Last March, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford exploded in the NCAA tournament and went from sophomore with a nice game (who was only a commodity because he dunked on LeBron in a pick-up game) to 1st round pick. Crawford was traded to the Wizards recently and has enjoyed a fantastic two-week run. Which players have seen their NBA stock rise during this NCAA tournament?
Brandon Knight, Kentucky: Struggled against Princeton for 39 minutes, then hit the game winner. He’s gone bananas since that game, dropping 30 against WVU, hitting the game-winner to beat Ohio State, and then scoring 22 in the regional final win over UNC. One would assume he’s salivating at the rematch with Kemba Walker – Knight was 3-for-15 in his worst game of the regular season in a November loss to UConn. Knight’s got a lethal 3-point shot, great court vision, and he kind of reminds of Gilbert Arenas (in his prime in Washington). I love Knight’s game and frankly, I think he’s a Top 5 pick. Think he’d be a nice fit joining Tyreke Evans in the backcourt in Anaheim.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Nobody denies his skill set, but he’s struggled this month. Freshman wall? Already thinking about the NBA? In his last 8 games, he’s 27-for-77 (35 percent shooting). He’s not getting to the line much anymore, opting to settle for jumpers. Calipari seems annoyed with his occasional bouts of laziness, and frequently yells at him. I still think he’s a Top 10 pick, kind of in the Lamar Odom mold, but not quite as polished (Odom was ridiculous when he left Rhode Island, and an instant 16-7 guy with the Clippers).
Harrison Barnes, UNC: He had a much-publicized slow start, but then he turned clutch and became the scoring machine everyone thought he’d be. I still think his shot selection was spotty at times, especially with automatic buckets on the floor in Tyler Zeller. That makes me think Barnes will leave for the NBA. He’s ready, too. He went from being the No. 1 pick, to out of the Top 10 (at least I thought so), and now he’s got to solidly back in the Top 5. I heard Doug Gottlieb say Barnes had some Paul Pierce in him, and that’s not a bad comparison. How much would John Wall like to have Harrison Barnes on the wing?
Kyle Singler, Duke: Should he have come out after winning the Final Four MVP? He didn’t have a consistent season, but he showed flashes of being a successful small forward in the NBA. What’s the guess here … Chase Budinger? Singler does a lot of things well, but excels at nothing. Could be a nice reserve for a playoff team. I’m thinking he’s drafted in the mid-late 20s.
Nolan Smith, Duke: Outstanding year (ACC POY), looked like a future NBA point guard (albeit an offensively-minded one). Then, when Kyrie Irving returned, Smith showed he couldn’t really play off the ball. Blame the coaches? Or the offense? Smith reminds me of Utah’s Andre Miller, who has turned into a fine player. Depending who comes out, I think he could sneak into the lottery. After Irving, Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight, are there any better point guard prospects? I’d take Smith over Fredette (mostly because of defense).
Derrick Williams, Arizona: Depending on who wins the lottery, he could go first overall. At times, he’s looked like Blake Griffin dunking on people. He’s got the inside-outside game reminiscent to Larry Johnson (before injuries curtailed a great career). For fun: If Minnesota gets the No. 1 pick, can you imagine Williams and Kevin Love at the 3-4? Perhaps that’d be enough to lure Ricky Rubio over here. If the Cavs get the No. 1 pick, I still think they might go with Kyrie Irving.
Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut: Went from timid freshman to valuable scorer to struggling shooter (a 18-for-48 shooting stretch in six of seven games bridging February and March) to future star in the span of a season. A few weeks ago, it was, “Lamb’s going to be a future star at UConn” to “Wait, is Lamb a lottery pick right now?” He’s got the smooth baseline game of Rip Hamilton, but also the length/athletic ability of Tracy McGrady attacking the basket. In a draft that’s all about potential, you pretty much know what you’re getting from guys like Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette. What is Lamb’s ceiling? Is he done growing (6-foot-5)? He turns 19 in May. Imagine the Cavs get two top 10 picks, and they draft a teenage backcourt of Irving and Lamb. Not a bad start to rebuilding post-LeBron.
The Morris Twins, Kansas: Really nice college basketball players, or future pros? I still can barely tell the two of them apart. Last year, the Jayhawks somehow kept Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich and were supposed to win a title … they lost in the second round. Do the Morris twins return and make Kansas the favorites? I think they’re gone, but I’m not sure how much damage they’ll do at the next level. I see them both as Drew Gooden-like – terrific rebounding machines who are limited offensively. If you want to put one of these guys next to Dwight Howard, then sure, they could have a nice career. Problem is, there aren’t many great centers left in the league, so the Charles Oakley/Otis Thorpe/Dennis Rodman/Power-Forward-Who-Rebounds role is kind of fading. Unless you think the Morris twins could play center (like Ben Wallace) alongside a power forward who scores (Amare, Dirk, Aldridge, Love, etc).