength and explosiveness when leaping. Bennett isn’t a player who’s going to kill you off of the dribble. If anything, you don’t want him taking more than two dribbles per touch — no more than he needs to get in finishing position. A good player comparison for him would be Jeff Green.

VICTOR OLADIPO, Indiana
Projection: top-seven pick
Key Stats: 13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 59 percent FG
Oladipo went from being an extremely raw player on the offensive end to being an absolute efficient stud in his junior year. That 59 percent field goal percentage is out of this world for a small forward who isn’t a focal point offensively. He’s always making the right pass or the right decision and breaking down a defense. He cuts very well off of the ball and has become adept at breaking down the defense and getting to the rim. He’s 6-5 and is already a stud defensively. A lot of what he does won’t show up on a stat sheet but opposing teams always feel his presence.

MASON PLUMLEE, Duke
Projection: lottery talent
Key Stats: 17.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 59.2 percent FG
Mason Plumlee isn’t as skilled as the centers that will go ahead of him, but he still brings a lot to the table. He’s a very good pick-n-roll big and knows how to seal opponents off under the rim. When he seals them, he will usually finish the play at the rim with a dunk or a layup. It isn’t uncommon to see him lose his footing or turn the ball over when he isn’t directly at the rim because he isn’t good at putting the ball on the floor. He doesn’t dribble efficiently and needs to be set up for his buckets. But he’s still a great rebounder and has a very high rebounding IQ on both ends of the floor.

DESHAUN THOMAS, Ohio State
Projection: late first-round pick
Key Stats: 19.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 33 percent 3FG
The versatility that Deshaun Thomas brings to the offensive end of the floor is very valuable for Ohio State right now and it’ll be just as valuable to the team that drafts him. He’s a stretch four that can run off of screens and shoot from the outside. You don’t really have to run plays for him to be effective — he can just spot up if needed. He’s a liability on the defensive end, but he isn’t going to be a player that plays more than 25 minutes per game on the next level. He’s a versatile forward that’s going to shoot it from outside and can also finish plays on the inside at the rim. It creates opportunity for spacing for dribble penetrators and that’s what the NBA is built on.

BEN McLEMORE, Kansas
Projection: top-three pick
Key Stats: 16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 87 percent FT, 50 percent FG, 43 percent 3FG
McLemore is a great prospect out of Kansas that’s going to translate beautifully to the next level. His skill as a cutter, shooter, and defender are already advanced for only a 20-year-old. McLemore has a great awareness of route running and off-ball movement in Kansas’ offense. He knows where the open spots on the floor are going to be and he can finish at the rim or shoot it from the outside. Still, he gets most of his offense in transition and from beyond the arc. He isn’t a good creator off of the dribble and isn’t a good pick-n-roll passer either. He doesn’t have a grasp of pocket passing after coming off of curls yet, but these are skills that can be developed through time.

DOUG McDERMOTT, Creighton
Projection: late first-round pick
Key Stats: 23.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 56 percent FG, 50 percent 3FG, 86 percent FT
Like Thomas, McDermott is a stretch four that will bring spacing to the floor. He’s a better rebounder relative to Thomas and is also a better defender as well — though that still isn’t very good. McDermott is very accurate and speedy with his cuts. Every move that he makes on the floor is precise and it gets him in the spot that he needs to be in for a good look. He’s very fluid for a 6-8 big and has great court awareness. Someone on the next level will draft him and have a great glue player on their hands.

JAMES MICHAEL McADOO, North Carolina
Projection: mid first-round pick
Key Stats: 14.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 45 percent FG
McAdoo is another raw prospect out of North Carolina as a tweener forward. He’s able to play the small forward position as a slasher or the power forward position as a pick-n- roll guy. He’s not a very good shooter from any spot of the floor so he’s best served moving off of the ball toward the rim. He’s not a good dribbler as well so getting him in position on offensive plays is a process. But he is a good rebounder for his size at 6-9 because of his 7-1 wingspan. He’s also a hustle guy that creates a lot of extra possessions through his defensive ability and his rebounding.

LORENZO BROWN, N.C. State
Projection: late first or early second-round pick
Key Stats: 12.1 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 TO
The final prospect to watch on this list is Lorenzo Brown. He’s yet another point guard prospect who will bring size and length to the table. He’s 6-4 and a great passer just like the aforementioned Carter-Williams. Brown averages 7.2 assists per game, but struggles to create offense for himself. His shot off of the dribble needs to improve because he doesn’t have the elite athleticism to blow by most guards — especially those with great lateral quickness. He sees the floor very well and that helps him counteract the lack of a jump shot and athleticism, but on the next level he will have to work to develop his shot or at least develop more dribble moves to get around the opposition.

Who are some diamonds in the rough in this year’s NBA Draft class?

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