Last year, James Harden of Arizona State was awful in two NCAA tournament games, collectively shooting 3-for-18 against Temple and Syracuse. Did those struggles mean anything for his NBA stock? Nope. The Oklahoma City Thunder still took him third in the draft. He’s shown flashes of promise – three games with 20+ points – but with Durant and Westbrook dominating, he’s got a defined role as a shooter and he’s not a lock to be 2nd team all-rookie. For fun, we decided to take a look at some performances from the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend and apply them to each player’s NBA stock.
James Anderson, Oklahoma State: 3-for-12, 0-6 three’s, 11 points in loss to Georgia Tech.
Announced today he’s entering the draft. Friday was a bad time for one of his worst games of the season. Still, he was very good this year – 27 in a win over Kansas, 31-12 in a win over Baylor – and he’s got a great frame and a great game for the NBA. In a draft thin on shooting guards, he’s still a first rounder and depending on who else comes out, peg him in the 8-20 range.
Jordan Crawford, Xavier, Xavier: 20-for-36 shooting, 9-for-18 from three, 56 points in two wins
As Vitale might say, “up up and away!” Of any player we saw this weekend – and yes, we sat in front the TV/computer for games all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – he impressed us the most. He’s scored 20+ five games in a row and becoming more than just “the guy who dunked on LeBron.” Our guess is that if the draft happened tomorrow, he’d be in the 20-30 range. We’d rate him behind James Anderson and Xavier Henry for now, but ahead of Dominique Jones of South Florida. Jones is more athletic, but Crawford gets the edge for his shooting ability.
Dexter Pittman, Texas: 1-for-4, four points in 21 minutes in a loss to Wake Forest
Confession: When he dominated North Carolina’s impressive frontline in 23 points and 15 rebounds in December, he hooked us. We foolishly called him a 1st rounder. He has slide downhill since that game, and culminated his senior season against Wake Forest looking as if he had regressed to his portly days as a sophomore. Was he just underused at Texas because it didn’t have a healthy point guard to get him the ball? Did teams shut him down? The guess here is that he’s a 2nd rounder at best.
Damion James, Texas: 4-for-14 FG, 1-7 on three’s, 16 points in loss to Wake Forest
Classic tweener. Can he shoot it well enough to play small forward? Is he too small to guard power forwards? Or can he be like a Craig Smith, the tweener from Boston College who has been serviceable (and even very good at times) in the pros? He doesn’t defend like Shane Battier and doesn’t shoot it like James Jones. He falls into the “jack of all trades, master of none” category, which we’d guess puts him from the late-lottery to the end of the first round. Our guess last month of him going 10th was probably too high.
Omar Samhan, St. Mary’s: 24-for-32, 61 points in wins over Richmond, Villanova
Was unstoppable in part because the Spiders didn’t double team him, and the Wildcats only did it late in the 2nd half. Will be interesting to see what he does against Baylor, which has a player his size who is actually talented. At a minimum, Samhan has put his name on the NBA map. He’s still got to get in shape (listed at 6-foot-11, 260 pounds) and nobody’s sure if he can defend players his size, but he has real nice touch around the basket.
Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky: 15-of-20 shooting, 9-of-12 three’s in two games
Granted it was against Tennesse State, but Bledsoe was 9-for-11, including 8-of-9 from three for a career high 29 points. He’s been torrid of late after some February struggles. He’s been compared to Russell Westbrook (UCLA, Oklahoma City), but we never bought it. Bledsoe is shorter and hasn’t had the opportunity to handle the ball as much to make the move to point guard in the NBA. He’s a phenomenal shooter, thought. ESPN’s Chad Ford has been on his nuts since January. Does Bledsoe stick around to run the team and presumably play his way into the lottery, or could that possibly expose him a bit since he won’t be surrounded by Wall, Cousins, Patterson, etc?